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The Propaganda System That Has Helped Create a Permanent Overclass Is Over a Century in the Making

The Propaganda System That Has Helped Create a Permanent Overclass Is Over a Century in the Making

Pulling back the curtain on how intent the wealthiest Americans have been on establishing a propaganda tool to subvert democracy.

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at AlterNet

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Where there is the possibility of democracy, there is the inevitability of elite insecurity. All through its history, democracy has been under a sustained attack by elite interests, political, economic, and cultural. There is a simple reason for this: democracy – as in true democracy – places power with people. In such circumstances, the few who hold power become threatened. With technological changes in modern history, with literacy and education, mass communication, organization and activism, elites have had to react to the changing nature of society – locally and globally.

From the late 19th century on, the “threats” to elite interests from the possibility of true democracy mobilized institutions, ideologies, and individuals in support of power. What began was a massive social engineering project with one objective: control. Through educational institutions, the social sciences, philanthropic foundations, public relations and advertising agencies, corporations, banks, and states, powerful interests sought to reform and protect their power from the potential of popular democracy.

Yet for all the efforts, organization, indoctrination and reformation of power interests, the threat of democracy has remained a constant, seemingly embedded in the human consciousness, persistent and pervasive.

In his highly influential work, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, French social psychologist Gustav Le Bon suggested that middle class politics were transforming into popular democracy, where “the opinion of the masses” was the most important opinion in society. He wrote: “The destinies of nations are elaborated at present in the heart of the masses, and no longer in the councils of princes.” This was, of course, a deplorable change for elites, suggesting that, “[t]he divine right of the masses is about to replace the divine right of kings.” Le Bon suggested, however, that the “crowd” was not rational, but rather was driven by emotion and passion.

An associate and friend of Le Bon’s, Gabriel Tarde, expanded upon this concept, and articulated the idea that “the crowd” was a social group of the past, and that “the public” was “the social group of the future.” The public, argued Tarde, was a “spiritual collectivity, a dispersion of individuals who are physically separated and whose cohesion is entirely mental.” Thus, Tarde identified in the growth of the printing press and mass communications a powerful medium through which “the public” was shaped, and that, if managed appropriately, could bring a sense of order to a situation increasingly chaotic. The newspaper, Tarde explained, facilitated “the fusion of personal opinions into local opinions, and this into national and world opinion, the grandiose unification of the public mind.”

The development of psychology, psychoanalysis, and other disciplines increasingly portrayed the “public” and the population as irrational beings incapable of making their own decisions. The premise was simple: if the population was driven by dangerous, irrational emotions, they needed to be kept out of power and ruled over by those who were driven by reason and rationality, naturally, those who were already in power.

The Princeton Radio Project, which began in the 1930s with Rockefeller Foundation funding, brought together many psychologists, social scientists, and “experts” armed with an interest in social control, mass communication, and propaganda. The Princeton Radio Project had a profound influence upon the development of a modern “democratic propaganda” in the United States and elsewhere in the industrialized world. It helped in establishing and nurturing the ideas, institutions, and individuals who would come to shape America’s “democratic propaganda” throughout the Cold War, a program fostered between the private corporations which own the media, advertising, marketing, and public relations industries, and the state itself.

‘A Genuinely Democratic Propaganda’

World War I popularized the term “propaganda” and gave it negative connotations, as all major nations involved in the war effort employed new techniques of modern propaganda to mobilize their populations for war. In the United States, the effort was led by President Woodrow Wilson in the establishment of the Committee on Public Information (CPI) as a “vast propaganda ministry.” The central theme of the CPI was to promote U.S. entry into the war on the basis of seeking “to make a world that is safe for democracy.” This point was specifically developed by the leading intellectual of the era, Walter Lippmann, who by the age of 25 was referred to by President Theodore Roosevelt as “the most brilliant man of his age.” Lippmann was concerned primarily with the maintenance of the state-capitalist system in the face of increased unrest, resistance, and ideological opposition, feeling that the “discipline of science” would need to be applied to democracy, where social engineers and social scientists “would provide the modern state with a foundation upon which a new stability might be realized.” For this, Lippmann suggested the necessity of “intelligence and information control” in what he termed the “manufacture of consent.”

Important intellectuals of the era then became principally concerned with the issue of propaganda during peacetime, having witnessed its success in times of war. Propaganda, wrote Lippmann, “has a legitimate and desirable part to play in our democratic system.” A leading political scientist of the era, Harold Lasswell, noted: “Propaganda is surely here to stay.” In his 1925 book, The Phantom Public, Lippmann wrote that the public was a “bewildered herd” of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” who should be maintained as “interested spectators of action,” and distinct from the actors themselves, the powerful. Edward Bernays, the ‘father of public relations’ and nephew of Sigmund Freud got his start with Wilson’s CPI during World War I, and had since become a leading voice in the fields of propaganda and public relations. In his 1928 book, Propaganda, Bernays wrote: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” Modern society was dominated by a “relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses,” and this was, in Bernays’ thinking, “a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized.” Bernays referred to this – “borrowing” from Walter Lippmann – as the “engineering of consent.”

For the leading intellectuals and social engineers of the era, “propaganda” was presented as distinctly “democratic” and as a necessity to the proper functioning of society. John Marshall of the Rockefeller Foundation focused on what he called the “problem of propaganda” and sought to create, as he wrote in 1938, a “genuinely democratic propaganda.” Marshall pursued this objective through the Rockefeller Foundation, and specifically with the Princeton Radio Project in the late 1930s under the direction of Hadley Cantril and Frank Stanton, though including other intellectuals such as Paul Lazarsfeld and Harold Lasswell.

In 1936, Marshall wrote that the best way to expand the use of radio and film was for the Rockefeller Foundation to give “a few younger men with talent for these mediums an opportunity for relatively free experimentation… men interested primarily in education, literature, criticism, or in disseminating the findings of the social or natural sciences.”

In 1939, with the war in Europe under way, the Rockefeller Foundation had organized several conferences and published several papers on the issue of mass communication, directed by what was called the Communications Group, headed by Marshall and other Foundation officials, and with the participation of Lasswell, Lazarzfeld, Cantril, and several others. Early on, the Communications Group noted that with “an increasing degree of [government] control… in regard to all phases of communication, such as in the schools, the radio, the films, the press, and even eventually in all public discussion,” it was necessary to arrive at a consensus – among the “experts” – as to what role they should play as the state expands its authority over communication. Sociologist Robert Lynd took a page from Lippmann and wrote that a “goal” of experts in communication should “be that of persuading the people that there are many issues too complicated for them to decide, which should be left to experts.” One other participant commented on Lynd’s suggestion: “Mr. Lynd feels we need a restructuring of democratic action in terms of the capacity of different groups of the population and an abandonment of the American idea of the responsibility and capacity of the man on the street.” In 1940, John Marshall wrote:

In a period of emergency such as I believe we now face, the manipulation of public opinion to meet emergency needs has to be taken for granted. In such a period, those in control must shape public opinion to support courses of action which the emergency necessitates… No one, I think, can blame them for that impulse.

In a 1940 memo for the Communications Group, Marshall wrote that, “We believe… that for leadership to secure that consent will require unprecedented knowledge of the public mind and of the means by which leadership can secure consent… We believe… that we gave available today methods of research which can reliably inform us about the public mind and how it is being, or can be, influenced in relation to public affairs.” The memo concerned some officials at the Rockefeller Foundation, noting that it could be misinterpreted and that such research should be careful about becoming a mere tool of the state, with one official noting: “Public opinion and vested interests are… violently opposed to such a development which would be labeled as fascist or authoritarian.” Another official suggested that the memo “looks to me like something that [Nazi propaganda chief] Herr Goebbels could put out with complete sincerity.” While one Foundation official referred to the memo as resembling “the methods by which democracy has been destroyed,” he added that, “finding out regularly and completely what the mass of the people feel and believe and think about things and policies is a necessary part of the modern democratic process.” Marshall and the Communications Group refined their approach from a more overt authoritarianism of “one-way” communication between the state and the population, to a more Lippmann-centered concept of “manufacturing consent” and what has been referred to as “democratic elitism.” In the final report of the Communications Group in 1940, it was noted that two-way communication between the government and population was essential, as without it, “democracy is endangered,” and that it was required for the population to give “consent.”

Frank Stanton, along with Hadley Cantril, was one of the co-directors of the Princeton Project since its inception. As Michael J. Socolow wrote in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Frank Stanton had “devoted much of his life to understanding the cultural, social, and psychological effects of the mass media.” Stanton was the president of CBS from 1946 until 1973, during which he “proved to be an effective corporate strategist” and “a skillful political operator,” not least of all because he “collaborated closely with the U.S. government, performing propaganda tasks during the Second World War and the ensuing Cold War.”

Stanton’s first job was in the advertising industry, beginning in 1929 and cut short by the market crash, though Stanton maintained that advertising “was the greatest thing since sliced bread.” In school, Stanton studied business administration and psychology, being particularly influenced by John B. Watson, the developer of behaviorism, who himself went to go work for an advertising agency. Throughout his own life and career, Stanton viewed himself as “a behaviorist, a social scientist valuing the application of psychological technique across a variety of human endeavors.”

Behaviorism was a brand of psychology which emerged in response to the development of the field by social scientists seeking to make “scientific” what was previously the realm of philosophy and spirituality, drawing in political scientists, economists, sociologists, and others. The field of psychology had become more prominent following World War I, after having proved its worth to power interests in mobilizing, manipulating, and studying populations and their perceptions. In 1929, the president of Yale, James Agnell, announced the creation of the Yale Institute of Human Relations (IHR), with a generous grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Agnell explained that the IHR was “directly concerned with the problems of man’s individual and group conduct,” out of which the purpose was “to correlate knowledge and coordinate technique in related fields that greater progress may be made in the understanding of human life.”

The IHR helped facilitate the rise of behaviorism in psychology, as in the 1920s and 30s, social unrest was a growing problem, and so psychologists attempted to promote themselves and their field as a possible solution to these problems, as a “scientific psychology” – or “social psychology” – could “be instrumental for attaining democratic social order and control.” Such a theory was based upon the view that the individual was not well “adjusted” to a rapidly changing environment, and therefore, with the help of psychology, the individual could be “adjusted” successfully. Of course, the notion that there is something inherently problematic with society and the social order (and the hierarchy upon which it was built) went unquestioned. In other words, it was not society which needed to “adjust” to individuals and the population, but rather the opposite. Psychologists and Yale’s Institute of Human Relations would promote themselves as the solution to this complex problem. Behaviorism was thus concerned with environmental and behavior control in human relations. This influenced not only Frank Stanton, but other key officials who were involved in the Princeton Radio Project, including Paul Lazarsfeld.

Frank Stanton eventually got a job at CBS following some research he had done on radio audiences and had sent to CBS headquarters. In 1935, Stanton was the third employee hired by CBS for the research division, concerned largely with the ability of advertisers to sell to radio listeners. As Stanton explained in 1936, the contribution of psychology to radio research “should be largely one of technique,” adding: “It isn’t enough to know what programs are heard and preferred. We want to know why they are listened to and liked, and furthermore, we want to quantify influence.” Weeks later, Stanton – with the suggestion of Hadley Cantril – wrote a draft memo of a research proposal for the Rockefeller Foundation, out of which would come to Office of Radio Research at Princeton.

The Princeton Radio Project, established with Rockefeller funding and directed by Paul Lazarsfeld, Cantril, and Stanton, focused on studying the uses and effects of radio communications upon the population, and almost exclusively led to the field of mass communications research. Theodor Adorno, a critical theorist whom Lazarsfeld invited to join the Princeton Radio Project ran into several problems during his research with his associates. Lazarsfeld brought Adorno into the project hoping that he could bridge the gap between American and European approaches to research. Adorno, however, sought to understand not simply the effects of radio in mass communications, but the role played by the “researcher” – or “expert” – in the social order itself. This put him in direct conflict with the project and its philosophy. For Adorno, wrote Slack and Allor, “not only the processes of communication but the practice of communication research itself had to be viewed critically.” Reflecting upon his experience some decades later, Adorno wrote that, “there appeared to be little room for such social research in the framework of the Princeton Project.” He noted: “Its charter, which came from the Rockefeller Foundation, expressly stipulated that the investigations must be performed within the limits of the commercial radio system prevailing in the United States.” Thus, “the system itself, its cultural and sociological consequences and its social and economic presuppositions were not to be analyzed… I was disturbed.”

Shortly after World War II and into the 1950s, the U.S. State Department became increasingly interested in the subject of propaganda, or what was termed “information management” and “public diplomacy.” Television was of particular interest in promoting American state interests, specifically those defined by the Cold War. Francis Russell, the director of the State Department’s Public Affairs (PA) division from 1945 to 1953, noted that “propaganda abroad is indispensable” in the Cold War, but that the State Department had “diligently cultivated the concept of PA as a service to the American people, a place where the public can come to obtain information.” He explained his worry that, “if the American people ever get the idea that the same high-powered propaganda machine” used abroad was “also at work on them, the result will be disaster fir both the domestic and overseas programs.” The role of the PA was not in a censorship bureau, but as a dispenser of “information,” to which the media – largely privately owned – would use as a consistent source for reporting, re-printing press releases, and seeking official sources for comment. Edward Barrett, another top official in the PA division, later noted: “We really tried to stick to the truth and tell nothing but the truth, but we didn’t always tell the whole truth.”

Nancy Bernhard, writing in the journal Diplomatic History, explained this contradiction aptly: “While Americans defended commercial broadcasting because it was free from Communistic government control, commercial broadcasters voluntarily collaborated with the government information services in the name of anticommunism. “Free” broadcasters volunteered as a virtually official information agency.” It was no surprise, then, that government “information programs” used the specific talents of corporate tycoons in the media world, bringing in talent from networks, advertising agencies, public relations agencies, and marketing bureaus. The State Department established a number of “advisory boards” to monitor its “public affairs” operations, largely made up of industry and corporate officials. Among the influential board members was Frank Stanton.

When Eisenhower came to power, a new agency was created to handle information and cultural programs previously undertaken by the State Department, the US Information Agency (USIA), established in 1953. In attempting to create a terminology to describe the activities of the USIA and its relationship to foreign policy goals – without using the obvious term “propaganda” – the term “public diplomacy” was commonly used. Frank Stanton, who left CBS in 1973, subsequently chaired a research report by the prominent American think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in 1975, entitled, International Information Education and Cultural Relations – Recommendations for the Future. The report recommended “that the international information and cultural programs [of the U.S. government] deserve all possible support in the years ahead, that they have demonstrated their success and are therefore an exceptional investment of government energy and the taxpayer’s dollar.”

While head of CBS, Stanton developed relationships with American presidents, whose Cold War strategies he would help promote through his network. When Kennedy became president, he offered Frank Stanton the job as head of the United States Information Agency (USIA), which Stanton declined (though recommended the appointment of Edward R. Murrow, a prominent journalist with CBS, whom Stanton had no lack of problems with). In fact, in 1958, Edward R. Murrow delivered a speech before the Radio-Television News Directors Association in which he “implicitly indicted Stanton” for the way in which he managed CBS, stating: “The top management of the networks… has been trained in advertising, research, or show business… by the nature of the corporate structure, [these managers] also make the final and crucial decisions having to do with news and public affairs. Frequently they have neither the time nor the competence to do this.”

Stanton developed a reputation as a trustworthy propagandist for the Cold War, but was not unwilling to flex his own power when confronted with state power, such as when President Lyndon Johnson, angry at specific coverage of Vietnam on CBS, called up Stanton and stated, “Frank, are you trying to fuck your country?” Stanton refused to budge on his coverage under pressure from the president. Yet still, he remained a propagandist, and even participated in the CIA’s program to infiltrate the domestic media, with general knowledge of the Agency’s program with CBS, though according to one CIA agent involved in the matter, he didn’t “want to know the fine points.”

Stanton, however, was ultimately a corporation man. Not only did he help in the development of the government’s official propaganda systems, but he was a key figure in the promotion of the “corporatization” of news and information. Thus, for Stanton, “information management” was not simply to be done in the interests of the state, but also – and arguably primarily – in the interests of corporations. In Stanton’s own words, “since we are advertiser supported we must take into account the general objectives and desires of advertisers as a whole.” Stanton was not the only executive to voice such views, as one executive at NBC as early as 1940, declared, “we should make money on our news.”

The ‘Social Control’ Society: A Background to ‘Democratic Propaganda’

One of the primary institutions of social control is the educational system. For primary and secondary educational institutions, the original objective was to foster a strong sense of national identity, bringing a cohesive world view to the development of a national citizenry, and thus, to establish a system of social control. For university education, the original and evolving intend had been to develop an elite capable of managing society, and thus, to produce the controllers and technicians of society, itself. As the modern university underwent a major transformation in late 19th century America, it sought to apply the potential of the “sciences” to the social world, and thus, in a society undergoing rapid industrialization, urbanization, poverty, immigration, labour unrest, and new forms of communication, the “social sciences” were developed with an objective of producing social engineers and technicians for a new society of “social control.”

The major industrial and financial elites had a direct role to play in the transformation of this educational system, and a substantial interest in the ideologies which would emerge from them. As Andrew Carnegie wrote in 1889, at the top of the list of “charitable deeds” to undertake was “the founding of a university by men enormously rich, such men as must necessarily be few in any country.” It was in this context, of robber barons seeking to remake education, that we see the founding of several of America’s top universities, many of which were named after their robber baron founders, such as Stanford (after Leland Stanford), Cornell (after Ezra Cornell), and Johns Hopkins, who owned the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

This new class of industrialists, who emerged out of the Civil War in America, “challenged the position of the old propertied, pre-industrial elite. This struggle crystallized in particular around the reform of the educational system that had legitimated the old elite’s domination.” The modern university was born out of this struggle between elites, with the old educational system based upon religious and moral values, “and the making of gentlemen,” while the “new education” focused on “the importance of management or administration” as well as “public service, [and] the advancement of knowledge through original investigation.”

John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago in 1891, and the President of the University, “initiated a new disciplinary system, which was enormously influential.” Ultimately, it “led to the formation of the department structure of the American university, which was internationally unique,” and was later exported around the world “with the help of American foundations.” This disciplinary system consisted of separating politics from economics (rejecting the notion of “political economy” and its “ideologies”), as ideology was “deemed unscientific and inappropriate in social sciences and political scientists have increasingly seen their function as service to the powerful, rather than providing leadership to populist or socialist movements.”

Nicolas Guilhot wrote in the journal Critical Sociology that since “social reform was inevitable,” these industrialists “chose to invest in the definition and scientific treatment of the ‘social questions’ of their time,” and subsequently, they “promoted reformist solutions that did not threaten the capitalistic nature of the social order,” and instead constructed a “private alternative to socialism.” Social control was not simply seen as the means through which a society – as it exists – could be maintained, but more often sought to preserve elements of that society (such as its hierarchical structure, the position of the elites) through periods of profound social change. In this sense, the question was “whether the processes of social control are able to maintain the social order [hierarchy] while transformation and social change take place.”

The United States was viewed “as the laboratory for the study of transitional society in the framework of a rapidly changing social structure,” and therefore, at a time when sociology was being established as an intellectual and academic discipline, “the United States could be viewed as a microcosm of social change and disorder.” The sociologist Edward A. Ross was the first to popularize the concept of social control in the American Journal of Sociology in 1896 and 1898, and later in his 1901 book, Social Control. Ross “viewed individuals as objects of society’s domination,” and suggested that society had to establish order “by channeling the behavior of its members into orderly relations.” Ross, largely influenced by Gabriel Tarde, did not believe that individuals were rational, but rather, that they would need to be “controlled” in one fashion or another. As some sociologists lamented in the 1920s, “all social problems turn out finally to be problems of social control,” and “the study of society was the study of social control.”

Sociology largely emerged from the University of Chicago (founded by John D. Rockefeller), with the world’s first department of sociology founded in 1892. The sociologists who rose within and out of the University of Chicago made up what was known as the “Chicago School of Sociology.” The school developed the most influential sociologists in the nation, including George Herbert Mead and W.I. Thomas, two scholars who had profound influence on the development of the concept of “social control,” and sociologists became “reform-oriented liberals, not radical revolutionaries or conservative cynics.”

The American Journal of Sociology was founded out of the University of Chicago by Albion Small, who was the head professor of the department of sociology, and became the editor of the journal for thirty years from 1895-1925. Between 1915 and 1940, the University of Chicago was the dominant force in sociology in the United States, and “the dominance of the Sociology Department was representative of the social sciences at Chicago during that period.” The school was largely made the center of not only sociology, but many areas of the social sciences, due to funding from outside sources, namely the major philanthropic foundations created by the Robber Baron industrialists in the early 20th century. The foundations became, in effect, engines of social engineering and perhaps the most effective institutions in the application of social control in modern society.

The Foundations of Social Control

The new industrial elite accumulated millions and even hundreds of millions by the end of the 19th century: Andrew Carnegie was worth roughly $300 million after he sold Carnegie Steel to J.P. Morgan in 1901, and by 1913, John D. Rockefeller was estimated to have a personal worth of $900 million. In the late 1880s, Rockefeller met Frederick T. Gates, a minister, educator, and administrator in the Baptist Church when they were negotiating the founding of a new university, which resulted with a pledge of $600,000 from Rockefeller to found the University of Chicago in 1889. At this time, Rockefeller hired Gates as his associate in charge of Rockefeller’s philanthropic ventures. Gates became central in inculcating the notion of “scientific benevolence” within Rockefeller’s philanthropies. As Gates wrote in his autobiography, “I gradually developed and introduced in all his charities the principle of scientific giving.” Gates advised Rockefeller to form a series of “self-perpetuating” philanthropies.

The circumstances in which the Rockefeller Foundation emerged are notable. In 1913, a coal strike began at a Colorado mine owned by the Rockefellers in the small mining town of Ludlow, where roughly 11,000 workers (mostly Greek, Italian, and Serbian immigrants) went on strike against the “feudal domination of their lives in towns completely controlled by the mining companies.” Repression quickly followed, culminating in what became known as the Ludlow Massacre in 1914, with the Rockefellers hiring the National Guard to attack the strikers and destroy their tent city, machine gunning the crowd and setting fire to tents, one of which was discovered to have housed eleven children and two women, all of whom were killed by the fire.

The Congressional Walsh Commission was founded to investigate the activities which led to violent labour repression at the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company in Ludlow, though the scope of the Commission was expanded to study philanthropic foundations themselves. The Commission’s founder, Frank P. Walsh, explained:

…the creation of the Rockefeller and other foundations was the beginning of an effort to perpetuate the present position of predatory wealth through the corruption of sources of public information… [and] that if not checked by legislation, these foundations will be used as instruments to change to form of government of the U.S. at a future date, and there is even a hint that there is a fear of a monarchy.

In 1916, the Walsh Commission produced its final report, the Manly Report (after the research director, Basil M. Manly), which concluded that the foundations were so “grave a menace” to society, that “it would be desirable to recommend their abolition.” Frank Walsh referred to foundations as “a menace to the welfare of society.”

As the Walsh Commission began their work, the Rockefeller Foundation sought to join forces with other major corporate leaders to advance their formation of ideology, and attended a conference “held between representatives of some of the largest financial interests” in the United States. This conference resulted in two approaches being pushed forward in terms of seeking to “educate the citizenry in procapitalistic ideology and thus relieve unrest.” One view was the interpretation that the public was provided with “poor quality of facts and interpretation available on social and economic issues.” Thus, they felt there was a need for a “publicity bureau” to provide a “constant stream of correct information” targeted at the lower and middle classes. The Rockefeller Foundation agreed that a publicity bureau was a good strategy, but added that what was also needed was “a permanent research organization to manufacture knowledge on these subjects.” A publicity bureau would “correct popular misinformation,” while a research organization would study the “causes of social and economic evils,” though of course avoiding problematic considerations of institutional analysis or radical critiques. They were instead to focus on “disinterested” and “detached” studies of social problems, portraying themselves as scientists and technicians for society, focused on reform and social control.

Rockefeller interests quickly undertook both strategies. While the Foundation was engaged in the manufacture of ideology (which specifically states that it is “non-ideological,” meaning that it supports power), the corporate arm of the Rockefeller empire hired the first public relations man, Ivy Lee, a Progressive era journalist. The Foundation hired the Canadian labour expert, William Lyon Mackenzie King (who would later become Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister) to manage “labour relations,” promoting “company unions” over “autonomous unions,” thus undermining the freedom of labour to organize and oppose the social order as a whole, bringing them firmly within the corporate-state ideology and institutions.

Ivy Lee, for his part, attempted to undertake “damage control” for the Rockefellers, who were widely despised at the time, acting as a PR man, disseminating communiqués to media and educators attempting “to cultivate middle-class allies.” His efforts at stemming animosity toward the Rockefellers following Ludlow failed, but for years he continued to present “the human side of the Rockefellers,” earning him the rather unfavourable nickname “Poison Ivy.”

While Lee’s specific efforts were unsuccessful, the ideas behind them continued to grow and evolve. Two major social engineering projects were underway: one, the manufacture of ideology, largely the initiative of philanthropic foundations (and the social sciences), and the other, public relations as a modern form of propaganda. Both of these social engineering projects were designed to ensure social control through social engineering, and both were to have a profound impact upon both the definition and function of modern “democracies.”

Through the educational system, the social sciences, philanthropic foundations, public relations, advertising, marketing, and the media, America and the industrialized states of the world developed a unique and complex system of social control and propaganda for the 20th century and into the 21st. It is imperative to recognize and understand this complex system if we are to challenge and change it.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, with a focus on studying the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power and resistance across a wide spectrum of social, political, economic, and historical spheres. He has been published in AlterNet, CounterPunch, Occupy.com, Truth-Out, RoarMag, and a number of other alternative media groups, and regularly does radio, Internet, and television interviews with both alternative and mainstream news outlets. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, Research Director of Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and has a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

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“A Lot of People Believe This Stuff”: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Public Relations

“A Lot of People Believe This Stuff”: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Public Relations

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” - George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

“It’s important, because a lot of people believe this stuff.”  – Bill Clinton, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, 5 September 2012

In case you were unaware, Bill Clinton gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention on the evening of September 5, which, the media tells us, revealed Clinton’s “special gift”[1] to “give a boost to Obama’s middle-class hero image.”[2] The speech has been hailed as Clinton’s “come back,”[3] and a “spirited defense” of Obama..[4] The “rock star,”[5] Bill Clinton, received heaps of praise from celebrities who endorsed his speech, and it’s obviously very important that the public know what Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock, and Alicia Silverstone think of the speech, so lucky for us, the media tells us. It was, “fantastic… common sense,” that Clinton was “up there teaching,” and “breaking it down.”[6]

But it’s also important that the public receive more ‘expert’ analysis from political commentators and reporters, so CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer explained that he had been watching Clinton since 1992 when he was CNN’s White House correspondent, and that, “[t]his may have been the best speech I have ever heard Bill Clinton deliver,” while GOP strategist Alex Castellanos proclaimed, “This will be the moment that probably re-elected Barack Obama.” Brit Hume on Fox News (“fair and balanced”) said that Clinton, “is the most talented politician I’ve ever covered and the most charming man I’ve ever met… No one in my view can frame an argument more effectively than he can.” Anderson Cooper shared his wisdom and analysis, explaining that, “[t]he level of detail in the speech was quite surprising… and yet there was a personality.” Chris Matthews on MSNBC chimed in, “I wouldn’t want to be the guy fighting Bill Clinton if the issue is Barack Obama.” But of course, there was some “intelligent criticism” of the speech within the media, so it wasn’t all praise. For example, John King of CNN noted that the speech could “use an editor,” because as various other critics noted, it was “too long.”[7]

So what exactly did Bill Clinton say that was so inspiring and praiseworthy? Well, he went up on stage, and for fifty minutes, successfully achieved the highest degree of hypocrisy possible. His speech could not have been better constructed if it had been written by a public relations firm, itself. And perhaps it was. After all, it’s not that the Clinton’s don’t have a cozy relationship with public relations firms, as Burson-Marsteller, the most prominent PR firm in the United States, ran Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign in 2008.[8] The firm is venerable and highly respected, and has built a very prominent resume of individuals and institutions it has represented, such as Ceausescu in Romania, the Saudi royal family, the Nigerian government when it wanted to discredit claims of genocide during the Biafran war, the Argentine dictatorship which killed roughly 35,000 of its own people, the Indonesian government as it committed genocide in East Timor (ultimately eliminating a third of the entire population while Bill Clinton armed it to do so). Burson-Marsteller also represented Union Carbide following the Bhopal gas leak that killed 15,000 people in India, among other reputable clients.[9]

Controlling the “Bewildered Herd” of “Ignorant and Meddlesome Outsiders”

I mention the public relations industry, because elections are essentially run by the PR industry, and public relations is the officially-sanctioned term for “propaganda.” It is no small coincidence that the founder of the public relations industry, a man named Edward Bernays, also happened to have literally written the book on Propaganda (1928), in which he wrote, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” He added: “it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.” Naturally, explained Bernays, this is merely “a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized.”[10]

Bernays of course had experience. In 1917, he was asked by President Woodrow Wilson to join the Committee on Public Information (CPI), a propaganda agency created by the government to rally the American population to support entering World War I, which was popularly perceived at the time as “a rich man’s war.” The CPI was highly successful, and the American people went to war. Bernays and the other propagandists who were involved were so impressed with their manipulation of the public during war-time, that they felt they could do it during peace time as well. Thus, after the war, Bernays soon founded one of the first PR firms in the United States. Walter Lippmann, the most influential intellectual in the United States at that time, encouraged President Wilson to create the CPI, and even suggested the concept of “making the world safe for democracy,” which became Wilson’s “idealistic” democratic vision for the world, still discussed in political science today. Lippmann and other intellectuals of the era recommended using social scientists and other intellectual elites to undertake “systematic intelligence and information control” as a “regular organ of popular government.” This was what Lippmann called the “manufacture of consent.”[11]

Lippmann wrote that, “propaganda, as the advocacy of ideas and doctrines, has a legitimate and desirable part to play in our democratic system.” Harold Lasswell, another leading political scientist of the era, wrote that, “[p]ropaganda is surely here to stay.” In his 1922 book, Public Opinion, Lippmann wrote that for the “manufacture of consent,” society needed “intelligence bureaus” or “observatories” which would distribute “disinterested” information to journalists, governments, businesses, and the society at large. This essentially is the function of think tanks and PR firms. The term “disinterested” is used to refer to the concept that the information and ideas are not shaped by emotional, irrational, or utopian concepts like “morality” or “ethics,” they are simply facts without a perceived ideology.[12]

In his 1925 book, The Phantom Public, Lippmann defined democracy for the modern state-capitalist system, which would not only be firmly entrenched within the United States, but exported around the world. Lippmann was quite emphatic: “A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment and to meddlesome tyranny.” That “tyranny,” of course, was the public interfering in the affairs of the state. Lippmann wrote that, “the public must be put in its place… so that each of us may live free of the trampling of a bewildered herd.” Referring to the public as “interested spectators of action,” Lippmann explained that, “the opinions of the spectators must be essentially different from those of the actors,” designed in such a way that the rulers of society – the corporate-financial elite and the intellectuals that serve them – would be able to continue controlling society with “the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.” What Lippmann recommended in 1922 as the “manufacture of consent,” Bernays recommended in 1923 as “the engineering of consent.” Engineering consent, Bernays later wrote in 1947, “affects almost every aspect of our daily lives.” He explained: “When used for social purposes, it is among our most valuable contributions to the efficient functioning of modern society.”[13]

Presidents and politicians are products of public relations. We are presented with officially sanctioned concepts of democracy, politics, and ideology. We are subsequently given a ‘choice’ between – usually two – different accepted views. This is called “balance.” The difference between the views are primarily tactical, but the fundamentals remain the same. Thus, no matter the political party in power, war and empire are on the agenda, but different views can proliferate on the tactics and assessment of the results of imperial policies. Imperialism itself cannot be questioned, or even acknowledged; it’s simply accepted. The same goes for serving the interests of the corporate and financial elite, which of course are the main actors in determining foreign imperial policy itself. Imperialism and war for the benefit of a parasitic economic and financial elite, however, is not something which the public could openly accept, so we are given different words, definitions, and mythologies of our society and its policies, so that the “invisible governors” – as Bernays referred to them – may continue to “manufacture consent” to the system; thus maintaining ‘social order’, which means to maintain the social hierarchy of power.

Idealistic Democracy in the Land of Simplistic Hypocrisy

When we discuss Woodrow Wilson as president, we give warm and boisterous praise to his “enlightened” vision of “democratic idealism.” In fact, so consistent and engrained is our officially sanctioned respect for Woodrow Wilson’s profound vision, that it was given a special name: “Wilsonian idealism” or “Wilsonian liberalism,” to “make the world safe for democracy.” It was conceived of as a kind of “internationalist” vision for world order predicated on “international cooperation and integration,” countering political realism which viewed the international arena as one of anarchy where states act in their own self-interest.[14]

Wilson of course, was not concerned with acting in “self-interest,” because he had an enlightened vision of “liberal idealism.” No doubt it was this “idealism” upon which Wilson based his invasions and occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, literally sending the Marines into the Parliament to disband it at gunpoint, killing tens of thousands of Haitians and crushing a liberation struggle in the country-side, and re-writing the constitution to allow American corporations to control the resources and buy land. In fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt, another democratic “idealist” president, was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the Haitian occupation (which began in 1915 and lasted until the Roosevelt administration in 1934). FDR took credit for writing the Haitian constitution, and claimed that he was responsible for “running several Caribbean republics.” Roosevelt referred to the Haitian occupation and his work on the new constitution as “an excellent piece of constructive work,” for which “the world ought to thank us.” He explained the common view of elites toward the general population – foreign and domestic – when he explained that in relation to Latin Americans, “You have to treat them like children.” The American media, with the New York Times at the helm, praised the ruthless occupation as a way for America to “advance” the Haitians, who were “a horde of naked niggers.” Wilson’s Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan reflected on his profound knowledge of Haitians when he stated, “Dear me, think of it! Niggers speaking French.”[15]

Wilson occupied the Dominican Republic in 1916, the neighbouring country to Haiti on the island once called Hispaniola when Columbus landed there and eradicated the indigenous population. When the U.S. ended the occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1924, a US-army trained commander, Rafael Trujillo, rigged the elections and became the country’s new dictator. President Hoover congratulated Trujillo on his “auspicious” victory. When FDR became president in 1933, he implemented his “Good Neighbor” policy for Latin America, meaning that America would be a “good neighbour” to ruthless tyrants like Trujillo so long as they served American interests. During this time, Trujillo, America’s “staunch friend” – as one American businessman referred to him – murdered roughly 25,000 Haitians in Dominican territory in an effort to “purify” and protect the ethnic superiority of the Dominican race. The genocide, however, created bad publicity for America’s support of Trujillo, since it drew obvious comparisons to similar dictators of the same era in Italy and Germany. So FDR’s administration undertook a “massive public relations effort” for the Trujillo regime, which included having biographies written about Trujillo in which he was described as emblematic of “democratic” and “humanitarian” virtues.[16]

In his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Bill Clinton referenced all the good work he has done for Haiti, explaining that he was “honored” to have worked with both president’s Bush and Obama in Haiti through various crises in the impoverished country. He presented this as evidence of how he is not a divisive politician, but seeks to work “with Democrats, Republicans and independents,” and that they “focus on solving problems and seizing opportunities.”[17] Well, how is Clinton’s record in Haiti? Should this question not be asked?

After the American occupation of Haiti ended, a dynastic dictatorship emerged as father and son Duvaliers ruled Haiti with an iron fist, and US support. When the dictatorship could no longer be sustained, it collapsed in the mid-80s, and following a series of military governments, Haiti undertook mass democratic elections in 1990, through which a populist priest and practitioner of Liberation Theology (the view that the purpose of Christianity was to fight for and liberate the poor from their poverty and oppression), Jean Bertrand Aristide, became victorious in securing the presidency. Aristide campaigned on empowering the extremely poor peasant population, which infuriated the local economic elite, who called him “the devil,” as well as U.S. corporate investors, since he attempted to implement the rather radical policy of doubling the minimum wage in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. This was obviously unacceptable and “irresponsible,” so in September of 1991, less than a year after being elected President, Aristide was deposed in a military coup. The CIA had formed close links with Aristide’s political opponents, and undertook a campaign to discredit him. Officially, the American government denounced the coup, though within days urged the military dictatorship “toward sharing power with the Parliament.” Economic sanctions were imposed, but quickly lifted in 1992 for the benefit of American corporations in Haiti as the State Department sought an “acceptable” political compromise. Aristide was pressured to sign an agreement that would allow him to “share” power and return to Haiti to continue the rest of his term as little more tan a figurehead.[18]

When Clinton came to power in 1993, his administration continued the process of negotiations aiming to bring Aristide into the “solution,” but only “when conditions permit,” and he agreed to share power with the US-favored candidate in the 1990 elections, a former World Bank official who was installed by the military coup. Meanwhile, the military government had killed thousands of Haitian civilians who were Aristide supporters. When an agreement was announced with Aristide, the military government in Haiti – armed by the US – quickly accelerated its murderous campaign. The US negotiations with Aristide focused on the perceived “need” for Aristide to “share” power with the military, because the Americans – who created the Haitian military force during the first US occupation of the country – viewed it as a source of “stability.” However, the military government refused to have Aristide return and share power with him in any capacity. Thus, Clinton’s National Security Advisor Anthony Lake instructed his staff at the National Security Council (NSC) to construct “Haitian invasion scenarios.”  The United States, however, was a promoter of “democracy,” so it needed to install a “civilian” government, and not be seen supporting a ruthless military dictatorship so openly. Aristide was given advice by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), run by the U.S. State Department, as well as the World Bank and IMF, who “educated” Aristide on “suitable” economic plans for Haiti once he returned to power. It should be noted, however, that the CIA, several State Department officials, as well as several Democratic and Republican politicians felt it was a bad idea to return Aristide to power, and commonly referred to him as a “psychopath.” Obviously, someone would have to be a “psychopath” to attempt to raise the minimum wage in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.[19]

In 1994, Clinton invaded Haiti with 20,000 troops in what was called “Operation Uphold Democracy,” which not only re-installed Aristide to finish his term, but ensured that the coup leaders and perpetrators of atrocities were not held to account for their crimes, the result of a deal brokered by the “human rights” president Jimmy Carter, whom Clinton dispatched to Haiti in order to negotiate a deal with the military. The United States occupation forces handed over “control” of Haiti to a United Nations ‘mission’ of 6,000 soldiers in 1995, with US forces expected to leave in 1996, when Aristide’s term finished and he was replaced with a business-friendly leader. Though in 1995, Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, reassured the U.S. Senate that, “even after our exit in February 1996, we will remain in charge by means of USAID and the private sector.”[20]

This is called the “restoration of democracy.” While Clinton sent 20,000 troops to Haiti to “restore democracy,” Obama sent 10,000 troops to Haiti to “restore order” following the devastating earthquake which killed several hundred thousand people who were living in the slums that were created through World Bank and IMF policies of austerity and structural adjustment, many of which were imposed during the Clinton administration. When Obama sent his troops to Haiti, he pledged that the “United States is in Haiti for the long haul.”[21] Indeed the U.S. has been invading and exploiting Haiti and punishing its population for over 200 years, so why stop now?

“The Price is Worth It”: How To Get Away With Murdering Half a Million Children

In his speech at the DNC, Clinton also praised Obama’s “successful end of the war in Iraq.” Clinton, of course, has had a great deal of experience when it comes to Iraq. After Iraq had stopped being a pliant U.S. puppet, George Bush Sr. waged a brutal war against the country, after which economic sanctions were imposed, lasting through the duration of the Clinton administration. The sanctions, in fact, began in 1990 before the first Gulf War, which destroyed the entire infrastructure of the country. Margaret Thatcher explained that the purpose of the Iraq war was to “destroy the entire military, and perhaps industrial, potential of that country.” The sanctions from 1990 to 2000 resulted in the deaths of roughly 1.5 million Iraqis, over 500,000 of which were children under the age of 12. The New York Times praised the sanctions as one of the “greatest successes” for the UN in Iraq. Three top UN officials who were sent to Iraq to monitor the sanctions and provide humanitarian assistance resigned in protest against the sanctions, explaining that they were causing immense harm to the civilian population. When Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked in 1996 about the 500,000 children killed by the sanctions, Albright stated, “we think the price is worth it.”[22]

Obama of course, has learned a valuable lesson from Clinton, and imposed sanctions on Iran in order to punish the Iranian population. The day before Clinton spoke at the DNC endorsing Obama, the Financial Times reported that the US-imposed sanctions on Iran were having the predictable effect as they were hitting medical patients especially hard, as deliveries of medicine and raw material for Iranian pharmaceutical companies was either stopped or delayed, as “access to medicine has become increasingly limited.” One Iranian medical NGO official commented, “This is a blatant hostage-taking of the most vulnerable people by countries which claim they care about human rights.”[23]

However, these are exactly the intentions of sanctions. When Castro overthrew the U.S.-supported dictatorship in Cuba in 1959, Cuba became the primary enemy of the United States because, in the words of a 1960 National Intelligence Estimate, of Cuba’s “successful defiance of the U.S.” As the Eisenhower administration – and the Kennedy administration following him – designed and implemented harsh economic sanctions, top officials were quite blunt in their internal discussions about the effects and intent of the policies. Eisenhower noted that if the Cuban people “are hungry, they will throw Castro out,” since the “primary objective” of the sanctions, the president noted, was “to establish conditions which will bring home to the Cuban people the cost of Castro’s policies.” Kennedy administration officials explained that the sanctions – and the accompanying covert warfare – were designed to alienate “internal support” in Cuba to Castro’s government, “based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship,” which meant that US policy had to aim “to bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of the government,” explained one State Department official.[24]

“It Takes Some Brass”: Serving the Corporate Consensus with the Politics of Poverty

The media outlet, PolitiFact, reported on Bill Clinton’s DNC speech, writing that the former president “received a hero’s welcome,” and then confirmed Clinton’s statements on the economy as “true.”[25] Well, what are some things that Clinton said about the economy? One thing Clinton stated was that, “It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics,” adding that, “poverty, discrimination and ignorance restrict growth.” He proclaimed that the Democrats “think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it.” Clinton noted that the Republicans “want to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts.” Clinton, while referring to a Republican politician, noted, “it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.”[26] While the audience laughed, applauded, and cheered at that statement, the irony was lost on the fact that Clinton was doing just that: “attacking a guy for doing what [he] did.” Clearly, Clinton has “some brass” to not only do that, but to actually comment on that technique.

