FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Militarizing Capitalism

by NORMAN POLLACK

America is going through the worst of days under the fiction (aka false consciousness) of these being the best of days.  We learn only today, all part of the Snowden revelations about government surveillance, that the National Security Agency (the world’s largest spying operation, domestic and foreign) has an extremely close and still growing working relation with Silicon Valley (putatively, the harbinger of world democratic forces via the potentialities of the social media hastening connectivity), a political-structural imbrication of the public and private spheres draining the life-blood of human freedom of its citizenry: the right of PRIVACY, a main constituent of the individual’s autonomy, not constrained or shaped by thought control.  Why this encroachment on our very identities as persons, not the beliefs and roles we are steadily indoctrinated to assume, but the inner core of self-development, our unfolding possibilities?

The US is now notorious in international circles for regime change.  Bad enough, but it gets worse: The US, internally, perhaps as the necessary or ratifying condition which makes broad-gauged intervention, including regime change, possible (and the implicit goal of foreign policy), has taken the qualitative jump into the culture-molding process of the social management of personality.  We are reaching the point of no return as a nation, assigning to privatization much of the business of data mining (and it emphatically is a business) wherein our private lives are stripped as nearly bare as possible, the information routed to government for purposes of surveillance, and to private business—often the same information—so as to stimulate wants and sell goods and services.

Crass, yes!  The convergence of militarism and consumerism, nay, one better, mutual reinforcement of the two as the formula for sustaining global hegemony and capitalistic growth alike, brings us to the present day, in which surveillance + privatization = the militarization of capitalism, the former keeping us in line (i.e., social discipline through tactics of fear, in order to engender self-pacification), and the latter, giving us a depth of commitment to property as a moral law unto itself legitimating capital accumulation by any and all means (i.e., intervention, regime change, foreign conquest).  Is this gross exaggeration?  Not if one takes Snowden’s revelations seriously and weighs the activities of the National Security Agency (except for turf wars, inseparable from those of the CIA, FBI, and other assorted intelligence units, chiefly, of the military services) as the direct channel into the lives and minds of Americans—and, we see, foreign nationals—providing the conditions for totalitarianism where free choice is nonexistent and dictated from above.

Then, US expansionism (a euphemism for the combined thrust of imperialism and militarism) will have free reign throughout the world, aided and abetted through the promotion of the political culture of complicity in all things pertaining to war, consumption, and the inculcation of patriotic values,  the last-named decisive to the reshaping of America itself so that class structure will reflect wide differentials of wealth and power—the poor as prime candidates for self-pacification in the name of the greater good.  We therefore punish ourselves, a collective self-sacrifice on behalf of the glorification of power and force, as though foreign conquest can be fed back into our empty hulks (consciousness), at the expense, gladly surrendered, of a vital social safety net, a more egalitarian social structure, and freedom to think, criticize, and create alternative social systems and political economies.  Hence, the masochistic element promoting capitalism and militarism to the detriment of domestic well-being.

But what of sadomasochism, delight in the infliction of pain on others, a delight in cruelty, as, these days, the horrid impersonality of incinerating others from 8,000 miles away, be they “collateral damage,” such as women and children in the vicinity of the drone strike, “signature strikes,” the deliberate targeting of funerals for the victims and of first responders coming to their assistance, or suspicious individuals, often identity unknown?  Here our own masochism (sacrificing social needs on the altars of wars, intervention, nuclear modernization, and humongous “defense” spending) justifies, to ourselves, our aggression to others, obviously ungrateful to the bearers of liberty and democratic gifts.  As one contemplates the scene, which I intimately associate with Obama (given his active promotion of secrecy, surveillance, and the criminalizing of divulging information exposing despotic government and illegal activities), possibly more than his predecessors, one comes to see the psychopathological nature of American capitalism, as requiring surveillance at this stage of possible senescence, in order to sustain itself.  The foregoing thoughts were prompted by the New York Times editorial (June 20), which rightly criticized the conspicuous place of private contractors in intelligence gathering, and a further article on the close ties between NSA and Silicon Valley.  My Comment on the editorial follows:

Privatization has become the curse of American democracy. Even specifically in intelligence, it radiates out to include the fusion of capitalism and national security, rendering government the midwife to the policy goals of business implemented via the use of force. Say what one will about Snowden (and I, for one, view him as a national HERO), his revelations have brought to light what had been a secret world of private contractors. Who paid attention to Booz Allen previously? Who imagined a half-million civilians with security clearance? The US govt. has created a moral monstrosity, in which the impetus to war, and its planning, provide the favorable environment for these private-sector firms to garner immense profits–giving them ample reason to perpetuate overclassification and render findings suitable to intervention.

Like it or not, Obama must be held accountable for this militarization of capitalism itself. Deficit reduction? Not until the entire military sector is drastically reduced. Civil liberties? Not until the govt. stops prosecuting whistleblowers under the Espionage Act. The future of democracy? Regrettably, bleak, when surveillance is central to the execution of public policy.

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rivera Sun
Nonviolent History: South Africa’s Port Elizabeth Boycott
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail