Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The Triumph of Totalitarian Humanism?

The term “totalitarian humanism” is the one I use for the self-legitimating ideological superstructure of the ruling classes, states, and power elites of developed (“First World”) countries. Totalitarian humanism’s core features would be the following:

-masking imperialism under the guise of “human rights,” “collective security,” “duty to protect,” and “multi-partner alliances,” i.e. the Samantha Power rendition of liberal internationalism.

-“neoliberalism” (corporatocracy) in economics with a moderately social-democratic gloss.

-perpetual expansion of state power under the guise of promoting ostensibly “liberal” ideals like environmentalism, public health, safety, racial/gender equality, etc. and the use of private power for the repression of ideological non-conformity.

-masking the police state under the guise of fighting terrorism, with “white supremacists” or the “far-right” increasingly assuming the role of communists, black nationalists, drug dealers, gangbangers, or Islamists in past times.

-the promotion of “diversity” and “inclusion” as a means of expanding the pool of workers, consumers, taxpayers, voters, soldiers, administrators, etc. available to the ruling class.

At present, totalitarian humanism now controls the presidency, both houses of Congress, 1/3 of state governments, nearly all larger cities, most of the corporate class, most of the professional class, influential sectors of the Republican Party (neocons and Never Trumpers), all of the Democratic Party, the tech elite, the financial elite, most of the media, most of academia, mainline religion, most NGOs and philanthropic foundations, the entertainment industry, and is also becoming increasingly embedded in ostensibly conservative institutions ranging from the US Army to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Of course, it should be recognized that the real “power elite” in the US is the upper strata of the industrial, military, technological, financial, intelligence, and nuclear sectors. These sectors will advance whatever ideology serves their own interests. “American Exceptionalism” yesterday, totalitarian humanism today, something else tomorrow. They would be Islamists or transhumanists or Mormons overnight if they felt it was in their interests. However, because totalitarian humanism is now the prevailing outlook of the “educated class” the power elite has adopted the totalitarian humanist framework.

Many in the leftist “anti-fascist” milieu postulate the idea of a “three-way fight,” which amounts to a three-way battle between the left, right, and center (or socialism, fascism, and capitalism to be more precise). While these remnant 20th-century conflicts still exist, at least to some degree and on the margins, the larger picture is something more interesting and complex. The global technological and financial elites are gradually superseding the traditional capitalist classes of their respective countries (the old bourgeoisie or “national bourgeoisie” as the Maoists call them) similar to the displacement of the traditional aristocracy by the rising capitalist class in the 18th and 19th century. The professional-managerial class that emerged in the 20th century (James Burnham’s “managerial revolution” or the “new class” identified by some other sociologists) is the primary ally of the rising technological and financial elites. This sector constitutes an upper-middle-class that is hostile to the interests of the traditional working to middle classes (the “post-bourgeois” proletariat identified by Sam Francis). The so-called “culture war” takes place primarily within the middle class, particularly the upper middle class, with the urban-cosmopolitan professional-managerial class being pitted against the rural/suburban white collar/blue collar traditional working to middle class. The former has been recruited as an allied constituency by the rising tech/financial elites and the latter by the declining old bourgeoisie, with the overlords of the military-industrial complex remaining at the top of the pyramid. The system of social stratification in the US now looks something like this:

1. Global Power elite

2. Overlords of the military-industrial complex

3. Rising technological and financial elites

4. Old bourgeoise chamber of commerce types

5. Professional managerial class

6. Declining working to middle classes (“post-bourgeoise proletariat” and petite bourgeoisie)

7. Lower proletariat (e.g. low-level service industry workers)

8. Lumpenproletariat (unemployed, marginally employed, and “criminals”)

The #2 category is the senior partner in the #1 category. The #3 category is allied with #5 and #4 is allied with #6. The categories of #7 and #8 are generally excluded from mainstream US politics and are generally outside of the Red/Blue tribal paradigm though with some incidental overlap at the margins. Of course, the system of social ranking outlined above is incomplete as most of the categories described include various “tribes” of their own. For example, those involved in the “ideas industries” (media, journalism, education) are a specifically unique category of #5 in terms of their socio-political function as are members of state security services (police, military, etc.). Of course, the much wider demographic features are not included in this analysis (e.g. race, ethnicity, gender, religion, geography, age, citizenship/immigration status, education, cultural and subcultural affiliations, many other things). These categories represent a vast range of “tribes” that are intermixed with the various socio-economic and functional categories described above.

At present, the positions of #1 and #2 are not threatened. The alliance between #3 and #5 is gradually gaining the upper hand over #4 and #6 as evidenced by the recent election. While declining, the alliance between #4 and #6 is still very much in the game albeit at an increasingly subordinated level with rising militancy in its own ranks. However, the most interesting events of 2020 were the series of insurrections by #7 and (especially) #8, which #3 and #5 tried to bend toward their own objectives with varying degrees of limited success. In terms of class dynamics, the real “three-way fight” appears to be between the alliance of #3 and #5, the alliance between #4 and #6, and the implicit alliance between #7 and #8. But from the vantage point of #1 and #2, the “three-way fight” is still taking place on the ground level in the same way residents of gated communities might view gang wars in the ‘hood.

 

 

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