It’s truly an amazing exercise in absolute hypocrisy to see a man stand up in front of millions of people and blame Republicans for wanting to get rid of “pesky financial regulations” when his administration was largely responsible for getting rid of the most important “pesky financial regulations” – such as the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act – which Obama has obviously not even considered re-instating. The economic crisis – which is only going to get worse, since Obama has ensured that the next financial crisis will be much more severe than the last one – was not caused by a political party, it was caused by a socio-political and economic ideology that we call ‘neoliberalism.’ This ideology was and still is endorsed and promoted by Republicans and Democrats alike. So from Reagan onwards, every single U.S. president is responsible for creating and making the economic crisis worse, because they implemented policies which were designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many. And when the system crashes, as it inevitably does, the government moves in to save the banks and financial institutions from their crimes, and hand the people the bill.[27]

Under Bill Clinton, the derivatives market exploded as financial institutions were deregulated, major mergers approved – creating what we now call “too big to fail” banks – which since Obama’s “economic recovery” are bigger and more dangerous than ever. Under Clinton, the Federal Reserve kept interest rates at historic lows and provided liquidity (money) to help build the housing bubble, with which Clinton’s unregulated derivatives market saw an explosion in speculation, not only allowing banks and hedge funds to help create the financial crisis, but also to profit from it, as Goldman Sachs did (which was Obama’s main campaign contributor in his 2008 election). Clinton’s administration had the Department of Housing and Urban Development pressure the mortgage giants – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – to provide mortgages to low-income borrowers, which helped build the housing bubble under an illusion of prosperity. The Glass-Steagall Act, which was put in place in 1933 in response to the Great Depression, was designed to prevent another Great Depression. So of course, banks like JP Morgan, Citicorp and others lobbied heavily to have it repealed (as a barrier to “growth”), and the Federal Reserve and Clinton’s Treasury Department responded to the demands of their constituents – the banks and corporations that they represent in government – by dismantling these “pesky financial regulations.” Thus, Alan Greenspan at the Fed, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers at the Treasury were among the key architects of the economic collapse, along with their constituents at JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.[28]

So naturally, when Obama became president, it was important to appoint all the people who caused the crisis to positions in which they are responsible for solving the crisis they helped create. So Obama appointed Larry Summers to be his chief economic adviser, and of course, Timothy Geithner who previously served as President of the New York Federal Reserve, where he was appointed to that position by the major Wall Street banks he was to represent. Geithner was also a protégé of Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Rubin had since become an executive at Citigroup, rewarded for his work in dismantling “pesky financial regulations” and thus able to profit from the crisis he helped create. Summers had previously shown his propensity for “morally right and good economics” – as Clinton described it – when he was Chief Economist at the World Bank in 1991, where he wrote a secret memo advocating Western nations and corporations to dump toxic waste in poor African countries because by the time the effects of cancer emerge, statistically speaking, the population would already be dead because their life expectancy was so low. Thus, wrote Summers, “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”[29]

Clearly, Clinton’s economic policies as president – and those of which he has endorsed in Obama’s administration – were a triumphant success for the dominant banks, financial institutions and corporations that own the government. Despite all the evidence of Goldman Sachs having engaged in repeated criminal activity in causing the financial crisis and profiting off of it (not to mention getting massive bailout funds from Obama), Obama’s [In]Justice Department recently announced that the U.S. government “will not prosecute Goldman Sachs.”[30] And of course not, why would Obama prosecute the bank that was his number one financial contributor in his 2008 election campaign. Though of course, it should be noted, that Obama’s 2008 campaign had some diversity among its top donors: JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and UBS, among others. The financial institutions preferred Obama over John McCain in 2008, and it was a smart investment for them.[31] After all, Obama’s bailouts gave the banks $16 trillion.[32]

No surprise then, to see that Obama’s top campaign donors in 2012 include Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. And since the U.S. Supreme Court voted in January of 2010 to allow corporations to contribute as much money as they want to election campaigns – under “constitutional free-speech rights” – campaign spending has increased dramatically.[33] Thus, while Wall Street gave the Obama campaign $16 million in 2008, that number has soared during the current election, with the same contributors donating to Romney.[34] Among Romney’s current top supporters are Morgan Stanley, Bank of American, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs, with Obama getting more support from Microsoft, Google, IBM, and others.[35] While Obama parades around calling Wall Street executives “fat cats,” Obama and the Democratic National Committee raised more than $14 million from the “fat cats” through the end of April 2012.[36]

Clinton stated at the Democratic Convention, reflecting upon his economic policies of the 1990s, “We could see that the policies were working, that the economy was growing… [and] by 1996 the economy was roaring,” neglecting to mention it was a roaring bubble built upon speculation and debt. This, of course, received a thunderous applause for Clinton as he spoke, adding that President Obama “has laid the foundation for a new, modern successful economy of shared prosperity. And if you renew the president’s contract, you will feel it. You will feel it.”[37] He had to repeat that part because people haven’t been “feeling it,” so it was important to remind them that current conditions are no basis for assessing the future. One must assess the future based upon pure “faith.” Hence, “you will feel it” is repeated despite all the policies that indicate otherwise.

Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general responsible for oversight of Obama’s bailout program, recently published a book entitled, “Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street,” in which he wrote, “I had no idea that the U.S. government had been captured by the banks,” but this became clear as the bailouts were “setting the country up for potentially catastrophic losses.”[38] In his final report as inspector of the bailouts, Barofsky wrote: “The prospect of more bailouts will continue to fuel more bad behavior with potentially disastrous results.” In other words, the concept of “too big to fail” is an insurance policy for banks, telling them that the government will always be there to save them, and thus, they have no incentive to engage in safe financial practices, and are actually encouraged to continue making highly risky and speculative investments, paving the way for the next financial crisis at which time they will be bailed out again. Barofsky called the bailouts a “colossal failure,” under which the Treasury Department “made almost no effort to hold [the banks] accountable, and the bounteous terms delivered by the government seemed to border on being corrupt.”[39] Just more of Clinton’s “morally right and good economics,” no doubt.

“Free Trade” and Costly Poverty: A Bi-Partisan Consensus

Clinton of course, also implemented the NAFTA agreement, which is a protectionist corporate-dominated system of economic integration and exploitation between Mexico, Canada, and the US, undermining labour, de-industrializing the northern countries, exploiting the labour of poor Mexicans, and undertaking a concerted assault against the middle class. Thus, it is called a “free trade agreement,” though it consists of thousands of pages of rules and regulations expanding corporate rights and domination of the economy. This is perhaps what Clinton was referring to when he said that Democrats work towards “advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment” in order to provide “real opportunities” for “a strong middle class.” Those statements were of course met with thunderous applause and cheers.

Back during the 2008 campaign, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said that they would renegotiate NAFTA, and even suggested that the United States would pull out of the agreement. While campaigning, they made these statements at a debate in Cleveland, Ohio, where NAFTA is “wildly unpopular with blue-collar workers,” due to all the manufacturing jobs that were lost as a result of the trade agreement. Hillary Clinton stated that she would “renegotiate it on terms that are favourable to all of America.” Obama agreed with Hillary at the debate, stating, “I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about, and I think actually Senator Clinton’s answer on this one is right.” Obama said that he would “ensure that we actually get labour and environmental standards that are enforced… That is something that I have been consistent about.”[40]

The Canadian business and financial elite – and their mouthpieces in the media – immediately declared the sky to be falling as a result of presidential hopefuls suggesting to renegotiate NAFTA. It was leaked to the Canadian media that a senior member of Obama’s campaign team contacted the Canadian Consulate in Chicago to inform them that when Obama talks about renegotiating or “opting out” of NAFTA, “it was just campaign rhetoric not to be taken seriously.” In other words, he was just lying to get into power. The statements were made by Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s senior economic adviser during his campaign.[41] Goolsbee further informed Canadian officials that Obama’s stand on free trade during the campaign trail was “more reflective of political maneuvering than policy,” and that Obama’s language “should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.”[42] In other words, it is important to completely ignore everything Obama says while he is campaigning for president, because it is all lies meant to be consumed by the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders,” the voting public. It does not reflect the actual policies and plans of Obama, which the public is not to be informed of.

So why lie about NAFTA? In Ohio, where the pledges to renegotiate NAFTA were made, the trade agreement led to the loss of roughly 200,000 manufacturing jobs, while the U.S. as a whole lost some 3.1 million jobs between 1994 and 2009 due to NAFTA, which also led to a trade deficit with Mexico and Canada that was $9.1 billion in 1993, and has since risen to $138.5 billion in 2007. During the presidential campaign, national polls revealed that 56% of the American population was in favour of renegotiating NAFTA. In Mexico, hundreds of thousands of people had marched in opposition to NAFTA, demanding renegotiations, and in Canada, 61% of the population favour renegotiation.[43]

Public opinion polls are extensively studied by the public relations industry and political strategists, who advise politicians during their campaigns (and once they take power). Because public opinion is in favour of renegotiating NAFTA, the rhetoric of politicians must reflect public opinion, so that the politicians are viewed in a good light and get the votes they need to get into power. However, because politicians are put in power to serve the interests of corporate and financial institutions, it can only remain as rhetoric, because renegotiating is against the interests and desires of the economic and financial elite, who are, after all, the major financial contributors to electoral advertising campaigns. So public opinion must be studied so that it can be used to manipulate the public – “the engineering of consent” – but then it must also be immediately undermined and dismissed, so that policy does not actually follow public opinion. Rather, public opinion – to the best degree possible – must be influenced to follow policy.

Raymond Chretien, former Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. and nephew of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien (who implemented NAFTA in cooperation with Bill Clinton), said in November of 2008, just following Obama’s successful election, that Obama “will likely find a way to back off his election campaign promise to renegotiate” the agreement, adding, “once in power in January, once apprised of what is at stake here,” meaning, massive corporate profits, “I doubt very much that he will want to reopen that.”[44] Within less than a month of becoming president, Obama stated that his promise to renegotiate NAFTA “will have to wait”; forever, no doubt.[45] Kind of like closing the torture camp at Guantanamo.

So apart from just lying about trade agreements to get into power, what is Obama’s actual record as president on trade agreements? Negotiations were begun under the Bush administration in 2008 for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and of course, since the difference between Obama and Bush was one of rhetoric, the negotiations continued in the same manner: secretly.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has been working for over three years on a massive so-called “trade agreement” behind closed doors, with input given only to 600 corporate lobbyists who have had access to the draft deal and negotiations, which have otherwise been kept secret from the public. Just part of Obama’s promised “transparency,” no doubt. The agreement includes the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam, among others. Roughly 133 Democratic representatives wrote a letter to Obama demanding access to the “secret texts” of the trade deal, with public interest groups warning that millions of jobs could be lost as a result of the agreement.[46]

While it is called a “trade agreement,” only 2 of the 26 chapters in the TPP have to do with trade, with the majority of the rest dealing with establishing corporate rights, protections, privileges, as well as constraints on “pesky” government regulations. Among these new “rights” and “privileges” for corporations (who obviously do not have enough rights and privileges as it is) include more job offshoring, protections to allow monopolies to raise prices, as well as new corporate controls established over natural resources. The deal also includes threats to food safety, land use, environmental protection, energy use and control, as well as a special chapter on “copyrights” which includes a massive threat to Internet freedom, which was previously stalled in Congress with the attempted Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Obviously, dismantling Internet freedom through a corrupt institution like Congress failed due to public pressure, and thus, Congress is still too influenced by the “meddlesome and ignorant outsiders,” so it’s better that such an agreement be negotiated in secret with 600 corporations.[47]

Documents from the deal have been leaked, which is the only way that any of this information has become public. When the documents were leaked, it was reported that the Obama administration “intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations.” In the documents, it was revealed that Obama’s administration has emerged as a very strong advocate “for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.” In other words, the already ineffective and almost-useless and toothless environmental, financial, and labour protections that exist are simply unacceptable to the Obama administration and the 600 corporations Obama is taking his orders from. The agreement stipulates that foreign corporations operating in the United States would no longer be subject to domestic US laws regarding protections for the environment, finance, or labour rights, and could appeal to an “international tribunal” which would be given the power to overrule American law and impose sanctions on the U.S. for violating the new “rights” of corporations.[48]

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama stated, “We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; [or] require the privatization of our vital public services.” I suppose that was somewhat true, since technically it isn’t a “bilateral” agreement, but rather a “multi-lateral” agreement. Referring to the changed rules for medication – which would allow companies to increase prices and control monopolies over life-saving medications, as well as prevent poor countries from developing cheap alternatives – the U.S. manger of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign, stated, “Bush was better than Obama on this.” The agreement would of course grant similar rights to American corporations in the other countries of the TPP agreement, thus, it serves as a profitable and exploitative bonanza for all multinational corporations involved, and of course, all the populations from the countries involved will suffer as a result. The “international tribunal” which would dictate the laws of the countries would be staffed by corporate lawyers acting as “judges,” thus ensuring that cases taken before them have a “fair and balanced” hearing, as in, fairly balanced in favour of corporate rights over… everything else. The TPP deal is strongly supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobby in the United States, as well as by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who has urged the U.S. to finalize the deal as fast as possible.[49]

Public Citizen is the organization that published the leaked document, a public research institution whose director, Todd Tucker, stated, “The leaked document… shows that in all of the major respects, this is exactly the same template that was used in NAFTA and other agreements that President Obama campaigned against,” and noted that the TPP has provisions that allow other countries to join in the future, potentially becoming a new “global trade agreement, larger than NAFTA.”[50] The American Prospect reported on the TPP leaks, writing that, “the TPP now threatens a slow-motion stealth attack against a century of progressive domestic policy,” though it’s hardly slow-motion, and the policies that exist can hardly be said to be “progressive,” but nonetheless, all the little concessions granted to the demands of the “bewildered herd” of “interested spectators” were simply too much to bear for corporate dominance. Gary Horlick, a former U.S. trade official who had spent four decades involved in trade deals, stated, “This is the least transparent trade negotiation I have ever seen.” In fact, participants in the negotiations and discussions have to sign a memorandum of understanding which forbids them from releasing any “negotiating documents until four years after a deal is done or abandoned.” In short, Obama’s TPP is a “corporate coup.”[51]

The objective with the “unprecedented secrecy” in the negotiations is to have the deal signed before the elections. As the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk noted, “I believe … that we have very faithfully operated within the spirit of the Obama administration to have the most engaged and transparent process as we possibly could.” Though he explained what he meant by “as we possibly could,” when he added that, “there’s a practical reason” for all the secrecy: “for our ability both to preserve negotiating strength and to encourage our partners to be willing to put issues on the table they may not otherwise, that we have to preserve some measure of discretion and confidentiality.” In other words, the secrecy is necessary because if people knew what we were doing behind closed doors, they would oppose it, and the deal would be stopped. Yes, that is very “practical.” When asked if he would release a draft text of the agreement, Kirk replied that it was too early to do that, “there will be a time, once we have agreed on text, that we may – as we have with other agreements – be able to release that.” In other words: “maybe, and by maybe, I mean… nope!” Meanwhile, other nations don’t want to be left out of such an ambitious and “prosperous” trade agreement, as Japan, Canada, and Mexico have been lobbying to be included. But this would require the three countries to implement changes to their already-existing policies which would allow them to even be considered to enter the TPP. In other words, even Mexico doesn’t meet the required standards of desirable corporate exploitation and domination to be considered.[52]

All the secrecy is very important, because as public opinion polls show, the entire population is adamantly opposed to these types of negotiations. An opinion poll from 2011 revealed that the American population has – just over the previous few years – moved from “broad opposition” to “overwhelming opposition” to NAFTA-style trade deals. A major NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll from September of 2010 revealed that “the impact of trade and outsourcing is one of the only issues on which Americans of different classes, occupations and political persuasions agree,” with 86% saying that outsourcing jobs by U.S. companies to poor countries was “a top cause of our economic woes,” with 69% thinking that “free trade agreements between the United States and other countries cost the U.S. jobs,” and only 17% of Americans in 2010 feel that “free trade agreements” benefit the U.S., compared to 28% in 2007. A Democratic Party polling firm revealed that 45% of voters were much more likely to support a Democratic candidate if the candidate pointed out how their opponent supported various “free trade agreements” negotiated by George Bush. The same polling agency revealed in 2010 that Americans do not feel “warmly” towards corporations and banks, with only 29% of voters feeling “warm” toward corporations (compared to 13% among non-voters), and 12% of voters felt “warm” toward banks (compared to 16% among non-voters). These are lower ratings than those for Obama, Sarah Palin, the GOP, Democrats, Newt Gingrich, the NRA, labor unions, and much more. Polling showed that voters who vote for Democrats cited “job offshoring” as “the most important issue facing the country,” and felt that Republican support for offshoring was the “most important reason to not vote Republican.”[53]

The extensive polling, which politicians are well aware of, reflects a view that citizens look at corporations and banks unfavorably, and that issues of “free trade” and “job offshoring” feature extremely high in their concerns, and whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, the population is overwhelming in opposition to “free trade” agreements. So, the lesson from all this research on public opinion is not to change the policy to meet the demands of the public, but rather to change the discussion. So “free trade” agreements are simply not discussed, hence the enormous secrecy behind the TPP. Since corporations and banks are viewed so unfavorably, you simply remove them from the discussion. After all, it is the corporations and banks that the politicians are there to serve, and you don’t want to bad mouth your bosses in public too much or too loud (unless it’s “just campaign rhetoric”). Thus, when it comes to blaming the economic crisis on someone, the discussion must be simplified to an absurd little fairy tale in which you remove facts from reality, and create an image and establish a political discourse in which it was either: a) the Republicans did it, or b) the Democrats did it. By framing the discourse at this very basic, black and white manner, you immediately divide people against each other, instead of uniting them in opposition to the banks and corporations which control the politicians and the government. This is done for obvious reasons. You can’t expect a parasite to help you find a way to get rid of parasites. That’s why public relations was invented.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs. Jobs jobby-jobs, jobby job-jobbin… Jobs.” – Every Politician Ever

When politicians blather about, they almost always mention this magical word called “jobs.” They usually state that their intention is to “create jobs” or that they have already “created jobs.” This is taken as a testament to their tireless work on behalf of the population that elected them. Jobs are good. So if politicians create jobs, they are doing good… right? Well, what if the word “jobs” meant something different when politicians say it? Perhaps, it would be helpful to seek a definition, so that we can translate political language and understand what is really being said. After all, if you only speak English, and you’re listening to someone who only speaks Spanish, you might recognize a couple of words now and again, but ultimately, you need a translation in order to understand what is being said. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out in countless public speaking events, when politicians say “jobs,” what they mean to say is, “profits.” Perhaps this is worth investigating, no?

First, we must ask some basic questions. Why are jobs important? Because they provide a means of living, of earning income, and thus, generating wealth and prosperity for all. That’s the story, anyway. But essentially we can deduce that jobs are important because they provide income, which we depend on to live. So, if we are to talk about jobs, we have to talk about income.

In June of 2012, the OECD – an international organization of economists representing 34 of the wealthiest countries on earth – released a report noting that the United States is facing “record long-term unemployment, income inequality and lack of investment in education and innovation.” The report noted that for the U.S., “income inequality and relative poverty are among the highest in the OECD.” Only Chile, Mexico, and Turkey rank higher among OECD nations in terms of income inequality. The chances of staying poor are higher in the U.S. than in Europe. As Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD and former State Department official Richard Boucher explained, “If your parents are poor, the chances are you are going to stay poor.” As the comedian George Carlin once said, “It’s called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe in it.” The OECD report also noted, “the ongoing tide of foreclosures will continue to put downward pressure on house prices.” Just more of that “economic recovery” that we are told we are experiencing. Long-term unemployment in the U.S. is especially bad, with 40% of the unemployed – that’s officially 5.3 million Americans – have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. As the report also noted: “Although the middle class have seen their taxes remain roughly constant, or slightly increase, average income taxes have significantly declined for the most wealthy, especially the 1% top earners.”[54]

In 2008, the average household income for the top 1% was $1.2 million, though the percentage is highly skewed, as entry to the top 1% starts at $380,000. The share of total national income going to the top 1% reached an 80-year high in 2007, of 23.5% (and 17.6% in 2009 as the financial market deflated). For the top 0.1%, the inequality is even more pronounced. Their share of total income for the United States was 12.3% in 2007, sinking to a “still disproportionate” level of 8.1% in 2009 with the financial crash. Though this is a general trend in most countries of the OECD nations, it “began sooner, and has gone further, in America.” Increasingly, those who are within the top 1% work in finance, a trend which has increased faster than any comparable business between 1979 and 2005. In 1979, 8% of those within the top 1% worked in finance; in 2005, 13.9% of those in the top percentile worked in finance. For the top 0.1%, in 1979 roughly 11% were in finance, and in 2005 roughly 18% were in finance. The last time that income inequality was even comparable to the present day situation was during the Great Depression.[55]

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said in June of 2012 that the United Sates is “no longer the land of opportunity” and “the ‘American dream’ is a myth.” As he detailed in his newest book, The Price of Inequality, “America has the least equality of opportunity of any of the advanced industrial economies.” This inequality will only widen in the coming decades, he warned, because the lack of mobility makes it a reinforcing system, and America will become a two-class society: “People will live in gated communities with armed guards. It’s an ugly picture. There will be political, social and economic turmoil.” Stiglitz, however, said there was a solution: eliminating “corporate welfare” and policies that “create wealth but not economic growth.”[56] In other words, instead of just creating profits for the few, focus on prosperity for the many. However, all U.S. administrations – whether Democrat or Republican – have done the exact opposite.

Between 1979 and 2006, the share of national income that went to the top 1% doubled, while the top 0.1% have amassed a larger share of the national income than at any other point on record. Between 2009 and 2011, the S&P500 (the stock prices of the top 500 companies) went up by over 80%, while median household income declined by more than 10%. While the bottom 50% of Americans own 2.5% of the national wealth, the top 1% own 33.8%. The bottom half of Americans own 0.5% of stocks, bonds, and other investment assets, while the top 1% own 50.9%. As of 2007, the top 1% had 5% of the debt, while the bottom 90% had 73% of the debt. Tax rates for the richest Americans are almost the lowest they have ever been. Productivity of workers has increased exponentially since 1947, but inflation-adjusted wages have remained flat for the same period of time. Between 1990 and 2005, the average pay for a CEO increased by 300%, and corporate profits have doubled, while pay for “production workers” (labour) has increased by 4% and the minimum wage has dropped. In 1970, the top CEOs earned 45 times as much as the average worker; in 2006, the top CEOs earned 1,723 times as much as the average worker. America has more income inequality than Egypt, India, China, Russia, and Iran. This inequality is further strengthened when you examine the generational divide. Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of people under the age of 35 has dropped by 68%, while seniors have gotten 42% richer. Adjusted for inflation, in 1984, the median wealth of someone under 35 was $11,521; in 2009, it was $3,662.[57]

Now we get to the actual subject of “jobs,” of which Clinton spent so much time discussing in his speech at the DNC, that Democrats are better at creating “private-sector jobs” than Republicans, which was met with thunderous applause, and endless articles in the media explaining how “right” he was. Well yes, the “private sector” has added some jobs. This led Obama to say in June that the private sector was “doing fine.” When this created a public relations problem for Obama, he later clarified that it is “absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine.” He added: “If you look at what I said… we’ve actually seen some good momentum in the private sector… record corporate profits… so that has not been the greatest drag on the economy.”[58] Indeed, this is partly true. In May of 2012, the largest 500 corporations (the Fortune 500, as they are called) reported record-breaking profits, with ExxonMobil and Wal-Mart in the top spots. Further, “the combined earnings for the Fortune 500 corporations rose 16% from 2010 to a record high of $825 billion in 2011.”[59] As profits increase, the pay for CEOs increases too, jumping just 6% in one year.[60] In June of 2012, the Federal Reserve revealed that between 2007 and 2010, Americans saw their wealth plummet by 40%.[61] So, Obama was correct in saying that we have seen “record corporate profits,” but incorrect in saying that this was not a “drag on the economy,” as it rapidly accelerates income inequality, which, quite directly, creates a drag on the economy, to say the least.

While the private sector has been adding jobs, the public sector has been cutting them, at both the state and federal level, which has been hitting black Americans the hardest.[62] This has been a significant “drag” on economic growth (it’s called “austerity”), and it is a growing trend, and will continue regardless of whether a Democratic or Republican politician is in office, because it is what is demanded by the economic and financial elite and neoliberal ideology: which dictates “austerity” and “structural reform” as a response to a crisis. When you translate those words, you get “impoverishment” and “exploitation.” This leads to “growth,” which means “profits.” Just like the word “jobs” also often means profits.

When Obama created his “Jobs and Competitiveness Council,” he asked 26 CEOs to form a group to advise the president on how to “create jobs.” The council was headed by Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, but also included other “job creators” like the CEO of American Express.[63] And who better than the CEO of General Electric to lead the charge on “job creation”? After all, General Electric has cut significant amounts of American jobs, so naturally, it’s a logical choice from which to appoint a “jobs czar.” Between 2000 and 2009, the number of Americans employed by GE declined from 162,000 to 134,000, a general trend which saw U.S. multinational corporations reduce their domestic American workforce by 2.9 million people in the past decade, while increasing their overseas workforce by 2.4 million. When Obama appointed GE’s CEO, Jeff Immelt as “jobs czar,” President Obama stated that Mr. Immelt “understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.”[64] Indeed, it “takes” undermining labour, worker exploitation, deregulation, offshoring, job insecurity, and government subsidy for corporations. In fact, the ten largest companies on Obama’s “jobs council” have shed over 91,000 jobs since 2009, with General Electric contributing 19,000 job losses to that number.[65]

So, if we do translate the word “jobs” into the word profits, then things tend to make more sense. After all, Obama appointed Immelt as his “jobs czar,” after Immelt cut 19,000 U.S. jobs but helped GE make record profits, and not only that, but GE does not pay any taxes, and instead, claims billions of dollars in tax benefits.[66] Thus, it makes more sense to think of Immelt as the “profits czar” who was put on Obama’s “profits council” to “create profits.” When you translate political language, everything suddenly makes much more sense, because it becomes comprehensible and logical. It just also happens to be rather monstrous and corrupt and infuriating, but that’s why political language is constructed: to not be properly understood. Thus, it was perfectly understandable for Bill Clinton, who implemented NAFTA which led to massive job losses, declining wages and standards of living, increased debt, offshoring, but also immense corporate profits, to explain in his speech that, “we need a lot more new jobs,” but pointed out what a good record Democrats have for “creating jobs.” Indeed, General Electric and Goldman Sachs would agree.

Public Relations Shapes the Debate

Since the economy is a disaster, it is very important to properly shape the discourse on economic issues, most especially during a political advertising campaign, otherwise it would be difficult to maintain any legitimacy. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is a public opinion research and strategic consulting firm that often works with the Democratic Party. Essentially, it is the Democratic Party’s public relations organization. In June of 2012, James Carville, a long-time Democratic Party political strategist who was the lead strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign, produced a research report along with other top political strategists for Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. The report was entitled, Shifting the Economic Narrative, which suggested that the “prevailing narratives articulated by national Democratic leaders” are “vulnerable” in regards to the economic situation. In other words, the Democratic rhetoric and talking points on the economy don’t have much legitimacy. The report wrote that Democrats face an impossible situation in the elections “if we do not move to a new narrative,” or, to construct a new story. This would mean to change the story to “one that contextualizes the recovery but, more importantly, focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class.” The report stated that voters “know we are in a new normal where life is a struggle – and convincing them that things are good enough for those who have found jobs is a fool’s errand,” thus, the narrative must shift to discussing “the plans for making things better.” While noting that the Democrats were losing voters on the economy, the report added that the same voters were still leaning toward the Democrats “because Romney is very vulnerable,” since “[t]hey do not trust him because of who he is for and because he is out of touch with ordinary people.” The report noted that the result was that, “it produces a fairly diminished embrace of Obama and the Democrats, the lesser of two evils, without much feeling of hope.”[67]

What voters “want to know,” wrote the report, was that Obama “understands the struggle of working families and has plans to make things better.” It doesn’t matter whether or not this is true, of course, but just that people believe it, and that they “want to know” it. The report noted that it had conducted several focus group research studies on college-educated voters who are ‘independents’ or ‘weak partisans,’ meaning that they only somewhat align with a particular political party. The research was revealing: while most had jobs, they had lower wages and fewer benefits which has left them struggling to pay for groceries. For non-college graduates, the situation is even worse, largely dependent upon food stamps and with many expressing that they feel as if they live in the 1900s where “you’re just slave labour.” Young people also have a disproportionate struggle, and are increasingly moving back home with their parents. Even in affluent suburbs people are “struggling with new realities,” such as “stagnant incomes, pay cuts, and layoffs.” Wile bills go up, paychecks either remain stagnant or go down, and this is most keenly felt in the cost of groceries, gas, cable bills, and medical insurance. These voters, the report suggested, “are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction,” with “no conceivable recovery in the year ahead that will change the view of the new state of the country.” These people, stated the report, “actually have a very realistic view,” and thus, “the current narrative about progress just misses the opportunity to connect and point forward.”[68]

While most of these voters support Obama, “they say it cannot get worse and you have to believe it will get better.” The “optimism” is predicated on the basis that “this has to be rock bottom,” which the report defined as “pessimistic optimism.” The type of “leaders” they are looking for are those “who understand the uncertainty and can lead a way forward.” While the Obama campaign talks about “jobs gained,” wrote the report, “it gains no support beyond 2008 Obama supporters.” On the economy, Romney supporters typically cannot say anything positive except that he is “not Obama.” However, many voters would still choose Romney over Obama when it comes to the economy, but when forced to choose between the two on the whole, “many of the Obama voters work to figure out a way to support him, though it lacks the kind of emotion and rationale that would drive engagement.” In other words, support for Obama tends to be driven more by the fact that he is “not Romney.” In the words of the report, it was that Obama was “the evil you know” and the “lesser of two evils.” While the patience of voters on Obama was “wearing very thin, they still want to believe in him.” All the ideas of voters that support Obama “center on what he should do – not what he has done.”[69] In other words, support is maintained in false hope.

In terms of “shifting the economic narrative,” the research report suggested that, “the strongest message was one focused on the future of the middle class – with minimal discussion of the recovery and jobs created and maximal empathy for the challenges people face.” Thus, the election needs to be about the “future of the middle class.” Two-thirds of those who partook in the focus groups responded positively to this message of helping the middle class, and they reacted well to references of the Clinton era economy (when their wealth was constructed on an illusion of debt and consumption). Ultimately, the report suggested that the best advertising campaign for the Democratic Party and Obama in particular was to “connect on a pocketbook level” and “commit to the programs voters rely on most,” such as Medicaid, Social Security and foodstamps. This rhetoric has “the capacity to be very powerful, particularly when the offer on the other side is suspicious and weak.”[70]

This “shifting message” was well received in Bill Clinton’s speech, where he talked about moving people “out of poverty [and] into the middle class,” and warning people that the Republicans will “hurt the middle class and the poor and put the future on hold.” That phrase, in particular, hit all the right points of discussion as suggested by the Democratic Party’s polling agency: to talk about the middle class, to protect the poor, and to focus on “the future.” That is why, as Clinton was finishing his speech, he said that, “If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining… you have to vote for Obama.”[71] Or that Democrats “think the country works better with a strong middle class.” Or that Republicans want to cut programs “that help the middle class and poor children,” which, of course, is true. But the statement neglects the problematic context that while Democrats may not necessarily “cut” these programs (though again, the evidence of this is scant, but let’s imagine as a hypothetical), the Democrats do continue to create the social conditions in which the middle class and poor struggle more, and thus, become more dependent upon various programs of support. It’s sort of like saying that, “After my opponent beats you with a stick, he won’t let you have a bandaid… But after I beat you with a stick, I at least give you a bandaid.”

Brand Obama: No ‘Hope’ in Hell for ‘Change’

Since the public relations industry runs election campaigns and a good deal of public politics, it only makes sense that the industry itself acknowledges this fact. When it came to Obama’s 2008 election campaign, the public relations and advertising industry were completely ecstatic. Before even being elected president, Obama won the Advertising Age’s “marketer of the year” award for 2008, winning the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and other industry representatives at the annual conference of the Association of National Advertisers. Obama’s campaign of “hope” and “change” beat Apple for the coveted prize that year. The Vice President of Rodale marketing solutions stated, “I honestly look at [Obama’s] campaign and I look at it as something that we can all learn from as marketers.”[72]

At the Cannes Lion International Advertising Awards in June of 2009, the Obama campaign claimed two of the top awards at the prestigious international advertising and public relations industry awards. His campaign won the Titanium grand prix award, for which the criteria is an advertising campaign that is “provocative, challenges assumptions and points to a new direction.” For example, “hope” and “change.” The Titanium award, according to the organizers at the Cannes ceremony, “celebrates work that causes the industry to stop in its tracks and reconsider the way forward.” The other coveted prize that the Obama advertising campaign received was the Integrated Lions award, referring to a campaign that uses three or more media, such as the press, Internet and television, which is “high standard and state-of-the-art.”[73] One advertising executive commented, “They turned (political advertising) from being one dimensional to something the whole country could contribute to. It was a fantastic idea.” Another advertising executive stated, “it was effective. You couldn’t ignore it. There will never be a political campaign that doesn’t use these tools.”[74]

That same month, Obama’s White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs received the Public Relations Professional of the Year award from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), “for his groundbreaking use of new communications techniques and technologies, as well as successful delivery of campaign messages to a broad electorate.” The chairman and CEO of the PRSA, delivered the award to Gibbs, stating, “Robert Gibbs and his team revolutionized the way presidential candidates speak to voters by engaging best practices in current communications techniques and technologies,” adding: “He transformed static, one-way messaging into a dynamic dialogue to engage an expansive electorate like never before.” Upon accepting the award, Gibbs explained that his campaign had to “focus on the message of change being communicated by our candidate… we knew our success depended on our ability to stay focused on that message and relay it honestly and consistently to people across the country.”[75]

“You Have to Treat Them Like Children” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Whether Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, they are all parasites, whose purpose is to manipulate the public into granting them the “consent” to govern, while they govern for the benefit of corporations and banks to plunder, exploit, and profit at the expense of the population, both at home and around the world, which is often facilitated through war, coups, repression of liberation movements, genocide, and impoverishment. To these people, the public – you and I – are nothing but a “bewildered herd” of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” who must be kept as the “interested spectators of action.” The more talented a politician is at “manufacturing consent,” the more praise he or she gets from the media, and thus, from the public, itself. It is important to expose the spectacle of “public relations politics” so that we can look underneath the surface of power, and understand the real functions and structure of our society, and thus, we can be more capable of changing it. To take a quote from Bill Clinton out of context when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, “It’s important, because a lot of people believe this stuff.” When he said this, he was referring to the views of Republicans, but the quote is revealing of Clinton’s arrogance and indeed, his talent as a manipulator of the public mind, because it applies precisely to a public relations event like the Democratic National Convention itself: “a lot of people believe this stuff.”

It seems that it is time that people now place their beliefs in more tangible, factual, and logical realities. As children, we were told fairy tales; as adults, we believe fairy tales. Just as Franklin D. Roosevelt said of Latin Americans back in the early 20th century, “You have to treat them like children.” Well that applies to their view of the domestic population as well. Even though our political parasites continue to treat us like children, we have the choice – and the capacity – to act like adults. That means that we have to begin by dismantling the fairy tales that we believe in. Parents know that there comes a time when they must tell their children that there is no Santa Claus, and while this reality may be difficult for the children at first to accept, they are able to deal with that reality, and intellectually evolve and mature beyond it. People as a whole have the same capacity. Whether or not we utilize that capacity is entirely up to us, because our politicians have no interest in doing so, nor will they. It is up to us to dismantle the mythology ourselves.

The most effective way to do this is to take a very practical and logical first step of applying the same standards to our own society that we apply to others. In other words, instead of pointing to the crimes of state-sanctioned “enemies,” instead of blaming either Republicans or Democrats for all the woes of society, one must engage in social self-reflectionand apply the exact same method of inquiry into the ideas, individuals and institutions of our “enemies” as we do to our own ideas, individuals, and institutions.

I think it’s relatively safe to assume that most people would not want a mass murderer as a close friend, but for some reason, millions of people cheer and applaud mass murderers as their leaders. This obviously has no basis in logic. If mass murder is wrong and immoral, those who commit it or participate in it are also immoral. When someone has clearly demonstrated their capacity for immorality – and their willingness to commit mass atrocities – as Clinton, Bush, and Obama all have, it does not make any logical sense to support these people on other claims of “morality” such as: gay rights, family values, abortion, etc. These are designed specifically as issues which limit the political discourse, which remove any discussion of empire, war, mass murder, genocide, corruption, impoverishment, the dismantling of rights and freedoms, torture, assassinations, coups, exploitation, environmental devastation, surveillance and the construction of a police state apparatus. These divisive issues, which in a functioning democracy would have been solved almost immediately, are designed to facilitate a back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats, to distract the “bewildered herd” with only a few acceptable issues of discussion. Thus, anyone who raises other issues, of much greater relevance, ends up sounding like a Martian; they are perceived as suffering from some sort of “fringe” insanity. But insanity is not “fringe,” insanity is very much mainstream.

If, by chance, issues like war are raised in the political discourse – and most especially during advertising campaigns (which we commonly refer to as “election campaigns”) – then the critique of war policies are themselves confined to an “acceptable” discourse: either the war was a “success”, or it was a “tactical failure.” This implies, immediately, that the objectives of war are always inherently good, because if we wage war, it must be with good intentions. The morality of war – and the reality of empire – are not to be questioned.

When Obama was campaigning for president in 2008, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he referred to the Iraq war as a “distraction” for which he would make “tactical adjustments.” He wrote that the Iraq war was a “strategic blunder.”[76] That “strategic blunder” led to the deaths of over one million Iraqis between 2003 and 2008.[77] Yet, Obama was given praise for his “enlightened” critique of the Iraq war.

We must apply very basic standards of human decency to those who parade about as our leaders and saviors. An enormous amount of effort is put into preventing people from assessing political leadership in a logical, coherent, and rational manner. That is what the public relations industry does. Politicians are products to be marketed, bought and sold, and like most modern products, they fall apart quickly and have to be replaced. We have to begin questioning our political consumption patterns, otherwise we won’t change them, and it is glaringly obvious that what we have, simply isn’t working.

Watching Bill Clinton speak at the Democratic National Convention reminded me of why I don’t watch political speeches. The man stood up on stage for nearly an hour, and talked about how he cared about what poor families will do if the Republicans come to power, that Obama has fixed the economy, and he even felt it necessary to literally state, “Look, I love our country so much,” just in case you had any doubts. Clinton reached divine levels of absurdity and double-think when he stated:

If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining, where the American dream is really alive and well again and where the United States maintains its leadership as a force for peace and justice and prosperity in this highly competitive world, you have to vote for Barack Obama.[78]

Considering that none of those fantasies exist under Republicans or Democrats, let alone Clinton or Obama, I will simply end with my favourite quote from Clinton during his speech: “a lot of people believe this stuff.” Let’s hope not for long.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Ryan Lizza, “Clinton’s Speech: The Power of a Hug,” The New Yorker – News Desk, 6 September 2012:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/09/bill-clinton-convention-speech-the-power-of-a-hug.html

[2]            Konrad Yakabuski, “Clinton gives a boost to Obama’s middle-class-hero image,” The Globe and Mail, 5 September, 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/us-election/clinton-gives-a-boost-to-obamas-middle-class-hero-image/article4522804/

[3]            David Giambusso, “Congressman Pascrell: Bill Clinton’s speech tonight is ‘his comeback’,” The Star-Ledger, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/09/bill_clinton_hits_the_stump_fo.html

[4]            Dan Balz and Philip Rucker, “Bill Clinton offers forceful defense of Obama’s record,” The Washington Post, 5 September 2012:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/bill-clinton-will-highlight-convention-tonight/2012/09/05/f6d5dcf2-f797-11e1-8398-0327ab83ab91_story.html

[5]            Mark Gollom, “Obama turns to ‘rock star’ Bill Clinton to boost support,” CBC News, 5 September 2012:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/09/05/democratic-convention-clinton-obama.html

[6]            Natalie Finn, “Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention: Celebs React to Teleprompter-Busting Speech,” E! News, 6 September 2012:

http://ca.eonline.com/news/343617/bill-clinton-at-the-democratic-national-convention-celebs-react-to-teleprompter-busting-speech

[7]            Rebecca Shapiro, “Bill Clinton Media Reactions: Pundits Praise Former President’s DNC Speech, Some Criticize Length,” Huffington Post, 6 September 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/05/bill-clinton-media-reactions-dnc-speech_n_1859892.html

[8]            Rachel Maddow, “’The Rachel Maddow Show’ for Thursday, August 2nd, 2012,” NBC News, 2 August 2012:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48492324/ns/msnbc-rachel_maddow_show/t/rachel-maddow-show-thursday-august-nd/#.UDXF-ERQhgA

[9]            Josh Halliday, “Burson-Marsteller: PR firm at centre of Facebook row,” The Guardian, 12 May 2011:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/may/12/burson-masteller-pr-firm-facebook-row

[10]            Edward Bernays, Propaganda (New York: Ig Publishing, 1928), page 37.

