fredag den 20. september 2013

Matrices of Control

By Steven Best

In the transition to what is called “modernity”—a revolutionary European and American social order driven by markets, science, and technology—reason awakens to its potential power and embarks on the project to theoretically comprehend and to practically “master” the world. For modern science to develop, heretics had to disenchant the world and eradicate all views of nature as infused with living or spiritual forces. This required a frontal attack on the notion that the mind participates in the world, and the sublation of all manner of the animistic and religious ideologies—from the Pre-Socratics to Renaissance alchemists to indigenous cosmological systems—which believed that nature was magical, divine, or suffused with spirit and intelligence. This became possible only with the dethronement of God as the locus of knowledge and value, in favor of a secular outlook that exploited mathematics, physics, technology, and the experimental method to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Modern science began with the Copernican shift from a geocentric to a heliocentric universe in the sixteenth century, advanced in the seventeenth century with Galileo’s challenge to the hegemony of the Church and pioneering use of mechanics and measurement, while bolstered by Bacon’s and Descartes’s call to command and commandeer nature; and reached a high point with Newton’s discoveries of the laws of gravity, further inspiring a mechanistic worldview developed by Enlightenment thinkers during the eighteenth century.

For the major architects of the modern worldview—Galileo Galilei, Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, and Isaac Newton—the cosmos is a vast machine governed by immutable laws which function in a stable and orderly way that can be discerned by the rational mind and manipulated for human benefit. Beginning in the sixteenth century, scientific explanations of the world replaced theological explanations; knowledge is used no longer to serve God and shore up faith, but rather to serve the needs of human beings and to expand their power over nature. Where philosophers in the premodern world believed that the purpose of knowledge was to know God and to contemplate eternal truths, modernists exalted applied knowledge and demystified the purpose of knowledge as nothing more than to extend the “power and greatness of man” to command natural forces for “the relief of man’s estate.” Through advancing mathematical and physical explanations of the universe, modernists replaced a qualitative, sacred definition of reality with a strictly quantitative hermeneutics that “disenchanted” (Berman) the world and ultimately presided over the “death of nature” (Merchant).

This involved transforming the understanding of the universe as a living cosmos into a dead machine, thus removing any qualms scientists and technicians might have in the misguided project of “mastering” nature for human purposes. The machine metaphor was apt, not only because of the spread of machines and factories throughout emerging capitalist society, but also because—representing something orderly, precise, determined, knowable, and controllable—it was the totem for European modernity. Newton’s discoveries of the laws of gravity vindicated the mechanistic worldview and scores of eighteenth and nineteenth century thinkers (such as Holbach and La Mettrie) set out to apply this materialist and determinist paradigm to the earth as well as to the heavens, on the assumption that similar laws, harmonies, and regularities governed society and human nature. Once the laws of history, social change, and human nature were grasped, the new “social scientists” speculated, human behavior and social dynamics could be similarly managed through application of the order, harmony, prediction, and control that allowed for the scientific governance of natural bodies.

The rationalization, quantification, and abstraction process generated by science, where the natural world was emptied of meaning and reduced to quantitative value, is paralleled in dynamics unleashed by capitalism, in which all things and beings are reduced to exchange value and the pursuit of profit. In both science and capitalism, an aggressive nihilism obliterates intrinsic value and reduces natural, biological, and social reality to instrumental value, viewing the entire world from the interest of dissection, manipulation, and exploitation. Science sharply separates “fact” from “value,” thereby pursuing a “neutral” or “objective” study of natural systems apart from politics, ethics, and metaphysics, as capitalism bifurcates the public and private sectors, disburdening private enterprise of any public or moral obligations.

The kind of rationality that drives the modern scientific, economic, and technological revolutions—instrumental or administrative reason (herrschaftwissen)—is only one kind of knowledge, knowledge for the sake of power, profit, and control. Unlike the type of rationality that is critical, ethical, communicative, and dialogical in nature, the goal of instrumental reason is to order, categorize, control, exploit, appropriate, and commandeer the physical and living worlds as means toward designated ends. Accordingly, this general type of reason—a vivid example of what Nietzsche diagnoses as the Western “will to power”—dominates the outlook and schemes of scientists, technicians, capitalists, bureaucrats, war strategists, and social scientists. Instrumental knowledge is based on prediction and control, and it attains this goal by linking science to technology, by employing sophisticated mathematical methods of measurement, by frequently serving capitalist interests, and by abstracting itself from all other concerns, often disparaged as “nonscientific,” “subjective,” or inefficient.

