Monday, January 30, 2012

Sustainable Development

Now that I have written an introductory post on loaded words, there are so many I want to devote attention to. But, one day at a time; and today I was triggered when I came across the term “sustainable development” multiple times in the news.

Oh, sustainable development.

I spend much of my day in a location where I am prone to overhearing scientists’ conversations. Sometimes I hear them talking (/pleading) to someone from whom they are trying to score a grant, and in those cases I always hear the words “sustainability,” “local buy-in,” etc. You see, the grant application process is really about throwing together the right combination of buzz words. Form over substance.

And of course, everyone knows that the key to the future is “sustainable development.” But… what does that really mean? In a sense, “sustainable development” means that we continue to accumulate lots of wealth and technology through capitalist relations of production, but without destroying the environment. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds utopian enough to qualify as the next verse in Imagine.

“Sustainable development” is nothing more than a pacifier for those who are whining about global warming. Don’t worry. We can perfect the world with technology. We will figure out a way to save the earth. Don’t question capitalism. Why don’t you go shopping to calm your nerves? We’ll give you a re-usable bag.

“Sustainable development” is an oxymoron because “development” (meaning, as an economic term, economic growth via industrialization and the capitalist mode of production) is inherently unsustainable. It is unsustainable as a system, as its logic embodies a number of contradictions which limit the possibilities for profit and ultimately undermine the entire system. It is also unsustainable in terms of the stress it places on the majority of the human population. It entails exploitation and poverty on a scale never before seen in human history. And, finally, it necessitates a level of consumerism that could never, even with all the technological advances in the world, be reconciled with the health of the environment.

Those who praise “sustainable development” are also the ones who put personal gain before the common (present and future) good. “Sustainable development” is a trendy term, and I never trust trends.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How Do We Change The World?

I have already spent some time on this blog trying to analyze the present possibilities for global systemic transformation, but I think the topic warrants more thought. For me, the most troubling question is whether or not positive change is even possible. I have maintained that the world is in the process of large-scale structural transformation, but have expressed some fear that what results will be even worse than what we have now. I have also given some attention to the “how” of revolution (have revolutions of the oppressed ever been successful?). It is this latter consideration that I want to expand on here.

How can real, positive social change be achieved? It is not easy to remain optimistic when one looks at historical precedent. Especially when the bar is set high: I only consider real systemic change to be anything that universally disrupts relationships of exploitation and oppression, that completely alters the foundation of the whole system.  In short, it is only real change if we manage to surpass the current global capitalist system.

-Working through the political process is probably the least effective method. You don’t dismantle an oppressive system by working within it.

-Demonstrations and protests seem more palatable to me than voting. But what have they ever accomplished except for maybe some policy changes that don’t really alter the system? Mostly it is just political rhetoric and superficial conditions that are reformed by these activities, rather than the deep structures of social reality.

-Violent uprisings and coups, though unappealing to a pacifist like me, may be more effective still. Forcibly replacing political leadership has actually worked to some extent in Latin America. Yet, no one has managed to extricate themselves from the global capitalist system. What has resulted in Latin America has been more the establishment of social democratic regimes, which, although somewhat aesthetically pleasing, are not at all a departure from the current system. What one most often sees when a group of people tries to overthrow their government is that the old structures are left intact, and new people simply inhabit the old roles.

Now, Marx insisted that the proletarian revolution would have to be a single, unified global movement. That is because capitalism is a global system of oppression, and Marx envisioned a new type of global society emerging as the post-capitalist world order, so for him change could not occur piecemeal. One could argue that this is why all attempts at revolution have heretofore failed.

But I wonder whether any sort of universal global revolution is even possible. It is interesting to note that for many people involved in the Arab Spring (many but certainly not all), they do not see their current social reality as a failure of Western standards of democracy, to which they aspire (which is often how the Western media portrays the situation); while this perspective may be held by some, plenty of others view the status quo as a failure of Islamic standards of an ideal society, and wish to establish a new society based on Islamic principles. (One can see this in the election results.) What this means is that, while a vast majority of the world may be dissatisfied with the current system, our aspirations and visions for a new world are not identical. And it seems unlikely that everyone (or least a sizeable majority) would ever come to share exactly the same attitudes. Without, that is, mass brainwashing.

Furthermore, is a global society even desirable? It seems that a cohesive global society would not be possible without massive structures of governance and bureaucratic administration that would likely just further expand and intensify the governmental power relations in which people are already entrenched. Plus, it just does not seem practical to me.