[11]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Power, Propaganda, and Purpose in American Democracy,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 18 January 2012:

http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/01/18/power-propaganda-and-purpose-in-american-democracy/

[12]            Ibid.

[13]            Ibid.

[14]            Bruce Cummings, “Trilateralism and the New World Order,” World Policy Journal, Vol. 8, No. 2, Spring 1991, page 206.

[15]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Punishing the Population: The American Occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 21 February 2012:

http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/02/21/punishing-the-population-the-american-occupations-of-haiti-and-the-dominican-republic/

[16]            Ibid.

[17]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[18]            Morris Morley and Chris McGillion, “”Disobedient” Generals and the Politics of Redemocratization: The Clinton Administration and Haiti,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 112, No. 3, Autumn 1997; David Malone, “Haiti and the international community: A case study,” Survival, Vol. 39, Issue 2, 1997; Scott Turner, “The Dilemma of Double Standards in U.S. Human Rights Policy,” Peace & Change, Vol. 28, No. 4, October 2003.

[19]            Ibid.

[20]            Ibid.

[21]            Helene Cooper and Mark Landler, “U.S. Mulls Role in Haiti After the Crisis,” The New York Times, 17 January 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/18/world/americas/18policy.html

[22]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Economic Warfare and Strangling Sanctions: Punishing Iran for its “Defiance” of the United States,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 6 March 2012:

http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/03/06/economic-warfare-and-strangling-sanctions-punishing-iran-for-its-defiance-of-the-united-states/

[23]            Najmeh Bozorgmehr, “Sanctions take toll on Iran’s sick,” The Financial Times, 4 September 2012:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/43abcb36-f5cc-11e1-a6bb-00144feabdc0.html#axzz25dqZrNTh

[24]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Economic Warfare and Strangling Sanctions: Punishing Iran for its “Defiance” of the United States,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 6 March 2012:

http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/03/06/economic-warfare-and-strangling-sanctions-punishing-iran-for-its-defiance-of-the-united-states/

[25]            Molly Moorhead, “Bill Clinton’s night at the Democratic convention,” PolitiFact, 5 September 2012:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/sep/05/Bill-Clinton-Democratic-convention/

[26]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[27]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “The Great Global Debt Depression: It’s All Greek To Me,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 15 July 2012:

http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2011/07/15/167/

[28]            Ibid.

[29]            Ibid.

[30]            Reuters, “Justice Department will not prosecute Goldman Sachs, employees for Abacus deal,” Reuters, 9 August 2012:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/09/us-usa-goldman-no-charges-idUSBRE8781LA20120809

[31]            Andrew Clark, “Bankers and academics at top of donor list,” The Guardian, 8 November 2008:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/08/barackobama-wallstreet-bankers-campaign-donations-goldmansachs

[32]            Tracy Greenstein, “The Fed’s $16 Trillion Bailouts Under-reported,” Forbes, 20 September 2011:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/traceygreenstein/2011/09/20/the-feds-16-trillion-bailouts-under-reported/

[33]            James Vicini, “Supreme Court permits no limits on state campaign funds,” Reuters, 25 June 2012:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/25/us-usa-campaign-court-idUSBRE85O0P520120625

[34]            Jonathan D. Salant, “JPMorgan Employees Join Goldman Sachs Among Top Obama Donors,” Bloomberg, 21 March 2012:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-20/jpmorgan-employees-join-goldman-sachs-among-top-obama-donors.html

[35]            Greg Giroux and Jonathan D. Salant, “Obama Outspends Romney 2-1 With $43 Million in Funds for Ads,” Bloomberg, 21 July 2012:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-20/obama-raises-45-9-million-in-june-to-33-million-for-romney-1-.html

[36]            Peter Nicholas and Daniel Lippman, “Wall Street Is Still Giving to President,” The Wall Street Journal, 3 July 2012:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303933404577500810740985338.html

[37]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[38]            Jackie Calmes, “Bad Banks, Big Bailouts and Bruises,” The New York Times, 24 July 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/books/bailout-by-neil-barofsky.html?pagewanted=all

[39]            Deborah Solomon, “Neil Barofsky, the Democrat Taking Digs at Obama,” Bloomberg, 12 July 2012:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-07-12/neil-barofsky-the-democrat-taking-digs-at-obama

[40]            AP, “Clinton, Obama threaten to withdraw from NAFTA,” CBC News, 27 February 2008: http://www.cbc.ca/world/usvotes/story/2008/02/27/debate-nafta.html

[41]            CTV, “Obama campaign mum on NAFTA contact with Canada,” CTV News, 29 February 2008:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/obama-campaign-mum-on-nafta-contact-with-canada-1.279448

[42]            Michael Luo, “Memo Gives Canada’s Account of Obama Campaign’s Meeting on Nafta,” The New York Times, 4 March 2008:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/us/politics/04nafta.html

[43]            Laura Carlsen, “Obama Reaffirms Promise to Renegotiate NAFTA,” Huffington Post, 12 January 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-carlsen/obama-reaffirms-promise-t_b_157316.html

[44]            Canwest News Service, “Obama not likely to renegotiate NAFTA, ex-diplomat says,” Canada.com, 13 November 2008:

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=ae15ed12-326f-4187-8cd1-85ceef892b9a

[45]            Michael D. Shear, “NAFTA Renegotiation Must Wait, Obama Says,” The Washington Post, 20 February 2009:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/02/19/ST2009021903268.html

[46]            Donna Marykwas, “Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations creating ‘NAFTA on steroids’,” The Examiner, 24 August 2012:

http://www.examiner.com/article/secret-trans-pacific-partnership-trade-negotiations-creating-nafta-on-steroids

[47]            Lori Wallach, “Trans-Pacific Partnership: Under Cover of Darkness, a Corporate Coup Is Underway,” AlterNet, 29 June 2012:

http://www.alternet.org/story/156059/trans-pacific_partnership%3A_under_cover_of_darkness%2C_a_corporate_coup_is_underway?page=0%2C0

[48]            Zach Carter, “Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises,” The Huffington Post, 13 June 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/obama-trade-document-leak_n_1592593.html

[49]            Zach Carter, “Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises,” The Huffington Post, 13 June 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/obama-trade-document-leak_n_1592593.html

[50]            Josh Eidelson, “Trans-Pacific Partnership: Larger than NAFTA?,” Salon, 14 June 2012:

http://www.salon.com/2012/06/14/trans_pacific_partnership_larger_than_nafta/

[51]            Lori Wallach, “A Stealth Attack on Democratic Governance,” The American Prospect, 13 March 2012:

http://prospect.org/article/stealth-attack-democratic-governance

[52]            Doug Palmer, “Secrecy needed in trade talks: USTR Kirk,” NBC News, 13 May 2012:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47405479/ns/world_news-americas/t/secrecy-needed-trade-talks-ustr-kirk/#.UEldH0RQhgA

[53]            PC, “Unfair Trade Deals Becoming Even More Unpopular, U.S. Polling Shows,” Public Citizen: www.citizen.org/documents/polling-memo-july-2011.pdf

[54]            Ewen MacAskill and Dominic Rushe, “OECD says US economy is recovering but income inequality problematic,” The Guardian, 26 June 2012:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jun/26/oecd-us-economy-income-inequality

[55]            “Income inequality: Who exactly are the 1%?” The Economist, 21 January 2012:

http://www.economist.com/node/21543178

[56]            Aaron Task, “The ‘American Dream’ Is a Myth: Joseph Stiglitz on ‘The Price of Inequality’,” Yahoo! Finance, 8 June 2012:

http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/american-dream-myth-joseph-stiglitz-price-inequality-124338674.html

[57]            Gus Lubin, “23 Mind-Blowing Facts About Income Inequality In America,” Business Insider, 7 November 2011:

http://www.businessinsider.com/new-charts-about-inequality-2011-11#

[58]            Leigh Ann Caldwell, “Obama backtracks on comments that private sector is doing “fine”,” CBS News, 8 June 2012:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57449822-503544/obama-backtracks-on-comments-that-private-sector-is-doing-fine/?tag=contentMain;contentBody

[59]            AFP, “Fortune 500 smash profit record; Exxon back on top,” AFP, 7 May 2012:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gbj6XIng0Cu2YL2nn9uBvWN74EgA?docId=CNG.3b6426af1a176d2c5108891890072a79.101

[60]            Christina Rexrode and Bernard Condon, “Record profits for big companies spur 6% rise in CEO pay,” Seattle Times, 25 May 2012:

http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2018290135_usceopay26.html

[61]            Ylan Q. Mui, “Americans saw wealth plummet 40 percent from 2007 to 2010, Federal Reserve says,” The Washington Post, 11 June 2012:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/fed-americans-wealth-dropped-40-percent/2012/06/11/gJQAlIsCVV_story.html

[62]            Timothy Williams, “As Public Sector Sheds Jobs, Blacks Are Hit Hardest,” The New York Times, 28 November 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/us/as-public-sector-sheds-jobs-black-americans-are-hit-hard.html

[63]            Zachary Karabell, “The White House and Jeff Immelt on Jobs: Compelling, Infuriating or Simply Irrelevant?” Time Magazine, 15 June 2012:

http://moneyland.time.com/2011/06/15/the-white-house-jeff-immelt-and-jobs-compelling-infuriating-or-simply-irrelevant/

[64]            Zachary Roth, “With jobs czar under fire, new data confirm offshoring trend,” Yahoo! News, 19 April 2011:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/jobs-czar-under-fire-data-confirm-offshoring-trend-155235152.html

[65]            Susanna Kim, “10 Largest Companies on Obama’s Jobs Council Lost 91K Jobs,” ABC News, 12 October 2011:

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/10-largest-companies-obamas-jobs-council-lost-91000/story?id=14714319#.UEmh3kRQhgA

[66]            David Kocieniewski, “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether,” The New York Times, 24 March 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/business/economy/25tax.html?pagewanted=all

[67]            Stan Greenberg, James Carville, and Erica Seifert, “Shifting the Economic Narrative,” Democracy Corps/Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 11 June 2012:

www.democracycorps.com

[68]            Ibid.

[69]            Ibid.

[69]            Ibid.

[70]            Ibid.

[71]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[72]            Matthew Creamer, “Obama Wins! … Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year,” AdAge, 17 October 2008:

http://adage.com/article/moy-2008/obama-wins-ad-age-s-marketer-year/131810/

[73]            Mark Sweney, “Barack Obama campaign claims two top prizes at Cannes Lion ad awards,” The Guardian, 29 June 2009:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jun/29/barack-obama-cannes-lions

[74]            Theresa Howard, “Obama Campaign Takes Top Ad Prizes,” ABC News, June 2009:

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Politics/story?id=7947528&page=1#.UEk6zURQhgA

[75]            PRSA, “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Receives Public Relations Professional of the Year Honors From PRSA,” Reuters Press Release, 5 June 2009:

http://pilot.us.reuters.com/article/2009/06/05/idUS121576+05-Jun-2009+BW20090605

[76]            Barack Obama, “My Plan for Iraq,” The New York Times, 14 July 2008:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/opinion/14obama.html

[77]            “Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey,” Reuters, 30 January 2008:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/01/30/us-iraq-deaths-survey-idUSL3048857920080130

[78]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals: Class War and the College Crisis, Part 3

Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals: Class War and the College Crisis, Part 3

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Walter Lippmann


Part 1: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education

Part 2: The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?

Part 4: Student Strikes, Debt Domination, and Class War in Canada

Part 5: Canada’s Economic Collapse and Social Crisis

Part 6: The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?

Intellectual history is written by intellectuals and educational history is written by educators; thus, it would be inevitable that the flaws and failures of each are buried beneath, while the advances and accomplishments are exaggerated or over-estimated. There is, however, a seemingly consistent dichotomy which has evolved and persisted throughout intellectual and educational history: on the one hand, you have the much larger element – both in terms of the general purpose of education and in the general activities and ideas of intellectuals – who support and strengthen institutionalized power structures; on the other hand – much more a break from the ‘traditional’ impetus and activities of education and intellectuals – you have the smaller element, the off-shoots and oddities, which empowers the masses against institutionalized power, and with the intellectuals who speak out, articulate, mobilize, and justify the empowering of the people against that of the dominant structures of society. Therein lies the dichotomy: one form of education is for social control and domination, the other is for social uplift and rejuvenation; one type of intellectual is a programmatic priest for the proselytization of power, the other is an energetic and empowering enemy of entrenched elites.

A Eulogy for Education: Situating the Social Sciences as Structures of Social Control

Whether public or private, the key issue at hand is that of the utility – or purpose – of higher education. Conventional wisdom inflates the classical liberal concept of higher education as a social good, one which may be funded by the state in order to promote the general well-being of society, as inherently cultural institutions designed to raise the intellectual, spiritual, moral, and philosophical standards of society. A more critical history of education tends to downplay the “social good” theory in place of a “social control” theory of education, and specifically, of the social sciences. In this conception, education was designed to produce professional ‘technicians’ who would – using the techniques of science, rationality, and reason – study social problems with a desire to find and recommend specific policies and programs to ameliorate those problems – to promote reforms to the social system – in order to maintain “order.” Order, in this case, is understood as maintaining the social hierarchy. We understand “social order” as the security of the “social hierarchy” precisely because ‘disorder’ is understood as the opposite of this: a threat to the prevailing social hierarchy and institutional structure of society. Order is maintained through manufacturing ideologies, implementing policies, and undertaking programs of social engineering all with a desire to establish ‘social control.’

For this to be undertaken, it was essential for the social sciences to be separated into distinct spheres: Sociology, Political Science, Economics, and Psychology, for example. This superficial separation established each discipline as one for “expertise” and “professionalism,” whereby those who were trained to understand and partake in politics would study political science, achieving degrees in their “specialty” which would make them socially acknowledged “experts” in their fields. Academic journals reinforce these divisions, focusing primarily on a particular and specific discipline, providing a forum for academics and intellectuals to discuss, debate, and disseminate ideas related to the study and understanding of that discipline and its related topics. The effect, however, is that each discipline remained isolated from other forms of knowledge and, more importantly, that knowledge remained isolated from the general public, whom it was supposed to inform and empower (in theory).

Logic, of course, will tell you that in the real world, politics, economics, sociology and psychology all interact and become intertwined, intersected and interdependent. To add to that, of course, we have other technological, scientific, spiritual, cultural, environmental and historic factors that all merge to create what we broadly call “society.” If our aim is, as it should be, to understand society – to identify its problems and work to resolve them – we therefore would logically need a broader understanding of the social world, which would necessarily require a far more comprehensive, expansive, and multi-disciplinary historical examination of our world and its interacting forms of knowledge. It can be argued, however, that this is too demanding upon the academic and thus, unreasonable and unlikely. Therefore, it is argued, producing “experts” in specific areas would allow for a simultaneous understanding of these various spheres of society, and to effect change in each sector independent of one another. This raises an important question: is an “expert” in Political Science capable of understanding the political world? If they do not take into account economic, social, cultural, scientific, technological and other historical facets of the social world which all interact with the political realm, how can they logically understand the political realm outside of those interactions? In short, the political world does not operate within a vacuum and outside of interactions with other social phenomena, so the claim that they are “professionals” on understanding the social world as a whole, let alone “experts” in the political world, is dubious at best.The fallacy of this concept to produce useful knowledge was eventually acknowledged and educational managers (such as the major foundations) began to support ‘inter-disciplinary’ research to promote at least a more comprehensive understanding than previously existed.

Despite this inherently elitist self-serving conception of social control, the focus – purpose and utility – of education (and specifically the social sciences) on the study and amelioration of social problems inevitably gave rise to ideas, actors, and movements which saw beyond the rigid confines of the educational and knowledge-production system itself, reaching beyond the disciplines and into a more historically-based understanding. These broader understandings typically emerged from historians and philosophers, who must – as stipulated by their very disciplinary focus – acknowledge a multiplicity of factors, spheres, ideas, actors and areas of relevance to any given time and place of human social reality. History, by its very nature, is interdisciplinary: the historian must always acknowledge economic, social, political, and other cultural phenomena in each circumstance being studied.

As an example of these biases and disciplinary obscurities, let’s take a brief look at Political Science. In Political Science, when studying International Relations, you generally study two major theories of international politics: Liberalism, the idea that peace and prosperity between states grows as economic activity increases between them, and that of Realism/Mercantilism, whereby states are viewed as self-interested and the international arena as anarchic, and thus, nation states simply act to serve their own interests (and should). Both theories, of course, serve power. Unless studying the very specific focus of Global Political Economy (and specifically from a critical perspective), Political Science students are not exposed to or confronted with information or ideas which discuss the roles of financial and economic institutions and actors (banks, corporations, etc.) in determining foreign or public policy. Such perspectives are not studied, but simply assumed to be the product of “interested ideology” as opposed to “disinterested knowledge.” Critical theories are rarely acknowledged, let alone studied, and the general use of the word “ideology” is seen as negative, in that, it is not a legitimate focus for discussion or analysis. I personally know of a political science professor who taught a class on ‘Nationalism’ in which a student wrote an essay on ‘class.’ The professor informed the student that she couldn’t discuss “class” because it was “ideology,” and therefore, not disinterested knowledge. Of course, the fact that he was teaching a course on ‘nationalism,’ which itself, is an ideology, did not even come into consideration.

The difference in ideology then, is that the word is used to deride and dismiss theories and ideas which challenge, critique, or oppose power, hierarchy, and the status quo. Those ideas, theories, philosophies and perspectives which support power, hierarchy, and the status quo, are not presented as “ideology,” but as “disinterested knowledge,” as a fact, not in need of proof, but of an assumed nature. They are simply accepted, and are therefore, not ideology. This is also widely reflected in the differences of the academic journals, between those which are establishment and elitist, and those which are critical and allow for more dissent. An example is Foreign Affairs, the premier foreign policy journal, run by the Council on Foreign Relations, the most influential think tank in the United States. In this journal, the articles and essays, written by various “experts” and active, former, or prospective policy-makers and those who hold seats of power, contain largely little or no citations whatsoever. All the ‘facts’ and ideas stated within the articles do not need citations or references because they are ideas which support the status quo, and therefore, they simply reflect the ‘perceived’ realities of society. Now take a journal like Third World Quarterly, which tends to focus on the effects of foreign policy upon the ‘Third World’ nations of the Global South, often highly critical, allowing for major dissenting scholars to have an outlet for their research and ideas. These journal articles are typically and necessarily flooded with citations, sources and references. This is because ideas and facts which challenge the prevailing perception of social reality – the status quo – are treated far more critically and scrutinized to a significant degree.

Critical scholars put their entire reputation and career on the line in taking on controversial topics, and thus, they must provide extensive evidence and citations for all their assertions. Thus, a scholar who contends that – “the United States is an imperial nation which undermines democracy and the self-determination of people around the world” – must provide extensive, detailed, elaborate and concise references and citations. Even then, the scholar is likely to be either ignored or attacked with rhetoric proclaiming them to be “ideologically biased” or worse. On the other hand, a scholar who contends that the United States is a democratic peace-loving nation which benevolently seeks to spread democracy and freedom around the world requires no supporting evidence, citations, or references, simply because it serves power, supports the status quo, and regurgitates the ideas emerging from the institutions of power themselves (such as the State and media), and therefore, no major institutions will challenge the assertions nor subject them to scrutiny. For example, there are entire books written criticizing Noam Chomsky and subjecting his research and writing to extensive scrutiny, pointing out miniscule mistakes in his citations, presenting them as deliberate methods of manipulation. On the other hand, prominent scholars who refer to America as a “benevolent empire” or as the “protector of democracy” around the world are rarely challenged, let alone scrutinized. If scrutiny occurs, it is from the critical scholars, writing in more critically-inclined journals, and thus, their research tends to be disseminated only to each other and stays confined within that small social group. On the other hand, scholars who support power are invited on television, quoted in newspapers, work with think tanks in formulating policy, take part in international conferences, and are invited into the corridors of power in order to implement policy.

Serving power obviously allows for a scholar to rise through the social hierarchy with relative ease. For those scholars who challenge power and the status quo, while entry into positions of power and influence are generally denied, there is still a necessity for toleration among the powerful. The major foundations (Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, Ford Foundation, etc.) often fund critical scholars and journals, not out of a desire to promote or support their ideas, but in order to keep critical scholars  “professionalized,” to keep them as institutionalized academics. If there were no forums, journals, conferences or venues for the discussion, dissemination and debate of critical scholars and ideas, they would have to turn to other avenues for the dissemination of ideas and knowledge, which generally leads to the public sphere, of community involvement, activism, or populist politics. With foundations providing funding for critical scholars, journals, and conferences, the academics remain dependent upon the institutional structure of academia, and their ideas do not reach the wider public, and thus, their critiques are ineffective and do not promote change or understanding within the general population. Thus, such a program of financing provides a “release valve” for intellectual dissent, to keep critical or radical scholars institutionalized and prevent them from becoming mobilized and activist-oriented.

Still, in spite of all the deleterious factors for the pursuit of genuine knowledge with the purpose of empowerment through (instead of power over); the fact that the focus was on ‘social problems’ led inevitably to the generation of activist-oriented intellectuals, for those who could transcend the confines of narrow structures of knowledge. It is not to say that when these intellectuals surfaced, so too did the social movements, but rather that as social movements emerged, progressed, and developed, activist-oriented intellectuals took note, and began providing a philosophical and intellectual basis for the movement to exist and move forward. In short, it was a confluence of different circumstances both within the academic institutions and in the wider society – national and global – which led to the origins of these intellectual leaders, critics, activists, and philosophers. These are the individuals that the Trilateral Commission referred to in its report on the “Crisis of Democracy” as “value-oriented intellectuals.”

Dissident Value-Oriented Intellectuals versus Technocratic Policy-Oriented Intellectuals

In the early 20th century, as the concepts and ideas of “public opinion” and “mass democracy” emerged, the dominant political and social theorists of the era took to a debate on redefining democracy. It was an era of social unrest, radical political ideologies and activists, labour unrest and rebellion, extreme poverty, war, and middle-class insecurity (sound familiar?). Central to this discussion on redefining democracy were the books and ideas of Walter Lippmann. With the concept of the “scientific management” of society by social scientists standing firm in the background, society’s problems were viewed as “technical problems” (as in, not structural or institutional) intended to be resolved through rational professionals and experts. Just as with Frederick Taylor’s conception of “scientific management” of the factory, the application of this concept to society would require, in Lippmann’s words, “systematic intelligence and information control,” which would become “the normal accompaniment of action.” With such control, Lippmann asserted, “persuasion… become[s] a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government,” and the “manufacture of consent improve[s] enormously in technique, because it is now based on analysis rather than rule of thumb.”[1] Thus, for elites to maintain social control in the tumultuous new age of the 20th century, they must “manufacture consent” of the people to support the existing power structures.

In 1922, Lippmann wrote his profoundly influential book, Public Opinion, in which he expressed his thoughts on the inability of citizens – or the public – to guide democracy or society for themselves. The “intellectuality of mankind,” Lippmann argued, was exaggerated and false. Instead, he defined the public as “an amalgam of stereotypes, prejudices and inferences, a creature of habits and associations, moved by impulses of fear and greed and imitation, exalted by tags and labels.”[2] Lippmann suggested that for the effective “manufacture of consent,” what was needed were “intelligence bureaus” or “observatories,” employing the social scientific techniques of “disinterested” information to be provided to journalists, governments, and businesses regarding the complex issues of modern society.[3] These essentially came to be known and widely employed as think tanks, the most famous of which is the Council on Foreign Relations, founded in 1921 and to which Lippmann later belonged as a member.

In 1925, Lippmann wrote another immensely important work entitled, The Phantom Public, in which he expanded upon his conceptions of the public and democracy. In his concept of democratic society, Lippmann wrote that, “A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment and to meddlesome tyranny,” and to prevent this from taking place, “the public must be put in its place… so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.”[4] Defining the public as a “bewildered herd,” Lippmann went on to conceive of ‘public opinion’ not as “the voice of God, nor the voice of society, but the voice of the interested spectators of action.” Thus, “the opinions of the spectators must be essentially different from those of the actors.” This new conception of society, managed by actors and not the “bewildered herd” of “spectators” would be constructed so as to subject the managers of society, wrote Lippmann, “to the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.”[5] In case there was any confusion, the “bewildered herd” of “spectators” made up of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” is the public, is we, the people.

Lippmann was not an idle intellectual whose ideas are anachronisms of history, he was perhaps the most influential political theorist of his day, advising presidents while still in his 20s, Woodrow Wilson invited him to organize his war-time propaganda ministry, the Committee on Public Information (which was actually Lippmann’s idea to create), and his ideas held enormous resonance and received immense support from elite institutions and individuals. The influence of Lippmann’s ideas can be seen in the political machinery of the party system, the media, academia, think tanks, the construction of the consumer society, the activities of philanthropic foundations and a variety of other avenues and activities.

Several decades later, in the midst of another major social crisis in the 1960s, elite intellectuals again engaged in a discussion on the direction of society, social engineering, social control, and the role of “intellectuals” in society.

McGeorge Bundy, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (and later the Trilateral Commission), was the U.S. National Security Adviser, responsible for organizing foreign policy under Kennedy and Johnson (largely responsible for the Vietnam War), and in 1966, he went to become President of the Ford Foundation. In 1967, Bundy wrote an article for Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations which McGeorge’s brother William Bundy (a former CIA analyst and State Department staffer in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations) would be editor of from 1972-1984, after declining the offer from David Rockefeller to be the Council president. McGeorge wrote in his 1967 article that:

The end of 1966 finds the United States with more hard business before it than at any time since 1962. We are embattled in Viet Nam; we are in the middle of a true social revolution at home; and we have undiminished involvement with continents and countries that still refuse to match our simpler pictures of them.[6]

Bundy lamented the idea that, “American democracy has no enduring taste for imperialism,” because despite all of the “nation’s interests overseas, the boys always want to come home.” Bundy then went on to explain the benefits of questioning particular policies the United States pursues, but not to question the entire premise of America’s foreign policy in general (namely, that of imperialism). Instead, Bundy acknowledged that most of the dissent and argument on the Vietnam War was in terms of “tactics, not fundamentals,” though, he acknowledged, “[t]here are wild men in the wings,” referring to those intellectuals who question the basis and fundamentals of foreign policy itself.[7] Such “wild men in the wings” and “value-oriented intellectuals” present such a monumental threat to established elite interests. As the Trilateral Commission’s report noted in 1975:

At the present time, a significant challenge comes from the intellectuals and related groups who assert their disgust with the corruption, materialism, and inefficiency of democracy and with the subservience of democratic government to “monopoly capitalism.” The development of an “adversary culture” among intellectuals has affected students, scholars, and the media. Intellectuals are, as [Political Economist Joseph] Schumpeter put it, “people who wield the power of the spoken and the written word, and one of the touches that distinguish them from other people who do the same is the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs.” In some measure, the advanced industrial societies have spawned a stratum of value-oriented intellectuals who often devote themselves to the derogation of leadership, the challenging of authority, and the unmasking and delegitimation of established institutions, their behavior contrasting with that of the also increasing numbers of technocratic and policy-oriented intellectuals.[8]

The Trilateral Commission report later expanded upon the concept of the role of the intellectual in society. It stated that in the cultural history of Western Europe, “intellectuals are romantic figures who naturally get a position of prominence through a sort of aristocratic exaltation.” However, in periods of “fast changes,” they often come to lead and join “the fight against the old aristocratic tradition.” This, the Trilateral Commission contended, represented an “internal upsetting of the traditional intellectual roles.” This was identified as a “crisis of identity” in which, “[i]t has become a battle between those persons who play the audience, even if it is a protest type, and those who contribute to the process of decision-making.” Claiming that protest-oriented intellectuals are among “the audience” reinforces Lippmann’s assertion some decades earlier that the public are mere “spectators,” not capable of nor desired to engage meaningfully in politics. For the Trilateral Commission, the rise of “value-oriented intellectuals” was the result of the “intellectualization” of the “post-industrial society” in which their particular fields (namely, the humanities) became less useful in “application” and “practical use,” and thus, society “tends to displace traditional value-oriented intellectual disciplines to the benefit of action-oriented ones, that is, those disciplines that can play a direct role in policy-making.”[9] This would of course include the authors of the Trilateral Commission report itself, namely Samuel Huntington, who went on to work on the National Security Council under Zbigniew Brzezinski (co-founder of the Trilateral Commission) in the Jimmy Carter administration.

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte had long discussed the role of radical intellectuals in society and social movements. Following the major youth and student protests and movements of 1968, Sarte felt that the first duty of the radical intellectual is to “suppress himself as intellectual” and put his skills “directly at the service of the masses.” In a 1971 interview, Sarte was asked the question, “What should the radical intellectual do?” Sarte responded:

Today it is sheer bad faith, hence counterrevolutionary, for the intellectual to dwell in his own problems, instead of realizing that he is an intellectual because of the masses and through them; therefore, that he owes his knowledge to them and must be with them and in them: he must be dedicated to work for their problems, not his own.[10]

Thus, radical intellectuals should be creating revolutionary newspapers directed toward the masses, creating “a language that explains the necessary political realities in a way that everyone can understand.” Sarte was then asked, “Are you saying… that the responsibility of the intellectual is not intellectual?” He replied:

Yes, it is in action. It is to put his status at the service of the oppressed directly… the intellectual who does not put his body as well as his mind on the line against the system is fundamentally supporting the system and should be judged accordingly.[11]

As such, it is the responsibility of the radical intellectual to not lead, but follow and support the movements and struggles of the masses. For Sarte, the intellectual’s “privileged status is over.” Thus, “only activism will justify the intellectual.”[12] This is, in fact, a direct counter – or parallel – to the concept of the policy-oriented or technocratic intellectual, who directly partakes in the decision-making process. Just as the “technocratic intellectual” who partakes in the decisions of the institutions of power is “policy-oriented,” the radical intellectual directly partakes in the process of resistance (though not necessarily the decision-making process), and is also “action-oriented.”

In 1967, famed linguist Noam Chomsky wrote an essay in which he voiced his political opposition to the Vietnam War, entitled, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals.” In the article, which provoked widespread discussion and debate, Chomsky wrote:

With respect to the responsibility of intellectuals, there are still other, equally disturbing questions. Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom if expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us.[13]

As Chomsky explained, “If it is the responsibility of the intellectual to insist upon the truth, it is also his duty to see events in their historical perspective.”[14] This is, of course, in counter to the “technical experts” of social science, seeking to remedy “technical problems” of society in a “responsible” manner. In this sense, “responsibility” has a dual use: it is used by elites to denote those intellectuals who are “responsible” to the elite, and it is also used by dissenters to denote a “responsibility” to the truth and the people. Thus, the use of the word – whether one describes dissenters as “responsible” or “irresponsible” – tends to express more about those who use the term rather than those for whom they are applying the term.

This is, it must be acknowledged, not a new phenomenon. It is found throughout human history, though often called different things in different times and places. It can be found among the ancient philosophers and, indeed, the prophets of the Biblical era. As Noam Chomsky has elsewhere explained, “The history of intellectuals is written by intellectuals, so not surprisingly, they are portrayed as defenders of right and justice, upholding the highest values and confronting power and evil with admirable courage and integrity. The record reveals a rather different picture.” Chomsky further wrote:

A large part of the Bible is devoted to people who condemned the crimes of state and immoral practices. They are called “prophets,” a dubious translation of an obscure word. In contemporary terms, they were “dissident intellectuals.” There is no need to review how they were treated: miserably, the norm for dissidents.

There were also intellectuals who were greatly respected in the era of the prophets: the flatterers at the court. The Gospels warn of “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them.”[15]

In his book, Sage, Priest, and Prophet: Religious and Intellectual Leadership in Ancient Israel, Joseph Blenkinsopp explained the use of the term ‘prophet’ in both historical and contemporary context. In the contemporary context, it is generally associated with “prediction, emotional preaching, [and] social protest,” though the Hebrew term for it (nabi), has been so widely and differently used to describe various individuals, including its usage to describe many who functioned in “sanctuaries and royal courts,” in which case, they would be individuals who serve power. On the other hand, for those that challenged the power structures, Blenkinsopp argued that they were essentially “dissident intellectuals.”[16]

Again, this drew a distinction in ancient times with the word ‘prophet’ to that we hold today with the word ‘intellectual’: denoting both those who serve and challenge power. Blenkinsopp explained that the prophets who were “dissident intellectuals” in the Biblical era “collaborated at some level of conscious intent in the emergence of a coherent vision of a moral universe over against current assumptions cherished and propagated by the contemporary state apparatus, including its priestly and prophetic representatives.” In other words, they challenged the institutions of power which existed during that era. These dissident intellectuals – much like those of the modern era – “often play a socially destabilizing role in taking an independent, critical, or innovative line over against commonly accepted assumptions of a dominant ideology.” In fact, stipulated Blenkinsopp, “radical change rarely, if ever, comes about without the cooperation or intervention of an intellectual elite.”[17]

Blenkinsopp described an era in which these prophets emerged in protest “at the accumulation of wealth and the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by the few at the expense of the many.” The prophet – or dissident intellectual – Amos had lashed “out at those who store of the (fruits of) violence and robbery,” and who “live at ease in houses, the walls and furniture of which are inlaid with ivory.” Amos and another dissident intellectual, Isaiah, had “nothing but scorn for the idle rich and depict.” Blenkinsopp wrote:

The concentration of power and resources in the hands of the few, in this instance the political and hierocratic establishment and its clientele, is always liable to generate protest, especially if it is accompanied by the impoverishment of the many. A few decades after Amos, Hesiod claimed divine inspiration in denouncing unjust rulers.[18]

Thus, whether Hesiod, Hosea, Micah, or Isaiah, “all four belonged to the very small minority of the population that was literate and educated, and it was from that socially privileged position that their protest was launched.” These dissidents, however, were of a very small minority. For literally hundreds of years, the ‘prophets’ (intellectuals) of the era were “almost exclusively supportive” of power, “and there is no breath of challenge to the political or social status quo.” It was “in Israel and, to a lesser extent, Greece [where] a tradition of dissent and social protest develop[ed].” How were these dissident intellectual ‘prophets’ of the era treated? The established powers attempted to silence Amos and Micah, Hosea was ridiculed as “a fool,” and Isaiah was driven into “retirement” after an attempt to intervene in foreign policy matters.[19] So, while we claim them as prophets today, in their time they were treated as pariahs.

So whether in Biblical Israel, nearly 800 years before the arrival of Christ, or in the 1975 Trilateral Commission report, “dissident intellectuals” are to be feared and reviled by established powers, and it is clear that these powers will always attempt and actively take measures to minimize, ostracize, repress or eliminate such forms of dissent.

Thus, we have come to see the corporatization of our universities and the marginalization of dissident intellectuals in the neoliberal era. As Bronwyn Davies et. al. wrote in the European Journal of Education, few radical intellectuals of the 1960s and 70s “imagined how dangerous their work with students might seem to be to those in government or to the global leaders of big business and industry.” This was, of course, addressed by the Trilateral Commission, which above all represents the interests of the financial, corporate, political, and intellectual elite. This elite felt that “they must establish a new order to make the world more predictable, and they saw those radical intellectuals – both academics and journalists – as contributing to the dangerous disorder.”[20]

The Trilateral Commission was founded by two individuals: one a representative of high finance (David Rockefeller, Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank), and the other a representative of the intellectual elite (Zbigniew Brzezinski, professor of political science, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, foreign policy official). Brzezinski wrote a book in 1970, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, in which he laid out the problems of the technological and electronic era (hence, “tehcnetronic”) and elaborated on strategies to resolve them: politically, economically, and socially, including the formation of a “community of developed nations” to jointly work together in managing the world for their own benefit. Rockefeller, who was also a top official at the Council on Foreign Relations and also attended meetings of the Bilderberg group with Brzezinski (another exclusively elitist international think tank linking Western Europe and North America), took note of the book and its arguments, and recruited Brzezinski to help put together this “community,” and in 1973, the Trilateral Commission was formed. Brzezinski, in terms of intellectual influence, is perhaps as close to a Walter Lippmann for the globalized era as one could get. For decades, he has been a major foreign policy official with significant influence, sitting on the boards of major elite think tanks that produce policy plans which are implemented in the government, acting in an advisory capacity to almost every president since Jimmy Carter, and in terms of his still close relationship with the ruling financial oligarchy (namely, the Rockefellers).

In his book, Brzezinski discussed the need for “programmatic engineering” to manage and change American culture, of which he emphasized the roles played by education and the mass media over the alternative avenues of churches and traditional customs.[21] The manufacturing of culture, posited Brzezinski, was an American ‘obligation’:

Change in educational procedures and philosophy should also be accompanied by parallel changes in the broader national processes by which values are generated and disseminated. Given America’s role as a world disseminator of new values and techniques, this is both a national and a global obligation. Yet no other country has permitted its mass culture, taste, daily amusement, and, most important, the indirect education of its children to be almost exclusively the domain of private business and advertising, or permitted both standards of taste and the intellectual content of culture to be defined largely by a small group of entrepreneurs located in one metropolitan center.[22]

Brzezinski also discussed one of the more relevant and indeed, concerning facets of the Technological Revolution. Of course, writing of this as a ‘concern’ is in terms of Brzezinski writing from the perspective of an elite academic and strategic thinker, and thus, representing the elite class and their overall concerns. Namely, Brzezinski wrote on the prospects of a revolution against this process and the power structures involved, explaining that these groups are likely to emerge in both the developing world and industrialized world in opposition to the process of ‘modernization,’ which Brzezinski refers to as the advancement of the ‘Technetronic Revolution.’ In the Global South (the “Third World”), the revolutionary class is likely to emerge from the educated classes who are deprived of social opportunities fitting with their intellectual expectations. In the industrialized West, however, this “revolutionary intelligentsia” is most likely to emerge from the “middle-class intellectual equivalents” of the revolutionary class in the developing world. Thus, it would emerge among the educated middle-classes of the West, who are deprived of opportunities attuned to their education, thus creating a ‘crisis of expectations.’ Brzezinski wrote that the Technetronic Revolution had created a “social anachronism,” in which these groups may hold onto anti-industrial values and could possibly, even in the more modern countries, effectively block the modernization of their societies, “insisting that it be postponed until after an ideological revolution has taken place.” Brzezinski explained:

In this sense the technetronic revolution could partially become a self-limiting phenomenon: disseminated by mass communications, it creates its own antithesis through the impact of mass communications on some sectors of the intelligentsia.[23]

Brzezinski’s answer to these profound and potentially revolutionary circumstances was to employ more social engineering, more social control, more integration and coordination among global powers; essentially, to strengthen power structures at the expense of all others. Brzezinski wrote that there was a “mounting national recognition that the future can and must be planned; that unless there is a modicum of deliberate choice, change will result in chaos.”[24] He elaborated:

Technological developments make it certain that modern society will require more and more planning. Deliberate management of the American future will become widespread, with the planner eventually displacing the lawyer as the key social legislator and manipulator… How to combine social planning with personal freedom is already emerging as the key dilemma of technetronic America, replacing the industrial age’s preoccupation with balancing social needs against requirements of free enterprise.[25]

In the same line of arguing in favour of more coordination, planning, and “technical” expertise, Brzezinski also posited an image of where this could eventually lead:

Another threat, less overt but no less basic, confronts liberal democracy. More directly linked to the impact of technology, it involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled and directed society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite whose claim to political power would rest on allegedly superior scientific know-how. Unhindered by the restraints of traditional liberal values, this elite would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by using the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control…  Persisting social crisis, the emergence of a charismatic personality, and the exploitation of mass media to obtain public confidence would be the steppingstones in the piecemeal transformation of the United States into a highly controlled society.[26]

Thus, we come to understand the ideologies, intent, and actions of two divergent social actors: the technocratic and policy-oriented intellectual and the dissident action-oriented intellectual. One supports power, one supports people. Our educational system is still to a significant degree composed of and designed to produce (like industrial factories for intellectual products) those intellectuals who support power, who engage in social engineering with the purpose of social control. Dissident intellectuals, while they exist, remain confined. They engage in research and write in academic journals which reach only other dissident intellectuals. This is the case not only in the West, but across a great deal of the world. There are, of course, exceptions, but they are few and far between. The knowledge and ideas and dissident intellectuals must be designed not for the purpose of internal discussion and debate among other dissidents within the institutions of academia, but to reach the masses, to empower the people, and to join – actively and actually – with the people as they mobilize for change. In order to do this, new forums, conferences, media, and other sources and organizations should attract the “value-oriented intellectuals” away from Ivory towers of intellectual isolation and into the people-oriented pathways of political action. The language must be made less academic and more accessible, the activities must be more directly engaged with people than distant and distracted.

The rigors of academic life make this a great challenge, not only for students but for professors as well. Professors are expected to publish consistently in journals and other publications, and so when they are not teaching or instructing, they are researching and writing, independently and isolated. There is very little time or opportunity for direct engagement, or for writing for other publications and avenues which could allow their research to reach a wider audience. This keeps intellectuals disciplined and distracted, and ultimately, gives little relevance to their research in terms of actually affecting any meaningful changes in society. However, here we come to understanding the inherent dichotomy of a crisis, in this case, the “Crisis of Education.” As the crisis of education leads to increased costs, increased debts, decreased enrollment, decreased opportunities, increased social unrest, increased student resistance, and ultimately, a decrease in the amount of teachers and professors (this is already taking place), there also opens an avenue through which much of the disciplinary mechanisms which held dissident intellectuals back will be eroded. With nothing left to lose (in terms of job security, financial stability, social prestige and opportunity), dissident intellectuals will be far more inclined toward participation in activism and social movements. Avenues for their participation should be opened up and extended as this crisis continues and deepens.