The dark, ugly, bellicose, repressive, violent, and predatory underbelly of the “disinterested” pursuit of knowledge, of “reason,” and of “democracy,” “freedom,” and “rights” as well, has been described through a litany of ungainly sociological terms, including, but not limited to: secularization, rationalization, commodification, reification (“thingification”), industrialization, standardization, homogenization, bureaucratization, and globalization. Each term describes a different aspect of modernity—reduction of the universe to mathematical symbols and equations, the mass production of identical objects, the standardization of individuals into the molds of conformity, the evolution of capitalist power from its competitive to monopolist to transnational stages, or the political and legal state apparatus of “representative” or “parliamentary” democracies. Each dynamic is part of a comprehensive, aggressive, protean, and multidimensional system of power and domination, co-constituted by the three main engines incessantly propelling modern change: science, capitalism, and technology. In industrial capitalist societies, elites deploy mathematics, science, technology, bureaucracies, states, militaries, and instrumental reason to render the world as something abstract, functional, calculable, and controllable, while transforming any and all things and beings into commodities manufactured and sold for profit.

From Exploitation to Administration.

Critical theorists and postmodernists resisted Marxist economic reductionism to work out the implications of Weber’s “iron cage of rationality” that tightly enveloped the modern world by the nineteenth century. A critical counter-enlightenment trajectory leads from Nietzsche to Weber to Georg Lukács through Frankfurt School theorists like Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, and Jurgen Habermas, to postmodernists such as Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard. Although many relied on key Marxist categories, they sought a more complex concept of power and resistance than allowed by the economistic emphasis on capital, alienated labor, and class struggle. Where Marx equates power with exploitation, the capital-labor relation, the factory system, and centralized corporate-state power, modern and postmodern theorists of administrative rationality brought to light the autonomous role that knowledge, reason, politics, and technique serve in producing systems of domination and control. Thus, on this line of reasoning, in the early twentieth century German philosopher Martin Heidegger theorized modernity as a huge system of “enframing” that reduced things to mere objects and functions available for human use. Adorno and Horkheimer revealed the “total administration” of society through instrumental reason that sought control over objects, the environment, and human individuals and populations by eliminating difference and treating everything as resources suited to manipulation and control. They witnessed how culture and the arts had been colonized by capitalist values and industrial methods, such that creative works once judged on aesthetic criteria such as originality, sublimity, and edification were assessed instead on economic grounds as commodities with potential mass appeal capable of generating enormous profits. Culture, in short, had become a culture industry, where artworks became commodities for mass production, distribution, and consumption, designed according to rationalized formulae, and administered
through a bureaucratic chain of command.

Similarly, Marcuse documented the loss of critical reason, autonomy, and individual transformation in a “one dimensional” society ruled by capital, state bureaucracy, and technoscience. This system precludes, represses, or absorbs dissent and opposition amid a monotone culture of corporatism and conformity devoid of opposition and dissent. Rather than a centralized control system dominated by corporations and the state, Foucault analyzed modernity as a plurality of micro-institutions such as hospitals, schools, and prisons. Foucault argues that capital exploitation of labor is only one aspect of power, which is far more general in its nature, strategies, and range of effects. Power should be understood not as exploitation, but as rationalization, or rather, as a series of discursive-institutional employments of rationality that seek to “normalize” and “discipline” individuals and populations through the liquidation of alterity and the production of docile minds and bodies. In works such as For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (1981) and The Mirror of Production (1975), Jean Baudrillard interprets political economy as a gigantic system of bureaucratic administration of all social life, such that capitalism is less a structure in itself than an institutional instantiation of a larger rationalization process. In a notable more recent updating of a Weber-Marx synthesis, analyzing the logic and consequences of industrialization and capitalism, sociologist George Ritzer described the “McDonaldization of society.” For Ritzer, this process describes a global phenomenon in which society and culture come under the logic of mass production, standardization, mass consumption, and capital markets. As McDonaldization spreads insidiously, it dulls consciousness, destroys diversity and difference, and integrates people into the global factory system in spheres of production and consumption, work and everyday life, while spreading markets and commodification imperatives in all directions, always with the intent to amass capital and power for the minority elite.