Now, one should recognize that plenty of people have already managed to de-link themselves from the system to varying degrees. Of course there are the Kibbutzes, communes, Amish communities, etc. My favorite group is the Zapatistas – and this despite the fact that they are not pacifist. The Zapatistas managed to maintain the strength and cohesion of their movement because they refused to be co-opted by the political system. They simply created their own society, with their own form of leadership, within the state of Mexico. They also maintain global ties, for example participating in the World Social Forum. Small, individual communities do not entail isolation and provincialism.

So is this the only way out: for people to simply try to extricate themselves from the system where they can, as individuals or small groups? I should mention that I have made absolutely no effort of my own to disentangle myself from the global capitalist system. These things are easier said than done, and not guaranteed to be effective. Still, I think it is worthwhile to consider the options, and in particular the potential value of a mass movement of frustrated people forming their own communities and societies apart from the current system. The system surely cannot survive if a majority of people simply refuse to live within its bounds.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is The West Plotting Against Syria?

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has claimed that his regime and his nation are being subject to external meddling. He suggests that the West is purposely trying to create instability in an effort to overthrow the government. Now, on the one hand, this is exactly the kind of claim that an embattled dictator would make in an effort to defend himself. On the other hand, it also seems likely that it could actually be true. At this point it's hard to be sure either way, but Assad's argument has gotten support from other leaders and media outlets around the world.

For one thing, one has to look at what happened in Libya. Gaddhafi railed against external interference. Now, evidence has come to light that suggests he was correct, and that, in fact, U.S. and British intelligence officers were working within the country, while leaders of the Rebel forces had connections within the U.S.

It is also significant to note that both Libya and Syria have been considered as targets of interference, particularly during the George W. Bush era. Especially Syria. The U.S. has been absolutely dying to get control over that country.

Yet, the West acted rather quickly to provide military assistance to the Libyan rebels. One has to wonder why, if they are indeed trying to topple the Syrian government, they have not yet upped the ante?

We will probably just have to sit back and wait for all the evidence to come in after the fact.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Would Ron Paul Do?

This is no doubt that Ron Paul is an "exceptional" political figure. The fact that he doesn't fit the typical molds has made him seem a non-viable candidate to some, and yet very popular to others.

What I find most interesting about Ron Paul has nothing to do with his platform or him as a person, but the fact that so many people claim to disagree with him in significant and fundamental ways, yet still sing his praises. Oh, he's honest; he always follows his beliefs; he's consistent; he's going to bring all our troops home and won't involve the country in any more wars.

It says something about the sway of the ideology undergirding our political system (social contract theory, ideas of "democracy" and the like) that people can "feel good" about a person whose beliefs completely contradicts their own values and principles, just because they are so enthralled by his transparency. People are that determined to have some sort of political power, for their vote to mean something (and certainly, voting for a person who renegs on all their campaign promises in some way invalidates the vote), that knowing what to expect trumps actually liking what is expected. Isn't this just a sign that our political system doesn't really work in the way in which it's ideologically justified?

I will say this, though. I wouldn't mind if Ron Paul made it to the White House, if only because it would satisfy my own curiosity. I have argued before that it doesn't really matter who is president. All the supposed power of the government and the presidency is wielded by a gigantic corporate-bureaucratic apparatus which comprises and extends beyond the government, and which serves an array of conflicting capitalist interests. Presidents are mere figureheads. If one looks at actual policies, there is no real difference between political parties or among individual presidencies. There have been more abrupt changes within presidencies than across presidencies.

So I wonder. It does seem that, up to this point, Ron Paul hasn't allowed himself to be absorbed by the system. But he has been a lowly congressman. Would he really have any influence over anything if he were president? Would he actually be able to carry out any of the agendas that he so passionately desires? Or would the ruling elite make him insignifant and impotent?

So, sure... why not Ron Paul?  If it generally doesn't matter who is president, why not solve an interesting theoretical question?  And if it turns out he's not impotent, then how much more fascinating to watch the entire world deconstruct!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Democracy and Capitalism

The title of this post is also the title of a recent On Point episode.  It begins by questioning:  "Is Democracy up to the challenges of this century? Is Capitalism? We’ll look at two great pillars, and the questions now around them."