A simply example of such an opportunity to attract dissident intellectuals would be a type of international conference, media, and educational institute. It could begin with a conference, drawing dissidents from around the world – from Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Spain, the U.K., Canada, Australia, United States, Iceland, Ireland, Chile, Taiwan, etc. – to hold a discussion and debate on the origins, evolution, development and potential for the growing social and activist movements, whether in the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, anti-austerity protests, student strikes, and others. The conference could be televised for free online, so people all over the world could view and engage. A major aim and result of the conference could be to establish an educational institution, which brings together such intellectuals from around the world with more consistency, which organizes a network of globally connected but locally-oriented decentralized schools, designed specifically for a broad, multi-disciplinary and globally-relevant education for social change. They could hold classes in which students and teachers engage as equals, bringing in local activists, alternative media, even filming the actual classes and discussions to post online, even provide a live feed. The aim would be to provide education for the purpose of empowering people to activism and social change. They could establish their own media outlets, providing research and discussion of activities by students and professors, and become engaged in actively planning and helping organize social movements, protests, and other activities.

The point would be to provide a forum where education has an empowering social purpose, where it integrates itself with other elements of society and does not remain isolated and insulated. For example, if one such discussion were to take place in a local decentralized school on the topic of food sustainability, agriculture, GMOs, and the politics of food, the result could be a decision to establish a network of organic farmers who would be willing to produce cheap food for poor areas, establish a space where there could be a cheap organic food market, or cheap (or free) meals made with the food, but dispensing it to poor people in poor areas of major cities, who would otherwise not have the means of good food for decent prices. It’s a very simple program, but the effects can be profound. Not only could it begin to integrate farmers and agriculturalists with such an emerging movement, but it could integrate the poor more closely with such a movement. The poor are, after all, the largest constituency in the world, and the one in the most need of help and empowerment. For the poor, the ideological and power struggles between the middle and upper classes are largely irrelevant, because neither benefit nor empower them. If there is to be a true and genuine revolutionary change in global society, acting without the ideas and support of the poor is a sure way to guarantee failure for genuine change. To get the support of the poor, the poor must be supported; they must be given a stake in the future, empowered to act and participate in change, and the starting point for this is to address the immediate necessities of poor people everywhere: food, clothing, shelter.

The difference between how ‘social control’-oriented institutions (such as foundations and NGOs) address poverty and how revolutionary and radical organizations would address poverty, is the intent and methods in dealing with these immediate concerns. NGOs and foundations seek to establish methods of providing food, clothing, shelter and general necessities so much as to address the symptoms of poverty, not the causes, and thus, to ultimately sustain the system that creates poverty by alleviating the worst conditions just enough to prevent rebellion or resistance. Revolutionary or radical organizations would seek to address the immediate concerns of the poor in order so that they may be empowered and able to begin finding ways to support themselves, to learn from them, and to provide access to forms of knowledge which have been denied to them. Thus, any programs of directly helping the poor would have to be accompanied with opportunities for education, knowledge, and outlets for action. The point is not to simply feed a poor individual, but to disseminate knowledge about why they are poor, how society creates and sustains the poor, the sources and solutions to poverty. Thus, it does not simply alleviate the symptoms, but empowers the individuals. Further, any radical movement must in turn be educated by the poor, for through their very existence, they are better able to understand the nature of the system that exists, because they have always been subjected to its most ugly and oppressive apparatus. While it may be easy for middle class intellectuals and students to promote a revolutionary cause based upon an ideology of how the state can and should function, poor people are able to give a better idea of how the state does function, has functioned, and thus, raise critical questions about the ideas, objectives, and actions of middle class and other radicals. The point would not be to be modern missionaries, providing food with “the Bible,” but to help – not out of pity but out of empathy and necessity – to empower, and, ultimately, to learn from and work with the poor. If any radical or revolutionary movement emerges which does not include a significant number of leaders from the poor population, and without significant support from the poor population, it is inherently anti-democratic and unworthy of pursuit.

This is, of course, just one example. The objective then, would be to find a way to bring dissident intellectuals out of the rigid confines of academia, and into the real world: to embolden, empower, and engage with the people, to participate in activism and social mobilization, and to work with a wide variety of other social groups and sectors in order to collectively participate in the construction of a new and far better world. It is time that this must be the acknowledged purpose of intellectuals, not the exception.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Frank Webster and Kevin Robins, “Plan and Control: Towards a Cultural History of the Information Society,” Theory and Society (Vol. 18, 1989), pages 341-342.

[2]            Sidney Kaplan, “Social Engineers as Saviors: Effects of World War I on Some American Liberals,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Vol. 17, No. 3, June 1956), pages 366-367.

[3]            Sue Curry Jansen, “Phantom Conflict: Lippmann, Dewey, and the Fate of the Public in Modern Society,” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies (Vol. 6, No. 3, 2009), page 225.

[4]            Walter Lippmann, et. al., The Essential Lippmann: A Political Philosophy for Liberal Democracy (Harvard University Press, 1982), page 91.

[5]            Ibid, page 92.

[6]            McGeorge Bundy, “The End of Either/Or,” Foreign Affairs (Vol. 45, No. 2, January 1967), page 189.

[7]            Ibid, pages 189-191.

[8]            Michel J. Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy, (Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press, 1975), pages 6-7.

[9]            Ibid, page 31-32.

[10]            Ronald Aronson, “Sarte and the Radical Intellectuals Role,” Science & Society (Vol. 39, No. 4, Winter 1975/1976), pages 436, 447.

[11]            Ibid, pages 447-448.

[12]            Ibid, page 448-449.

[13]            Noam Chomsky, “A Special Supplement: The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” The New York Review of Books, 23 February 1967:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1967/feb/23/a-special-supplement-the-responsibility-of-intelle/

[14]            Ibid.

[15]            Noam Chomsky, “Great Soul of Power,” Information Clearing House, 26 July 2006:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article14221.htm

[16]            Joseph Blenkinsopp, Sage, Priest, Prophet: Religious and Intellectual Leadership in Ancient Israel (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), page 2.

[17]            Ibid, page 144.

[18]            Ibid, pages 153-154.

[19]            Ibid, page 154.

[20]            Bronwyn Davies, et. al., “The Rise and Fall of the Neo-liberal University,” European Journal of Education (Vol. 41, No. 2, 2006), page 311.

[21]            Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era (Greenwood Press, Westport: 1970), page 265.

[22]            Ibid, page 269.

[23]            Ibid, page 278.

[24]            Ibid, page 256.

[25]            Ibid, page 260.

[26]            Ibid, pages 252-253.

The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?

The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

This is part 2 of the series, “Class War and the College Crisis.”

Part 1: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education

Part 3: Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals

Part 4: Student Strikes, Debt Domination, and Class War in Canada

Part 5: Canada’s Economic Collapse and Social Crisis

Part 6: The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?

In Part 1 of this series, I examined the elite assault on education – through the Chamber of Commerce, right-wing think tanks, and the Trilateral Commission – which arose in response to the massive social and political activist movements of the 1960s. The threat of popular democratic participation – that is, active and activist participation of the population in the decision-making process of a community or nation – was too much to bear. The fact that a significant degree of this activism had been mobilizing from the universities was enough reason for elites to declare a “crisis of democracy” and demand more apathy, complacency, and pacification from the population, more authority for themselves, and more control over the society as a whole. The result of this was neoliberalism – globally and locally – in government, the media, and the schools. The “Crisis of Democracy” was that there was too much of it. The solution, therefore, was to deconstruct democracy.

The emergence and spread of education – both mass public and university – is generally considered to be the result of the Enlightenment ideals and the emergence of democracies. The idea was that education was developed and designed for the purpose of enlightening individuals, spreading literacy and fostering intellectual pursuits which would yield for the benefit of the whole of society, a benevolent institution. Indeed, there are these elements to the history of education; but like with most things, there are other, deeper, elements to the story. So it begs the question: what is the purpose of education?

The spread of ‘mass education’ of primary and secondary education from the Prussian system in the 18th century was designed to socialize the population into a state-structured ideology (taking the monopoly of education away from the religious and community institutions and into the hands of the emerging nation-state). The aim, therefore, of mass – or public – education was not a benevolent concept of expanding and sharing knowledge (as is purported in liberal thought), but rather as a means to foster patriotism and support the state system in preserving the social class structures. In 1807, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, one of the founding philosophers of this system, explained that educated was the means toward fostering patriotism, as “universal, state-directed, compulsory education would teach all Germans to be good Germans and would prepare them to play whatever role – military, economic, political – fell to them in helping the state reassert Prussian power.”[1] As British philosopher Bertrand Russell explained:

Fichte laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished.[2]

It was in the promotion of state formation and patriotism that European nations, one after the other, developed mass schooling systems. In the United States, mass schooling was not directed toward the political process of ‘state formation’, but rather the cultural process of ‘nation-building’ in the 19th century. In the 19th century, the United States remained largely rural and nonindustrial, and thus, “the apparatus of state control was extremely weak in most communities.” As Meyer et. al. argue: in the American Journal of Sociology:

The spread of schooling in the rural North and West can best be understood as a social movement implementing a commonly held ideology of nation-building. It combined the outlook and interests of small entrepreneurs in a world market, evangelical Protestantism, and an individualistic conception of the polity.[3]

In early 19th century United States, many worried about “a new industrial feudalism supplanting the old order.” For such reformers, the complex circumstances in which they found themselves – of a society in which the old ideas and institutions were disappearing and new ones were emerging – could best be addressed by the common school, “serving all citizens, stamping them American and unifying the nation.”[4] This was, in itself, a desire for ‘social control’ in a socially disruptive circumstance of rapid change in all realms of human activity. As Robert H. Wiebe explained, “the instruments of control were themselves the means of improvement,” and schools were viewed as “assimilating, stabilizing mechanisms.” By the 1830s, school reformers “were urgently seeking a new national cohesion, a source of uniquely American wholeness.” The focus on socializing children was of the utmost concern. As one reformer stated, children “must be taken at the earliest opportunity, if the seeds of good are to be planted before the seeds of evil begin to germinate.” Thus, “the role of the educator was to construct a model environment around the child.”[5]

In the early 20th century, most Americans began to view “education as a task specifically of the schools rather than of a general society, a reflection of both the school’s expertise and a modern society’s rational differentiation of functions.” The institutional structure of schools became nationalized and more state-oriented than previously:

Central agencies of education, professionalization and publicity – the major teachers colleges and accrediting agencies, a revitalized National Education Association and a lengthening list of professional journals – set the agenda for discussion and the boundaries of debate throughout the land.[6]

The lower levels of education are directed at producing “general outputs for society,” while the higher levels may actually reflect and affect “socially and politically constituted authority.” In short, the lower levels produce the masses, while the higher levels may produce the managers. The university system is the dominant form of higher education in the world, far outweighing other forms of educational institutions that have existed through history. Universities emerged during the medieval period in Europe, which have been described as “corporations having close relations with both Church and State but possessing considerable independence in relation to each.”[7]

With the universities of medieval Europe, as sociologists Ramirez and Meyer explained, “a more promising strategy considers the relationship between centralized authority and the rise of universities,” as situations of political decentralization tended to favour the establishment of universities.[8] The university which arose during the Medieval period (1150-1500) was a corporation, a guild of masters and scholars, or professors and students. This was the era in which Western civilization was rapidly developing, and this “new and uniquely Western institution resulted from a combination of powerful societal trends.” These trends, wrote John. C Scott in the Journal of Higher Education, included “the revival of mercantilism, growth of cities and the urban middle class, and bureaucratization, along with the 12th-century intellectual renaissance.” Thus:

As European society became more complex, the universal Roman church, secular governments, and municipalities required educated priests, administrators, lawyers, physicians, and clerks for business. Fulfilling this social demand were the universities, which were clearly oriented toward teaching and the learned professions.[9]

There were student-controlled universities, predominantly in the south, such as the Bologna University, as well as universities of faculty governance, such as with the University of Paris. By 1500, the faculty-controlled university became dominant. The aims of the Medieval university was the pursuit of knowledge, “divine truth and learning,” focusing on the areas of law, medicine, and theology. Monarchs and others increasingly relied upon such learned men for their advice in matters of state and court systems, foreign affairs and diplomacy. At the undergraduate level, students came from all social classes and generally studied liberal arts. At the graduate level, however, “students pursued the higher disciplines of theology, medicine, and law. Most alumni served the church, state, or municipality in various capacities.” Save Russia, most of Europe had universities by the end of the Middle Ages, with roughly 80 in the region by then. Predominantly chartered by the Roman church, or by monarchs, these pseudo-autonomous institutions “were subject to the authority of popes, monarchs, local bishops, dukes, or municipalities, depending upon the country and century.”[10]

The medieval university had a cosmopolitan nature, seen as a place of “universal knowledge” which was tied to the “universal ideology of Christendom,” and was not tied to any particular nation-state, largely developing prior to the centralization of nation-states. Scholars traveled all across Europe to the great medieval universities, from Bologna to Paris, to Oxford and Toledo, reflecting their cosmopolitan nature. As sociologist Gerard Delanty wrote in the journal, Social Epistemology:

At first the scholars were generally monks but later they were increasingly secular and became absorbed into the centralization and absolutist state. With the rise of the territorial nation-state from the seventeenth century onwards, the university became increasingly more and more nationalized and gradually lost its transnational character. With this went a decline in its ecclesiastical function: knowledge became a free-floating discourse to be used for domination or emancipation… As an institution the university owed its tremendous power to the fact that it originated at a time when the moral and political power of the Church was in decline but when the modern state system had not yet emerged.[11]

Thus, “the university found itself in a powerful position and could monopolize the field of knowledge.” As the ‘Age of Reason’ descended upon the West, the universal ideology of Christendom that was so paramount in the medieval period shifted to one of rationalizing logic and experimental science. The Reformation and scientific revolution “greatly facilitated this shift in the function of the university.” The university became the institution of knowledge, and as a result, was able to resist both church and state. However, in the transition into the modern period, with the rise of the nation-state, the state quickly sought to ally with the university, which increasingly came under state patronage. The state, whether the British Restoration government or French Absolute state, viewed the universities “as important institutions in the administration of society.”[12]

As the nation-states developed, particularly in England, Spain, and France, the relative autonomy of the first universities started to be eroded. As one academic wrote, “universities throughout Europe in the course of the fifteenth century tended in the same direction – towards the nationalization of Paris as of all other universities.” The University of Paris, then, became subservient to the crown and, thereafter, universities increasingly became national institutions with the mission of “service to the state.”[13]

The role for universities in training a new governing elite became increasingly important as the schools came under the control of new nation-states, municipalities and principalities: “Kings therefore emphasized the acquisition of advanced, secular knowledge and technical skills by students – future public servants – in order to build up efficient state bureaucracies.” Close advisers to kings, princes, and republics would also be expected to be men with legal training from the universities. This era marks the transition from the medieval university to the early modern university:

the early modern university was far more socially responsive than the medieval university because of humanist professors’ emphasis on ethical values for themselves and their students. Early modern universities continued to expand as a movement while making solid scientific and scholarly contributions. The newly consolidated state began to increase visitations, intervention, regulation (curriculum, subjects taught, and publications allowed), and appointment of chancellors.[14]

This was also the era in which these institutions increasingly moved toward professionalization in the modern sense, armed with a new “sociopolitical mission” as “an ideological arm of the state.” As one writer explained it, “The state protects the action of the University; the University safeguards the thought of the state.” Between 1500 and 1800, the university in Europe experienced an enormous expansion, even into Russia, which was untouched by the medieval university, and Europe had roughly 190 universities existing during this period. This era of early modern civilization, with the growth of the nation-state, and the imperial expansion into the New World, the Spanish even put in place state-controlled colonial universities across Latin America, the first of which was founded in Santo Domingo [today Haiti and the Dominican Republic] in 1538. These universities, overtly serving a colonial agenda, “prepared missionaries and jurists for the settlement of the New World.”[15]

With the Enlightenment came a new form of nation-state, the Liberal Nation-State, which further influenced the changing nature of the university during this era. The Enlightenment era saw the further development of the university “under the auspices of the central and national state providing it with a system of knowledge, which was at the same time a system of power.”[16] The aim was to put these universities “to work for the new liberal State and its economic needs.”[17]

Fichte, who was considered one of the intellectual fathers of the Prussian mass schooling system, was also influential in the move toward a modern university system, and his goals were quite similar. Just as mass schooling was established to serve the state, Fichte felt that “the academics should be the new spiritual leaders of society.” The main difference between this Enlightenment model of the university and the medieval one was marked by the shift from city to nation. As the Enlightenment had different effects in different nations, the relationship that developed between the nation and the university was different in each case. In Germany, the university became the cultural center of the nation, while in France its focus was more on producing an actual core of civil servants. In each case, however, the aim of the university was to serve the nation in some capacity, whether functionally, ideologically, culturally, or all of the above.[18]

With the development of the American university system, we still see the objective of serving the nation as inherent in this Enlightenment idea of the ‘modern university.’ In America, the new schools were replacing the old, ill-equipped and elitist colonial colleges. The establishment of universities became a core mission of the founders, as ten key founders also founded academic institutions, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, George Wythe, Benjamin Rush, William S. Johnson, William R. Davie, Abraham Baldwin, and Manasseh Cutler. Thus, many of the schools had inherent within them a ‘nationalizing’ mission, a mission to serve the nation, though it may not be explicitly the State.[19]

At the turn of the 20th century, there was a great debate on the missions of the new distinctly American universities. There were profound social, political, and economic changes that had occurred in the post-Civil War period, as America experienced its Industrial Revolution, rise of the corporations, and with that, the Robber Baron industrialists, who increasingly took over the political culture of the nation, which was increasingly centralizing, increasingly imperialistic, and with the labour class exponentially distrustful, resentful and resistant to the new dominant capitalistic powers that emerged. This was further checked by an increasingly educated middle class, informed largely by the rapid new developments in communications and technology, who were also becoming wary of the excesses of Big Business, but at the same time, worried about the threat of rebellion from the lower classes. In short, it was a socially explosive situation, in what came to be known as the Progressive Era, as middle class reformers took the stage in advocating and implementing major social reforms to establish a more stable, lasting society. Thus, the new modern American universities were to combine the ideals of research, teaching, and public service, as many believed the schools should “advance basic knowledge and provide the technical expertise required by a modern industrial society.”[20] Thus, as Scott wrote:

Faculties in the new applied sciences, emerging social sciences, and even an important minority in the humanities believed strongly in the social utility of their disciplines. Professors in the social sciences were often committed to public service. To this end, schools of political science were established at Columbia, Michigan, and Wisconsin during the 1880s and 1890s. At the same time, within departments of economics and sociology, there were devotees of social utility. Psychology, which was then a part of philosophy, also developed a faction devoted to utility (pragmatism). Social scientists served their society in the capacity of experts, which also involved research. By 1900, the “useful” university was establishing such untraditional fields of study as business administration, physical education, sanitary science, and engineering.[21]

The Robber Baron industrialists of the late 19th century – Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Astor, Vanderbilt, Harriman, etc. – were unquestionably the dominant powers in the country. They controlled the economy, hundreds of corporations, had hundreds of millions or billions in wealth, the banks, bought the politicians, directed foreign policy into an increasingly imperialistic direction, and thus, they saw it as essential to cement their control over society through social institutions, as the masses were hateful of them and needed to be properly controlled. Social control became the major concept of interest for elites and middle class reformers.

In this era of social control, education became increasingly important, not only in terms of mass schooling, which experienced many reforms, but also in terms of the university system. As Andrew Carnegie wrote in 1889, at the top of the list of “charitable deeds” to undertake was “the founding of a university by men enormously rich, such men as must necessarily be few in any country.” It was in this context, of robber barons seeking to remake education, that we see the founding of several of America’s top universities, many of which were named after their robber baron founders, such as Stanford (after Leland Stanford), Cornell (after Ezra Cornell), and Johns Hopkins, who owned the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.[22] This new class of industrialists, who emerged out of the Civil War in America, “challenged the position of the old propertied, pre-industrial elite. This struggle crystallized in particular around the reform of the educational system that had legitimated the old elite’s domination.”[23] The modern university was born out of this struggle between elites, with the old educational system based upon religious and moral values, “and the making of gentlemen,” while the “new education” focused on “the importance of management or administration” as well as “public service, [and] the advancement of knowledge through original investigation.”[24]

John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago in 1891, and the President of the University, “initiated a new disciplinary system, which was enormously influential.” Ultimately, it “led to the formation of the department structure of the American university, which was internationally unique,” and was later exported around the world “with the help of American foundations.”[25] This disciplinary system consisted of separating politics from economics (rejecting the notion of ‘political economy’ and its ‘ideologies’), as ideology was “deemed unscientific and inappropriate in social sciences and political scientists have increasingly seen their function as service to the powerful, rather than providing leadership to populist or socialist movements.”[26]

There was an obvious desire to “foster the teaching of practical knowledge and skills serving the development of commerce and industry, against the prevailing academic traditions.” However, it also allowed for “a way of diagnosing the social upheavals caused by the accelerated shift from a still largely agrarian society to an industrial mass society” of which they were the dominant class. In particular, the labor unrest of the 19th century was especially prevalent in the minds of the dominant class. Since “social reform was inevitable,” these industrialists “chose to invest in the definition and scientific treatment of the ‘social questions’ of their time,” and subsequently, they “promoted reformist solutions that did not threaten the capitalistic nature of the social order,” and instead constructed a “private alternative to socialism.”[27] In other words, it marked the construction of a highly corporatist society, merging state and corporate power through institutions, individuals, and ideology.

The Social Sciences and Social Control

The concept of ‘social control’ emerged from the developing field of sociology as a discipline in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As sociologist Morris Janowitz wrote in the American Journal of Sociology, “in the emergence of sociology as an intellectual discipline, the idea of social control was a central concept for analyzing social organization and the development of industrial society.”[28] Social control is largely viewed as forms of control which reduce coercion, and thus, enhance consent to the system or organizations in question. Even a society with an effective system of social control would require a structure of coercion, but depending on how advanced the social control system is, the less need there would be for coercion. Hence, the societies which are the most advanced in social control would also be less dependent upon internal methods of coercion. Thus, it was within liberal democratic states that both the study and implementation of social control became most effective. In this sense, the question was “whether the processes of social control are able to maintain the social order [hierarchy] while transformation and social change take place.”[29]

Sociology largely emerged from the University of Chicago (founded by John D. Rockefeller), with the world’s first department of sociology founded in 1892. The sociologists who rose within and out of the University of Chicago made up what was known as the ‘Chicago School of Sociology.’ The school developed the most influential sociologists in the nation, including George Herbert Mead and W.I. Thomas, two scholars who had profound influence on the development of the concept of ‘social control,’ and sociologists became “reform-oriented liberals, not radical revolutionaries or conservative cynics.”[30]

The new industrial elite accumulated millions and even hundreds of millions by the end of the 19th century: Andrew Carnegie was worth roughly $300 million after he sold Carnegie Steel to J.P. Morgan in 1901, and by 1913, John D. Rockefeller was estimated to have a personal worth of $900 million. It was with Rockefeller that we see the development of the scientific notion of philanthropy.[31] Rockefeller had founded the Institute for Medical Research in 1901, the General Education Board (GEB) in 1903, and the Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm in 1909. Rockefeller, however, wanted to consolidate his philanthropic enterprise as he had his industrial oil enterprise, and so in 1909 he decided he wanted to establish one great foundation, which “would be a single central holding company which would finance any and all of the other benevolent organizations, and thus necessarily subject them to its general supervision.”[32] In 1913, the Rockefeller Foundation received a charter of incorporation from the State of New York.

Between 1881 and 1907, Andrew Carnegie had contributed over $40 million to establishing more than 1,600 libraries in the United States alone, but it was after selling Carnegie Steel to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for $300 million that Carnegie began to look at philanthropy on a much larger scale. In 1902, he founded the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and in 1904, founded the Carnegie Corporation of Washington, of which the mission was, “to encourage in the broadest and most liberal manner, investigation, research and discovery, and the application of knowledge to the improvement of mankind,” much like the original mission statement of the Rockefeller Foundation created some years later, “to promote the well-being of mankind.”[33] Carnegie founded, in 1911, the Carnegie Corporation, chartered by the New York State legislature.[34]

These philanthropic foundations, and the many others that appeared in and around the same time, and thereafter, were largely imbued with the idea of “science in the service of society” as a goal for the foundation, basing its actions upon a new rationality brought on by the scientific revolution, and by the notions of reform pushed forward in the Progressive Era, based largely upon the concept of scientific social planning “to problems that educators, the new sociologists, social workers, and political scientists found important.” However, as the wealth of the foundations and the positions of their patrons attracted criticisms, a Congressional commission was on industrial relations (founded to settle a matter related to a brutal repression of a mining strike by a Rockefeller-owned mining company) expanded its scope to deal with the general issue of the foundations. The Walsh Commission, as it was known (after its founder, Frank P. Walsh), was formed in 1914, and Walsh explained the inclusion of the foundations in the commission by postulating that:

the creation of the Rockefeller and other foundations was the beginning of an effort to perpetuate the present position of predatory wealth through the corruption of sources of public information… [and] that if not checked by legislation, these foundations will be used as instruments to change to form of government of the U.S. at a future date, and there is even a hint that there is a fear of a monarchy.[35]

In 1916, the Walsh Commission produced its final report, the Manly Report (after the research director, Basil M. Manly), which concluded that the foundations were so “grave a menace” to society, that “it would be desirable to recommend their abolition.” No such actions were taken.[36]

David Nugent, an anthropologist at Emory University, wrote a rather lengthy article for the academic journal, Identities, on the role of foundations in shaping the social sciences. Nugent takes a look at the development of the social sciences in relation to the construction of an American Empire. As such, the shaping of the social sciences was designed, at least in part, with an aim to facilitate the emergence and maintenance of a large, globally expanding empire, but an empire unlike previous ones, with no official overseas colonies; rather, it was to be an informal global empire. Globally expansive and locally administered colonies were to replaced with globally expansive and locally applicable social sciences. In order for the empire to spread its military and commercial might across the world, first, the ideas at the heart of the empire must proliferate globally. Imperialism is not merely a political or economic endeavour; it is, and arguably more importantly, a socio-cultural process.

The colonization of the Americas and Africa by the European powers – with their political apparatus and for the benefit of their commercial and financial appendages – would not have been possible without the powerful social and cultural imperialism of the missionaries, whose ‘gospel’ debased traditional local cultural, spiritual, and religious practices and introduced new conceptions of morality, values, truth, justice, and knowledge. The social sciences then, presented the world with a form of imperialism focused on the construction of a new form of knowledge by which to understand, define, categorize, and change our world. The new missionaries spreading this new gospel were the dominant American foundations, most notably, the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations, later to be joined by a plethora of others, including the Ford Foundation.

Nugent divides the construction of the social sciences in America, and indeed around the world, into three specific time periods; periods which are defined by economic crises and major geopolitical shifts taking place within those parts of the world which the United States seeks to dominate and control. The first period Nugent identified is what he referred to as the “Formation of Overseas Empire,” from 1900-1940. This period was preceded with an economic depression in 1893 and ended with World War II, though the most rapid changes in the social sciences occurred between World War I and World War II. The second period Nugent identified, the “Consolidation of Overseas Empire,” covered the period of 1943 to 1972, responding to the Depression in the 1930s, the ending of World War II and the subsequent decolonization of the so-called ‘Third World,’ and came to an end with the end of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1972, signaling a new phase of rapid economic changes. The third major period then, the “Reconstruction of Overseas Empire,” took place roughly between 1972 and 2001, which began with the recession of the early 70s, marking profound changes across the Third World, the emergence of neoliberalism, and advanced into the 21st century.[37]

Nugent rightly points out that, while the sponsors of the social sciences, namely, the major foundations, produced such knowledge with specific purpose and intent in establishing and re-enforcing hegemony, empire, domination, social engineering, and social control, it would be a mistake to brand all social science knowledge as being in the service to such interests. Indeed, Nugent wrote, “each of the three period generated a small body of progressive scholarship alongside a much larger corpus of conventional knowledge.”[38]

In the period between World War I and World War II, just as the foundations were themselves emerging, their initial focus in education was in financing the reorganization of major universities in the United States, and almost simultaneously, “they also oversaw sweeping changes in the organization of the social sciences – in the aims, methods, and means of evaluating research, in the background, training, and professional activities of the practitioners, and in the institutional processes that underwrote the production of knowledge.”[39] In this period, both Western scholars in North America and Europe, as well as non-Western scholars in Africa, the Americas, and even in China, were concerned with studying the ways in which North Atlantic industrial capitalism and European imperialism had been “shaping regional and local arenas around the globe, in undermining indigenous economic and socio-political forms, in precipitating enormous population movements, and in stimulating novel cultural configurations and new forms of political affiliation.”[40]

While the Rockefeller philanthropies (including the General Education Board, the Laura-Spellman Rockefeller Memorial, and the Rockefeller Foundation) as well as the Carnegie Corporation were the most influential in this process, they were joined by the Russell Sage Foundation, the Julius Rosenwald Fund, the Phelps-Stokes Fund, and eventually several prominent think tanks (which they also created), such as the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations. It was not merely within the United States that these foundations organized and funded the social sciences, but in fact across much of the English-speaking world as a whole, and indeed, well beyond it. Much of their finances went to helping various organizations reform and accommodate these new forms of knowledge; however, the foundations also created several new institutions to achieve their goals in the social sciences or to focus on the specific goal of altering particular institutions. As Nugent noted:

during a period when nation-states were the main arbiters of cultural messages and capital flows, the social science infrastructure that Rockefeller, Carnegie and the other foundations helped to construct was largely independent of (though in no way in conflict with) national controls. In the long run, this infrastructure promoted a “flexible accumulation of knowledge” on a global scale, and in the process helped bring into being an international public sphere of social science knowledge.[41]

This task of “social control” was envisioned by the foundations as consisting in “helping the masses ‘adjust’ to the rigors of industrial life and representative democracy.” The problems with social control that erupted in this era were identified by the foundations as being caused by a number of factors, including the deteriorating condition of the cities, a lack of understanding of the immigrant populations and democratic institutions, resulting in the breakdown of social order. Thus, as Nugent wrote, “the result was a sweeping program of social change and control.”[42]

A Rockefeller Foundation report acknowledged that many people in the world had already been subjected to the “enormously damaging effects… of industrial activity,” and saw it as necessary to alter the “radically false views of life and radically false views of nature” by many of these people. To bring these people into the modern age, foundations agreed, they needed to effect “almost a social revolution,” and to offer these people “training in new forms of political and social organization.” John D. Rockefeller, Jr., articulating the purpose of the Rockefeller Foundation, explained that it would offer “the best of Western civilization, not only in… science but in mental development and spiritual culture.” Science, of course, was the basis upon which the foundations were created: to not only advance the sciences within their own fields, but to advance the principle of the “scientific management” of society. Wicliffe Rose, a professor who was involved in managing several different Rockefeller philanthropies, wrote in a memorandum for Rockefeller officials in 1923:

All important fields of activity… from the breeding of bees to the administration of an empire, call for an understanding of the spirit and technique of modern science… Science is the method of knowledge. It is the key to such dominion as man may ever exercise over his physical environment. Appreciation of its spirit and technique, moreover, determines the mental attitude of a people, affects the entire system of education, and carried with it the shaping of a civilization.[43]

In the 1920s, the Rockefeller interventions in the social sciences were almost exclusively undertaken by the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (LSRM), named after John D. Rockefeller’s wife after her death. The Rockefeller Foundation, following the public exposures of the Walsh Commission, primarily maintained itself to funding medicine and public health. Beardsley Ruml, who became director of the LSRM in 1922, was largely responsible for the Rockefeller move into the social sciences, as the LSRM had been primarily concerned with social welfare prior to Ruml’s directorship. On top of the social sciences, Ruml directed the LSRM into funding public administration, and Ruml felt that, “the route to advancing human welfare was through scientific social research,” and thus, “means had to be devised to bring the social scientist into intimate contact with social phenomena.” The main idea was that the social sciences should elevate to establish an equal relationship with that of the natural sciences by making them more “scientific,” and thus, more efficient and able to handle social problems.[44]

Two general scientific objectives were established for organizing the social sciences, the first of which was, “to increase for the scientist and scholar the possibilities of immediate personal observation of the social problems or social phenomena which were under investigation,” and the second objective was to promote inter-disciplinary research. To undertake this, Ruml set out two specific programs of action:

First, the creation of institutional centers in various parts of the world that would with Rockefeller money embody scientific teaching and research. Collaborative research was to be encouraged through the specific research grants to these institutions. These centers would therefore not only be creative institutions but would also serve as a model for the development of the social sciences generally. Second, Ruml began an extensive fellowship program which was designed to complement the training provided by the institutional centers and increase the number of able people working in the field.[45]

Ruml also saw the need to strengthen existing institutions, notably, the elite American universities, which would become “institutional centers of social research.” Edmund E. Day, director of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Social Sciences program from 1928-1937, explained in 1930 that the plan was to develop “within each country of any importance some center which would fructify the local situation and influence other institutions within the same sphere of scientific influence, then within the larger regional centers.” Focusing on the United States and Europe, the LSRM stated in 1926 that its main policy was directed at establishing 12 or 15 centers of social science research around the world, one specific center in each major European country, (University of Stockholm, Deutsche Hochscule für in Berlin, and the London School of Economics), and several in the United States. The LSRM was merged into the Rockefeller Foundation in 1929, which adopted the same agenda established by Ruml in seeking to cultivate through such institutions “a scientific approach to social problems.”[46]

Through the fellowship program, established at the LSRM by Ruml in 1923, students in Europe and Australia were often brought to study in the United States, with the favoured subject within the social sciences being economics, considering it was the closest to establishing itself along the lines of the physical sciences. As the Rockefeller Foundation prepared to incorporate the LSRM into its institutional structure, Edmund E. Day took over as director of the Social Sciences from Ruml in 1928, with the new Social Science division becoming a “formal organization,” just as the Foundation’s other major divisions of medicine, natural science, and the humanities. In 1930, Day wrote that, “what we have to do is to establish in the social sciences the scientific tradition and the scientific habit of mind,” and thus, the Foundation should work to strengthen “certain types of interest and certain habits of thought.” Naturally, this would be “thought” which would be in the “interest” of the Foundation, itself. The aim in doing this was to “coordinate the scientific attack upon social problems,” as education professor, Donald Fisher, wrote in Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism. Edmund Day saw the potential for the social sciences to engage in “human engineering,” and stated quite bluntly: “the validation of the findings of social science must be through effective social control.”[47]

In 1932, the Foundation put emphasis on the support for creating a field of “International Relations,” within Political Science, as well as “the planning and control of economic structures and economic process.” In the area of “International Relations,” the Rockefeller Foundation hoped to “promote understanding among nations and to reduce the friction which may lead to warfare,” which, combined with the program of “Economic Control” was hoped to prevent any future “crisis of capitalism.” A 1934 Rockefeller Foundation committee of trustees produced a report on the Social Sciences Division, explaining, “we now have the opportunity to see whether we cannot assist in applying to concrete problems of our social, political and industrial life some of the ideas and data which research all over the world is rapidly developing.”[48]

In 1932-33, as the Board was considering the proposals of reform in education, all the programs were subject to the ultimate approval of the Board of Trustees of the GEB, which at the time included 15 individuals, all of whom were white, male protestants, including John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and his 27 year old son, John D. Rockefeller, III, and most of whom had been educated at Ivy League schools or the University of Chicago, which had been founded by John D. Rockefeller. Nine of the fifteen trustees were also academics, and seven of them had been senior administrators at major educational institutions, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, N.Y.U, Stanford, and the University of Chicago. Other members of the trustees included Owen Young, Chairman of the Board of General Electric, as well as banker Arthur Woods, and Raymond Fosdick, a Wall Street lawyer who would later become President of the Rockefeller Foundation. By 1931, the GEB’s survey of education emphasized three major fields of concentration:

1) the study of the learning process and the mental, physical, and moral development of the individual; 2) the problem of “preparing the individual for vocations and leisure”; and 3) the means for relating education to an evolving society, that is education which would “insure the active adaptation of the individual to the changes which may come in his social, physical and aesthetic environments.”[49]

It was Edmund E. Day, the new director of the Social Science Division, who assumed the greatest leadership in coordinating national reform of education, having previously been an economics professor at Dartmouth, Harvard, and was Dean of the School of Business Administration at the University of Michigan, when he subsequently led the social sciences division at the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial until its incorporation into the Rockefeller Foundation between 1928 and 1930, at which time he assumed his role as director of the Social Sciences Division within both the Rockefeller Foundation and the General Education Board. Day was responsible for articulating and selling the ideas of educational reform to the Board of Trustees, which he did in 1932 in a memorandum entitled, “Cultural Adjustment to a Changing World.” In regards to the social upheavals of the early Depression years, Day wrote in 1933 that, “Industrialism and urbanism… are new forces of tremendous power, neither of which has been brought under sensible control. The way out is not yet evident, and a prolonged period of readjustment is presumably unavoidable.” Day acknowledged that “prevailing social ideas and ideals in the United States were seriously out of accord with current social forms and forces,” however, he argued, the answer did not lie in reforming the social world to meet the needs of the individual, but in adjusting the individual to the social world. As Day wrote, “we must look chiefly to the school for the major efforts toward cultural adjustment of the individual, since the school is a social instrumentality with a uniquely flexible adaptability and with a primary responsibility to meet this need.” Thus, the school could “set the individual in satisfactory general relation to the world in which he lived.”[50]

Between 1919 and 1940, the Rockefeller, Carnegie, and other major philanthropies provided roughly $3.2 million of support for the social sciences in British universities, and a further $1.7 million for “independent organizations which were closely tied to the universities.” The two major Rockefeller philanthropies at the time, the LSRM and the RF, provided roughly 95% of these expenditures. Thus, it was American philanthropy, and principally the Rockefeller foundations which were directly responsible for the development of British social sciences in this period. Only in the late 1930s did British philanthropy pick up the slack from the Rockefeller foundations.[51]

Rockefeller money was also pivotal in the establishment of the London School of Economics (LSE), which “had become an important world centre of the social sciences,” in large part due to the involvement of Rockefeller philanthropies. The Rockefeller foundations selected the LSE specifically for support because in the early 1920s, it was the most advanced center of social sciences in Britain, and could thus serve as a model for the rest of British institutions. Further, the director of the LSE, Lord William Beveridge (also a member of the British Eugenics Society), “shared with Rockefeller philanthropy the same conception of the way in which the social sciences should develop,” specifically in terms of utilizing the “natural scientific approach” to social problems. Also important to note as to why the LSE was chosen, was its strategic location in London, at the heart of the world’s most powerful and globally expanded empire at the time.[52]

Between 1923 and 1939, the LSRM and the Rockefeller Foundation provided the LSE with over $2 million, during which time the school expanded rapidly, becoming “the leading centre of research in the Social Sciences” in the British Empire. Building expansions, the establishment of the leading research library in Britain, acquisition of land, equipment, and a dramatic increase in full-time teachers from 26 in 1923 to 76 by 1937, was largely due to Rockefeller support. Rockefeller money in particular ensured the development of anthropology, international relations, and social biology, and student enrollment also dramatically increased with large grants from Rockefeller philanthropies for postgraduate research and teaching. Thus, by the end of the 1930s, the LSE had “become an international centre training many foreign students.” Grants also contributed to expanding and supporting publications by LSE faculty, with an enormous amount of books and articles emerging as a result of this support, and supported the creation of journals run out of the school as well.[53]

Rockefeller money also flowed into developing the social sciences at Oxford, funding research lecturers for Human Geography, African Sociology, Colonial Administration, Public Administration, and Public Finance, with more money flowing into forming a training program for the social sciences as well as research groups in the area of Economics, Colonial Administration, and Studies of Native Populations, subjects explicitly related to maintaining Britain’s imperial status. Rockefeller foundations also expanded a fellowship program into every university in Britain, granting a total of 108 fellowships in the social sciences to British citizens between 1924 and 1940, and “by far the largest number were awarded to economists,” with Political Science following behind, and subsequently sociology and history, and only 8 anthropology fellowships.[54]

In 1946, a British government report surveying the state of British universities concluded that the social sciences, which had received no prior support from government sources, presented as many possibilities of generating applicable knowledge as did the natural sciences, and were thus worth of government support in order to advance the social sciences in the “national interest.” A committee was subsequently established to handle government subsidies of the social sciences, and in the 1950s, the British social sciences experienced a major “boom,” advancing what was begun with Rockefeller money so that it became state sanctioned, and, in effect, a new socially constructed reality of higher education in Britain: “the social sciences had become a recognized part of the university curriculum.”[55] As professor of education Donald Fisher wrote:

Indeed Rockefeller philanthropy prepared the way for the post-World War II developments in Britain not only in terms of the increased spending by government but also with respect to what was regarded as important in the social sciences. Rockefeller philanthropy had determined which subjects should be studied, which research questions should be answered, and which methods should be utilized to answer these questions.[56]

This era marked the emergence of what has been referred to as “technocratic liberalism,” whereby social problems were addressed (in large part by the state, or at least state sanction) through the technical application of programs of social engineering: “the one best way,” the most efficient, effective, and “scientific” approach to understanding and addressing social problems. This was the task taken up by the “rational reformers” of the era, emerging out of the Progressive period, in which the techniques of the social sciences were used to create a system of “social control.” These social engineers– social scientists, technocratic reformers, experts, philanthropists, etc. – felt that society could “control its collective destiny in contrast to drifting with the tides… even while working toward the management of the many by the few.”[57]

The notion that the social sciences were to be used in the application of and for the purpose of ‘social control’ is not an abstract theoretical interpretation of the Foundation’s policies; it was, in fact, stated policy. In 1933, the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Max Mason, wrote that the Foundation’s policies:

… were directed to the general problem of human behavior, with the aim of control through understanding. The Social sciences, for example, will concern themselves with the rationalization of social control; the Medical and Natural sciences propose a closely coordinated study of sciences which underlie personal understanding and personal control. Many procedures will be explicitly co-operative between divisions. The Medical and Natural Sciences will, through psychiatry and psychobiology, have a strong interest in the problems of mental disease [emphasis added].[58]

The influence of the major philanthropic foundations is exerted in a plethora of ways, including, wrote political scientist Joan Roelofs:

creating ideology and the common wisdom; providing positions and status for intellectuals; controlling access to resources for universities, social services, and arts organizations; compensating for market failures; steering protest movements into safe channels; and supporting those institutions by which policies are initiated and implemented… [F]oundations like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford have a corrosive influence on a democratic society; they represent relatively unregulated and unaccountable concentrations of power and wealth which buy talent, promote causes, and, in effect, establish an agenda of what merits society’s attention.[59]

Foundations engage in “considerable collaboration” with networks of nonprofits (which they create and fund), corporations, international organizations, and government entities at the local, state, national and international levels. Foundations effectively “blur boundaries” between the public and private sectors, while simultaneously effecting the separation of such areas in the study of social sciences. This boundary erosion between public and private spheres “adds feudal elements to our purported democracy, yet it has not been resisted, protested, or even noted much by political elites or social scientists.”[60] As foreign policy strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski indicated, the blurring of boundaries “serves United States world dominance”:

As the imitation of American ways gradually pervades the world, it creates a more congenial setting for the exercise of the indirect and seemingly consensual American hegemony. And as in the case of the domestic American system, that hegemony involves a complex structure of interlocking institutions and procedures, designed to generate consensus and obscure asymmetries in power and influence.[61]

In the early twentieth century, the Walsh Commission warned that, “the power of wealth could overwhelm democratic culture and politics,”[62] and the Final Report stated, “that foundations would be more likely to pursue their own ideology in society than social objectivity.”[63] The Carnegie Corporation and Rockefeller Foundation, from their origins, immediately began cooperating heavily with one another, coordinating activities and planning agendas. That the financial weight of these two institutions – and with the Ford Foundation to enter the scene with an even larger endowment – the coordinated influence over higher education yielded an immense power for the owners of foundations in the construction of ideology and knowledge. In providing the funding, they have the power to direct the efforts of scholars and academics, to create entire disciplines and schools of thought, to fund conferences, academic journals, publications, and think tanks. The fact that the role of philanthropic foundations in the construction and management of the educational system itself is so little known is a sign of the subtle, yet pervasive power structures that exists within academia.