Clearly, instrumental reason targets not only objects and things for control, but also subjects and society; and just as mechanistic science moved seamlessly from objectifying heavenly bodies to policing social bodies, so administrative rationality moved from controlling nature to manipulating society. The disciplining of bodies in eighteenth century schools, the ubiquitous gaze of guards over prisoners in nineteenth century penitentiaries, the Taylorization process in twentieth century factories that studied workers’ movements to minimize wasted energy and maximize surplus value; the eugenics discourse and mass sterilization policies in the United States during the 1920s; the networks of mass culture, electronic media, and advertising that constitute a vast “society of the spectacle” (Guy Debord) that transforms citizens from active agents to passive consumers; the colonization of minds of children, youth, and adults through a cornucopia of chemical toxins that dull, deaden, and neutralize minds through pharmaceutical warfare—these are only some of the seemingly infinite methods and techniques used to regiment populations, pacify resistance, neutralize activity, and eliminate opposition.

A Light Snuffed Out.

Despite the optimistic predictions of sundry eighteenth century Enlightenment thinkers in Germany, France, the United States, and elsewhere, the rise of science, technology, global markets, rationality, and critical thinking did not lead to universal peace, happiness, and prosperity for the world’s peoples. In the alchemy of capitalist modernity, things morph into their opposites, and thus dreams spawned nightmares, visions of light brought darkness, knowledge bred ignorance, productive forces evolved into destructive forces; competition led to monopoly; wealth produced misery; automation extended the regime of labor, and freedom multiplied domination. The unfettered development of reason, science, technology, and markets did not eliminate wars, abolish poverty, or annul want. Like “democracy” and “rights,” the discourse of “Progress”—the Gospel of Modernity—disguises private interests (the small minority who comprise the financial, political, and cultural elite) under the mask of universal discourse (e.g., “the rights of man”). “Progress” thus works to obscure unjust social relations and to legitimate science, technology, and capitalism, and thus is a mantra created by and for elites.

The underbelly of the Enlightenment and “Age of Reason” was riddled with racism, patriarchy, genocide, slavery, and colonialism, and the leaders and ambassadors of modernity had the audacity to uphold capitalism, science, and industry as a “civilization” par excellence, generating a society that allegedly transcends the legacy of “savage” and “barbaric” cultures. This “pinnacle” of human evolution, this “mature” realization of promise in relation to which non-Western and pre-modern societies were but “infants,” proved its superiority through two world wars, fascism, totalitarianism, genocide, and atomic warfare, followed by a nuclear arms race and ecological destruction on a planetary scale. In the tragic “dialectic of enlightenment,” Adorno and Horkheimer noted, reason morphed into its opposite as “catastrophe radiated over the earth.” Whereas modern theorists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries championed the spread of reason, science, and technology as emancipatory, “postmodern” critics of the late twentieth century attacked these forces as coercive and oppressive. They rejected the naïve coupling of reason and freedom to argue that reason aided by science, technology, and capitalism produces monsters and catastrophes. Accordingly, Lyotard finds the main characteristic of the “postmodern condition” and fin-de-siècle malaise to be “incredulity toward metanarratives” (i.e., modern progressivist visions of history as a linear and purposive movement of events toward the confluence of reason and freedom.)

Habermas, however, rejects postmodern critiques themselves as totalizing, as one-sided polemics that conflate different forms of rationality into one oppressive force that allegedly has colonized all of society. For Habermas, the problem with modernity is not too much rationality, but too little. That is, whereas modernity is characterized by the hegemony of instrumental rationality which seeks a technical mastery of nature and society, the Enlightenment culture generated a communicative rationality that is concerned not with power and control but rather the logic of raising different validity claims which require redemption under conditions of argumentation while seeking consensus over important issues of government and social regulation. Whereas Habermas agrees with critical modernists and postmodernists that instrumental reason has bolstered the domination of human over nature and human over human, he insists that communicative rationality can decouple reason and domination. Thus, he believes, there are positive aspects of the Enlightenment and modern liberalism that can be redeemed and developed toward emancipatory ends. The Enlightenment, therefore, is not dead or unqualifiedly disastrous; rather, Habermas declares it and modernity as a whole to be an “unfinished project.”