As the episode began, I was excited to hear a mainstream news outlet actually addressing these questions.  However, as things progressed, particularly when Gideon Rose began to speak, it was clear that no one was willing to really question the taken-for-granted ideas about our political economic system.  It became the same old line about "our system is really great, or at least the best we can hope for, but we just need to make some tweaks to make it work better."  Yawn.

Gideon Rose asserted that, if we could just somehow get things to work the way the did in the Good Old Days (1950s and 60s) then more wealth would be generated and it could be spread around to level inequality and alleviate poverty in the U.S.  This line of reasoning very well demonstrates the myopia and Americentrism that pervades the thought of most economists.  Things may have been going well in the U.S. (and the other industrialized powers) in the post-WW2 period, but that does not mean that capitalism was creating and spreading wealth on a global scale!  In fact, the rest of the world (even if one excludes the communist world) was mired in poverty as a direct result of the global relationships that enabled expansion in the industrialized centers.  Income inequality was much more polarized on a global scale.  So yes, the 1950s-60s were great times... if you ignore the rest of the world.

In this vein, Rose and Kupchan both seem to think that globalization is a recent phenomenon.  It may be more visibly now in the first world, as corporations have moved their manufacturing operations to other parts of the world in order to exploit cheap labor and resources.  People in the U.S. and Western Europe are suddenly angry that "their" jobs are being sent elsewhere.  But, capitalism has always been a global system.  In the post-WW2 era and earlier, manufacturing in the U.S. and Western Europe depended on the cheap raw material inputs from other parts of the world, which were obtained under conditions of colonial/neo-colonial exploitation.  The citizens of the first world, furthermore, depended for their high standard of living on the unequal global exchange relationships that allowed them to purchase, with money representing a small fraction of their own labor hours, commodities whose actual production required a far greater number of someone else's labor hours.

Furthermore, Rose and Kupchan never seem to consider why the Great Capitalism of the post-WW2 era didn't last for more than a couple decades.  Was it just that people got bored and wanted to try something new, as if an economy were a pair of shoes?  If this form of capitalism was so great, why was it not preserved?  In truth, the conditions of the post-WW2 era could not be sustained because of the inherent contradictions of capitalism, that transformed a period of great economic expansion, through the the workings of its fundamental logic, into a period of great economic stagnation.  Specifically, the revolutions in production (assembly line technology, mechanization, transnational organization), which are responsible for the economic boom enjoyed by a fraction of the world's population, also laid the groundwork for its own demise.  Production was proceeding at a scale that far outstripped actual human needs, and profitability plummeted. Everyone became Keynesians and tried to manufacture demand to keep up with the unnecessarily ballooning supply.  Result:  increased consumerism, accelerated cycles of production (i.e. things become obsolete much more quickly so that people are constantly having to buy new stuff), private and public indebtedness, bombardment by advertisements and corporate sponsorships...  As it turned out, trying to artificially manufacture demand never solved the problem of overproduction; profitability was never restored and now everyone is saddled with massive debts.

Precisely for this reason I would say, contrary to Rose and Kupchan, that capitalism does not come in different forms.  It comes in one form (whose basis is wage labor and generalized commodity production), with varying levels of state involvement and approaches to social welfare depending on ever-fluctuating circumstances determined by capitalism's underlying and unchanging logic.  The state is an instrument of the capitalist class, and so it is used strategically to respond to changing environments and maintain the general conditions that are necessary for capitalism to function.

Rose says that, among the members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is the smart ones who want to return to the capitalism of the 1950s-60s.  I can only find that statement arrogant and offensive.  Wouldn't the smart ones be those who are able to think outside the bounds of dominant ideology?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOPA and PIPA: Revisiting Intellectual Property

To be "timely" and responsive to current events (and also very lazy), I thought I would repost some of my thoughts about intellectual property.  Well, not so much repost, as link (getting lazier).

I generally don't like to sully myself with the inner machinations of the system so proudly hailed as "democracy," but ... man, I really hope SOPA and PIPA don't get very far without being severely emasculated.  The internet has become a real (not virtual) battleground.  It is an arena of struggle between old-school and new-school capitalists (Recording Industry vs Google) just as much as it is the domain of a counter-insurgency led by the capitalists in their unity against the guerilla creators/producers who dare evade their hegemony.  And since I am invested in the triumph of the latter, I can only hope the capitalists don't A-bomb the whole battlefield to smithereens.  Yet, I don't think they quite know what they are dealing with.  The internet, I am sure, will have its revenge.

And if they succeed in ruining the internet, I can only hope that every white supremacist website coincidentally also engages in copyright infringement.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Does It Mean To Be "Too Gay"?

Not too infrequently I hear someone complain that another person is “too gay.” They have no problem with gay people, they are sure to emphasize, but they get annoyed by those that are “too flamboyant” and act like stereotypes of a gay person. Just because you’re gay, doesn’t mean you have to act like that, they argue. On the surface, these arguments may sound somewhat reasonable.

But what they are really saying is that, while they don’t mind what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms, they do have a problem with people transgressing gender norms. For example, I have heard people say that they prefer when gay people act “normal.” They cloak this preference in altruism by insisting that they just want gay people to seem like any other average person, rather than stand out as social deviants. But this line of thought rests on the assumption that “normality” should be measured by adherence to gender stereotypes.

I think that, deep down, what really bothers people about “flamboyant” gays, is that they turn our binary system of gender on its head. People are okay with men sleeping with other men (although being gay is about much more than sex), but they are not comfortable with men talking, walking, sitting, laughing, dressing, or expressing themselves in ways deemed “feminine.” The real telling thing is, people don’t seem to get quite as agitated by lesbians acting "too lesbian" or masculine. They don’t seem to have the same concern about lesbians appearing “normal.” And this is the sign that gender roles are at stake. For, it is always perceived as more shocking and abhorrent when members of a dominant group act like subordinates, than when the oppressed mimic their oppressors. The latter is seen as the natural aspiration of an underclass. Which is why there is greater stigma on men taking female roles than the reverse.

It is just as silly to dislike someone because they are “flamboyant” as it is to dislike a person because they are gay. Why not make judgments based on common interests and views, sense of humor, and character?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why Marx Is Not Radical

Finally, I get around to really explaining/justifying the title of my blog.

As I noted in my last post, “radical” is an example of a “loaded word.” It is used specifically to draw associations with historical communism, violence, plots to overthrow governments, anarchism, atheism, and thought that is in some way “nonrational.”

It is true that Marx’s philosophy is a threat to the status quo; and it is true that I have advocated complete systemic transformation in this blog. But when Marx or Marxists are attacked with the label “radical,” it is more than a comment about the social implications of their thought. It is a strategic means of discrediting Marxist thought: implying that it is inherently violent, obviously proven wrong, not worthy of simple consideration. And this is where I disagree and proclaim that Marx is not radical.

If someone professes to be Marxist, it does not mean that they are plotting the violent overthrow of any government. Many, to the contrary, are pacifists. They may think we have a broken and unjust system that needs to be changed, but how many people would truly disagree with that sentiment?

If someone professes to be Marxist, that does not mean they are Leninist, Trotskyist, or Maoist. Some obviously are/were. Some may point out that the Western portrayal of actually existing "communism" is markedly distorted, without trying to redeem all aspects of those regimes. It may bear repeating that many of the things that happened in the Soviet Union, China, and other places deviated quite widely from the actual writings of Marx. Furthermore, it is absolutely not true that the writings of Marx inevitably lead to the events in the USSR and China. It is an absurd argument, but I think I will have to devote an entire post to its refutation, nonetheless.

Finally, if someone professes to be Marxist, that does not mean they have lost their grip on reality, that their arguments are not logical or based on real evidence, or that there is automatically no merit to any of their thoughts. This one really gets me. How can so much well reasoned, well researched thinking be dismissed so quickly because of a label? No one should discount the ideas of any other person without examining what it is they are actually saying and evaluating their thought upon the arguments/evidence themselves.

That is why I hope anyone who happens to find this blog (who is not already Marxist), would at least take the time to look at what I am saying, to critically evaluate my arguments, at the very least to acknowledge that my thinking is in some way reasonable, without rushing to judgment based purely on labels. But I’m probably asking too much.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Words As Weapons

Having already established the fact that language is never “objective” or devoid of a point of view, it is also important to recognize that many political/social battles are waged through language. This is, for example, the basis of the phenomenon known as “political correctness.” Members of oppressed groups may attempt to change the terms by which they are labeled in an effort to reshape their identity (highlighting, perhaps, features that are more desirable than those invoked by traditional terms); while some members of the dominant group may resist such a change as they feel that the words with which they are familiar have suddenly become “politicized.” Then, of course, there is the question of in-group use of derogatory terms (I addressed use of the n-word here).

These are, perhaps, the most obvious examples of language as a political-social instrument. But there are many more subtle ways of employing language for political ends. Often this occurs through the use of “loaded words.” Certain words and phrases have been accumulated so much baggage through the context and history of their use (for example, when accompanied by imagery or ideological symbols; when included in the constitutional rhetoric of dominant ideologies; when used in the midst of significant events or in the speech of memorable orators; etc.), that their mere utterance invokes a whole assemblage of emotions, symbols, ideas, and memories. I would cite as examples:


“Loaded words” are used to create associations between particular objects/people/projects and all of the ideological baggage embedded in the word. The effect is to induce people to respond emotionally, to focus more on the ideological than the real, and circumvent effective discussion of issues. For example, when the justification given for a particular U.S. military intervention is the “spread of democracy,” U.S. officials (or their media spokespersons) are side-stepping any consideration of the real potential impact of the actions on the target population, precluding any detailed cost-benefit analysis, and of course, covering up the real motive for the intervention. And much of the U.S. population will gobble up any justification that involves their beloved “democracy,” whatever it means in practice.

Obviously, the desired associations may just as often be negative, and this is where I finally get to discuss the word “radical.” But in my next post.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Language Is Not Neutral

Thought and language are intimately connected. Exactly how they are connected has been a matter of some vociferous debate. There are essentially two camps.

First came the linguistic anthropologists (most notably Sapir, Whorf) who suggested that language determines thought. At least that is how their opponents frame it. In reality, these anthropologists observed that, as one can only think through the medium of language, the words that are at one’s disposal, as well as the way in which the grammar is organized, draws boundaries around what a person can think. For example, it is often noted that English speakers do not attribute gender to ordinary objects the way the speakers of languages – such as French, German, Spanish, etc. – with gendered nouns do. Whorf wrote extensively about how the number and kinds of tenses in a language influences how its speakers conceive of time. English has three general tenses – past, present, future – and a linear, forward-moving conception of time. Hopi speakers have a completely different tense system, which corresponds to a more cyclical, non-progressive sense of time. Another widely discussed example relates to color. Some studies suggested that color categories (which vary cross-cultural) actually determine how people perceive color (for example, English speakers are more likely to see all colors that fall into the “yellow” category as being similar, while speakers of a language with two distinct categories that overlap with “yellow” will perceive two separate colors). And then there is the most obvious example: if a word for a concept does not exist, one generally cannot think about the concept.

Sapir, Whorf, and their colleagues came under fire and were labeled “determinists.” Their opponents responded by insisting that just because one does not currently have a word for a concept, that doesn’t mean they can’t ever think about it, if they are introduced to a word for it. Of course, they missed the point of the “determinists” completely. The Sapir-Whorf camp never argued that these things are set from birth (otherwise how could Whorf ever come to understand the Hopi point of view?), but rather that, whatever linguistic resources that one has available at any particular time determines how one can think at that point in time. Psychologists have commissioned studies of color perception that also miss the point. On the whole, I think the opponents of the Sapir-Whorf camp just do not understand their arguments.

Furthermore, the idea of “linguistic determinism,” or more aptly, the idea that language shapes thought, has been proposed independently by scholars in other fields. The Russian developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky (coincidentally, a Marxist) is just one example.

Now, one of the most important links between language, thought, and perception is the category. I mentioned before, in my attempted refutation of positivism, that all perception is mediated, in part, by mental categories. Mental categories reside in language. Language is not only a referential system, but a system of classification. Let’s go back to the color example. Color exists on a spectrum, and there are no distinct or “natural” boundaries between colors. If one were trying to be “objective” and attempted to assign a different color to each wavelength of light, the number of colors would be infinite. Thus, it is practical, it helps us to make sense of the world, if we create a number of arbitrary divisions, and hence, categories. The arbitrary nature of color classification is demonstrated by the arguments based thereupon (“That’s not pink, it’s orange.” “Orange?!? You’re crazy!” “Actually, I think it’s more of a salmon.” “What the hell is salmon?”)

Obviously perception is tied to thought; therefore linguistic categories that mediate perception must also shape thought. In my previous post I claimed that language is not neutral. Language is not neutral because, in employing language, one by necessity must invoke a particular classification scheme, which in turn promotes a particular way of thinking and perceiving. For example, the broad distinction between “tree” and “bush” privileges size as a means of distinguishing and thinking about plants. Botanists, on the other hand, use a different classification system (with words like “coniferous” and “deciduous”) that places more importance on other characteristics, such as reproduction.