Rather than looking at it from a conspiratorial view, however, look at it historically. Just as the Kings and Queens of Europe supported the development of universities in order to furnish managers and technocrats for their dynastic empires, so too do the modern dynastic powers – in this case, banking families – seek to tie the direction and purpose of higher education close to their own interests, and for the same reasons. It is not conspiratorial precisely because of the nature of the social phenomena itself: there are far too many social actors at play, dynamic and interactive and reactive relationships between different individuals, institutions, and ideas. Resistance and problems always emerge, even for the most dominant of powers and institutions. Thus, the financial-dynastic powers must be pragmatic in their approach, willing to reform, change, reorganize and regroup. Simply because it is not well known is not reason enough to think it a ‘conspiracy theory.’ The facts are known, just not widely disseminated.

The next part of this series further takes up the question – what is the purpose of education? – and adds to it: what is – and what should be – the role of intellectuals in society? In particular, the focus will be on the roles of radical versus technical intellectuals, within educational institutions and the society as a whole: from the ancient prophets, to Walter Lippmann, from Zbigniew Brzezinski to Noam Chomsky, this dichotomy of intellectuals has existed in society for a great deal of human history. What are the implications this could have for today’s college crisis and class warfare?

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Francisco O. Ramirez and John Boli, “The Political Construction of Mass Schooling: European Origins and Worldwide Institutionalization,” Sociology of Education (Vol. 60, January 1987), page 5.

[2]            Bertrand Russell, The Impact of Science on Society (Unwin Paperbacks, London: 1952), page 62.

[3]            John W. Meyer, et. al., “Public Education as Nation-Building in America: Enrollments and Bureaucratization in the American States, 1870-1930,” American Journal of Sociology (Vol. 85, No. 3, November 1979), page 592.

[4]            Robert H. Wiebe, “The Social Functions of Public Education,” American Quarterly (Vol. 21, No. 2, Part 1, Summer 1969), pages 147-148.

[5]            Ibid, pages 149-150.

[6]            Ibid, page 157.

[7]            Francisco O. Ramirez and John W. Meyer, “Comparative Education: The Social Construction of the Modern World System,” Annual Review of Sociology (Vol. 6, 1980), page 377.

[8]            Ibid, pages 378-379.

[9]            John C. Scott, “The Mission of the University: Medieval to Postmodern Transformations,” Journal of Higher Education (Vol. 77, No. 1, January/February 2006), page 6.

[10]            Ibid, pages 6-7.

[11]            Gerard Delanty, “The Idea of the University in the Global Era: From Knowledge as an End to the End of Knowledge?” Social Epistemology (Vol. 12, No. 1, 1998), page 6.

[12]            Ibid, pages 6-7.

[13]            John C. Scott, “The Mission of the University: Medieval to Postmodern Transformations,” Journal of Higher Education (Vol. 77, No. 1, January/February 2006), page 10.

[14]            Ibid, page 11.

[15]            Ibid, page 12.

[16]            Gerard Delanty, “The Idea of the University in the Global Era: From Knowledge as an End to the End of Knowledge?” Social Epistemology (Vol. 12, No. 1, 1998), page 7.

[17]            José-Ginés Mora, “Governance and Management in the New University,” Tertiary Education and Management (Vol. 7, No. 2, 2001), page 97.

[18]            Gerard Delanty, “The Idea of the University in the Global Era: From Knowledge as an End to the End of Knowledge?” Social Epistemology (Vol. 12, No. 1, 1998), page 9.

[19]            John C. Scott, “The Mission of the University: Medieval to Postmodern Transformations,” Journal of Higher Education (Vol. 77, No. 1, January/February 2006), pages 15-16.

[20]            Ibid, pages 23-24.

[21]            Ibid, page 25.

[22]            Nicolas Guilhot, “Reforming the World: George Soros, Global Capitalism and the Philanthropic Management of the Social Sciences,” Critical Sociology, Vol. 33, 2007, page 448.

[23]            Ibid, page 450.

[24]            Ibid, page 451.

[25]            Erkki Berndtson, “Review Essay: Power of Foundations and the American Ideology,” Critical Sociology, Vol. 33, 2007, page 583.

[26]            Ibid, page 584.

[27]            Nicolas Guilhot, “Reforming the World: George Soros, Global Capitalism and the Philanthropic Management of the Social Sciences,” Critical Sociology, Vol. 33, 2007, page 452.

[28]            Morris Janowitz, “Sociological Theory and Social Control,” American Journal of Sociology (Vol. 81, No. 1, July 1975), page 82.

[29]            Ibid, page 85.

[30]            Anthony J. Cortese, “The Rise, Hegemony, and Decline of the Chicago School of Sociology, 1892-1945,” The Social Science Journal (Vol. 32, No. 3, 1995), page 237.

[31]            Robert F. Arnove, ed., Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (Indiana University Press, Bloomington: 1982), pages 26-28.

[32]            Ibid, pages 28-29.

[33]            Ibid, pages 30-31.

[34]            Ibid, pages 32-33.

[35]            Ibid, pages 33-35.

[36]            Ibid, pages 46-47.

[37]            David Nugent, “Knowledge and Empire: The Social Sciences and United States Imperial Expansion,” Identities (Vol. 17, Issue 1, 2010), pages 2-3.

[38]            Ibid, page 3.

[39]            Ibid, page 4.

[40]            Ibid, pages 5-7.

[41]            Ibid, pages 9.

[42]            Ibid, pages 9-10.

[43]            Ibid, pages 10-11.

[44]            Robert F. Arnove, ed., Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (Indiana University Press, Bloomington: 1982), pages 234-235.

[45]            Ibid, page 235.

[46]            Ibid, pages 235-236.

[47]            Ibid, pages 236-237.

[48]            Ibid, page 238-239.

[49]            Charles D. Biebel, “Private Foundations and Public Policy: The Case of Secondary Education During the Great Depression,” History of Education Quarterly (Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring 1976), pages 6-8.

[50]            Ibid, pages 10-11.

[51]            Robert F. Arnove, ed., Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (Indiana University Press, Bloomington: 1982), pages 239-241.

[52]            Ibid, page 241.

[53]            Ibid, pages 244-245.

[54]            Ibid, pages 245-247.

[55]            Ibid, pages 248-251.

[56]            Ibid, pages 252-253.

[57]            Dennis Bryson, “Technocratic Liberalism and Social Science,” Radical History Review (Vol. 64, 1996), pages 119-120.

[58]            Lily E. Kay, “Rethinking Institutions: Philanthropy as an Historigraphic Problem of Knowledge and Power,” Minerva (Vol. 35, 1997), page 290.

[59]            Joan Roelofs, “Foundations and Collaboration,” Critical Sociology, Vol. 33, 2007, page 480

[60]            Ibid.

[61]            Ibid, page 481.

[62]            Ibid, page 483.

[63]            Erkki Berndtson, “Review Essay: Power of Foundations and the American Ideology,” Critical Sociology, Vol. 33, 2007, page 580

Article Translation: “La ‘Crisis de la Democracia’ y el ataque a la educación”

Thanks to Verdad Ahora for translating a recent article of mine into Spanish: “Class War and the College Crisis: The Crisis of Democracy and the Attack on Education.”

Note: If you have any access to or have written translations of any of my articles (into any language), please send me the links so that I can re-post them on my website! Thanks.

Por Andrew Gavin Marshall

Hoy en día, somos testigos de una incipiente rebelión global masiva, liderada principalmente por los jóvenes educados y desempleados del mundo, en contra de los poderes institucionalizados y establecidos que tratan de privarlos de un futuro digno. En Chile durante el año pasado, un masivo movimiento estudiantil y huelgas se convirtieron en una fuerza poderosa en el país contra un sistema educativo cada vez más privatizado (que sirvió de modelo para el resto del mundo) con el apoyo de la inmensa mayoría de la población; en Quebec, Canadá, una huelga de estudiantes ha llevado a cientos de miles de jóvenes a las calles para protestar contra la duplicación de sus tasas de arancel; estudiantes y otros se fueron a huelga en España contra las medidas de austeridad; están desarrollándose y creciendo protestas lideradas por o con fuerte participación de los jóvenes en el Reino Unido, Grecia, Portugal, Francia, y en los Estados Unidos (por ejemplo, con el Movimiento Occupy), luchando contra las medidas de austeridad, la corrupción abierta de la clase capitalista, y la colusión del gobierno con los banqueros y las corporaciones. Estudiantes y jóvenes llevaron a los levantamientos en Túnez y Egipto el año pasado que condujeron al derrocamiento de los dictadores que habían gobernado a esas naciones durante décadas.

En todo el mundo, cada vez más, los jóvenes están saliendo a las calles para protestar, agitar y atacar los abusos de poder, los fracasos del gobierno, los excesos de la codicia, el saqueo y la pobreza. La juventud educada, en particular, está desempeñando un papel activo, un papel que crecerá dramáticamente durante este año y los próximos. La juventud educada está graduándose en un mercado de desempleo con una deuda enorme y pocas oportunidades. Ahora, así como hace varias décadas, los jóvenes están volcándose al activismo. ¿Qué pasó en el intervalo para que el activismo se desbaratara cuando había sido tan amplio en la década del 60? ¿Cómo nuestro sistema educativo llegó a su situación actual? ¿Qué implica esto para el presente y el futuro?

La “Crisis de la Democracia”

En el período comprendido entre los años 50 y 70, el mundo occidental, y especialmente Estados Unidos, experimentó una oleada masiva de resistencia, rebelión, protesta, activismo y acción directa de sectores enteros de la población en general que estuvieron durante décadas, si no siglos, en mayor medida oprimidos y olvidados por las estructuras de poder institucional de la sociedad. El movimiento de derechos civiles en Estados Unidos, el surgimiento de la Nueva Izquierda – radical y activista – en Europa y América del Norte, como en otras partes, el activismo contra la guerra, en gran parte impulsado en oposición a la guerra de Vietnam, la Teología de la Liberación en América Latina (y en Filipinas), el movimiento ecologista, el movimiento feminista, los movimientos de derechos de los homosexuales, y todo tipo de otros activistas y movimientos movilizados de la juventud y de vastos sectores de la sociedad se organizaron y agitaron activamente en favor del cambio, la reforma e incluso, la revolución. Cuando el poder se resistió más a sus demandas, los movimientos se radicalizaron más. Mientras más lento actuó poder, más rápido reaccionó el pueblo. El efecto, en esencia, es que estos movimientos buscaron, y en muchos casos consiguieron, empoderar a vastas poblaciones que habían sido de otro modo oprimidas e ignoradas, y por lo general hicieron despertar a las masas de la sociedad ante injusticias tales como el racismo, la guerra y la represión.

Para la población en general, estos movimientos fueron una etapa instructiva, civilizadora, y llena de esperanza en nuestra historia moderna. Para las élites, fueron terribles. Así, en la década del 70 tuvo lugar un debate dentro de la élite intelectual, sobre todo en los Estados Unidos, ante lo que se conoció como la “Crisis de la Democracia.” En 1973 fue creada la Comisión Trilateral, por el banquero y oligarca global David Rockefeller y el intelectual elitista Zbigniew Brzezinski. La Comisión Trilateral reúne a las élites de América del Norte, Europa Occidental y Japón (ahora incluye varios estados de Asia Oriental), en los ámbitos de la política, finanzas, economía, negocios, organizaciones internacionales, organizaciones no gubernamentales, académicos, militares, inteligencia, medios de comunicación, y círculos de política exterior. Actúa como un importante think tank internacional, diseñado para coordinar y establecer un consenso entre las potencias imperiales dominantes del mundo.

En 1975, la Comisión Trilateral publicó un importante informe titulado “La Crisis de la Democracia”, donde los autores se lamentaron por la “oleada democrática” de la década del 60 y la “sobrecarga” que impuso a las instituciones de autoridad. Samuel Huntington, politólogo y uno de los principales autores del informe, escribió que la década del 60 vio un crecimiento de la democracia en Estados Unidos, con un repunte de la participación ciudadana, a menudo “en forma de marchas, manifestaciones, movimientos de protesta, y organizaciones por “causas”.” Además, “la década del 60 vio también una reafirmación de la primacía de la igualdad como un objetivo en la vida social, económica, y política.” Por supuesto, para Huntington y la Comisión Trilateral, fundada por el amigo de Huntington, Zbigniew Brzezinski, y el banquero David Rockefeller, la idea de “la igualdad como un objetivo en la vida social, económica y política” es una perspectiva terrible y aterradora. Huntington analizó la forma de cómo en parte de esta “oleada democrática”, mostraban las estadísticas a lo largo de las décadas del 60 y el 70, hubo un dramático aumento en el porcentaje de personas que sentían que Estados Unidos estaba gastando demasiado en defensa (del 18% en 1960 al 52% en 1969, principalmente debido a la guerra de Vietnam). [1]

Huntington escribió que la “esencia de la oleada democrática de la década del 60 fue un desafío general a los sistemas existentes de autoridad, públicos y privados”, y que “La gente ya no sentía la misma compulsión a obedecer a aquellos a quienes habían considerado previamente superiores a sí mismos en edad, rango, estatus, experiencia, carácter, o talentos”. Huntington explicó que en la década del 60, “jerarquía, experiencia y riqueza” se encontraban “bajo ataque”.” El uso del lenguaje aquí es importante, colocando al poder y la riqueza como si estuviesen “bajo ataque”, lo que implica que aquellos que lo “atacan” son los agresores, lo que se opone al hecho de que estas poblaciones (como los estadounidenses negros) habían sido atacadas por el poder y la riqueza durante siglos, y que solo entonces habían comenzado a luchar. Por lo tanto, la autodefensa del pueblo contra el poder y la riqueza es vista como un “ataque”. Huntington afirmó que las tres cuestiones clave que son fundamentales en el aumento de la participación política en la década del 60 fueron:

cuestiones sociales, como el uso de las drogas, las libertades civiles y el papel de la mujer; cuestiones raciales, como integración, movilidad, ayudas gubernamentales a grupos minoritarios, y disturbios urbanos; cuestiones militares, que implican principalmente, por supuesto, la guerra en Vietnam, pero también proyectos, gasto militar, programas de ayuda militar y el papel del complejo militar-industrial en general. [2]

Huntington presenta estos problemas, en esencia, como la “crisis de la democracia”, en que aumentara la desconfianza en el gobierno y la autoridad, lo que llevó a la polarización social e ideológica, y derivó en una disminución “de la autoridad, el estatus, la influencia y la eficacia de la presidencia.” Huntington concluyó que los problemas de gobernabilidad en Estados Unidos derivaron de un “exceso de democracia”, y que “el funcionamiento eficaz de un sistema político democrático por lo general requiere cierto grado de apatía y de no participación por parte de algunos individuos y grupos”. Huntington explicó que la sociedad siempre ha tenido “grupos marginales” que no participan en la política, y si bien reconoce que la existencia de “marginalidad por parte de algunos grupos es inherentemente antidemocrática”, también “permite que la democracia pueda funcionar con eficacia”. Huntington identifica a “los negros”, como uno de esos grupos que se habían vuelto políticamente activos, lo que representaba un “peligro de sobrecarga del sistema político con demandas.” Por supuesto, esto implica directamente una versión elitista de la “democracia” donde el Estado mantiene la estética democrática (voto, separación de poderes, estado de derecho), pero sigue estando exclusivamente en manos de la rica élite de poder. Huntington, en su conclusión, afirmó que la vulnerabilidad de la democracia, particularmente la “crisis de la democracia”, deriva de “un alto nivel de educación, movilización, y sociedad participativa”, y que lo que se necesita es “una existencia más equilibrada” donde existan “límites deseables a la extensión indefinida de la democracia política”. [3] En otras palabras, lo que se necesita es menos democracia y más autoridad.

La Comisión Trilateral luego explicó su visión respecto de la “amenaza” a la democracia y por lo tanto, la forma en que el sistema “debería” funcionar:

En la mayoría de los países de la Trilateral [Europa Occidental, Norteamérica, Japón] en la última década ha habido un descenso en la confianza que el pueblo tiene en el gobierno… La autoridad ha sido cuestionada no sólo en el gobierno, sino en sindicatos, empresas comerciales, escuelas y universidades, asociaciones profesionales, iglesias y grupos cívicos. En el pasado, las instituciones que habían jugado el papel principal en el adoctrinamiento de los jóvenes en sus derechos y obligaciones como miembros de la sociedad habían sido la familia, la iglesia, la escuela, y el ejército. La eficacia de todas estas instituciones como un medio de socialización ha disminuido severamente. (Énfasis añadido) [4]

El “exceso de democracia” implicaba generar un supuesto “aumento de las demandas” al gobierno, justo en un momento en que la autoridad del gobierno estaba siendo socavada. La Comisión Trilateral asustó crecientemente a la comunidad de la elite intelectual, discutiendo la amenaza de los “intelectuales orientados a los valores” que se atreven a “hacer valer su disconformidad con la corrupción, el materialismo y la ineficacia de la democracia y con la sumisión de los gobiernos democráticos al “capitalismo monopolista”.” Para los miembros y componentes (las élites) de la Comisión Trilateral, no se retractaron de la evaluación de esa amenaza, afirmando que, “este desarrollo constituye un desafío a un gobierno democrático que es, al menos potencialmente, tan grave como los planteados en el pasado por las camarillas aristocráticas, los movimientos fascistas, y los partidos comunistas”. [5] Este es un uso muy típico de retórica elitista donde a la hora de identificar cualquier amenaza a los intereses de la élite, esta es presentada en casi términos apocalípticos. La implicación, por lo tanto, es que los intelectuales que desafían a la autoridad son presentados como una amenaza tan grande a la democracia como lo fueron Hitler y el fascismo.

El informe de la Comisión Trilateral explica – a través de un razonamiento económico – cómo una mayor democracia es sencillamente insostenible. La “oleada democrática” dio a los grupos desfavorecidos nuevos derechos y los hizo políticamente activos (como los negros), y esto se tradujo en aumento de las demandas sobre el mismo sistema cuya legitimidad había sido debilitada. ¡Un escenario terrible para las elites! El informe explicó que mientras la votación disminuyó a lo largo de las décadas del 60 y el 70, la participación política activa en los campus aumentó, los grupos minoritarios estaban exigiendo sus derechos (¡cómo se atreven!), y no sólo exigían derechos humanos básicos, sino también “oportunidades, posiciones, recompensas y privilegios, que no habían considerado como derechos propios anteriormente.” Es decir, no como los ricos, que se han considerado con derecho a todo, por siempre y para siempre. Por lo tanto, el gasto público en bienestar social y una mayor educación se incrementó, explica el informe: “A principios de los 70 los estadounidenses se volvieron progresivamente exigentes y recibieron más beneficios de su gobierno y sin embargo tenían menos confianza en su gobierno de la que tenían hace una década.” La mayoría de las personas se refieren a ello como un logro de la democracia, pero para los “intelectuales” de la Trilateral se trataba de un “exceso de democracia”, y, de hecho, una amenaza. [6]

Samuel Huntington, por supuesto, asume que el declive de la confianza en el gobierno era irracional, y no tenía nada que ver con la guerra de Vietnam, la represión policial y estatal de los movimientos de protesta, el escándalo Watergate y otros delitos evidentes. No, para Huntington, la pérdida de confianza está ligada mágicamente a las “mayores expectativas” de la población, o, como Jay Peterzell explicó en su crítica al informe, “la causa de la desilusión pública se remonta constantemente a expectativas poco realistas alentadas por el gasto del gobierno.” Huntington justificó este mito absurdo en su análisis sesgado del “giro a la defensa” y el “giro al bienestar”. El “giro a la defensa”, que tuvo lugar en la década del 50, describe un período en el que el 36% del aumento del gasto en el gobierno fue a la defensa (es decir, al complejo militar-industrial), mientras que el bienestar se redujo como proporción del presupuesto. Luego vino el “giro al bienestar” de la década del 60, en el que entre 1960 y 1971, sólo un ínfimo 15% del aumento del gasto fue al complejo militar-industrial, mientras que el 84% del aumento se destinó a programas nacionales. Por lo tanto, para Huntington, el “giro al bienestar” básicamente destruyó a Estados Unidos y arruinó la democracia. [7]

En realidad, sin embargo, Jay Peterzell desglosó los números para explicar los “cambios” en un contexto más amplio y más racional. Si bien es cierto que los porcentajes de aumento o disminución que muestra Huntington eran, después de todo, un porcentaje de “aumento” en el gasto, no lo eran en el porcentaje global del gasto Así que, cuando uno mira el conjunto del gasto público en 1950, 1960 y 1972, el porcentaje de “defensa” fue de 44, a 53, a 37. En esos mismos años, el gasto en bienestar ascendió de 4%, a 3% y a 6%. Así, entre 1960 y 1972, la cantidad de gasto en defensa disminuyó del 53 al 37% en el gasto total del gobierno. En los mismos años, el gasto en bienestar aumentó un 3-6% en el gasto total del gobierno. Cuando se ve como porcentaje del total, difícilmente puede ser legítimo afirmar que el escaso aumento del 6% de los gastos del gobierno para el bienestar era ni de lejos tan “amenaza” a la democracia como lo fue el 37% invertido en el complejo militar-industrial [8].

Así que, naturalmente, como resultado de estas terribles estadísticas, la élite intelectual y sus amos financieros tuvieron que imponer más autoridad y menos democracia. No se trataba simplemente de que la Comisión Trilateral abogara por tales “restricciones” a la democracia, ya que fue un debate importante en la élite de los círculos académicos en la década del 70. En Gran Bretaña, de esta discusión surgió la “tesis de la gobernabilidad” – o tesis de la “sobrecarga” – democrática. “Las Contradicciones Económicas de la Democracia” de Samuel Brittan en 1975, explicó que, “La tentación de animar falsas expectativas entre el electorado se vuelve abrumadora para los políticos. Los partidos de oposición están obligados a prometer hacerlo mejor y el partido de gobierno debe participar en la oferta.” En esencia, se trataba de una repetición de la tesis de la Trilateral de que demasiadas promesas generan demasiadas demandas, los cuales crean demasiada tensión para el sistema, e inevitablemente lo derrumbarán. Anthony King se hizo eco de esto en su obra, “Sobrecarga: Problemas de la Administración en la Década del 70″, y King explicó que gobernar se estaba volviendo “más difícil”, porque “a uno y al mismo tiempo, la gama de problemas que el gobierno espera y tiene que enfrentar ha aumentado considerablemente y su capacidad para hacer frente a los problemas, incluso muchos de los que tenía antes, ha disminuido.” El politólogo italiano Giovanni Sartori se hizo la pregunta: “¿La Democracia mata a la Democracia?”:

Estamos persiguiendo objetivos que están fuera de proporción, demasiado aislados y perseguidos ciegamente y que, por lo tanto, están en el proceso crear… una sobrecarga totalmente inmanejable y siniestra… Estamos empezando a darnos cuenta en las prósperas democracias que estamos viviendo por encima de nuestras necesidades. Pero estamos igual y más gravemente viviendo por encima y más allá de nuestra inteligencia, por encima de la comprensión de lo que estamos haciendo. [9]

King explicó que, “Los politólogos se han ocupado tradicionalmente de mejorar el desempeño del gobierno.” Un error evidente, concluyó King, quien sugirió que, “Tal vez en los próximos años deberían preocuparse más por cómo el número de tareas que el gobierno espera llevar a cabo pueda reducirse.” El “remedio” para toda esta “sobrecarga” de las sociedades democráticas es, en primer lugar, poner “fin a la política de las “promesas”,” y la segunda, “intentar reducir las expectativas de los votantes y los consumidores” en el proceso político. [10]

La “amenaza” de la juventud educada era especialmente pronunciada. En 1978, el Management Development Institute (una importante escuela de negocios de la India) publicó un informe en el que afirmaba:

Quizá la tendencia más perniciosa de la nueva década es el abismo creciente entre una mano de obra crecientemente mejor educada y el número de ofertas de trabajo que pueden hacer uso de esas habilidades y calificaciones… El potencial de frustración, alienación y disrupción resultante de la disparidad entre el nivel educacional alcanzado y el trabajo apropiado no puede ser menospreciado. [11]

En estos comentarios, estamos tratando con dos definiciones diametralmente opuestas de democracia: popular y elitista. La democracia popular es el gobierno del, por y para el pueblo, la democracia elitista es el gobierno de los, por y para los ricos (pero con la estética exterior de las democracias), canalizando la participación popular en la votación en lugar de la toma de decisiones o de la participación activa. La democracia popular implica que las personas participan directamente en las decisiones y las funciones y el mantenimiento de la “nación” (aunque no necesariamente del Estado), mientras que la democracia elitista implica la participación pasiva de la población lo suficiente como para permitir que se sientan como si desempeñaran un papel importante en la dirección de la sociedad, mientras que las élites controlan todas las palancas importantes de poder y las instituciones que dirigen y se benefician de las acciones del Estado. Estas diferentes definiciones son importantes porque al leer los informes por escrito y publicados por los intereses de la elite (como el informe de la Comisión Trilateral), cambia la sustancia y el significado del propio informe. Por ejemplo, tomemos el caso de Samuel Huntington, lamentándose por la amenaza a la democracia que representa la participación popular: desde la lógica de la democracia popular, esta es una afirmación absurda que no tiene sentido, desde la lógica de la democracia elitista, esa afirmación es correcta y profundamente importante. Si las élites entienden esta diferenciación, también debe hacerlo el público.

El Memo Powell: Protegiendo a la Plutocracia

Mientras las élites se lamentaban por el aumento de la democracia, sobre todo en la década del 60, no se quedaron sólo quejándose por el “exceso de democracia”, sino que fueron planeando activamente la reducción de la misma. Cuatro años antes del informe de la Comisión Trilateral, en 1971, fue publicado el infame y secreto Memo Powell, escrito por un abogado corporativo y miembro directivo de una compañía de tabaco, Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (a quien el presidente Nixon colocó en la Corte Suprema dos meses después), el cual fue dirigido al Presidente del Comité de Educación de la Cámara de Comercio de Estados Unidos, que representa los intereses empresariales estadounidenses.

Powell estipula que “el sistema económico estadounidense está bajo un amplio ataque” y que “el asalto al sistema empresarial tiene una base amplia y es perseguido constantemente… ganando impulso y conversos.” A pesar de que las ‘fuentes’ del ‘ataque’ fueron identificadas como amplias, incluyen a la multitud habitual de críticos, comunistas, la Nueva Izquierda, y “otros revolucionarios que quieren destruir todo el sistema, tanto político como económico.” Además de esto existían “extremistas” que eran cada vez “más bienvenidos y alentados por otros elementos de la sociedad, más que nunca antes en nuestra historia.” La verdadera “amenaza”, sin embargo, eran las “voces que se unen al coro de críticas [que] vienen de elementos perfectamente respetables de la sociedad: desde el campus de la universidad, el púlpito, los medios de comunicación, las revistas intelectuales y literarias, las artes y las ciencias, y de los políticos”. Aun reconociendo que en estos mismos sectores, los que hablan en contra del “sistema” son todavía una minoría, Powell señaló que “estos son a menudo los más elocuentes, y los más prolíficos en su escritura y expresión oral”. [12]

Powell, discutió la “paradoja” de cómo los líderes empresariales parecen estar participando – o simplemente tolerando – los ataques contra el “sistema de libre empresa”, ya sea por dar voz a través de los medios de comunicación que les pertenecen, o a través de las universidades, a pesar del hecho de que “los consejos de administración de nuestras universidades están compuestos mayoritariamente de hombres y mujeres que son líderes en el sistema”. Powell lamentó las conclusiones de los informes que indican que desde las universidades se estaban graduando estudiantes que “desprecian el sistema político y económico”, y por lo tanto, que estarían dispuestos a entrar en el poder y generar un cambio, o directamente cuestionar el sistema desde la cabeza. Esto marcó una “guerra intelectual” librada contra el sistema, de acuerdo a Powell, quien citó a continuación al economista Milton Friedman de la Universidad de Chicago (y ‘padre’ del neoliberalismo), quien declaró:

Está muy claro que los fundamentos de nuestra sociedad libre son objeto de ataques extendidos y poderosos – no por comunistas o cualquier otra conspiración, sino por personas equivocadas que cacarean como loros el uno al otro y sin darse cuenta que sirven a fines que nunca promoverían intencionalmente [13]

Powell, incluso identificó específicamente a Ralph Nader como una “amenaza” para el empresariado estadounidense. Powell se lamentó más por los cambios y el “ataque” que se realiza a través de los tribunales y el sistema legal, que comenzaron a atacar a la evasión de impuestos y los vacíos legales, con los medios de comunicación apoyando este tipo de iniciativas ya que ayudan a “los pobres”. Powell, por supuesto, se refiere a la noción de ayudar a “los pobres” a expensas de los ricos, y la formulación del debate como tal, como “demagogia política o analfabetismo económico”, y que la identificación de políticas de clase – los ricos contra los pobres – “es la más barata y más peligrosa clase de política.” Lamentablemente la respuesta del mundo empresarial ante este “amplio ataque”, según Powell, era “el apaciguamiento, la ineptitud e ignorar el problema.” Powell, sin embargo, explicó en simpatía a la “ineptitud” del empresariado y las elites financieras que, “hay que reconocer que los empresarios no han sido entrenados ni equipados para llevar a cabo una guerra de guerrillas como la de los que hacen propaganda contra el sistema”. [14]

Mientras que el “papel tradicional” de los empresarios ha sido el de obtener beneficios, “crear empleos”, para “mejorar el nivel de vida”, y por supuesto, “en general, ser buenos ciudadanos”, lamentablemente han demostrado “poca habilidad efectiva en el debate intelectual y filosófico.” Por lo tanto, declaró Powell, los empresarios primero deben “reconocer que el tema final puede ser la supervivencia – la supervivencia de lo que llamamos sistema de libre empresa, y todo lo que esto significa para la fuerza y la prosperidad de Estados Unidos y la libertad de nuestro pueblo.” Como tal, “la gestión [corporativa] debe estar igualmente preocupada der proteger y preservar el sistema en sí mismo”, en lugar centrarse en los beneficios. Las sociedades anónimas, reconoció Powell, estaban involucradas en este tiempo en las “relaciones públicas” y los “asuntos gubernamentales” (léase: propaganda y política pública), sin embargo, el ‘contraataque’ debe ser más amplio:

Pero la actividad independiente y no coordinada de las empresas individuales, por muy importante que sea, no será suficiente. La fuerza reside en la organización, en una cuidadosa planificación y aplicación a largo plazo, en la coherencia de la acción durante un periodo indefinido de años, en la escala de financiamiento disponible sólo a través de un esfuerzo conjunto, y en el poder político disponible sólo a través de la acción conjunta y las organizaciones nacionales. [15]

Si bien el ‘asalto’ contra el sistema se desarrolló a lo largo de varias décadas, Powell declaró que, “existe razón para creer que el campus de la [universidad/educación] es la fuente individual más dinámica”, ya que “las facultades de ciencias sociales suelen incluir miembros que son indiferentes al sistema empresarial”. Estos académicos, explicó Powell, “no tienen que ser mayoría”, ya que “son personalmente atractivos y magnéticos; son profesores estimulantes, y su controversia atrae a los estudiantes que los siguen; son prolíficos escritores y profesores, además de autores de muchos de los libros de texto, y ejercen una influencia enorme – muy desproporcionada para su número – ante sus colegas y en el mundo académico.” Esta situación es, por supuesto, ¡terrible y deplorable! ¡Imagina la clase de horror y desesperación que traería al mundo tener profesores atrayentes, estimulantes y prolíficos!

Pretendiendo que muchos politólogos, economistas, sociólogos e historiadores “tienden a ser más liberales”, Powell sugirió que “la necesidad de un pensamiento liberal es esencial para un punto de vista equilibrado”, pero que el “equilibrio” no existe, con “unos pocos miembros de la [facultad] conservadores o [de] poca persuasión… y siendo menos articulados y agresivos que sus colegas opuestos.” Aterrorizados por las perspectivas de que estos jóvenes potencialmente revolucionarios lleguen a posiciones de poder, Powell dijo que cuando lo hacen, “la mayoría de ellos rápidamente descubre las falacias de lo que se les ha enseñado”, esto, en otras palabras, quiere decir que se transforman rápidamente al socializar con las estructuras, las jerarquías y las instituciones de poder que demandan conformidad y sumisión a los intereses de la élite. Sin embargo, todavía existen muchos que podrían aparecer en “posiciones de influencia donde podrían moldear la opinión pública y a menudo dar forma a la acción gubernamental.” Por lo tanto, recomienda Powell, la Cámara de Comercio debe convertir en “tarea prioritaria de los empresarios” y sus organizaciones afines “abordar el origen de esta hostilidad en el campus.” Puesto que la libertad académica era vista como algo sacrosanto en la sociedad estadounidense, “sería fatal atacarla como un principio”, lo que por supuesto implica que debe ser atacada indirectamente. En cambio, sería más eficaz utilizar la retórica de la “libertad académica” contra el principio de libertad académica misma, utilizando términos como “apertura”, “equidad” y “equilibrio” como puntos de crítica que darían “una gran oportunidad para la acción constructiva.” [16]

Por lo tanto, una organización como la Cámara de Comercio debería, recomienda Powell, “considerar el establecimiento de un equipo de especialistas altamente calificados en ciencias sociales que crean en el sistema… [incluyendo] varios de reputación a nivel nacional cuya autoría sea muy respetada – incluso cuando no se esté de acuerdo con ellos.” La Cámara también debe crear “un equipo de oradores de la más alta competencia”, que “podrían incluir estudiosos”, y establecer una “Oficina de Oradores” que “incluya a los defensores más capaces y más eficaces de los niveles más altos del empresariado estadounidense.” Este equipo de investigadores, que subraya Powell, debe ser conocido como “investigadores independientes”, deben participar en un programa continuo de evaluación de “los libros de texto de ciencias sociales, especialmente en economía, ciencias políticas y sociología.” El objetivo de esto sería “orientarse a restablecer el equilibrio esencial para la libertad académica genuina”, lo que significa, por supuesto, la implantación del adoctrinamiento ideológico y la propaganda del mundo empresarial, que Powell ha descrito como nuestra garantía “de un trato justo y objetivo de nuestro sistema de gobierno y sistema empresarial, sus logros, su relación básica con los derechos y libertades individuales, y la comparación con los sistemas del socialismo, el fascismo y el comunismo.” Powell se lamentó que el “movimiento de derechos civiles insista en reescribir muchos de los libros de texto en nuestras universidades y escuelas”, y que “los sindicatos insistan en lo mismo [ó] que los libros de texto sean justos con los puntos de vista de los trabajadores organizados.” Por lo tanto, Powell sostuvo, dentro el mundo empresarial el intentar reescribir los libros de texto y la educación, el proceso “debe ser considerado como una ayuda hacia una auténtica libertad académica y no como una intrusión en ella.” [17]

Además, Powell sugirió que la comunidad empresarial debía promover oradores en las universidades y ciclos de conferencias “que parecieran ir en apoyo del sistema norteamericano de gobierno y empresa.” Aunque explicó que los grupos de estudiantes y profesores no son susceptibles de estar dispuestos a dar la palabra a la Cámara de Comercio o a líderes empresariales, la Cámara debía “insistir agresivamente” en ser escuchada, exigiendo “tiempos iguales”, lo que sería una estrategia efectiva debido a que “los administradores de la universidad y la gran mayoría de los grupos y comités de estudiantes no estarían en posición púbica de rechazar un foro para diversos puntos de vista.” Los dos ingredientes principales de este programa, explicó Powell eran, primero, “tener oradores atractivos, articulados y bien informados”, y en segundo lugar, “ejercer cierto grado de presión – pública y privada – que pueda ser necesario para asegurarse la oportunidad de hablar.” El objetivo, escribió Powell, “siempre debe ser el de informar e iluminar, y no simplemente hacer propaganda.” [18]

El mayor problema en los campus, sin embargo, era la necesidad de “equilibrar” las facultades, lo que significa simplemente que el mundo empresarial debía trabajar para implantar portavoces y apologistas de la élite económica y financiera en las facultades. La necesidad de “corregir” este desequilibrio, escribió Powell, “es de hecho un proyecto a largo plazo y difícil”, que “debe llevarse a cabo como parte de un programa general”, incluyendo la aplicación de presión “para mantener el equilibrio de la facultad sobre los administradores de la universidad y los consejos de administración.” Powell reconoció que tal esfuerzo es un proceso delicado y potencialmente peligroso, lo que requiere “una reflexión cuidadosa”, ya que la “presión indebida sería contraproducente.” Enfocarse en la retórica del equilibrio, la equidad y la “verdad” crearía un método “difícil de resistir, si se presenta al consejo de administración.” Por supuesto, todo contraataque del mundo empresarial no sólo debía dirigirse a la educación universitaria sino que, como sugirió Powell, también “a las escuelas secundarias”. [19]

En tanto Powell abordada el “ataque” desde – y el “contraataque” propuesto hacia – el sistema educativo por la élite empresarial y financiera, sugirió que, si bien se trataba de una estrategia a más largo plazo, en el corto plazo, sería necesario hacer frente a la opinión pública. Para ello:

El primer elemento esencial es el de establecer un personal de prominentes académicos, escritores y oradores, que piensen, analicen, escriban y expongan. También será esencial contar con personal que esté muy familiarizado con los medios de comunicación, y la manera más eficaz de comunicarse con el público. [20]

Los medios de comunicación con el público incluyen el uso de la televisión. Powell recomendó monitorear la televisión de la misma manera que se vigila los libros de texto, con objeto de mantener los medios de comunicación bajo “vigilancia constante” ante la crítica del sistema empresarial que, asume Powell, se deriva de una de dos fuentes: “la hostilidad o la ignorancia económica.” Se trata simplemente de asumir que las críticas al empresariado y al “sistema” no están justificadas, se derivan de un odio fuera de lugar o de la ignorancia de la sociedad. Este punto de vista es consistentemente regurgitado a lo largo del memo. Para “corregir” adecuadamente a los medios, Powell sugirió que la vigilancia presentara quejas tanto a los medios de comunicación como a la Comisión Federal de Comunicaciones, y al igual que en ciclos de conferencias universitarios “debe ser exigido el mismo tiempo [para los oradores empresariales]“, especialmente en “programas con formato de foro” como Meet the Press o el Today Show. Por supuesto, la radio y la prensa escrita también debían controlarse y “corregirse”. [21]

La “facultad de los eruditos”, establecida por la Cámara de Comercio o por otros grupos empresariales, debe publicar especialmente artículos académicos, ya que tales tácticas han sido efectivas en el “ataque” al sistema empresarial. Por lo tanto, estos “investigadores independientes” deben publicar en revistas populares (como Life, Reader ‘s Digest, etc.), revistas intelectuales (como The Atlantic, Harper’s, etc.) y revistas profesionales. Además, se deben publicar libros, ensayos y panfletos que promuevan “nuestro postura” para “educar al público.” La publicidad pagada también debe ser utilizada crecientemente para “apoyar el sistema”. [22]

Powell se volvió su atención a la arena política, a partir de la suposición básica de que la idea de que las grandes empresas controlan los gobiernos occidentales es simplemente “doctrina marxista” y “propaganda izquierdista”, que lamentablemente, informa Powell, “tiene un amplia recepción del público entre los estadounidenses.” Afirmó inmediatamente después que “todos los ejecutivos de negocios saben… que pocos elementos de la sociedad estadounidense de hoy en día tienen tan poca influencia en el gobierno como el hombre de negocios estadounidense, la corporación, o incluso los millones de accionistas de las empresas.” Powell afirma que, increíblemente, en términos de influencia en el gobierno, el pobre y desafortunado hombre de negocios y el ejecutivo corporativo estadounidense son “el hombre olvidado”. [23]

Olvídate de los sectores pobres, negros, y de los marginados de la sociedad, olvida las personas con discapacidad, los estereotipados, y los encarcelados, olvídate de los que dependen del bienestar social, los cupones de alimentos, o dependen de los servicios sociales o de caridad locales, y olvídate de toda la población de los Estados Unidos, que sólo consiguió el reconocimiento y apoyo del gobierno después de años de lucha, protestas constantes, represión policial, asaltos, reducción de sus derechos humanos y dignidad, esas luchas que sólo buscan conseguir un verdadero estatus de ser humano, el ser tratados de forma igualitaria y justa … no, ¡olvídate de esas personas! Los verdaderos “olvidados” y “oprimidos”, son los ejecutivos de Union Carbide, Exxon, General Electric, General Motors, Ford, DuPont, Dow, Chase Manhattan, Bank of America, y Monsanto. Ellos, en verdad, son los marginados… Por lo menos, al menos según Lewis Powell.