Systems of Command.

After World War II, and the huge gains made by U.S. corporate and military interests, the idea of a manifold and structured power system—an industrial complex—was first articu-lated and became common vernacular. In his seminal work, The Power Elite (1956), sociologist C. Wright Mills theorized the structural outcomes arising from the mutual class interests uniting military, governmental, and business leaders within an anti-democratic oligarchy. During his January 1961 Farewell Address to the Nation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of a menacing new “military-industrial complex,” a post-war power bloc composed of the armed forces, private defense contractors, weapons suppliers, the Pentagon, Congress, and the Executive Branch of government. Invoking this unholy alliance among industrialism, capitalism, and state militarism, Eisenhower cautioned that weapons and warfare had become new industries and capital markets that may boost the economy but undermine the Constitution and upset the “balance of powers” among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

But it was not only the military that had exploited science and technology, appropriated industrial models of production and organization, used bureaucratic organization techniques, and produced commodities—deadly weapons of war—for capital markets and profit motivations. As Eisenhower delivered his somber address, the foundations of the military-industrial complex were already set and began multiplying and manifesting in different institutions, disciplines, fields of research, and social institutions. The military-industrial complex was but part of a larger revolution bent on remaking American society, Western Europe, and ultimately the entire globe in its own image of power, subjugation, and profit. At the same time, its autonomy congealed within basic paradigms or structures rooted in imperatives of control, domination, efficiency, and profit within various hierarchical systems of rule. In this sense, as Noam Chomsky has described it, the military-industrial complex is “a misnomer . . . There is no military-industrial complex: it’s just the industrial system operating under one or another pretext.”

In the decades since Eisenhower’s speech, one sees in capitalist societies the fluid and dynamic merging of science, technology, mass production, capitalism, bureaucracy, and hierarchical power systems. It was not only the military that had merged with market models, industrial paradigms, systems of mass production, growth and efficiency impera-tives, and bureaucratic administration, but also every other institution of society. By the mid-twentieth century, in sectors ranging from medicine, agriculture, media, and entertainment, to security, education, criminal justice, and transportation, virtually all institutions were reconceived and reconstructed according to capitalist, industrial, and bureaucratic models suited to the aim of realizing profit, growth, efficiency, mass production, and standardization imperatives. These systems, moreover, interrelate and reinforce one another. We can see this, for instance, in how the constellation in which the academic industrial complex does research for the medical industrial complex and Big Pharma, exploiting the nonhuman animal slaves of the animal industrial complex in university, military, and private vivisection laboratories and producing fraudulent research financed by and for pharmaceutical capital. The dubiously researched drugs are patented, typically fast-tracked into market sales by the obliging Food and Drug Administration, and then advertised through the media industrial complex. Up to 115 million animals die worldwide annually to perpetuate this fraud, and the human victims of research-for-profit succumb to the medical industrial complex for costly “disease man-agement” (not “health care”) treatment that treats only symptoms to focus on the ultimate objective of profit. The dissent of animal rights activists is criminalized by the security industrial complex, and many are sent off to languish, along with one out of every one hundred adults in the U.S. population incarcerated in the prison industrial complex.

Similarly, in the fast-growing academic industrial complex, universities are no longer noble institutions of “higher education” but rather profit-seeking corporations that treat students as commodities; replace costly tenured profes-sors with the cheap labor of part-time, contract, and adjunct instructors; and emphasize the highly lucrative fields of science, engineering, and athletics, while marginalizing “non-performing” disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, and anthropology. Universities also opens their doors to the military and security industrial complexes to staff the U.S. global war machine and repres-sive state apparatus with well-trained functionaries. Meanwhile, our food system has become thoroughly industrialized and corporatized as small, family farms have been bankrupted and assimilated into the giant conglomerate holdings of agribusiness. Thus, factory farms have become the international business standard, as agribusiness giants such as Cargill and Monsanto absorb remaining tradi-tional farms into their global networks by coercive attempts to impose seeds, pesticides and herbicides, and service technologies they patent and own, and taking advantage of “genetic pollution” on neighboring farms to sue, destroy, and control their land as well. But to announce the role of these multinational companies in determining the shape and nature of our lives is to recognize that the capitalist-industrial complex has become global, diversi-fied, interconnected and networked.