As another example, I argued in a previous post that the “political spectrum” (which is a classification scheme) entrenches a number of assumptions and ways of perceiving social life that I believe are false. The decision to label the United States a democracy as opposed to an oligarchy has real, practical consequences.

Language is, indeed, powerful.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Language Acts and Creates

I have wanted for some time now to get around to writing an explanation of the title of my blog. If you have read some of my posts, it may appear that I am, indeed, “radical.” However, my blog title is more of a linguistic argument, and I think the best place to start is with a series of posts about language. So I begin by asking, what is language?

The primary characteristics of language are:

1. Language is arbitrary (there is no reason why the letters “t-r-e-e” or the sound “tree” should relate to the object “tree”).

2. Language is more than words (gestures, tone of voice, and context are inseparable components)

3. One purpose of language is to facilitate communication (thus, if one has successfully communicated, one has successfully used language).

4. Language is not just referential (“pointing to” objects in the world), and it does more than merely communicate the things that are:

         a. Language indexes spatial, temporal, and social relationships (use of a dialect may indicate the ethnicity or social class of the speaker; forms of politeness and formality/informality often correspond to the closeness – or distance – of social relationships; use of derogatory terms may signify that a person is prejudiced; special cadences and ritualized speech often invoke particular contexts, such as court rooms, churches, campaign speeches, business meetings, etc; and the list could go on.)
          b. Language creates context and determines relationships (often a new level of closeness in a relationship is initiated by a change in how people speak to each other; one may “officially” begin a business meeting by transitioning from “small-talk” to ritualized meeting speech; a person can define and shape their own identify by the way in which they choose to speak; people who engage in small-talk are actively affirming that they have some sort of acquaintance with each other and are on good terms, etc.)
           c. Language always conveys a point of view. Language is often perceived as inherently neutral. The opposite is true. Language is never neutral. This will be the subject of my next post.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book Review: The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion

In Our Time:  The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion by Clement Leibovitz and Alvin Finkel

The basic premise of this book is that the Western powers, particularly Neville Chamberlain in England, did not simply “appease” Hitler. They were actively trying to create an alliance with him, even after the outbreak of war, and thus let him do as he please in Eastern Europe. The authors argue that hysteria about communism and antipathy toward the Soviet Union shaped foreign policy agendas, in which the Western powers attempted to provoke a German invasion of the Soviet Union, ideally leading to the downfall of the communist nation. The authors further contend that Western elites had favorable views of fascism and dictatorial regimes, such as the Nazis, and had no qualms about supporting or making agreements with them.

Now, on the whole, the book was quite repetitive. And the authors had a clear bias: they were quite sympathetic, on the whole, to Churchill and other “non-appeaser” conservatives, to liberal political parties and, of course, social movements. They championed the idea of “democracy,” and did not seem in the slightest adverse to war. The bottom line for them was that the Western powers should have used force and begun to rearm immediately in order to prevent German expansion.

I think their distinction between “democracy” and “fascism” obscured more than it clarified. In fact, my previous argument about democracy and dictatorships applies here as well. I also do not agree with their attitudes toward military action (being a pacificist). I have argued before that violence is systemic. It is generally considered a moral/ethical conundrum whether violence is justified to prevent further potential violence. However, if the source of violence lies, ultimately, in the system itself, then I would say the answer to any kind of violence is not more violence, but rather the dismantling of the entire system. Hitler would have been powerless if not for the capitalist interests which sought investment opportunities in Germany’s rearmament, if not for the nationalist ideology that comes part and parcel with the modern system of nation-states, and if not for the racist tendencies embedded in both.

While I do think this book “tows the line” in many respects, I also think there is something useful to be gleaned from it. The evidence provided by the authors counters the common view that the modern era of capitalism and neocolonialism began post WW2. In fact, this book shows certain trends already taking root prior to the war: for example, the neo-colonial strategy of trying to indirectly intervene in other countrys' affairs; or, as the authors point out, the capitalist penchant for undermining popular movements and supporting dictators, all under the contradictory cover of “democracy.” It seems, in fact, that all WW2 did was transfer hegemony from Britain to the U.S.