Para Powell, la educación y las campañas de propaganda son necesarias, pero los pobres ejecutivos marginados de una empresa estadounidense deben darse cuenta de que “el poder político es necesario”, y que tal poder debe ser “utilizado agresivamente y con determinación – sin vergüenza y sin la resistencia que ha sido tan característica en el empresariado estadounidenses”. Además, no es sólo en las ramas legislativa y ejecutiva del gobierno donde los líderes empresariales deben tomar el poder “agresivamente”, sino también en la rama judicial – los tribunales – que “pueden ser el instrumento más importante para el cambio social, económico y político”. Asegurando que tanto los “liberales” como la “extrema izquierda” han sido “explotadores del sistema judicial” – como la American Civil Liberties Union, los sindicatos y las organizaciones de derechos civiles – los grupos empresariales como la Cámara de Comercio tendrían que establecer “un personal altamente competente de abogados” para explotar el poder judicial en su propio beneficio. [24] Powell pasó a jugar un papel muy importante en este proceso; fue nombrado a la Corte Suprema de Justicia casi inmediatamente después de haber escrito este memo, tomando muchas decisiones importantes con respecto a los “derechos corporativos”.

Al abogar por un impulso agresivo en beneficio de sus propios intereses, Powell alentó a la comunidad empresarial “a atacar a los [Ralph] Nader, los [Herbert] Marcus y otros que abiertamente buscan la destrucción del sistema”, así como “sancionar políticamente a los que se oponen a éste”. La “amenaza para el sistema empresarial” no debe ser meramente presentada como una cuestión económica, sino que debe ser presentada como “una amenaza a la libertad individual”, lo que Powell describió como una “gran verdad”, que “debe ser reafirmada, para que este programa tenga sentido”. Por lo tanto, las “únicas alternativas a la libre empresa” son presentadas como “distintos grados de regulación burocrática de la libertad individual – desde que el socialismo moderado hasta el talón de hierro de la dictadura de derecha o de izquierda.” El objetivo era vincular la propia concepción individual promedio de los estadounidenses de su libertad personal a los derechos de las empresas y líderes empresariales. Por lo tanto, afirmó Powell, “la contracción y la negación de la libertad económica es seguida inevitablemente por restricciones gubernamentales sobre otros derechos preciados.” Este es el mensaje preciso, Powell explicó, “que por encima de todos los demás, debe ser llevado a los hogares del pueblo estadounidense”. [25] Así, según esta lógica, si hoy Monsanto y Dow son regulados, mañana, tu mamá y tu papá estarán en una dictadura.

La Nueva Derecha: Neoliberalismo y Educación

El Memo Powell es reconocido en mayor medida como una especie de “Constitución” o “documento fundacional” de la aparición de think tanks derechistas en los años 1970 y 1980, de acuerdo con sus recomendaciones para el establecimiento de “un equipo de especialistas altamente calificados en ciencias sociales que crean en el sistema.” En 1973, apenas dos años después de que el documento fuese escrito, fue fundada la Heritage Foundation como una “organización de expertos agresiva y abiertamente ideológica”, que adquirió gran influencia durante la administración Reagan. [26]

La página web de la Heritage Foundation explica que la misión del think tank “es formular y promover políticas públicas conservadoras basadas en los principios de libre empresa, gobierno limitado, libertad individual, valores tradicionales estadounidenses, y una defensa nacional fuerte.” Después de su fundación en 1973, la Heritage Foundation comenzó a “entregar investigación convincente y persuasiva al Congreso proveyendo hechos, datos y argumentos sólidos a favor de los principios conservadores.” En 1977, Ed Feulner se convirtió en presidente de la fundación y estableció “un nuevo personal directivo superior” y una ” banco de recursos” para “destronar al establishment liberal y establecer una red nacional de grupos políticos y expertos conservadores” en última instancia, un total de más de 2.200 “expertos en política” y 475 “grupos políticos” en Estados Unidos y en otros lugares. En 1980, Heritage publicó un “modelo de política pública”, titulado “Mandato para el Liderazgo”, que se convirtió en “la biblia política de la recién electa administración Reagan para todo, desde los impuestos a la regulación a la delincuencia y la defensa nacional.” En 1987, Heritage publicó otro plan de política, “Fuera de la Trampa de la Pobreza: Una Estrategia Conservadora para la Reforma del Bienestar”, que, según su página web afirma jactanciosamente, “cambió la mentalidad de las obligaciones en Estados Unidos, sacando a miles fuera de los subsidios [bienestar] y hacia la responsabilidad personal”, o, en otras palabras, a una mayor pobreza. [27]

El modelo de la Heritage Foundation llevó a la rápida proliferación de think tanks conservadores, de 70 a más de 300 en más de 30 años, que “a menudo trabajan juntos para crear múltiples redes a nivel local, estatal y federal y usan medios masivos y alternativos de comunicación para promover la agenda conservadora.” El objetivo final, al igual que con todos los think tanks y fundaciones, es “difundir la ideología”. [28]

El Cato Institute es otro think tank conservador – o “libertario” -, como se describe a sí mismo. Fundado en 1974 como la Charles Koch Foundation por Charles Koch (uno de los multimillonarios más ricos de Estados Unidos y principal financista del movimiento del Tea Party), así como por Ed Crane y Murray Rothbard. En 1977, había cambiado su nombre por el de Instituto Cato, después de las “Cartas de Catón”, una serie de ensayos escritos por dos escritores británicos del siglo dieciocho, bajo el seudónimo de Catón, que era un senador romano que se opuso firmemente a la democracia, y luchó contra la sublevación de esclavos dirigida por Espartaco. Fue idolatrado en el período de la Ilustración como progenitor y protector de la libertad (para unos pocos), lo que se reflejó en la ideología de los Padres Fundadores de los Estados Unidos, en particular, de Thomas Jefferson y James Madison, lo que para el Cato Institute justificó el cambio de nombre. Mientras que los pensamientos y pensadores de la Ilustración son idolatrados – muy especialmente en la formación de la Constitución de Estados Unidos – como defensores de la libertad y los derechos individuales, era el “derecho” de “propiedad privada” y para aquellos que poseían la propiedad (que, en ese momento, incluían a los propietarios de esclavos) la forma última de la sacrosanta “libertad”. Una vez más, una concepción claramente elitista de la democracia que se conoce “republicanismo”.

Estos think tanks derechistas se ayudaron en la era del neoliberalismo, reuniendo a “eruditos” que apoyaban el llamado sistema de “libre mercado” (sí, una falacia mítica), y que se burlan y se oponen a todas las formas de bienestar social y apoyo social. Los think tanks generaron la investigación y el trabajo que apoyó el dominio de los bancos y las corporaciones por sobre la sociedad, y los miembros de los think tanks conseguían que sus voces fueran escuchadas a través de los medios de comunicación, en el gobierno, y en las universidades. Se facilitó el cambio ideológico en los círculos de poder y la política hacia el neoliberalismo.

El Memo Powell y la “crisis de la democracia” establecieron una circunstancia política, social y económica donde el neoliberalismo emergió para administrar el “exceso de democracia.” En lugar de un enfoque más amplio en el neoliberalismo y la globalización en general, me centraré en sus influencias sobre la educación en particular. La era de la globalización neoliberal marcó un rápido declive de los estados de bienestar liberales que habían surgido en las décadas anteriores, y como tal, la educación se vio directamente afectada.

Como parte de este proceso, el conocimiento se transformó en “capital” – dentro del “capitalismo del conocimiento” o de una “economía del conocimiento”. Los informes del Banco Mundial y la Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económico (OCDE) en la década de 1990 transformaron estas ideas en una “plantilla directiva.” Esta buscaba establecer “una nueva coalición entre la educación y la industria”, donde “la educación una vez reconfigurada aparecería como una forma de capital del conocimiento masivamente subvalorado que determinará el futuro del trabajo, la organización de las instituciones del conocimiento y la forma de la sociedad en los próximos años.” [29]

El conocimiento se define así como un “recurso económico”, lo que llevaría al crecimiento de la economía. Por lo tanto, en la era neoliberal, donde todos los aspectos de la productividad y el crecimiento económico se privatizan (supuestamente para aumentar su eficiencia y capacidad productiva, ya que sólo el “libre mercado” lo puede hacer), la educación – o la “economía del conocimiento” – sí, estaba destinada a ser privatizada. [30]

En el modelo educativo de revisión neoliberal, “se vio que la productividad económica no proviene de la inversión pública en educación, sino de transformar la educación en un producto que podría ser comprado y vendido como cualquier otra cosa – y en un mercado globalizado, la educación occidental puede ser vendida como una mercancía valiosa en los países en desarrollo.” Por lo tanto, dentro de la propia universidad, “el significado de “productividad” se apartó de un bien social y económico generalizado hacia un valor en dólares ficticios para determinados productos y prácticas designadas por el gobierno”. Davies et. al. explica:

Cuando estos productos son estudiantes graduados, o investigaciones publicadas, el gobierno podría ser interpretado como financista de la labor académica, como siempre. Cuando los ‘productos’ que se financiarán son investigación con dólares de subvención, con mecanismos para fomentar la colaboración con la industria, puede interpretarse como la manipulación directa de los académicos para volverse autofinanciados y prestar servicios a los intereses de las empresas y la industria. [31]

La nueva “gestión” de las universidades implica una disminución de los fondos estatales al mismo tiempo que aumenta las “pesadas (y costosas) demandas en materia de contabilidad de la forma en que se utilizan los fondos”, y por lo tanto, “la confianza en los valores y prácticas profesionales ya no fue la base de la relación” entre las universidades y el gobierno. Se argumentó que los gobiernos ya no eran capaces de pagar los costos de la educación universitaria, y que la “eficiencia” del sistema universitario – definida como “hacer más con menos” – iba a requerir un cambio en el sistema de liderazgo y la gestión interna hacia “una forma de gerencia pública inspirada en la del sector privado” de la estructura universitaria. El “objetivo principal” de este programa neoliberal, sugiere Davies:

no era simplemente para hacer más con menos, ya que los sistemas de vigilancia y auditoría son extraordinariamente costosos e ineficaces, sino volver a las universidades más gobernables y de aprovechar sus energías en apoyo de las ambiciones programáticas del gobierno neo-liberal y las grandes empresas. Un cambio hacia la economía como la única medida de valor sirve para erosionar la situación y actividades de aquellos académicos que encuentran valor en ámbitos sociales y morales. Por el contrario, los tecnócratas de orientación política de los círculos académicos, que sirven a los fines del capital corporativo global, son alentados y recompensados. [32]

Si la década del 60 vio un crecimiento de la democracia y la participación popular en un grado significativo, emanando de las universidades, los intelectuales disidentes y los estudiantes, la década del 70 vio la articulación y actualización de los ataques de la élite contra la democracia popular y el propio sistema educativo. Desde la Cámara de Comercio de Estados Unidos y la Comisión Trilateral, que representan los intereses de la élite financiera y corporativa, el principal problema fue identificado como la participación activa y popular del público orientada a la sociedad. Esa era la “crisis de la democracia.” La solución para las élites era simple: menos democracia, más autoridad. En el ámbito educativo, esto significó un mayor control de la élite sobre las universidades, menos libertad y activismo de intelectuales y estudiantes. Las universidades y el sistema educativo de manera más amplia era crecientemente privatizado, corporativizado, y globalizado. La época de la militancia llegó a su fin, y las universidades iban a ser meras plantas de ensamblaje de unidades económicamente productivas que apoyasen el sistema, no que lo impugnasen. Uno de los métodos clave para asegurarse que esto funcione fue a través de la deuda, que actúa como un mecanismo disciplinario en el que los estudiantes se ven limitados por el peso de la servidumbre por deudas, y por lo tanto, su propia educación debe orientarse hacia una carrera específica y una expectativa de ingresos. El conocimiento se busca para obtener beneficio personal y económico más que por el bien del conocimiento como tal. Graduarse con una gran deuda implica entonces la necesidad de entrar inmediatamente al mercado de trabajo, si es que no se había entrado ya al mercado de trabajo a tiempo parcial mientras se estudiaba. Por lo tanto, la deuda disciplina a los estudiantes hacia un propósito diferente en su educación: hacia un puesto de trabajo y a los beneficios financieros en lugar de hacia el conocimiento y el entendimiento. El activismo entonces, es más un impedimento que un partidario del conocimiento y la educación.

En la siguiente parte de esta serie, voy a analizar el propósito y el papel de la educación y los intelectuales en un contexto histórico, diferenciando entre los propósitos de “bien social” y “control social” de la educación, así como entre los intelectuales orientados a la política (de elite) y los orientados a los valores (disidentes). A través de una mirada crítica de los fines de la educación y los intelectuales, podemos entender la crisis actual en la educación y la disidencia intelectual, y por lo tanto, entender los métodos y orientaciones positivas para el cambio.
__________________________________________________________________________________________

Andrew Gavin Marshall es un investigador independiente y escritor residente en Montreal, Canadá, que escribe sobre una serie de cuestiones sociales, políticas, económicas e históricas. También es Project Manager del The People’s Book Project y presenta un programa semanal de podcast, “Empire, Power and People”, en BoilingFrogsPost.com.
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Notas

[1] Michel J. Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy, (Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press, 1975), pages 61-62, 71.
[2] Ibid, pages 74-77.
[3] Ibid, pages 93, 113-115.
[4] Ibid, page 162.
[5] Jay Peterzell, “The Trilateral Commission and the Carter Administration,” Economic and Political Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 51, 17 December 1977), page 2102.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Wayne Parsons, “Politics Without Promises: The Crisis of ‘Overload’ and Governability,” Parliamentary Affairs (Vol. 35, No. 4, 1982), pages 421-422.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Val Burris, “The Social and Political Consequences of Overeducation,” American Sociological Review (Vol. 48, No. 4, August 1983), pages 455-456.
[12] Lewis F. Powell, Jr., “Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System,” Addressed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 23 August 1971:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/personality/sources_document13.html

[13-25] Ibid.
[26] Julie E. Miller-Cribbs, et. al., “Thinking About Think Tanks: Strategies for Progressive Social Work,” Journal of Policy Practice (Vol. 9, No. 3-4, 2010), page 293.
[27] The Heritage Foundation, “The Heritage Foundation’s 35th Anniversary: A History of Achievements,” About: http://www.heritage.org/about/our-history/35th-anniversary
[28] Julie E. Miller-Cribbs, et. al., “Thinking About Think Tanks: Strategies for Progressive Social Work,” Journal of Policy Practice (Vol. 9, No. 3-4, 2010), pages 293-294.
[29] Mark Olssen and Michael A. Peters, “Neoliberalism, Higher Education and the Knowledge Economy: From the Free Market to Knowledge Capitalism,” Journal of Education Policy (Vol. 20, No. 3, May 2005), page 331.
[30] Ibid, pages 338-339.
[31] Bronwyn Davies, et. al., “The Rise and Fall of the Neo-liberal University,” European Journal of Education (Vol. 41, No. 2, 2006), pages 311-312.
[32] Ibid, page 312.

Podcast: The College Crisis

Empire, Power, and People with Andrew Gavin Marshall

The College Crisis

EPP

We are in the midst of a major college crisis: more students than ever before are graduating with professional educations and immense debt into a jobless market with no opportunities. The result of such a scenario, as any historian would warn, is the development of social unrest, dissatisfaction, rebellion, and potentially, revolution. As over 100,000 students on strike protested last week in Quebec against increased tuition costs, with the government stating its intent to dismiss and ignore them, student movements and protests are developing all over the world: Egypt, Tunisia, Chile, Taiwan, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. Where did this college crisis come from?

It helps to look back at the activism of the 1960s which saw a “surge in democracy” among the population, and which created a terrifying scenario for elites. The response of elites to this “crisis of democracy” was to reduce democracy. In a secret memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a 1975 Trilateral Commission report, the “crisis” of popular participation in politics was identified, and the groundwork was laid for a counter-attack: neoliberalism, debt, and discipline. Today, we are seeing a further attack upon the population and democracy, and the students are beginning to stand up.

Listen to the podcast show here (Subscribers only):

Also see:

Class War and the College Crisis: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education”

Class War and the College Crisis: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education

Class War and the College Crisis: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education

The following is the first part of a series of articles, “Class War and the College Crisis.”

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Part 2: The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?

Part 3: Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals

Part 4: Student Strikes, Debt Domination, and Class War in Canada

Part 5: Canada’s Economic Collapse and Social Crisis

Part 6: The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?

Today, we are witnessing an emerging massive global revolt, led primarily be the educated and unemployed youth of the world, against the institutionalized and established powers which seek to deprive them of a future worth living. In Chile over the past year, a massive student movement and strike has become a powerful force in the country against the increasingly privatized educational system (serving as a model for the rest of the world) with the support of the vast majority of the population; in Quebec, Canada, a student strike has brought hundreds of thousands of youth into the streets to protest against the doubling of tuition fees; students and others are on strike in Spain against austerity measures; protests led by or with heavy participation of the youth in the U.K., Greece, Portugal, France, and in the United States (such as with the Occupy Movement) are developing and growing, struggling against austerity measures, overt corruption by the capitalist class, and government collusion with bankers and corporations. Students and youth led the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt last year which led to the overthrow of the dictators which had ruled those nations for decades.

All around the world, increasingly, the youth are taking to the streets, protesting, agitating, and striking against the abuses of power, the failures of government, the excesses of greed, plundering and poverty. The educated youth in particular are playing an active role, a role which will be increasing dramatically over the coming year and years. The educated youth are graduating into a jobless market with immense debt and few opportunities. Now, just as several decades ago, the youth are turning back to activism. What happened in the intervening period to derail the activism that had been so widespread in the 1960s? How did our educational system get to its present state? What do these implications have for the present and future?

The “Crisis of Democracy”

In the period between the 1950s and the 1970s, the Western world, and especially the United States, experienced a massive wave of resistance, rebellion, protest, activism and direct action by entire sectors of the general population which had for decades, if not centuries, been largely oppressed and ignored by the institutional power structure of society. The Civil Rights movement in the United States, the rise of the New Left – radical and activist – in both Europe and North America, as elsewhere, anti-war activism, largely spurred against the Vietnam War, Liberation Theology in Latin America (and the Philippines), the environmental movement, feminist movement, gay rights movements, and all sorts of other activist and mobilized movements of youth and large sectors of society were organizing and actively agitating for change, reform, or even revolution. The more power resisted their demands, the more the movements became radicalized. The slower power acted, the faster people reacted. The effect, essentially, was that these movements sought to, and in many cases did, empower vast populations who had otherwise been oppressed and ignored, and they generally awakened the mass of society to such injustices as racism, war, and repression.

For the general population, these movements were an enlightening, civilizing, and hopeful phase in our modern history. For elites, they were terrifying. Thus, in the early 1970s there was a discussion taking place among the intellectual elite, most especially in the United States, on what became known as the “Crisis of Democracy.” In 1973, the Trilateral Commission was formed by banker and global oligarch David Rockefeller, and intellectual elitist Zbigniew Brzezinski. The Trilateral Commission brings together elites from North America, Western Europe, and Japan (now including several states in East Asia), from the realms of politics, finance, economics, corporations, international organizations, NGOs, academia, military, intelligence, media, and foreign policy circles. It acts as a major international think tank, designed to coordinate and establish consensus among the dominant imperial powers of the world.

In 1975, the Trilateral Commission issued a major report entitled, “The Crisis of Democracy,” in which the authors lamented against the “democratic surge” of the 1960s and the “overload” this imposed upon the institutions of authority. Samuel Huntington, a political scientist and one of the principal authors of the report, wrote that the 1960s saw a surge in democracy in America, with an upswing in citizen participation, often “in the form of marches, demonstrations, protest movements, and ‘cause’ organizations.” Further, “the 1960s also saw a reassertion of the primacy of equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life.” Of course, for Huntington and the Trilateral Commission, which was founded by Huntington’s friend, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and banker David Rockefeller, the idea of “equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life” is a terrible and frightening prospect. Huntington analyzed how as part of this “democratic surge,” statistics showed that throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, there was a dramatic increase in the percentage of people who felt the United States was spending too much on defense (from 18% in 1960 to 52% in 1969, largely due to the Vietnam War).[1]

Huntington wrote that the “essence of the democratic surge of the 1960s was a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private,” and further: “People no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents.” He explained that in the 1960s, “hierarchy, expertise, and wealth” had come “under heavy attack.” The use of language here is important, in framing power and wealth as “under attack” which implied that those who were “attacking” were the aggressors, as opposed to the fact that these populations (such as black Americans) had in fact been under attack from power and wealth for centuries, and were just then beginning to fight back. Thus, the self defense of people against power and wealth is referred to as an “attack.” Huntington stated that the three key issues which were central to the increased political participation in the 1960s were:

social issues, such as use of drugs, civil liberties, and the role of women; racial issues, involving integration, busing, government aid to minority groups, and urban riots; military issues, involving primarily, of course, the war in Vietnam but also the draft, military spending, military aid programs, and the role of the military-industrial complex more generally.[2]

Huntington presented these issues, essentially, as the “crisis of democracy,” in that they increased distrust with the government and authority, that they led to social and ideological polarization, and ultimately, to a “decline in the authority, status, influence, and effectiveness of the presidency.” Huntington concluded that many problems of governance in the United States stem from an “excess of democracy,” and that, “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups.” Huntington explained that society has always had “marginal groups” which do not participate in politics, and while acknowledging that the existence of “marginality on the part of some groups is inherently undemocratic,” it has also “enabled democracy to function effectively.” Huntington identifies “the blacks” as one such group that had become politically active, posing a “danger of overloading the political system with demands.” Of course, this implies directly an elitist version of “democracy” in which the state retains the democratic aesthetic (voting, separation of powers, rule of law) but remains exclusively in the hands of the wealthy power elite. Huntington, in his conclusion, stated that the vulnerability of democracy – the ‘crisis of democracy’ – comes “from the internal dynamics of democracy itself in a highly educated, mobilized, and participant society,” and that what is needed is “a more balanced existence” in which there are “desirable limits to the indefinite extension of political democracy.”[3] In other words, what is needed is less democracy and more authority.

The Trilateral Commission later explained its views of the “threat” to democracy and thus, the way the system ‘should’ function:

In most of the Trilateral countries [Western Europe, North America, Japan] in the past decade there has been a decline in the confidence and trust which the people have in government… Authority has been challenged not only in government, but in trade unions, business enterprises, schools and universities, professional associations, churches, and civic groups. In the past, those institutions which have played the major role in the indoctrination of the young in their rights and obligations as members of society have been the family, the church, the school, and the army. The effectiveness of all these institutions as a means of socialization has declined severely.(emphasis added)[4]

The “excess of democracy” which this entailed created a supposed “surge of demands” upon the government, just at a time when the government’s authority was being undermined. The Trilateral Commission further sent rampant shivers through the intellectual elite community by discussing the perceived threat of “value-oriented intellectuals” who dare to “assert their disgust with the corruption, materialism, and inefficiency of democracy and with the subservience of democratic government to ‘monopoly capitalism’.” For the members and constituents (elites) of the Trilateral Commission, they did not hold back on the assessment of such a threat, stating that, “this development constitutes a challenge to democratic government which is, potentially at least, as serious as those posed in the past by the aristocratic cliques, fascist movements, and communist parties.”[5] This is a very typical elitist use of rhetoric in which when identifying any perceived threat to elite interests, they are portrayed in near-apocalyptic terms. The implication, therefore, is that intellectuals who challenge authority are presented as much of a threat to democracy as Hitler and fascism were.

The Trilateral Commission report explained – through economic reasoning – how increased democracy is simply unsustainable. The “democratic surge” gave disadvantaged groups new rights and made them politically active (such as blacks), and this resulted in increased demands upon the very system whose legitimacy had been weakened. A terrible scenario for elites! The report explained that as voting decreased throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, active political participation on campuses increased, minority groups were demanding rights (how dare they!), and not only were they demanding basic human rights, but also “opportunities, positions, rewards, and privileges, which they had not considered themselves entitled to before.” That is, unlike the rich, who have considered themselves entitled to everything, always, and forever. Thus, government spending on social welfare and education increased, explained the report: “By the early 1970s Americans were progressively demanding and receiving more benefits from their government and yet having less confidence in their government than they had a decade before.” Most people would refer to that as the achievement of democracy, but for the Trilateral “intellectuals” it was an “excess of democracy,” and indeed, a threat.[6]

Samuel Huntington, naturally, assumed that the decline of confidence in the government was irrational, and had nothing to do with the Vietnam War, police and state repression of protest movements, the Watergate Scandal or other obvious crimes. No, for Huntington, the decline in confidence is tied magically to the “increased expectations” of the population, or, as Jay Peterzell explained in his critique of the report, “the root cause of public disillusionment is consistently traced to unrealistic expectations encouraged by government spending.” Huntington justified this absurd myth on his skewed analysis of the “defense shift” and “welfare shift.” The “defense shift,” which took place in the 1950s, described a period in which 36% of the increase in government spending went to defense (i.e., the military-industrial complex), whereas welfare declined as a proportion of the budget. Then came the “welfare shift” of the 1960s, in which between 1960 and 1971, only a paltry 15% of the increase in spending went to the military-industrial complex, while 84% of the increase went to domestic programs. Thus, for Huntington, the “welfare shift” basically destroyed America and ruined democracy.[7]

In reality, however, Jay Peterzell broke down the numbers to explain the “shifts” in a larger and more rational context. While it was true that the percentages increased and decreased as Huntington displayed them, they were, after all, a percentage of the “increase” in spending, not the overall percentage of spending itself. So, when one looks at the overall government spending in 1950, 1960, and 1972, the percentage on “defense” was 44, to 53, to 37. In those same years, spending on welfare amounted to 4%, 3% and 6%. Thus, between 1960 and 1972, the amount of spending on defense decreased from 53-37% of the total spending of government. In the same years, spending on welfare increased from 3-6% of the total government expenditure. When viewing it as a percentage of the overall, it can hardly be legitimate to claim that the meager increase to 6% of government expenditures for welfare was anywhere near as “threatening” to democracy as was the 37% spent on the military-industrial complex.[8]

So naturally, as a result of such terrifying statistics, the intellectual elite and their financial overlords had to impose more authority and less democracy. It was not simply the Trilateral Commission advocating for such “restraints” upon democracy, but this was a major discussion in elite academic circles in the 1970s. In Britain, this discussion emerged on the “governability thesis” – or the “overload” thesis – of democracy. Samuel Brittan’s “The Economic Contradictions of Democracy” in 1975, explained that, “The temptation to encourage fake expectations among the electorate becomes overwhelming to politicians. The opposition parties are bound to promise to do better and the government party must join in the auction.” Essentially, it was a repetition of the Trilateral thesis that too many promises create too many demands, which then create too much stress for the system, and it would inevitably collapse. Anthony King echoed this in his piece, “Overload: Problems of Governing in the 1970s,” and King explained that governing was becoming “harder” because “at one and the same time, the range of problems that government is expected to deal with has vastly increased and its capacity to deal with problems, even many of the ones it had before, has decreased.” The Italian political scientist Giovanni Sartori asked the question, “Will Democracy Kill Democracy?”

We are pursuing targets which are out of proportion, unduly isolated and pursued blindly, and that are, therefore, in the process of creating… a wholly unmanageable and ominous overload… We are beginning to realize in the prosperous democracies that we are living above our means. But we are equally and more grievously living above and beyond our intelligence, above the understanding of what we are doing.[9]

King explained that, “Political scientists have traditionally been concerned to improve the performance of government.” An obvious mistake, concluded King, who suggested that, “Perhaps over the next few years they should be concerned more with how the number of tasks that government has come to be expected to perform can be reduced.” The “remedy” for all this “overload” of democratic societies was to, first, bring “an end to the politics of ‘promising’,” and second, “attempt to reduce the expectations of voters and consumers” on the political process.[10]

The “threat” of educated youth was especially pronounced. In 1978, the Management Development Institute (a major business school in India) released a report in which it stated:

perhaps the most pernicious trend over the next decade is the growing gap between an increasingly well educated labor force and the number of job openings which can utilize its skills and qualifications… The potential for frustration, alienation and disruption resulting from the disparity between educational attainment and the appropriate job content cannot be overemphasized.[11]

In these commentaries, we are dealing with two diametrically opposed definitions of democracy: popular and elitist. Popular democracy is government of, by, and for the people; elitist democracy is government of, by, and for the rich (but with the outward aesthetic of democracies), channeling popular participation into voting instead of decision-making or active participation. Popular democracy implies the people participating directly in the decisions and functions and maintenance of the ‘nation’ (though not necessarily the State); whereas elitist democracy implies passive participation of the population so much as to allow them to feel as if they play an important role in the direction of society, while the elites control all the important levers and institutions of power which direct and benefit from the actions of the state. These differing definitions are important because when reading reports written and issued by elite interests (such as the Trilateral Commission report), it changes the substance and meaning of the report itself. For example, take the case of Samuel Huntington lamenting at the threat posed to democracy by popular participation: from the logic of popular democracy, this is an absurd statement that doesn’t make sense; from the logic of elitist democracy, the statement is accurate and profoundly important. Elites understand this differentiation, so too must the public.

The Powell Memo: Protecting the Plutocracy

While elites were lamenting over the surge in democracy, particularly in the 1960s, they were not simply complaining about an “excess of democracy” but were actively planning on reducing it. Four years prior to the Trilateral Commission report, in 1971, the infamous and secret ‘Powell Memo’ was issued, written by a corporate lawyer and tobacco company board member, Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (whom President Nixon nominated to the Supreme Court two months later), which was addressed to the Chairman of the Education Committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, representing American business interests.

Powell stipulated that “the American economic system is under broad attack,” and that, “the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued… gaining momentum and converts.” While the ‘sources’ of the ‘attack’ were identified as broad, they included the usual crowd of critics, Communists, the New Left, and “other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic.” Adding to this was that these “extremists” were increasingly “more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history.” The real “threat,” however, was the “voices joining the chorus of criticism [which] come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians.” While acknowledging that in these very sectors, those who speak out against the ‘system’ are still a minority, Powell noted, “these are often the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.”[12]

Powell discussed the “paradox” of how the business leaders appear to be participating – or simply tolerating – the attacks on the “free enterprise system,” whether by providing a voice through the media which they own, or through universities, despite the fact that “[t]he boards of trustees of our universities overwhelmingly are composed of men and women who are leaders in the system.” Powell lamented the conclusions of reports indicating that colleges were graduating students who “despise the American political and economic system,” and thus, who would be inclined to move into power and create change, or outright challenge the system head on. This marked an “intellectual warfare” being waged against the system, according to Powell, who then quoted economist Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago (and the ‘father’ of neoliberalism), who stated:

It [is] crystal clear that the foundations of our free society are under wide-ranging and powerful attack – not by Communists or any other conspiracy but by misguided individuals parroting one another and unwittingly serving ends they would never intentionally promote.[13]

Powell even specifically identified Ralph Nader as a “threat” to American business. Powell further deplored the changes and “attack” being made through the courts and legal system, which began targeting corporate tax breaks and loop holes, with the media supporting such initiatives since they help “the poor.” Powell of course referred to the notion of helping “the poor” at the expense of the rich, and the framing of the debate as such, as “political demagoguery or economic illiteracy,” and that the identification of class politics – the rich versus the poor – “is the cheapest and most dangerous kind of politics.” The response from the business world to this “broad attack,” Powell sadly reported, was “appeasement, ineptitude and ignoring the problem.” Powell did, however, explain in sympathy to the ‘ineptitude’ of the corporate and financial elites that, “it must be recognized that businessmen have not been trained or equipped to conduct guerilla warfare with those who propagandize against the system.”[14]

While the “tradition role” of business leaders has been to make profits, “create jobs,” to “improve the standard of living,” and of course, “generally to be good citizens,” they have unfortunately shown “little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate.” Thus, stated Powell, businessmen must first “recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival – survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.” As such, “top [corporate] management must be equally concerned with protecting and preserving the system itself,” instead of just focused on profits. Corporations, Powell acknowledged, were long involved in “public relations” and “governmental affairs” (read: propaganda and public policy), however, the ‘counter-attack’ must be more wide-ranging:

But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.[15]

While the ‘assault’ against the system developed over several decades, Powell elaborated, “there is reason to believe that the campus [university/education] is the single most dynamic source,” as “social science faculties usually include members who are unsympathetic to the enterprise system.” These academics, explained Powell, “need not be in the majority,” as they “are often personally attractive and magnetic; they are stimulating teachers, and their controversy attracts student following; they are prolific writers and lecturers; they author many of the textbooks, and they exert enormous influence – far out of proportion to their numbers – on their colleagues and in the academic world.” Such a situation is, naturally, horrific and deplorable! Imagine that, having magnetic, stimulating and prolific teachers, what horror and despair for the world that would surely bring!

In purporting that political scientists, economists, sociologists and many historians “tend to be liberally oriented,” Powell suggested that “the need for liberal thought is essential to a balanced viewpoint,” but that the ‘balance’ does not exist, with “few [faculty] members being conservatives or [of] moderate persuasion… and being less articulate and aggressive than their crusading colleagues.” Terrified of the prospects of these potentially revolutionary youths entering into positions of power, Powell stated that when they do, “for the most part they quickly discover the fallacies of what they have been taught,” which is, in other words, to say that they quickly become socialized to the structures, hierarchies and institutions of power which demand conformity and subservience to elite interests. However, there were still many who could emerge in “positions of influence where they mold public opinion and often shape governmental action.” Thus, recommended Powell, the Chamber of Commerce should make the “priority task of business” and its related organizations “to address the campus origin of this hostility.” As academic freedom was held as sacrosanct in American society, “It would be fatal to attack this as a principle,” which of course implies that it is to be attacked indirectly. Instead, it would be more effective to use the rhetoric of “academic freedom” itself against the principle of academic freedom, using terms like “openness,” “fairness,” and “balance” as points of critique which would yield “a great opportunity for constructive action.”[16]

Thus, an organization such as the Chamber of Commerce should, recommended Powell, “consider establishing a staff of highly qualified scholars in the social sciences who do believe in the system… [including] several of national reputation whose authorship would be widely respected – even when disagreed with.” The Chamber should also create “a staff of speakers of the highest competency” which “might include the scholars,” and establish a ‘Speaker’s Bureau’ which would “include the ablest and most effective advocates form the top echelons of American business.” This staff of scholars, which Powell emphasized, should be referred to as “independent scholars,” should then engage in a continuing program of evaluating “social science textbooks, especially in economics, political science and sociology.” The objective of this would “be oriented toward restoring the balance essential to genuine academic freedom,” meaning, of course, implanting ideological indoctrination and propaganda from the business world, which Powell described as the “assurance of fair and factual treatment of our system of government and our enterprise system, its accomplishments, its basic relationship to individual rights and freedoms, and comparisons with the systems of socialism, fascism and communism.” Powell lamented that the “civil rights movement insist[ed] on re-writing many of the textbooks in our universities and schools,” and “labor unions likewise insist[ed] that textbooks be fair to the viewpoints of organized labor.” Thus, Powell contended, in the business world attempting to re-write textbooks and education, this process “should be regarded as an aid to genuine academic freedom and not as an intrusion upon it.”[17]

Further, Powell suggested that the business community promote speakers on campuses and lecture tours “who appeared in support of the American system of government and business.” While explaining that student groups and faculty would not likely be willing to give the podium over to the Chamber of Commerce or business leaders to espouse their ideology, the Chamber must “aggressively insist” on being heard, demanding “equal time,” as this would be an effective strategy because “university administrators and the great majority of student groups and committees would not welcome being put in the position publicly of refusing a forum to diverse views.” The two main ingredients for this program, Powell explained, was first, “to have attractive, articulate and well-informed speakers,” and second, “to exert whatever degree of pressure – publicly and privately – may be necessary to assure opportunities to speak.” The objective, Powell wrote, “always must be to inform and enlighten, and not merely to propagandize.”[18]

The biggest problem on campuses, however, was the need to “balance” faculties, meaning simply that the business world must work to implant spokespeople and apologists for the economic and financial elite into the faculties. The need to “correct” this imbalance, wrote Powell, “is indeed a long-range and difficult project,” which “should be undertaken as a part of an overall program,” including the application of pressure “for faculty balance upon university administrators and boards of trustees.” Powell acknowledged that such an effort is a delicate and potentially dangerous process, requiring “careful thought,” as “improper pressure would be counterproductive.” Focusing on the rhetoric of balance, fairness, and ‘truth’ would create a method “difficult to resist, if properly presented to the board of trustees.” Of course, the whole counter-attack of the business world should not simply be addressed to university education, but, as Powell suggested, also “tailored to the high schools.”[19]

As Powell had addressed the “attack” from – and proposed the “counterattack” on – the educational system by the corporate and financial elite, he then suggested that while this was a more long-term strategy, in the short term it would be necessary to address the public in the short-term. To do so:

The first essential is to establish the staffs of eminent scholars, writers and speakers, who will do the thinking, the analysis, the writing and the speaking. It will also be essential to have staff personnel who are thoroughly familiar with the media, and how most effectively to communicate with the public.[20]

The means of communicating with the public include using television. Powell recommended monitoring television in the same way that they monitor textbooks, with an aim to keep the media under “constant surveillance” for criticism of the enterprise system, which, Powell assumed, was derived from one of two sources: “hostility or economic ignorance.” It is simply assumed that the critiques of business and the ‘system’ are unjustified, derived from a misplaced hatred of society or from ignorance. This point of view is consistently regurgitated throughout the entire memo. To more properly “correct” the media, Powell suggested that surveillance would then prompt complaints to both the media and the Federal Communications Commission, and just as in university speaking tours, “equal time [for business spokespeople] should be demanded,” especially on “forum-type programs” like Meet the Press or the Today Show. Of course, the radio and print press were also to be monitored and “corrected.”[21]

The “faculty of scholars” established by the Chamber of Commerce or other business groups must publish, especially scholarly articles, as such tactics have been effective in the “attack” on the enterprise system. Thus, these “independent scholars” must publish in popular magazines (such as Life, Reader’s Digest, etc.), intellectual magazines (such as the Atlantic, Harper’s, etc.) and the professional journals. Furthermore, they must publish books, paperbacks and pamphlets promoting “our side” to “educate the public.” Paid advertising must also increasingly be used to “support the system.”[22]

Powell then turned his attention to the political arena, beginning with the base assumption that the idea of big business controlling Western governments is mere “Marxist doctrine” and “leftist propaganda,” which, Powell sadly reports, “has a wide public following among Americans.” He immediately thereafter asserted that, “every business executive knows… few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation, or even the millions of corporate stockholders.” Powell amazingly claimed that in terms of government influence, the poor unfortunate American businessman and corporate executive is “the forgotten man.”[23]

Forget the poor, black, and disenfranchised segments of society; forget the disabled, the labeled, and the imprisoned; forget those on welfare, food stamps, dependent upon social services or local charity; forget the entire population of the United States, who can only incite government recognition and support after years of struggle, constant protests, police repression, assault, curtailment of basic human rights and dignity; those struggles which seek only the attainment of a genuine status of human being, to be treated equal and fair… no, forget those people! The true “forgotten” and “oppressed” are the executives at Union Carbide, Exxon, General Electric, GM, Ford, DuPont, Dow, Chase Manhattan, Bank of America, and Monsanto. They, truly, are the disenfranchised… At least, according to Lewis Powell.

For Powell, education and public propaganda campaigns are necessary, but the poor disenfranchised American corporate executive must realize that “political power is necessary,” and that such power must be “used aggressively and with determination – without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.” Further, it is not merely in the legislative and executive branches of government where business leaders must seize power “aggressively,” but also in the judicial branch – the courts – which “may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.” Charging that both “liberals” and the “far left” have been “exploiters of the judicial system” – such as the American Civil Liberties Union, labor unions and civil rights organizations – business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce would need to establish “a highly competent staff of lawyers” to exploit the judiciary for their own benefit.[24] Powell went on to play a very important role in this process as he was appointed to the Supreme Court almost immediately after having authored this memo, where he made many important decisions regarding “corporate rights.”

In advocating aggression in pushing their own interests, Powell encouraged the business community “to attack the [Ralph] Naders, the [Herbert] Marcuses and other who openly seek destruction of the system,” as well as “to penalize politically those who oppose it.” The “threat to the enterprise system” must not be merely presented as an economic issue, but should be portrayed as “a threat to individual freedom,” which Powell described as a “great truth” which “must be re-affirmed if this program is to be meaningful.” Thus, the “only alternatives to free enterprise” are to be presented as “varying degrees of bureaucratic regulation of individual freedom – ranging from that under moderate socialism to the iron heel of the leftist or rightist dictatorship.” The aim was to tie the average American’s own individual conception of their personal freedom and rights to that of corporations and business leaders. Thus, contended Powell, “the contraction and denial of economic freedom is followed inevitably by governmental restrictions on other cherished rights.” This is the precise message, Powell explained, “above all others, that must be carried home to the American people.”[25] So, by this logic, if today Monsanto and Dow are regulated, tomorrow, your Mom and Dad will be in a dictatorship.

The New Right: Neoliberalism and Education

The Powell Memo is largely credited with being a type of ‘Constitution’ or ‘founding document’ for the emergence of the right-wing think tanks in the 1970s and 1980s, as per its recommendations for establishing “a staff of highly qualified scholars in the social sciences who do believe in the system.” In 1973, a mere two years after the memo was written, the Heritage Foundation was founded as an “aggressive and openly ideological expert organization,” which became highly influential in the Reagan administration.[26]

The Heritage Foundation’s website explains that the think tank’s mission “is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.” Upon its founding in 1973, the Heritage Foundation began to “deliver compelling and persuasive research to Congress providing facts, data, and sound arguments on behalf of conservative principles.” In 1977, Ed Feulner became President of the foundation and established “a new senior management staff” and a ‘resource bank’ in order “to take on the liberal establishment and forge a national network of conservative policy groups and experts,” ultimately totaling more than 2,200 “policy experts” and 475 “policy groups” in the U.S. and elsewhere. In 1980, Heritage published a “public policy blueprint” entitled, “Mandate for Leadership,” which became “the policy bible of the newly elected Reagan administration on everything from taxes and regulation to crime and national defense.” In 1987, Heritage published another policy plan, “Out of the Poverty Trap: A Conservative Strategy for Welfare Reform,” which, as their website boastfully claimed, “changed the entitlement mentality in America, moving thousands off the dole [welfare] and toward personal responsibility,” or, in other words, deeper poverty.[27]

The model of the Heritage Foundation led to the rapid proliferation of conservative think tanks, from 70 to over 300 in over 30 years, which “often work together to create multi-issue networks on the local, state, and federal level and use mainstream and alternative media to promote conservative agendas.” The ultimate objective, like with all think tanks and foundations, is “spreading ideology.”[28]

The Cato Institute is another conservative – or “libertarian” – think tank, as it describes itself. Founded in 1974 as the Charles Koch Foundation by Charles Koch (one of America’s richest billionaires and major financier of the Tea Party movement), as well as Ed Crane and Murray Rothbard. By 1977, it had changed its name to the Cato Institute, after “Cato’s Letters,” a series of essays by two British writers in the 18th century under the pseudonym of Cato, who was a Roman Senator strongly opposed to democracy, and had fought against the slave uprising led by Spartacus. He was idolized in the Enlightenment period as a progenitor and protector of liberty (for the few), which was reflected in the ideology of the Founding Fathers of the United States, particularly Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, for which the Cato Institute credits as the reasoning for the re-naming. While Enlightenment thought and thinkers are idolized – most especially in the formation of the U.S. Constitution – as advocates of liberty, freedom and individual rights, it was the ‘right’ of ‘private property’ and those who owned property (which, at the time, included slave owners) as the ultimate sacrosanct form of “liberty.” Again, a distinctly elitist conception of democracy referred to as ‘Republicanism.’

These right-wing think tanks helped bring in the era of neo-liberalism, bringing together “scholars” who support the so-called “free market” system (itself, a mythical fallacy), and who deride and oppose all forms of social welfare and social support. The think tanks produced the research and work which supported the dominance of the banks and corporations over society, and the members of the think tanks had their voices heard through the media, in government, and in the universities. They facilitated the ideological shift in power and policy circles toward neoliberalism.

The Powell Memo and the general “crisis of democracy” set out a political, social, and economic circumstance in which neoliberalism emerged to manage the “excess of democracy.” Instead of a broader focus on neoliberalism and globalization in general, I will focus on their influences upon education in particular. The era of neoliberal globalization marked a rapid decline of the liberal welfare states that had emerged in the previous several decades, and as such, directly affected education.

As part of this process, knowledge was transformed into ‘capital’ – into ‘knowledge capitalism’ or a ‘knowledge economy.’ Reports from the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the 1990s transformed these ideas into a “policy template.” This was to establish “a new coalition between education and industry,” in which “education if reconfigured as a massively undervalued form of knowledge capital that will determine the future of work, the organization of knowledge institutions and the shape of society in the years to come.”[29]

Knowledge was thus defined as an “economic resource” which would give growth to the economy. As such, in the neoliberal era, where all aspects of economic productivity and growth are privatized (purportedly to increase their efficiency and productive capacity as only the “free market” can do), education – or the “knowledge economy” – itself, was destined to be privatized.[30]

In the revised neoliberal model of education, “economic productivity was seen to come not from government investment in education, but from transforming education into a product that could be bought and sold like anything else – and in a globalised market, Western education can be sold as a valuable commodity in developing countries.” Thus, within the university itself, “the meaning of ‘productivity’ was shifted away from a generalized social and economic good towards a notional dollar value for particular government-designated products and practices.” Davies et. al. elaborated:

Where these products are graduating students, or research published, government could be construed as funding academic work as usual. When the ‘products’ to be funded are research grant dollars, with mechanisms in place to encourage collaboration with industry, this can be seen as straightforward manipulation of academics to become self-funding and to service the interests of business and industry.[31]

The new ‘management’ of universities entailed decreased state funding while simultaneously increasing “heavy (and costly) demands on accounting for how that funding was used,” and thus, “trust in professional values and practices was no longer the basis of the relationship” between universities and government. It was argued that governments were no longer able to afford the costs of university education, and that the “efficiency” of the university system – defined as “doing more with less” – was to require a change in the leadership and management system internal to the university structure to “a form of managerialism modeled on that of the private sector.” The “primary aim” of this neoliberal program, suggests Davies:

was not simply to do more with less, since the surveillance and auditing systems are extraordinarily costly and ineffective, but to make universities more governable and to harness their energies in support of programmatic ambitions of neo-liberal government and big business. A shift towards economics as the sole measure of value served to erode the status and work of those academics who located value in social and moral domains. Conversely, the technocratic policy-oriented academics, who would serve the ends of global corporate capital, were encouraged and rewarded.[32]

As the 1960s saw a surge in democracy and popular participation, to a significant degree emanating from the universities, dissident intellectuals and students, the 1970s saw the articulation and actualization of the elite attack upon popular democracy and the educational system itself. From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Trilateral Commission, both of which represent elite financial and corporate interests, the key problem was identified as active and popular participation of the public in the direction of society. This was the “crisis of democracy.” The solution for elites was simple: less democracy, more authority. In the educational realm, this meant more elite control over universities, less freedom and activism for intellectuals and students. Universities and the educational system more broadly was to become increasingly privatized, corporatized, and globalized. The age of activism was at an end, and universities were to be mere assembly plants for economically productive units which support the system, not challenge it. One of the key methods for ensuring this took place was through debt, which acts as a disciplinary mechanism in which students are shackled with the burden of debt bondage, and thus, their education itself must be geared toward a specific career and income expectation. Knowledge is sought for personal and economic benefit more than for the sake of knowledge itself. Graduating with extensive debt then implies a need to immediately enter the job market, if not already having entered the job market part time while studying. Debt thus disciplines the student toward a different purpose in their education: toward a job and financial benefits rather than toward knowledge and understanding. Activism then, is more of an impediment to, rather than a supporter of knowledge and education.

In the next part of this series, I will analyze the purpose and role of education and intellectuals in a historical context, differentiating between the ‘social good’ and ‘social control’ purposes of education, as well as between the policy-oriented (elite) and value-oriented (dissident) intellectuals. Through a critical look at the purpose of education and intellectuals, we can understand the present crisis in education and intellectual dissent, and thus, understand positive methods and directions for change.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Michel J. Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy, (Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press, 1975), pages 61-62, 71.

[2]            Ibid, pages 74-77.

[3]            Ibid, pages 93, 113-115.

[4]            Ibid, page 162.

[5]            Jay Peterzell, “The Trilateral Commission and the Carter Administration,” Economic and Political Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 51, 17 December 1977), page 2102.

[6]            Ibid.

[7]            Ibid.

[8]            Ibid.

[9]            Wayne Parsons, “Politics Without Promises: The Crisis of ‘Overload’ and Governability,” Parliamentary Affairs (Vol. 35, No. 4, 1982), pages 421-422.

[10]            Ibid.

[11]            Val Burris, “The Social and Political Consequences of Overeducation,” American Sociological Review (Vol. 48, No. 4, August 1983), pages 455-456.

[12]            Lewis F. Powell, Jr., “Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System,” Addressed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 23 August 1971:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/personality/sources_document13.html

[13-25]                        Ibid.

[26]            Julie E. Miller-Cribbs, et. al., “Thinking About Think Tanks: Strategies for Progressive Social Work,” Journal of Policy Practice (Vol. 9, No. 3-4, 2010), page 293.

[27]            The Heritage Foundation, “The Heritage Foundation’s 35th Anniversary: A History of Achievements,” About: http://www.heritage.org/about/our-history/35th-anniversary

[28]            Julie E. Miller-Cribbs, et. al., “Thinking About Think Tanks: Strategies for Progressive Social Work,” Journal of Policy Practice (Vol. 9, No. 3-4, 2010), pages 293-294.

[29]            Mark Olssen and Michael A. Peters, “Neoliberalism, Higher Education and the Knowledge Economy: From the Free Market to Knowledge Capitalism,” Journal of Education Policy (Vol. 20, No. 3, May 2005), page 331.

[30]            Ibid, pages 338-339.

[31]            Bronwyn Davies, et. al., “The Rise and Fall of the Neo-liberal University,” European Journal of Education (Vol. 41, No. 2, 2006), pages 311-312.

[32]            Ibid, page 312.

Podcast: “Black History in the United States: Slavery, Segregation, and Social Control”

EPP

In a highly critical black history of the United States, this episode examines the social construction of race (and racism) starting in the late 1600s as a means of social control, devised through the colonial legal system to separate white and black labour, prison labour, black education system, the developments of ghettos as a means of segregating the black population, the civil rights organizations in an attempt to steer the movement away from its natural and potentially revolutionary course to confront the entire social- economic- political system of racism, and the “war on drugs” and laws disproportionately targeting the black community.

Understanding the history of those who have been most oppressed within it is vital to understanding the true nature of the society we live in; thus, the black history of the United States is indivisible from the total history of the United States, and the subject bears relevance to the future of poverty and class struggle in a world of enormous inequality.

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RELATED: “An Empire of Poverty: Race, Punishment, and Social Control”

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An Empire of Poverty: Race, Punishment, and Social Control

An Empire of Poverty: Race, Punishment, and Social Control

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

NOTE: The following is a brief sampling of some of the concepts, ideas, issues, and events that are to be thoroughly researched and written about in two chapters of The People’s Book Project which will be funded through The People’s Grant, of which the objective is to raise $1,600 from readers and supporters. If you find the information in the following sampling of interest, please donate to the People’s Book Project and help facilitate expanded research on these and other related subjects into constructing two significant chapters for the book. For a look at what other information will be included in these chapters, see the latest information on The People’s Grant.

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Slavery and the Social Construction of Race

Between 1619 and 1860, the American legal system, from that imposed by the British Empire to that constructed following the American Revolution, “expanded and protected the liberties of white Americans – while at the same time the legal process became increasingly more harsh as to the masses of blacks, with a steady contraction of their liberties.” This process marked the ‘social construction’ of race and with it, racial superiority and inferiority, delegated to whites and blacks, respectively.[1] Interesting to note was that between 1619 and the 1660s, the American colonial legal system was “far more supportive for blacks; or, phrased differently, the early legal process was less harsh.” Georgia’s original charter, in fact, had three prohibitions: no alcohol, no free land titles, “and no Negro slaves.” In Virginia, as late as 1672 and 1673, there were legal records of some slaves “serving limited terms as indentured servants rather than being sentenced to the eternity of slavery.”[2]

The colonies in the Americas required a massive labour force, “Between 1607 and 1783, more than 350,000 ‘white’ bond-labourers arrived in the British colonies.”[3] The Americas had both un-free blacks and whites, with blacks being a minority, yet they “exercised basic rights in law.”[4] Problems arrived in the form of elites trying to control the labour class. Slaves were made up of Indian, black and white labourers; yet, problems arose with this “mixed” population of un-free labour. The problem with Indian labourers was that they knew the land and could escape to “undiscovered” territory, and enslavement would often instigate rebellions and war:

The social costs of trying to discipline un-free native labour had proved too high. Natives would eventually be genocidally eliminated, once population settlement and military power made victory more or less certain; for the time being, however, different sources of bond labour had to be found.[5]

Between 1607 and 1682, more than 90,000 European immigrants, “three-quarters of them chattel bond-labourers, were brought to Virginia and Maryland.” Following the “establishment of the Royal African Company in 1672, a steady supply of African slaves was secured.” Problems became paramount, however, as the lower classes tended to be very rebellious, which consisted of “an amalgam of indentured servants and slaves, of poor whites and blacks, of landless freemen and debtors.” The lower classes were united in opposition to the elites oppressing them, regardless of background.[6]

Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 was of particular note, as bond-labourers, black and white, rebelled against the local elites and “demanded freedom from chattel servitude.” For the colonialists, “[s]uch images of a joint uprising of black and white, slave and bondsman, proved traumatic. In the face of a united rebellion of the lower orders, the planter bourgeoisie understood that their entire system of colonial exploitation and privilege was at risk.”[7]

In response to this threat, the landed elite “relaxed the servitude of white labourers, intensified the bonds of black slavery, and introduced a new regime of racial oppression. In doing so, they effectively created the white race – and with it white supremacy.”[8] Thus, “the conditions of white and black servants began to diverge considerably after 1660.” Following this, legislation would separate white and black slavery, prevent “mixed” marriages, and seek to prevent the procreation of “mixed-race” children. Whereas before 1660, many black slaves were not indentured for life, this changed as colonial law increasingly “imposed lifetime bondage for black servants – and, especially significant, the curse of lifetime servitude for their offspring.”[9]

A central feature of the social construction of this racial divide was “the denial of the right to vote,” as most Anglo-American colonies previously allowed free blacks to vote, but this slowly changed throughout the colonies. The ruling class of America was essentially “inventing race.” Thus, “[f]reedom was increasingly identified with race, not class.”[10]

The ‘Reconstruction’ of Slavery in Post-Civil War America

Important to note has been the ways in which slaves were used as the main labour force, and thus blacks were identified and being sustained as a lower-class labour force. Following the Civil War, abolition of slavery and the Reconstruction Period, there were coordinated moves – a ‘compact’ – between the North and South in the United States, to devise a way of keeping blacks as a submissive labour force, and one which was confined to a new form of slavery: penal slavery. Thus, we see emerging in the 1870s and into the 20th century, a rapid expansion of prisons, and with that, of southern penal systems using prisoners as forced labour. This new legal system, which was “far less rigid than slavery,” had been referred to as “involuntary servitude,” and, wrote one scholar, “was a fluid, flexible affair which alternated between free and forced labor in time to the rhythm of the southern labor market.”[11]

A famous American botanist and agricultural editor of the Weekly News and Courier wrote in 1865 that, “There must… be stringent laws to control the negroes, & require them to fulfill their contracts of labour on the farms.” Southern legislatures, then, began to enact what were referred to as Black Codes, “designed to preserve white hegemony.”[12] The 12-year period following the end of the Civil War, known as the ‘Reconstruction,’ saw the continued struggle of newly-freed blacks to attempt to break free from being “forced back under the political and economic domination of the large landowners,” and to do so, they were demanding land ownership rights to the tune of “40 acres and a mule.” This was, of course, unacceptable to vested interests. While the Republic Party had freed the slaves, the main core of the Party had become dominated by Northern wealthy interests, and “were unwilling to press for thoroughgoing reform, and by 1877 had become convinced that their interests were better served by an alliance with Southern white conservatives than the largely illiterate and destitute ex-slave population.” In the North at this time, the captains of industry and kings of capital (the bankers and industrialists) were waging a continued war against organized and increasingly radicalized labour. Thus, there was very little interest in seeking to enfranchise black labour in the South. As the New York Times suggested, the demands for “40 acres and a mule” hit at “the fundamental relation of industry to capital,” and “strikes at the root of all property rights in both sections. It concerns Massachusetts quite as much as Mississippi.”[13]

The legal system was used to essentially criminalize black life, without making specific references to race, laws that were passed specifically targeted blacks in attempting to limit their mobility, the price of their labour, and to make several aspects of typical black southern life to be deemed “criminal.” This process was paralleled in South Africa in the construction of the apartheid system. As one historian wrote:

Prior to the 1860s, neither the South nor South Africa had an extensive history of large-scale imprisonment or of hiring out prison labour to private contractors. Before the Civil War, slave-owners had punished their own slaves. African Americans accounted for less than 1 per cent of Alabama’s pre-war prison population; the bulk of the 200-300 inmates of the first penitentiary built in 1841 comprised, as in northern prisons, mostly of newly-arrived European immigrants.[14]

Many of the South’s prisons were destroyed during the Civil War, and thus, as the Black Codes were subsequently enacted, legislation was increasingly passed which aimed to facilitate the leasing of convicts to private contractors, and as a result, there was little need to rebuild the prison infrastructure; instead, have prisoners build the new infrastructure of an industrializing South, with the convict population from the 1870s onward largely being leased to farmers and railroad contractors, which saved state revenues from building new prisons as well as procuring revenue. In 1874, the governor of Alabama had complained about spending $100,000 on convicts, and within two years of leasing out Alabama’s inmates to private contractors, he boasted of a $15,000 profit. Thus, prisons would never “be anything but a source of immense revenue to the state.” Largely the same process was undertaken in South Africa to secure labour for the diamond mines run by the De Beers Company.[15] As William Worger wrote of the dual development of the American South and South African convict labour systems:

[C]apitalists in both areas establishing new industries and constrained by expensive capital, high fixed costs for plant and operations, and competitive struggles for market share, viewed convict labour as essential to the introduction of machine production, the defeat of organized labour, and the overall cheapening of the costs of production… [I]n both cases the state, when viewed in its local and regional rather than national and metropolitan manifestations, enthusiastically supported the leasing of convicts to private employers… because of the enormous financial benefits to their administrations of selling prison labour… and because imprisonment with hard labour in industrial enterprises offered a means to ‘discipline’ (in the discourse of the South) and to ‘civilise’ (in that of British colonialism) African Americans and Africans convicted on the basis of their race for acts – such as petty theft and burglary… that would not have resulted in lengthy terms of incarceration for whites… [In both cases] convict labour was used to divide and defeat organized labour and to enable employers to segregate the workplace on the basis of race.[16]

Migration, Housing, and Organizing Ghettos

It was no coincidence that each of these convict labour systems emerged in the context and circumstances of the development of Jim Crow segregation laws in the South and official apartheid in South Africa. At the same time as this was taking place in the South, massive migration of blacks from the South to the North began, concurrently with a period of radical labour militancy and class crisis. As such, this era saw the development of the ghettoes in major Northern cities “as a space of containment in urban areas.” The harsh legal racism, segregation, and cultural hatred of blacks in the South also spurred the migration to Northern cities. Between 1882 and 1968, there were 4,723 reported lynchings of African Americans, 90% of which took place in the Deep South. Between 1910 and 1960, roughly 5 million African Americans migrated to the North, Midwest, and Northeast. As Eduardo Mendieta wrote:

It is significant that the process of northern urbanization takes place in tandem with the process of racial gentrification. This racial gentrification is overseen by the state itself through its housing policies. These policies ensure that the poor and colored are concentrated in the dilapidated and poorly serviced urban centers while wealthy whites… are granted the license and funding to flee to the suburbs. In other words, the development of the ghetto has to be seen in tandem with the suburbanization of the US… An overview of the different agencies and acts used by Congress to regulate housing policies and availability reveals that the government conspired to segregate through its loaning practices, and actually participated in the very act of destroying housing that was and could have been available to African Americans and poor people in the inner cities.[17]

In fact, amazingly, “the government [had] destroyed more low-incoming housing than it actually built.” This process had extended right into the post-World War II period. Between 1960 and 1977, “as the number of whites living in suburbs increased by 22 million… the inner-city African-American population grew by 6 million.” Kenneth T. Jackson wrote, “American housing policy was not only devoid of social objectives, but instead helped establish the basis for social inequities. Uncle Sam was not impartial, but instead contributed to the general disbenefit of the cities and to the general prosperity of the suburbs.”[18]

Most American ghettos first came into existence just as economic inequalities were reaching “new heights” in the 1920s in the midst of the long-worn battle between industrialists and organized labour. At this time, racial segregation was increasingly a global phenomenon, when imperial and national states were implementing social and geographical forms of segregation “by equating urban problems such as ‘vice’, crime, disease and social unrest with blacks and other people of color and suggesting urban division as a means to solve these problems.” As Carl H. Nightingale wrote in the Journal of Urban History:

In the United States, this global “racial urbanism” informed the actions of the white homeowners, realtors, and banks that transformed an urban landscape marked by scattered minority-black enclaves into one of the large-scale segregated majority-black communities we know as ghettos. These first ghettos were also marked by the founding of separate black-run institutions that served their residents.[19]

The second phase of ghettoization in the United States occurred with the Great Depression, New Deal, and World War II-era, a time in which there was a continued growth of northward migration of black Americans to the industrial cities. In this context, the New Deal’s Home Owner’s Loan Corporation and the Federal Housing Administration “instituted highly discriminatory housing policies… [which] were aggravated by similarly racially biased urban renewal, public housing, and transportation policies, which not only solidified the boundaries of ghettos but also pushed them outward from downtown.”[20]

The third major phase of ghetto reform came about as a result of the Civil Rights Movement. Working with a major Civil Rights organization, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Ford Foundation sought to “organize the ghetto” through a program aimed at “making working-class blacks a decipherable and controllable constituency,” and thus:

[The Ford] foundation sought black leaders who could be brought into the establishment fold and could engineer orderly change in the ghetto. Having found a model to control the black community by containing it… the Ford Foundation would use its experience with CORE in Cleveland as a base to complete its vision for African Americans in a post-civil rights America.[21]

A national housing program, organized around new public-private partnerships which would benefit the elite class, was developed to create housing for the poor. The development of this plan – the Rockefeller Program – was the most controversial of the initiatives under the 1968 housing legislation, which placed “little emphasis on expanding homeownership opportunities,” and instead, stressed “the importance of involving private enterprises in the rebuilding of cities and make use of tax incentives to encourage such involvement.” The interesting features of the Rockefeller Program, implemented under New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, were that it contemplated “that government will sponsor, develop, construct, and possibly manage the housing project,” and while the “actual construction work will be done by private firms as contractors… it is government which is to rebuild the slums.” Thus, the “incentives to enlist the active involvement of the private sector are not directly related to the task of rebuilding the slums, except insofar as they enable private enterprise to participate in the profits which will accrue.”[22]

The Rockefeller Foundation itself had a significant impact upon the changing focus of urban design. As Peter L. Laurence wrote, “between 1955 and 1965, the Rockefeller Foundation research programme for Urban Design Studies contributed significantly to post-war urban theory and to the emergence of the new discipline of urban design out of the overlapping interests of the fields of architecture, city planning and landscape design.”[23] Rockefeller influence on city planning was thereafter established and institutionalized through the formation of the fields of urban studies and city planning.

Educating Africans to be “Junior Partners in the Firm”

In the first half of the 20th century, the Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation undertook joint projects aimed at constructing an education system for black Americans in the South as well as for black Africans in several British colonies. In 1911, the Phelps-Stokes Fund was chartered with the purpose of managing “the education of Negroes both in Africa and the United States.” This restrictive educational system for black Americans had already been institutionalized, beginning with the ‘philanthropic’ endeavours of Wall Street bankers and northern industrialists and capitalists at several conferences in 1898. The education was constructed on the basis that, as one conference participant stated, “the white people are to be the leaders, to take the initiative, to have direct control in all matters pertaining to civilization and the highest interest of our beloved land. History demonstrates that the Caucasian will rule, and he ought to rule.” As one conference organizer stated:

Time has proven that [the ‘negro’] is best fitted to perform the heavy labor in the Southern states… He will willingly fill the more menial positions, and do the heavy work, at less wages, than the American white man or any foreign race… This will permit the Southern white laborer to perform the more expert labor, and to leave the fields, the mines, and the simple trades for the negro.[24]

The conferences resulted in what became known as the ‘Tuskegee educational philosophy,’ which was decided upon by 1901. Three major decisions were taken at the conferences. The first major decision was that “it was necessary that provision be made to train a Negro leadership cadre”:

For this purpose, then, it was concluded that certain Negro colleges would be strengthened to educate a strong professional class – doctors, lawyers, ministers – which would be responsible for raising the general physical and moral level of the race in the segregated black communities… [Second], it was decided that the Negro had been educated away from his natural environment and that his education should concern only those fields available to him. This key decision marked the formulation of the concept of a special Negro education. Third, it was decided that this special education – vocational and agricultural in focus – of the Negro had to be directed toward increasing the labor value of his race, a labor value which, not surprisingly, would see the white capitalist as chief beneficiary.[25]

Thus, in 1901 the fourth conference on the issue established the Southern Education Board. The following year, John D. Rockefeller established the General Education Board (a precursor to the Rockefeller Foundation), which “alleviated any financial concerns which the planners of southern Negro education might have experienced.”[26] The Rockefeller philanthropy had extensive influence on implementing the ‘Tuskegee educational philosophy,’ particularly through the Southern Education Board, of which it not only helped finance, but had a shared leadership. Eleven members of the Southern Education Board were also members of Rockefeller’s General Education Board. With time, other funds and philanthropies became involved, such as the Jeanes Fund, the Slater Fund, and eventually the Phelps-Stokes Fund. Again, there was significant overlap between these organizations. The first president of the Jeanes Fund was James H. Dillard, a member of the Southern Education Board, an agent of the Slater Fund, and a member of Rockefeller’s General Education Board. In 1923, Dillard became a trustee of the Phelps-Stokes Fund. The Jeanes Fund, headed by Dillard, instituted the concept of the ‘Jeanes teacher’:

a local Negro who could make contact in the rural communities as no one else could and who could adapt the school curriculum to the conditions of these communities. Hygiene, home economics, and industrial and agricultural training were to form the backbone of the curriculum for Jeanes rural schools. In 1925, the Jeanes school concept was transferred to Kenya, largely owing to the vigorous advocacy for such a transplantation by representatives of the Phelps-Stokes Fund.[27]

The Tuskegee/Phelps-Stokes educational philosophy quickly garnered the attention of British missionary educators in Africa. Two influential British missionary educators visited the Tuskegee Institute in 1912, with the idea in mind that they could adapt this educational philosophy to Britain’s colonies in Africa. One of these missionaries was J.H. Oldham, former secretary of the World Missionary Conference, and editor of the International Review of Missions, “the quasi-official journal of the Protestant missionary societies in Great Britain from its inception in 1912.” Having become well-acquainted with the American philanthropists involved in organization black education, Oldham introduced Thomas Jesse Jones to British colonial officials in charge of educational policy in Africa, and in 1924, “Oldham became the Phelps-Stokes Fund’s representative in the United Kingdom and intensified his vigorous lobbying efforts to have Phelps-Stokes Fund/Tuskegee concept incorporated into official mission and colonial educational policy.”[28]

As Kenya’s colonial secretary stated, the educational philosophy would ensure “an intelligent, cheerful, self-respecting, and generally docile and willing-to-learn African native.” In 1925, Jones successfully negotiated for financial aid from the Carnegie Corporation to finance the establishment of a Jeanes training school in Kenya. The funding from Carnegie included direct funding for the school, as well as facilitating white educators from Africa to come to the U.S. to “investigate” the Southern educational system, as well as implementing intelligence tests for Africans (just as the major philanthropies had been propagating around the United States as part of their support for eugenics programs). Jones also turned to other major foundations for support, such as Rockefeller’s International Education Board (which had Anson Phelps-Stokes as a trustee), as well as the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial, which all subsequently provided major grants to establish several schools across Africa.[29]

Jones and the major foundations further supported the development of black education in South Africa, helping cement the apartheid system that was being developed. As Jones himself stated, the education of black South Africans in the Tuskegee philosophy can maintain their subordination to the white ruling class, and keep them as “junior partners in the firm.”[30]

Managing the Poor through Social Welfare

Another major area of concern in these chapters is on the ‘moral construction’ of the poor, going beyond (but not ignoring) the ways in which the poor are ‘created’ and ‘maintained’ as a social group (i.e., noting the political, economic, and social policies and institutions that create and sustain poverty as a powerful social force), but also in looking at how the poor are, as a group, “regulated” and how society “morally constructs” views and perceptions of the poor, so that they are vilified, demonized, and politicized as “deviants.”

The origins of ‘welfare policies’ and other forms of ‘social welfare’ emerged several hundred years ago as a response to the inability of the economic system to benefit the masses of society, and thus, to prevent – often in the midst of an economic crisis – mass social unrest, rebellion, or potentially, revolution, social welfare policies were implemented as a means of social control: to alleviate some of the tensions from the gross systemic inequalities, and secondly, and often overlooked, as a means of regulating the behaviour, “work ethic” and prospects of the poor; to maintain them as a cheap labour force. This is done through the methods in which social welfare is provided: the process of applying for social services and welfare, the conditions required to be applicable, the demands which must be met by the applicant as determined by the state, the state intervention in the family and personal life of recipients (often through social workers), and other means of both expanding and detracting the amount of people on welfare as a means to sustain the labour force according to the demands of industry. As such, it is important to analyze the origins of “social work” as a means of “social control” and “managing the poor.”

Originating in the 16th century, relief giving to the poor began to be transferred from the private realm to the state. In Britain, the poor had to be registered and begging had to be authorized, and the Elizabethan Poor Laws, passed in 1572, “established a ‘poor rate’ tax and provided for secular control of the poor by justices of the peace, so-called overseers of the poor.” The poor were separated into three categories: “a) the poor by impotency, b) the poor by casualty, and c) the thriftless poor.” The third category, “thriftless poor,” were viewed as being responsible for their own condition, and thus had to “work for relief.” In the 18th century, workhouses began to emerge as a “policy innovation” to establish “worth” among the poor, to make them productive to the industrial class through contracting cheap labour in return for minor poverty relief. In the 19th century, the poorhouse “had become the official last resort for the poor.”[31]

The poorhouse and workhouse were often examined in the works of Charles Dickens. One is often reminded of the character Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, when approached by collectors seeking donations for poor relief, with the collector stating, “At this festive time of year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute.” To which Scrooge replied, “Are there no prisons?”

“Plenty of prisons.”

“And the union workhouses – are they still in operation?”

“They are. I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?”

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course. I’m very glad to hear it.”

Refusing to donate, Scrooge stated, “I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

Scrooge replied, “If they would rather die… they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

This scene reflected the ideology and philosophy of elites in that era, and indeed, up until present day. The poorhouses of that era were terrible, where “conditions were so awful, the act of relief itself became the test of necessity.” Much like the stigma of welfare in today’s context, “[t]hose who presented themselves to the poorhouse were casting themselves outside of moral society,” as entrance into that situation “symbolized and made painfully concrete a loss of social status, citizenship, and even the right to one’s own labor and physical freedom.” The New Deal following the Great Depression in the 1930s reaffirmed, with its expanded welfare and social services, the stipulation that relief must only be in exchange for work and labour. This represents a “moral construction” of poverty and “the poor,” because they are deemed as being required to work for relief, as in, they are undeserving of relief without conditions, regardless of their circumstances. The “stigma” of poverty and welfare are such that the poor are viewed as generally undeserving of anything, of being the cause of their own poverty, and thus, if they want/need relief, they had better work for it. It was through working and labour that the poor, then, were able to provide a “social worth” in return for “poor relief.” It is thus no coincidence that social security and unemployment insurance were “restricted to individuals classified by policy as workers, that is, individuals with a relatively prolonged and steady formal work history.” As a result, this led to the exclusion of “agricultural and domestic workers as well as those in marginal jobs who moved in and out of work,” which, not coincidentally, included a significant portion of the black population in the United States.[32]

With the New Deal, the state in America moved into the realm of activity previously the focus of the philanthropic foundation. In fact, these private foundations were pivotal in the formation of the New Deal. As Barry Karl and Stanley Katz noted, “Franklin Roosevelt preferred to conceal the fact that so many of his major advisers on policy and some of his major programmes in social reform were the result of support by one of more of the private foundations,” particularly through the Rockefeller Foundation and the Social Science Research Council, funded by the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations.[33] The support from such foundations, which represent the most elite interests within society and the capitalist class itself, founded and run by the wealthiest and most powerful bankers and industrialists of the era, represented an elite fear generated by the mass social unrest of the era brought on by the Great Depression, which was created by that very same class. Thus, social security and the New Deal were a means of securing social control.[34] The New Deal, however, also had a profoundly negative impact upon the “race question” in the United States, which broadly affected the black community. As Christopher G. Wye wrote in the Journal of American History:

[T]he New Deal public housing and emergency work programs played an important part in alleviating the problems generated by the Depression, [but] they also contributed to the preservation of perhaps the two salient components which combine to produce a caste-like Negro social structure – residential segregation and a distinctly racial occupational pattern.[35]

Civil Rights: From “Black Power” to “Black Capitalism”

The major foundations – Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller – were also heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement, but with specific aims of social control. In the 1950s, the Ford Foundation began taking an interest in the Civil Rights movement, and after convening a study on how to “improve race relations,” the Ford Foundation began giving grants to black colleges “to improve the quality of their educational offerings.”[36] By 1966, the Civil Rights movement was one of the major areas of Ford Foundation funding. Against the backdrop of the summer of 1966 in which there were 43 “urban disorders” (riots in ghettos), which had been “precipitated by confrontations between blacks and the police,” the Ford Foundation announced that it would “direct significant resources to the social justice area.” Among the aims of the Foundation were: “to improve leadership and programming within minority organizations; to explore approaches to better race relations; to support policy-oriented research on race and poverty; to promote housing integration; and to increase the availability of legal resources through support of litigating organizations and minority law students.”[37]

The Ford Foundation also sponsored the Grey Areas program in the early 1960s, which evolved into President Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” as a program for “urban renewal,” but was, in fact, concerned with issues arising out of poor people’s (and particularly poor people of colour’s) resistance to major urban growth projects undertaken by a coalition of corporations and corporatist labour unions following World War II. As Roger Friedland wrote:

Political challenge by the poor, and especially the nonwhite poor, threatened the dominance of the corporations and labor unions and the growth policies they pursued. It was the poorest neighborhoods which were displaced by urban renewal and highway construction, whose housing stock was depleted by clearance, whose employment opportunities were often reduced both by the expansion of office employment stimulated by central business district growth and by restrictive unionization on large construction projects and municipal jobs, and whose services were constrained by the enormous fiscal costs of the growth programs.[38]

It was in this context that the Ford Foundation established programs aimed at ameliorating the antagonisms within the impoverished communities, not through structural or systemic change of the causes of poverty, but through organization, institutionalization, and legalistic reform programs, thus leading to the government’s “War on Poverty.” The same approach was taken in regards to the Civil Rights movement.

There was a transformation between 1966 and 1967 of the notion of ‘black power’, which was increasingly viewed by elites and ‘authorities’, such as J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI, as “the beginning of a true black revolution.” Many advocates of ‘black power’ saw it as the beginnings of a revolt against “white western imperialist” America.[39] The Civil Rights movement was originally “launched by indigenous leadership and primarily mobilized the southern black community.” Thus, it was essential for large foundation funding of the movement, to effectively control its direction and impetus. This “elite involvement would seem to occur only as a response to the threat posed by the generation of a mass-based social movement.” The major foundations “supported the moderate civil rights organizations in response to the ‘radical flank’ threat of the militants, while non-elites (churches, unions and small individual donors) spread their support evenly.”[40]

Elite patronage of the Civil Rights movement “diverted leaders from indigenous organizing and exacerbated inter-organizational rivalries, thereby promoting movement decay.”[41] Foundation funding for civil rights did not become significant until 1961-62, five years after the Birmingham bus boycott, and the peak of foundation support for civil rights was in 1972-73, four to five years after the assassination of King.[42] This indicated that foundation grants to civil rights were ‘reactive’, in that they were designed in response to changes in the movement itself, implying that foundation patronage was aimed at social control. Further, most grants went to professionalized social movement organizations (SMOs) and in particular, the NAACP. While the professional SMOs initiated only 14% of movement actions, they accounted for 57% of foundation grants, while the classical SMOs, having carried out roughly 36% of movement actions, received roughly 32% of foundation grants. This disparity grew with time, so that by the 1970s, the classical SMOs garnered 25% of grants and the professional SMOs received nearly 70% of grants. Principally, the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund were the most endowed with foundation support.[43] Many of the foundations subsequently became “centrally involved in the formulation of national social policy and responded to elite concerns about the riots.”[44]

It became clear that the older, established and moderate organizations received the most outside funding, such as the National Urban League, the NAACP and the Legal Defense and Educational Fund.[45] As the black struggles of the 1960s increasingly grew militant and activist-oriented in the latter half of the 1960s, “foundation contributions became major sources of income for the National Urban League, the Southern Regional Council, and the Legal Defense and Educational Fund.”[46] The attempt was to promote reform instead of losing their vested powers and interests in the face of a growing revolution.

The NAACP and the National Urban League represent the more moderate civil rights organizations, as they were also the oldest, with membership primarily made up of middle class African Americans, leading to many, including King himself, to suggest they were disconnected from the reality or in representing poor blacks in America.[47] The radicalization of the black protest movement led to the emergence of challenges to the NAACP and Urban League in being the ‘leaders’ in civil rights, as new organizations emerged which represented a broader array of the black population. Among them were the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which Martin Luther King led. Foundations increased funding for all of these organizations, but as activism and militancy accelerated in the latter half of the 1960s, the funding declined for the more radical, militant and activist organizations and increased dramatically for the established and moderate organizations. This trend continued going into the 1970s.

In 1967, Martin Luther King’s SCLC received $230,000 from the Ford Foundation, yet after his assassination, the organization received no more funding and virtually fell to pieces. That same year, the Ford Foundation gave the NAACP $300,000, and gave the Urban League $585,000. The Rockefeller Foundation granted the League $650,000, with the Carnegie Corporation coming in with $200,000. The Ford Foundation also gave the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) $175,000 in 1967.[48]

In 1968, with the SCLC out of the picture, Ford increased funding for CORE to $300,000, increased grants to the NAACP to $378,000, and gave the Urban League a monumental grant of $1,480,000. The same year, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation gave the NAACP $500,000 and $200,000 respectively. Clearly, the foundations were supporting the older established and moderate organizations over the new, young and activist/radical organizations. For the following year, 1969, CORE received no more grants from foundations, while the Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations increased their grants to the NAACP and the Urban League. In 1974, the NAACP received grants of $950,000 from the Ford Foundation, $250,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation, and $200,000 from the Carnegie Corporation. The Urban League received grants of $2,350,000 from the Ford Foundation and $350,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation.[49] The strategic use of foundation funding helped undermine and outmaneuver the radical and militant civil rights organizations, while strengthening and institutionalizing the reform-oriented organizations.

This co-optation of the civil rights movement was so vital to these elite interests for the principle reason of the movement taking its natural course, out of an ethnic or race-based focus and into a class and global social focus. A. Philip Randolph, a civil rights leader, spoke in 1963 at an ALF-CIO convention at which he stated, “The Negro’s protest today is but the first rumbling of the ‘under-class.’ As the Negro has taken to the streets, so will the unemployed of all races take to the streets.”[50] The aim of foundation funding for the Civil Rights movement was to direct it from a potentially revolutionary position – that of ‘Black Power’ – and transform it into a reformist and legalistic movement, ostensibly to establish “Black Capitalism.” Thus, instead of changing the systemic and institutional structures of society which had created racism, segregation, and exploitation, the “success” of the Civil Rights movement (apart from the very real achievements of securing basic civil rights for black citizens) was seen by elites as the ability of blacks to rise within the institutional and hierarchical system which dominated society, not to challenge or change it fundamentally.

The “Excess of Democracy”

In the 1970s, elite intellectual discussion was dominated by what was referred to as “democratic overload,” or what the Trilateral Commission referred to in a report of the same title as, “The Crisis of Democracy.” One of the principal authors of this 1975 report was Samuel Huntington, who wrote that the 1960s saw a surge in democracy in America, with an upswing in citizen participation, often “in the form of marches, demonstrations, protest movements, and ‘cause’ organizations.”[51] Further, “the 1960s also saw a reassertion of the primacy of equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life.”[52] Of course, for Huntington and the Trilateral Commission, which was founded by Huntington’s friend, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and banker David Rockefeller, the idea of “equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life” is a terrible and frightening prospect. Huntington analyzed how as part of this “democratic surge,” statistics showed that throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, there was a dramatic increase in the percentage of people who felt the United States was spending too much on defense (from 18% in 1960 to 52% in 1969, largely due to the Vietnam War).[53]

Huntington wrote that the “essence of the democratic surge of the 1960s was a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private,” and that, “People no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents.” He explained that in the 1960s, “hierarchy, expertise, and wealth” had come “under heavy attack.”[54] He stated that the three key issues which were central to the increased political participation in the 1960s were:

social issues, such as use of drugs, civil liberties, and the role of women; racial issues, involving integration, busing, government aid to minority groups, and urban riots; military issues, involving primarily, of course, the war in Vietnam but also the draft, military spending, military aid programs, and the role of the military-industrial complex more generally.[55]

Huntington presented these issues, essentially, as the “crisis of democracy,” in that they increased distrust with the government and authority, that they led to social and ideological polarization, and ultimately, to a “decline in the authority, status, influence, and effectiveness of the presidency.”[56] Huntington concluded that many problems of governance in the United States stem from an “excess of democracy,” and that, “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups.” Huntington explained that society has always had “marginal groups” which do not participate in politics, and while acknowledging that the existence of “marginality on the part of some groups is inherently undemocratic,” it has also “enabled democracy to function effectively.” Huntington identifies “the blacks” as one such group that had become politically active, posing a “danger of overloading the political system with demands.”[57]

Huntington, in his conclusion, stated that the vulnerability of democracy, essentially the ‘crisis of democracy,’ comes “from the internal dynamics of democracy itself in a highly educated, mobilized, and participant society,” and that what is needed is “a more balanced existence” in which there are “desirable limits to the indefinite extension of political democracy.”[58] Summed up, the Trilateral Commission Task Force Report essentially explained that the “Crisis of Democracy” is that there is too much of it, and so the ‘solution’ to the crisis, is to have less democracy and more ‘authority’.

To have “less democracy,” however, required careful and strategic moves and considerations. Primarily, the means through which this objective would be reached was through the disciplinary measures of the “free market” and “regulation of the poor.” This led to the neoliberal era, where this program of “reducing democracy” took place not only in the United States, but on a global scale. The disciplinary means undertaken in the ‘Third World’ nations were brought on by the 1980s debt crisis, and the World Bank and IMF “structural adjustment programs” which invariably expanded poverty, debt, and supported ruthless dictatorships which suppressed their own populations. This era also saw the “globalization of the ghetto” with the rapid development of urban slums around the world, to the point where over one billion people today live in slums. In the United States, the middle classes began to be mired in debt, particular the expansion of student debt, which served as a disciplinary feature, so that students were no longer activists or mobilized, but simply had to graduate and get jobs to pay off their debts.

A 1971 memo written by a representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reflected the fear inherent in the Trilateral Commission report of a few years later at the problems posed to elite interests by the “excess of democracy.” It referred to these “excesses” as a “broad attack” on the American economic system. The memo noted that, “the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.” While noting that sources of the attack include leftists and revolutionaries, it also acknowledged that the “attack” was being joined “from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians.” The author of the memo stated that, “If our system is to survive, top [corporate] management must be equally concerned with protecting and preserving the system itself.” It went on:

But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.[59]

The memo then went on to articulate a major program of “counter attack” with an emphasis on changing the educational system, the media, and bringing the state and courts more directly into the business community’s orbit. This era saw the emergence of the major right-wing think tanks, and the expanded influence of business leaders in the media, government, and universities, crowned with the Reagan-Thatcher era of neoliberalism: privatization, deregulation, debt-expansion, impoverishment, and punishment.

Punishing the Poor

In regards to the black population, who created quite a stir among the American elites in the 1960s and into the 1970s, the response from the elite sector was similar as to what it was during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War: mass incarceration. Reagan’s “war on drugs” led to a rapid expansion of legislation purportedly aimed to reduce the problems of the illicit drug trade in the United States (while the Reagan administration secretly supported the drug trade in covert operations abroad, such as in Nicaragua, the Iran-Contra Scandal, etc.).

The growth of the prison population in the United States from 1975 onward was marked simultaneously by a decline in welfare recipients. In fact, the largest prison systems were established in states with the weaker welfare systems. Between 1980 and 2000, “the number of people incarcerated in the United States increased by 300 percent, from 500,000 to nearly 2 million.” The parole and probation population, by 2000, included 3.8 million people, and by 1998, “nearly 6 million people – almost 3 percent of the adult population – were under some form of correctional supervision.” As reported in the journal, Punishment & Society:

The impact of these developments has fallen disproportionately on young African-Americans and Latinos. By 1994, one of every three black males between the ages of 18-34 was under some form of correctional supervision, and the number of Hispanic prisoners has more than quintupled since 1980. These developments are not primarily the consequence of rising crime rates, but rather the ‘get-tough’ policies of the wars on crime and drugs.[60]

As sociologists Katherine Beckett and Bruce Western wrote, “in the wake of the Reagan revolution, penal and welfare institutions have come to form a single policy regime aimed at the governance of social marginality,” or, in other words, the management of the poor and non-white populations. Thus, reduced welfare spending as a method of social control was replaced with increased incarceration and imprisonment.[61]

The prison system itself, which had its origins in the application of social control, functioned through segregation and discrimination, has not evolved from these institutional ideologies that saw its development over several hundred years. The prison and incarceration, according to philosopher and historian Michel Foucault, was “a new form of repression, designed to consolidate the political and economic power of capitalism under the modern state,” in what he termed, “the disciplinary society.”[62]

Just as took place during the criminalization of black life following the Civil War, the criminalization of black life following the Civil Rights Movement saw not only the growth of incarceration rates for the black community, but also saw the growth of the use of the prison population as a source of cheap labour. In today’s context, with privatization of prisons, outsourcing of prison labour, and other forms of exploitation of the “punished” population, this has given rise to what is often referred to as the “prison-industrial complex.”[63]

Conclusion

This article was but a brief sampling of some of the information, issues, ideas, events, and processes that will be thoroughly researched and written about in two chapters for The People’s Book Project. If you found the information enlightening, interesting, or important, please contribute to the People’s Grant goal of raising $1,600 to finance the completion of two chapters on this subject, which will include a great deal more than was sampled above, deeper analysis, more detailed and documented understandings, and a much wider, global contextualization. This was but a minor fraction of what can be completed with the support of readers. Help get this important information into the public sphere. As the global economic crisis rapidly expands the global rates of impoverishment, as the middle class vanishes into debt and poverty, and as our societies are reorganized to “manage” these social, political, and economic changes, this history is vital to understanding not only the objectives, ideas and actions of elites, but also the ways in which the people may challenge them.

Contribute to The People’s Grant:

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., “Racism and the Early American Legal Process, 1619-1896,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Vol. 407, No. 1, May 1973), page 1.

[2]            Ibid, page 6.

[3]            David McNally, Another World is Possible: Globalization and Anti-Capitalism (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2006), page 149.

[4]            Ibid, page 150.

[5]            Ibid, pages 151-152.

[6]            Ibid, pages 152-153.

[7]            Ibid, page 153.

[8]            Ibid, pages 153-154.

[9]            Ibid, pages 154-155.

[10]            Ibid, page 155.

[11]            William Cohen, “Negro Involuntary Servitude in the South, 1865-1940,” The Journal of Southern History (Vol. 42, No. 1, February 1976), page 33.

[12]            Ibid, page 34.

[13]            Brian Kelly, “Labor, Race, and the Search for a Central Theme in the History of the Jim Crow South,” Irish Journal of American Studies (Vol. 10, 2001), page 58.

[14]            William H. Worger, “Convict Labour, Industrialists and the State in the US South and South Africa, 1870-1930,” Journal of Southern African Studies (Vol. 30, No. 1, March 2004), page 68.

[15]            Ibid, pages 68-69.

[16]            Ibid, page 85.

[17]            Eduardo Mendieta, “Plantations, Ghettos, Prisons: US Racial Geographies,” Philosophy and Geography (Vol. 7, No. 1, February 2004), page 52.

[18]            Ibid, pages 52-53.

[19]            Carl H. Nightingale, “A Tale of Three Global Ghettos: How Arnold Hirsch Helps Us Internationalize U.S. Urban History,” Journal of Urban History (Vol. 29, No. 3, March 2003), page 262.

[20]            Ibid, page 265.

[21]            Karen Ferguson, “Organizing the Ghetto: The Ford Foundation, CORE, and White Power in the Black Power Era, 1967-1969,” Journal of Urban History (Vol. 34, No. 1, November 2007), pages 69, 96.

[22]            William J. Quirk and Leon E. Wein, “Homeownership for the Poor: Tenant Condominiums, the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, and the Rockefeller Program,” Cornell Law Review (Vol. 54, No. 6, July 1969), pages 849, 855.

[23]            Peter L. Laurence, “The Death and Life of Urban Design: Jane Jacobs, The Rockefeller Foundation and the New Research in Urbanism, 1955-1965,” Journal of Urban Design (Vol. 11, No. 2, June 2006), page 145.

[24]            Robert F. Arnove, ed., Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (Indiana University Press, 1980), pages 180-181.

[25]            Ibid, page 181.

[26]            Ibid.

[27]            Ibid, page 182.

[28]            Ibid, pages 185-186.

[29]            Ibid, pages 188-190.

[30]            Ibid, page 194.

[31]            Evelyn Z. Brodkin, “The Making of an Enemy: How Welfare Policies Construct the Poor,” Law & Social Inquiry (Vol. 18, No. 4, Autumn 1993), pages 655-656.

[32]            Ibid, pages 656-658.

[33]            Barry D. Karl and Stanley N. Katz, “The American Private Philanthropic Foundation and the Public Sphere 1890-1930,” Minerva (Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer 1981), page 268.

[34]            J. Craig Jenkins and Barbara Brents, “Capitalists and Social Security: What Did They Really Want?” American Sociological Review (Vol. 56, No. 1, February 1991), page 129.

[35]            Christopher G. Wye, “The New Deal and the Negro Community: Toward a Broader Conceptualization,” The Journal of American History (Vol. 59, No. 3, December 1972), page 639.

[36]            Lynn Walker, “The Role of Foundations in Helping to Reach the Civil Rights Goals of the 1980s,” Rutgers Law Review, (1984-1985), page 1059.

[37]            Ibid, page 1060.

[38]            Roger Friedland, “Class Power and Social Control: The War on Poverty,” Politics & Society (Vol. 6, No. 4, December 1976), pages 459-461.

[39]            Robert C. Smith, “Black Power and the Transformation from Protest to Policies,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 96, No. 3, (Autumn, 1981), page 438

[40]            J. Craig Jenkins and Craig M. Eckert, “Channeling Black Insurgency: Elite Patronage and Professional Social Movement Organizations in the Development of the Black Movement,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 51, No. 6, (Dec., 1986), page 814.

[41]            Ibid, page 815.

[42]            Ibid, pages 819-820.

[43]            Ibid, page 821.

[44]            Ibid, page 826.

[45]            Herbert H. Haines, “Black Radicalization and the Funding of Civil Rights: 1957-1970,” Social Problems, Vol. 32, No. 1, Thematic Issue on Minorities and Social Movements, (Oct., 1984), page 38.

[46]            Ibid, page 40.

[47]            Martin N. Marger, “Social Movement Organizations and Response to Environmental Change: The NAACP, 1960- 1973,” Social Problems, Vol. 32, No. 1, Thematic Issue on Minorities and Social Movements, (Oct., 1984), page 22.

[48]            Ibid, page 25.

[49]            Ibid.

[50]            Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (Harper: New York, 2003), page 464.

[51]            Michel J. Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy. (Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press, 1975), page 61.

[52]            Ibid, page 62.

[53]            Ibid, page 71.

[54]            Ibid, pages 74-75.

[55]            Ibid, page 77.

[56]            Ibid, page 93.

[57]            Ibid, pages 113-114.

[58]            Ibid, page 115.

[59]            Lewis F. Powell, Jr., “Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 23 August 1971: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/personality/sources_document13.html

[60]            Katherine Beckett and Bruce Western, “Governing Social Marginality: Welfare, Incarceration, and the Transformation of State Policy,” Punishment & Society (Vol. 3, No. 1, January 2001), pages 43-44.

[61]            Ibid, page 55.

[62]            Robert P. Weiss, “Humanitarianism, Labour Exploitation, or Social Control? A Critical Survey of Theory and Research on the Origin and Development of Prisons,” Social History (Vol. 12, No. 3, October 1987), page 333.

[63]            Rose M. Brewer and Nancy A. Heitzeg, “The Racialization of Crime and Punishment: Criminal Justice, Color-Blind Racism, and the Political Economy of the Prison Industrial Complex,” American Behavioral Scientist (Vol. 51, No. 5, January 2008).

Power, Propaganda, and Purpose in American Democracy

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

NOTE: The following article is the documented transcript from the second episode of a new podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People with Andrew Gavin Marshall,” hosted by BoilingFrogsPost.com. The information within the article is an extracted sample from a book being written and funded through The People’s Book Project.

Listen to the podcast HERE.

One central facet to the development of the modern institutional society under which we live and are dominated today, was the redefining of the concept of ‘democracy’ that took place in the early 20th century. This immensely important discussion took place among the educated, elite intellectual class in the United States at that time, and the consequences of which were profound for the development of not only American society and democracy, but for the globalization that followed after World War II. The central theme that emerged was that in the age of ‘mass democracy’, where people came to be known as “the public,” the concept of ‘democracy’ was redefined to be a system of government and social organization which was to be managed by an intellectual elite, largely concerned with “the engineering of consent” of the masses in order to allow elite-management of society to continue unhindered.

The socio-economic and political situation of the United States had, throughout the 19th century, rapidly changed. Official slavery was ended after the Civil War and the wage-slave method of labour was introduced on a much wider scale; that is, the approach at which people are no longer property themselves, but rather lend their labour at minimal hourly wages, a difference equated with rental slavery versus owned slavery. While the system of labour had itself changed, the living conditions of the labourers did not improve a great deal. With Industrialization also came increased urbanization, poverty, and thus, social unrest. The 19th Century in the United States was one of near-constant labour unrest, social upheaval and a rapidly growing wealth divide. And it was not simply the lower labouring classes that were experiencing the harsh rigors of a modern industrial life. One social critic of the era, writing in 1873, discussed the situation of the middle class in America:

Very few among them are saving money. Many of them are in debt; and all they can earn for years, is, in many cases, mortgaged to pay such debt… [We see] the unmistakable signs of their incessant anxiety and struggles to get on in life, and to obtain in addition to a mere subsistence, a standing in society… The poverty of the great middle classes consists in the fact that they have only barely enough to cover up their poverty… their poverty is felt, mentally and socially, through their sense of dependence and pride. They must work constantly, and with an angry sense of the limited opportunities for a career at their command.[1]

As immigrants from Europe and Asia flooded America, a growing sense of racism emerged among the faltering middle class. This situation created enormous tension and unease among middle and working class Americans, and indeed, the industrialists who ruled over them. Yet many in the middle class viewed the lower class, which was increasingly rebellious, as well as the immigrant labourers – also quite militant – as a threat to their own standing in society. Instead of focusing primarily on the need for reorganization at the top of the social structure, they looked to the masses – the working people – as the greatest source of instability. Their approach was in attempting to preserve – or construct – a system beneficial to their own particular interests. Since the middle class survived on the backs of the workers, it was not in their interest as a class to support radical workers movements and revolutionary philosophies. Thus, while criticizing those at the top, the call came for ‘reform’, not revolution; for passive pluralism not democratic populism; for amelioration, not anarchy.

This is what became known as the ‘Progressive Movement’ in American history. Influential journalists became leading ‘Progressives,’ and prominent social thinkers and social critics began further analyzing and arming the journalists with reformist ideas. The middle class was itself a major audience for progressive journalists. They acknowledged the need for social change and reorganization, and pushed for a method of achieving such change through the rational approach of ‘social science’ and “social evaluation.”[2] One of these leading progressive journalists, Edward Bellamy, wrote a book in 1888, “Looking Backward,” in which he argued that, “it would be the force of public opinion – opinion bolstered by the instrument of reason – that would perform the task of remaking the world for the benefit of all humanity.” Thus, “an informed and intelligent ‘public’ would be the agency through which a new historical epoch would be initiated.”[3]

This progressive form of journalism came to be known as “muckraking,” a term coined by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906, as this reform-oriented investigative journalism “began to reshape the discourse of public life,” driven by increasing discontent over governmental and corporate corruption.

The notion of “the public” was born in the eighteenth century Enlightenment, fused with the notion that the public was a rational body of persons, able to comprehend, identify and organize facts, premised on – as philosopher Jürgen Habermas articulated – the “informed, literate men, engaged with one another in an ongoing process of ‘critical-rational’ debate.” Thomas Jefferson reiterated such notions, suggesting that, “the creed of our political faith” rested at “the bar of public reason.” Progressive journalism gave profound emphasis to the promotion of facts and “social documentation.”[4]

Mass circulation media had changed the nature of “the public” in the late 19th century. In particular, the newspaper industry grew, and like with other industries between the 1880s and World War I, “financial consolidation and technological innovation combined to alter the character and scale of big-city and small-town journalism,” as newspapers became big business. Thus, news was becoming ‘standardized,’ and the growth and business of magazine publishing followed suit.[5]

Yet, the proliferation of mass media was of a dual nature. While more people were able to gain access to more information from more places simultaneously, there was also the development of a trend in the emergence of a “public” increasingly defined as “spectators,” no longer active participants in the ‘public square,’ but observers from afar, in their geographically segregated middle class.[6]

As the first decade of the 20th century drew to a close, and World War I drew nearer, a new concern was increasingly developing among the ‘Progressive’ movement and its ideologues and journalists. While continuing to push for reform, there was a growing rumbling and sense of revolution brewing from below, among the working class people. This concern increasingly moved to the forefront among Progressive intellectuals, who saw their own class and social conceptions threatened by the grumbling masses trapped in poverty beneath them. Perhaps the most influential intellect of the early 20th century was a man named Walter Lippmann, a Harvard graduate who joined with Progressive publicists and had even joined the Socialist Party in 1910. By 1914, however, Lippmann had turned from his socialist inclinations, and wrote the well-received Drift and Mastery, which prompted Teddy Roosevelt to refer to Lippmann as “the most brilliant man of his age,” at just 25 years old. Lippmann’s principle concern was with the notion of the people ruling:

Ongoing middle-class hostility toward big business – once understood as a constructive catalyst for social reform – had now become, to Lippmann’s increasingly conservative mind, an inadvertent stimulus of social disintegration. As attacks on the practices of big business mounted and an increasingly militant working-class movement challenged the very concept of privately held wealth, Lippmann became more and more alarmed… In a country once “notorious for its worship of success,” Lippmann wrote, public disfavor was being heaped “savagely upon those who had achieved it.”[7]

Lippmann held the muckraking journalists increasingly responsible for this change on social perception, in which social unrest “threatened to spin out of control.” Lippmann described what he saw as an atmosphere of “accusation,” largely aimed at big business, which he viewed as “a collective psychological malady, a dangerous condition of paranoia, that, unless checked, posed a greater danger to society than the excesses of wealth.” Society was a pot on the verge of boiling over. As Lippmann wrote:

The sense of conspiracy and secret scheming which transpire is almost uncanny. “Big Business,” and its ruthless tentacles, have become the material for the feverish fantasy of illiterate thousands thrown out of kilter by the rack and strain of modern life… all the frictions of life are readily ascribed to a deliberate evil intelligence, and men like Morgan and Rockefeller take on attributes of omnipotence, that ten minutes of cold sanity would reduce to a barbarous myth.[8]

In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt gave an interview with the New Haven Register in which he lamented that the excesses of big business, coupled with the challenge of muckraking journalism, was creating a deeply precarious situation, in which, “sooner or later, unless there is a readjustment, there will come a riotous wicked, murderous day of atonement.” Thus, a “search for order” had come to dominate the minds of the once-reformist intellectuals of the day. As Stewart Ewen wrote in his excellent book, PR! A Social History of Spin:

Progressives looked for new strategies that might be employed to contain this impending social crisis. In this quest, a growing number turned toward the new ideas and techniques of the social sciences, hoping to discover foolproof instruments for diagnosing social problems and achieving social stability… To Lippmann and a growing number of others… the social sciences appealed less in their ability to create an informed public and more in their promise to help establish social control.[9]

Lippmann felt that the “discipline of science” would need to be applied to democracy, and that, “social engineers, social scientists, armed with their emerging expertise, would provide the modern state with a foundation upon which a new stability might be realized.” Thus, explained Ewen:

[N]ovel strategies of social management and the conviction that a technical elite might be able to engineer social order were becoming increasingly attractive… Accompanying a democratic current of social analysis that sought to educate the public at large, another – more cabalistic – tradition of social-scientific thought was emerging, one that saw the study of society as a tool by which a technocratic elite could help serve the interests of vested power.[10]

One of the most important works of this period was the 1895 work by French social psychologist, Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, in which he analyzed the changing nature of politics from being middle class oriented to transforming into popular democracy in which “the opinion of the masses” was becoming the most important opinion in society. Le Bon wrote that, “The destinies of nations are elaborated at present in the heart of the masses, and no longer in the councils of princes.” He lamented that, “the claims of the masses are becoming more and more sharply defined, and amount to nothing less than a determination to destroy utterly society as it now exists,” and that, “The divine right of the masses is about to replace the divine right of kings.” The “crowd,” postulated Le Bon, was only able to ‘react’ and was driven not by logic or reason, but by passion and emotion.[11]

An associate and friend of Le Bon’s, Gabriel Tarde, expanded upon this concept, and articulated the idea that “the crowd” was a social group of the past, and that “the public” was “the social group of the future.” The public, argued Tarde, was a “spiritual collectivity, a dispersion of individuals who are physically separated and whose cohesion is entirely mental.” Thus, Tarde identified in the growth of the printing press and mass communications, a powerful medium through which “the public” is shaped, and that, if managed appropriately, could bring a sense of order to a situation increasingly chaotic. The newspaper, Tarde explained, facilitated “the fusion of personal opinions into local opinions, and this into national and world opinion, the grandiose unification of the public mind.” A German sociologist named Ferdinand Tonnies argued that the newspaper became a channel through which one faction of society could “present its own will as the rational general will.” Thus, “objective reality” was in actuality, managed and controlled. The press, in this case, as the “organ of public opinion” could be a “weapon and tool in the hands of those who know how to use it and have to use it… It is comparable and, in some respects, superior to the material power which the states possess through their armies, their treasuries, and their bureaucratic civil service.”[12]

One of Walter Lippmann’s most influential teachers at Harvard, Graham Wallas, wrote that, “Organized Thought has become typical.” Thus, the idea of “the public” – malleable to suggestion, organized and controlled – came to manifest a type of ‘solution’ to the problem of “the crowd” – irrational, emotionally driven, and reactive. While the crowd was irrational, the ‘public’ could be reasoned with.[13]

One individual who was greatly influenced by these ideas was a man named Ivy Lee, a newspaperman who graduated from Princeton in 1898, and had come to offer his services to major industrial executives as one of the first corporate public relations practitioners. In 1916, he told a group of railroad executives that, “You suddenly find you are not running a private business, but running a business of which the public itself is taking complete supervision. The crowd is in the saddle, the people are on the job, and we must take consideration of that fact, whether we like it or not.” Thus, Lee felt that it was essential for the business community to “manufacture a commonality of interests between them and an often censorious public to establish a critical line of defense against the crowd.”[14]

Ivy Lee defined the job of public relations persons to that of a “news engineer,” and described himself as “a physician for corporate bodies.” The aim was to “supply news” to the press and the public so as to “understand better the soundness of a corporation’s policy or perspective.”[15]

One notable event was what came to be known as the Ludlow Massacre. The Colorado coal strike began in September 1913, in which roughly eleven thousand miners (mostly Greeks, Italians and Serbs) went on strike following the murder of one of their organizers. They went on strike against the Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation, which was owned by the Rockefeller family, and against their low pay, horrible living conditions, and the “feudal domination of their lives in towns completely controlled by the mining companies.” The strikers were immediately evicted from their shacks in the towns, and subsequently set up tent colonies, when the Rockefellers hired gunmen (using Gatling guns and rifles) to raid the tent colonies. The Colorado governor called out the National Guard (whose wages were paid by the Rockefellers), and raided the colonies. On 20 April 1914, the largest tent colony at Ludlow, housing over one thousand men, women and children, was machine gunned by the National Guard, with the strikers firing back. When the leader of the strike was called up to negotiate a truce, he was shot dead, and the machine gun fire continued, with the Guard moving in at nightfall to set fire to the tents. The following day it was discovered that one tent included the charred bodies of eleven children and two women. This became known as the Ludlow Massacre.[16]

The Rockefeller Foundation emerged in this era, and became immediately interested in the ‘construction of knowledge’ as a means to defending the interests of the Rockefeller Group and capitalist society as a whole. The Rockefeller Foundation secretary, Jerome Greene, identified “research and propaganda” as a means to quiet social and political unrest. It was felt that “public opinion on the labor question could be shaped through the foundation in order to counter leftist and populist attacks on both the Rockefeller business enterprises and on capitalism.”[17]

Following the Ludlow Massacre in 1914, a government commission – the Walsh Commission – was appointed to study the issue, and the Rockefeller Foundation began preparation for its own study.[18] As the Walsh Commission began their work, the Rockefeller Foundation sought to join forces with other major corporate leaders to advance their formation of ideology, and attended a conference “held between representatives of some of the largest financial interests” in the United States. This conference resulted in two approaches being pushed forward in terms of seeking to “educate the citizenry in procapitalistic ideology and thus relieve unrest.” One view was the interpretation that the public was provided with “poor quality of facts and interpretation available on social and economic issues.” Thus, they felt there was a need for a “publicity bureau” to provide a “constant stream of correct information” targeted at the lower and middle classes. However:

The Rockefeller representatives at the conference proposed an alternative strategy of public enlightenment. Although they accepted the usefulness of such a publicity organization, they also wanted a permanent research organization to manufacture knowledge on these subjects. While a publicity organization would “correct popular misinformation,” the research institution would study the “causes of social and economic evils,” using its reputation for disinterestedness and scientific detachment to “obtain public confidence and respect,” for its findings. And, of course, the research findings could be disseminated through the publicity bureau as well as other outlets.[19]

While the Rockefeller Foundation sought to manufacture ideology in response to the Ludlow Massacre and industrial relations in general, on the corporate side of the matter, the Rockefeller group employed the ideas of an emerging field of public relations, and specifically utilized the talent of Ivy Lee, one of the first PR men in America. Lee’s efforts were employed in “damage control” for the Rockefeller name, which was highly despised by the general public in the early 20th century. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. hired Ivy Lee on behalf of the Rockefellers to “secure publicity for their views.” What Lee did for the Rockefellers initially was to produce a series of circulars entitled, “Facts Concerning the Strike in Colorado for Industrial Freedom,” which were sent to “public officials, editors, ministers, teachers, and prominent professional and business men,” in an attempt “to cultivate middle-class allies.”[20]

Based around the concept that “truth happens to an idea” – a famous phrase of Ivy Lee’s – his bulletins were operating on the basis that “something asserted might become a fact, regardless of its connection to actual events.” As Lee explained to the Walsh Commission in 1915, in regards to his definition of ‘truth’: “By the truth, Mr. Chairman, I mean the truth about the operators’ case. What I was to do was to advise and get their case into proper shape for them.”[21] When asked the question, “What personal effort did you ever make to ascertain that the facts given to you by the operators [the Rockefeller group] were correct?,” Lee responded: “None whatever.” As Lee stated to a grouping of railroad executives in 1916:

It is not the facts alone that strike the popular mind, but the way in which they take place and in which they are published that kindle the imagination… Besides, What is a fact? The effort to state an absolute fact is simply an attempt to… give you my interpretation of the facts.[22]

With World War I, the term ‘propaganda’ became popularized and took on negative connotations. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson established the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI) as a “vast propaganda ministry.” The aim of the CPI was to build support in the public for the war, and such an effort was especially challenging in the face of significant anti-war sentiments and potential resistance. This potential was especially ripe in immigrant communities, cramped in urban ghettos and lost to the failed promises of “opportunity” that drew them to America in the first place. Before U.S. involvement in the war, “working-class and radical organizations, pacifists, anarchists and many socialists, maintained that this was nothing but a ‘rich man’s war’.”[23]

It was not only in America that working class sentiments were extremely anti-war, but in Britain and other major nations as well. To add to this situation, in 1917, Russia was in the midst of revolution, leading to the exacerbation of fears on the part of many leading intellectuals and social analysts that revolution was possible anywhere. Thus, many of these analysts and intellectuals had begun lobbying President Wilson “for the establishment of an ideological apparatus that would systematically promote the cause of war. One of these analysts was Arthur Bullard, a leading Progressive, who had been a student of Wilson when the president had been a history professor at Princeton.” Bullard advocated a strong wave of publicity for the government in promoting the war, to “electrify public opinion.” Bullard thus suggested the formation of a “publicity bureau” for the government, “which would constantly keep before the public the importance of supporting the men at the front. It would requisition space on the front page of every newspaper; it would call for a ‘draft’ of trained writers to feed ‘Army stories’ to the public; it would create a Corps of Press Agents,” and to organize a propaganda campaign aimed at making the struggle “comprehensible and popular.”[24]

Walter Lippmann, who was the most respected and influential political thinker of that era, wrote a private letter to President Wilson supporting Bullard’s recommendation, adding that the chief aim of such an agency should be to promote a vision and advertise the war as seeking “to make a world that is safe for democracy.” According to Lippmann, war necessitated the nurturing of “a healthy public opinion.” The President asked Lippmann to develop a plan for the specifics of such an agency, for which Lippmann developed a grand strategic vision, mobilizing communications specialists, and the motion picture industry. Thus, in April of 1917, the Committee on Public Information (CPI) was formed, whose membership included the secretary of state, the secretary of war, and the secretary of the navy, as well as a civilian director, George Creel, a Progressive journalist. Creel, who had been central in the original generation of Progressive writers and publicists, had developed an extensive list of contacts and understood well “the importance of public opinion.” Thus, as Stuart Ewen wrote, “When war was declared, an impassioned generation of Progressive publicists fell into line, surrounding the war effort with a veil of much-needed liberal-democratic rhetoric.”[25]

As the concepts and ideas of “public opinion” and “mass democracy” emerged, the dominant political and social theorists of the era took to a debate on redefining democracy. Central to this discussion were the books and ideas of Walter Lippmann. With the concept of the “scientific management” of society by social scientists standing firm in the background, society’s problems were viewed as “technical problems” intended to be resolved through rational professionals and experts. Scientific Management, then, would be applied not merely to the Industrial factories to which the concept was introduced by Frederick Taylor, but to society as a whole. Lippmann took it upon himself to describe the role and means through which “Scientific Management” could be applied within an industrial democratic society. Lippmann felt that the notion of an “omnicompetent, sovereign citizen” was “a false ideal. It is unattainable. The pursuit of it is misleading. The failure to produce it has produced the current disenchantment.” Further, for Lippmann, society had gained “a complexity now so great as to be humanly unmanageable.” Thus, there was a need, wrote Lippmann, “for interposing some form of expertness between the private citizen and the vast environment in which he is entangled.” Just as with Frederick Taylor’s conception of “scientific management” of the factory, the application of this concept to society would require, in Lippmann’s words, “systematic intelligence and information control,” which would become “the normal accompaniment of action.” With such control, Lippmann asserted, “persuasion… become[s] a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government,” and the “manufacture of consent improve[s] enormously in technique, because it is now based on analysis rather than rule of thumb.”[26]

Thus, arose the panacea of propaganda: the solution to society’s ailments. “In a world of competing political doctrines,” wrote Lippmann, “the partisans of democratic government cannot depend solely upon appeal to reason or abstract liberalism.” Henceforth, “propaganda, as the advocacy of ideas and doctrines, has a legitimate and desirable part to play in our democratic system.” Harold Lasswell, a leading political scientist and communications theorist in the early 20th century, wrote that: “The modern conception of social management is profoundly affected by the propagandist outlook. Concerted action for public ends depends upon a certain concentration of motives… Propaganda is surely here to stay; the modern world is peculiarly dependent upon it for the co-ordination of atomized components in times of crisis and for the conduct of large scale ‘normal operations’.” In other words, propaganda is not merely a tool for times of war and crisis, but for times of peace and stability as well; that propaganda is the means and method through which to attain and maintain that stability. Lippmann added to the discussion that, “without some form of censorship, propaganda in the strict sense of the word is impossible. In order to conduct a propaganda there must be some barrier between the public and the event.”[27]

In 1922, Lippmann wrote his profoundly influential book, Public Opinion, in which he expressed his thoughts on the inability of citizens – or the public – to guide democracy or society for themselves. The “intellectuality of mankind,” Lippmann argued, was exaggerated and false. Instead, he defined the public as “an amalgam of stereotypes, prejudices and inferences, a creature of habits and associations, moved by impulses of fear and greed and imitation, exalted by tags and labels.”[28] Lippmann suggested that for the effective “manufacture of consent,” what was needed were “intelligence bureaus” or “observatories,” employing the social scientific techniques of “disinterested” information to be provided to journalists, governments, and businesses regarding the complex issues of modern society.[29] These essentially came to be known and widely employed as think tanks, the most famous of which is the Council on Foreign Relations, founded in 1921 and to which Lippmann later belonged as a member.

In 1925, Lippmann wrote another immensely important work entitled, The Phantom Public, in which he expanded upon his conceptions of the public and democracy. In his concept of democratic society, Lippmann wrote that, “A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment and to meddlesome tyranny,” and to prevent this from taking place, “the public must be put in its place… so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.”[30] Defining the public as a “bewildered herd,” Lippmann went on to conceive of ‘public opinion,’ not as “the voice of God, nor the voice of society, but the voice of the interested spectators of action.” Thus, “the opinions of the spectators must be essentially different from those of the actors.” This new conception of society, managed by actors and not the “bewildered herd” of “spectators” would be constructed so as to subject the managers of society, wrote Lippmann, “to the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.”[31] In case there was any confusion, the “bewildered herd” of “spectators” made up of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” is the public, is we, the people.

Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud and former member of Woodrow Wilson’s wartime propaganda machine, the Committee on Public Information (CPI), was another ‘actor’ who played his part in redefining democracy in the age of public opinion. In his 1923 book, Crystallizing Public Opinion, Bernays explained how the ideas of individuals could be shaped into mass opinions through the use of propaganda and ‘public relations.’ Known commonly as the “Father of Public Relations,” Bernays, returning from the post-War Paris Conference in 1919, believed quite strongly in the idea that if propaganda could be used effectively in times of war, it can and should be used effectively in times of peace.

In 1928, Edward Bernays wrote an article for the American Journal of Sociology entitled, “Manipulating Public Opinion: The Why and the How.” Public opinion, explained Bernays, “is the thought of a society at a given time toward a given object; broadly conceived, it is the power of the group to sway the larger public in its attitude.” Bernays was also influenced not simply by his own experiences in the wartime Committee on Public Information, but also by his uncle, Sigmund Freud’s ideas which regarded people as irrational and driven by subconscious emotional desires. With such a conception of the psychology of individuals and groups, Bernays and others felt that people must have their beliefs and opinions shaped by others, others who presumably are the exceptions to the rule regarding the emotionally driven irrational mind. Reflecting this belief, Bernays wrote: “Public opinion can be manipulated, but in teaching the public how to ask for what it wants the manipulator is safeguarding the public against his own possible aggressiveness.”[32] Today – claimed Bernays – the swaying of public opinion “is one of the manifestations of democracy that anyone may try to convince others and to assume leadership on behalf of his own thesis.”[33]

Bernays’ attempt to present the manipulation of public opinion as a “manifestation of democracy” crudely neglects the reality of those who have access to the apparatus and mechanisms that sway public opinion, itself. If that apparatus, which it largely is, is confined to the upper class of society, is that not a bastardization of democratic ideals? Bernays further explained:

The manipulation of the public mind… serves a social purpose. This manipulation serves to gain acceptance for new ideas.[34]

Bernays described the nature of propaganda, explaining that one major experiment on the manipulation of public opinion concluded that “attitudes were often created by a circumstance or circumstances of dramatic moment.” Thus, Bernays explained, “very often the propagandist is called upon to create a circumstance that will eventuate in the desired reaction on the part of the public he is endeavoring to reach.”[35] In other words: problem, reaction, solution. Create a problem to incur a specific reaction for which you provide a desired solution. For the propagandist, “analysis of the problem and its causes is the first step toward shaping the public mind on any subject.”[36] Bernays wrote:

This is an age of mass production. In the mass production of materials a broad technique has been developed and applied to their distribution. In this age, too, there must be a technique for the mass distribution of ideas. Public opinion can be moved, directed, and formed by such a technique. But at the core of this great heterogeneous body of public opinion is a tenacious will to live, to progress, to move in the direction of ultimate social and individual benefit. He who seeks to manipulate public opinion must always heed it.[37]

Bernays later wrote on the development of the public relations industry, of which he was a central and pioneering actor. “Public relations,” wrote Bernays, was “a relatively new profession, and its practitioner, the professional counsel on public relations, serve a constructive function in our complex, free society.” He elaborated: “public relations came about because organized activity, which depends on public support, needed a societal technician to counsel it – the counsel on public relations.” This, Bernays felt, was vital to a “democratic society”:

New and faster means of communication and transportation furthered the growth of the profession. Social science research increased understanding of human behavior. The greater complexity of the society and the overlapping and interwoven network of communications that hold it together almost made the evolution of the new profession inevitable.[38]

As Bernays explained, “[i]n a democratic society almost every activity depends on public understanding and support,” and thus, he concluded, this can only be brought about “by public education, persuasion, and suggestion by effective public relations. This profession makes it possible for minority ideas to be more readily accepted by the majority.” He referred to this as “the marketplace of ideas,” but neglected to explain that, like other markets, this one, too, is rigged. His conception of “democratic society” is very much an elitist view of democratic society, articulated best by Walter Lippmann in seeking to “engineer the consent” of the public, which was viewed as irrational and incapable of true democracy. Reflecting on his 1923 book, Crystallizing Public Opinion, Bernays discussed the concept of the “manufacture of consent,” a term coined by Walter Lippmann but which Bernays was eager to present as his own. He stated: “I refined the approach and called it the engineering of consent”:

In the engineering of consent, determination of goals is subject to change after research about the relevant publics. Only after we know the state of public opinion through research can we be sure that our goals are realistic.[39]

In 1947, Bernays re-examined his support for propaganda in a democratic society, writing that:

Today it is impossible to overestimate the importance of engineering consent; it affects almost every aspect of our daily lives. When used for social purposes, it is among our most valuable contributions to the efficient functioning of modern society.[40]

Naturally, it seems, “efficiency” is held in high regard as an objective of social planning and thus, an aim of society itself. As such, “effect” is often left by the wayside, as in: the effect of an “efficient” modern society is secondary to the actual efficiency of it. Thus, if the effect of a modern society is dehumanization, so long as that process is “efficient,” social planners may view it as desirable, present it as “functioning,” and see whatever means which bring it about as “valuable contributions.” But then, it must be conceded, the ‘desired effect’ for social planners is always social control. Regardless of the human or dehumanizing effects of such a system, if the result is “order and control,” and so long as this is achieved “efficiently,” the system functions well.

In 1928, Edward Bernays wrote a book entitled, Propaganda, which later became used by infamous propagandists such as Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels. On the first page of his book, Bernays wrote, and it is worth quoting at some length:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.

Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.

They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.[41]

These ideas, among many others, have had incredible influence on the philosophy, actions, intentions, and perceptions of not only American society, but the world at large. They spurred on the development of the consumer society, along with other projects of social engineering that have, through the course of the 20th century, been focused on the application of social control. It is fundamentally though the notion of “engineering consent” that we have come to the point where so few are able to control so much, leaving little to nothing for the vast majority of the world’s people. This elite intellectual discussion which took place in the early 20th century came to define democracy not only for America, but the world as a whole. Thus, we have a new understanding when it comes to our leaders expressing their desires and objectives of spreading democracy around the world. In short, they seek to “engineer consent” on a much larger, grander scale than ever before imagined. It is the globalization of social engineering which we are witnessing in the modern era, and its origins lay in the discernable past.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He is also the host of a podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People” in cooperation with BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Stuart Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin (New York: Basic Books, 1996), page 42

[2]            Ibid, pages 44-46.

[3]            Ibid, page 46.

[4]            Ibid, pages 49-50.

[5]            Ibid, pages 50-54.

[6]            Ibid, pages 58-59.

[7]            Ibid, pages 60-61.

[8]            Ibid, pages 62.

[9]            Ibid, pages 63-64.

[10]            Ibid, page 64.

[11]            Ibid, pages 64-66.

[12]            Ibid, pages 67-71.

[13]            Ibid, pages 71-73.

[14]            Ibid, pages 74-75.

[15]            Ibid, pages 76-78.

[16]            Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (Harper Perennial: New York, 2003), pages 354-355.

[17]            Robert F. Arnove, ed., Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (Indiana University Press: Boston, 1980), page 67.

[18]            Ibid, page 68.

[19]            Ibid, pages 69-70.

[20]            Stuart Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin (New York: Basic Books, 1996), page 78.

[21]            Ibid, page 79.

[21]            Ibid, pages 80-81.

[22]            Ibid, pages 104-105.

[23]            Ibid, pages 104-105.

[24]            Ibid, pages 106-107.

[25]            Ibid, pages 108-109.

[26]            Frank Webster and Kevin Robins, “Plan and Control: Towards a Cultural History of the Information Society,” Theory and Society (Vol. 18, 1989), pages 341-342.

[27]            Ibid, pages 342-343.

[28]            Sidney Kaplan, “Social Engineers as Saviors: Effects of World War I on Some American Liberals,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Vol. 17, No. 3, June 1956), pages 366-367.

[29]            Sue Curry Jansen, “Phantom Conflict: Lippmann, Dewey, and the Fate of the Public in Modern Society,” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies (Vol. 6, No. 3, 2009), page 225.

[30]            Walter Lippmann, et. al., The Essential Lippmann: A Political Philosophy for Liberal Democracy (Harvard University Press, 1982), page 91.

[31]            Ibid, page 92.

[32]            Edward Bernays, “Manipulating Public Opinion: The Why and the How,” American Journal of Sociology (Vol. 33, No. 6, May 1928), page 958.

[33]            Ibid, page 959.

[34]            Ibid.

[35]            Ibid, pages 961-962.

[36]            Ibid, page 969.

[37]            Ibid, page 971.

[38]            Edward Bernays, “Emergence of the Public Relations Counsel: Principles and Recollections,” The Business History Review (Vol. 45, No. 3, Autumn 1971), page 296.

[39]            Ibid, page 297.

[40]            Edward Bernays, “The Engineering of Consent,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Vol. 250, Communication and Social Action, March 1947), page 115.

[41]            Edward Bernays, Propaganda (New York: Ig Publishing, 1928), page 37.

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