The Dialectic of Globalization.

In a classic work, Karl Polyani (1957) described the “great transformation” from prein-dustrial to industrial society. With Douglas Kellner, I attempted previously to theorize the transformation of twenty-first century global industrial society—the postmodern adventure (which designated dramatic changes in the economy and society, but also in science, technology, politics, culture, nature, and human identity itself). (...)

The termination of the Bretton Woods financial system and the collapse of the Soviet Union followed in the wake of centuries of capital-driven globalization. Neoliberal capitalism has become the new paradigm of permanent growth. The implications of the neoliberal stage of capitalist marketization are enormous, as capitalism universalizes its rule, throws off “superfluous” and “injurious” constraints on “free trade,” and increasingly realizes the goal of purity of function and purpose through the autonomization of the economy from society, so that the social is the economic. Over the last few decades, Takis Fotopoulos notes, “A neoliberal consensus has swept over the advanced capitalist world and has replaced the social-democratic consensus of the early post-war period.”

Not only have “existing socialist societies” been negated in the global triumph of capita-lism, so too have social democracies and the bulk of institutional networks designed to protect individuals from the ravages of privatization and the relinquishment of responsi-bilities to people in need to case them into barbaric barrenness of the “survival-of-the-fittest.” Over the last several decades, the capitalist production process itself has become increasingly transnationalized and thereby relatively autonomous (but not in total negation) of the archipelago of nation-states in favor of global institutions and power blocs of unprecedented influence and might. We have moved from a world economy to a new epoch known as the global economy. Whereas formerly the world economy was composed of the development of national economies and state-based circuits of accumulation interlinked through commodity trade and capital flows in differentiated world markets, today corporations and national production systems are reorganized and functionally integrated into porous global circuits, creating a single and increasingly homogenous field for massive and mobile capitalism.

Fuelled by new forms of science and technology, military expansion, and aggressive colonization of southern nations and the developing world, capitalism evolved into a truly global system. Global capital is inspired by neoliberal visions of nations as resource pools and open markets operating without restrictions. The process euphemistically termed “globalization” is driven by multinational corporations such as ExxonMobil and DuPont; financed by financial goliaths such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and legally protected by the World Trade Organization (WTO). It homogenizes nations into a single economic organism and trading bloc through arrangements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), and the European Union (EU). Multinationals seduce, bribe, and coerce nations to open their markets and help drive down labor costs to a bare minimum, and rely heavily on corrupt dictators, loans and debt, and “hit men” and armies to enforce the rule of their “structural transformations” of societies into conduits for the flow of resources and capital. Globalization has produced trade laws that protect transnational corporations at the expense of human life, biodiversity, and the environ-ment. It is accompanied by computerization of all facets of production and expanding automation, generating heightened exploitation of labor, corporate downsizing, and greater levels of unemployment, inequality, insecurity, and violence

Debates rage over issues such as when globalization dynamics began and if current ones are continuous developments of centuries of global markets and exchange or something qualitatively new; whether corporate globalization is mainly a positive or negative dynamic; the degree to which globalization is largely under the command of U.S. capital and military interests or more diverse and plural powers; whether the United States is a declining empire and a power shift is underway from American-European capital to the rapidly modernizing and growing economies of the East (China and India) and the South (Latin America); the extent to which the nation state is still a significant force amidst the growing power of international corporate and financial networks; whether or not industrial logics such as standardization have been displaced by postindustrial developments (such as are organized more around communications, science, knowledge, and service industries than traditional manufacturing operations) and post-Fordist “flexible” production schemes, and so on. While a vast literature explains recent epochal shifts in terms like postindustrialism, post-Fordism, or postmodernity, we grasp numerous novelties but nevertheless insist that significant changes and reorganization in technology, organization, culture, and capital are best understood not as something qualitatively different, but rather as new stages in capitalism still dominated by profit and growth imperatives. And as theorists such as Claus Offe, John Keene, Scott Lash, and John Urry describe the restructuring process as “disorganized capitalism,” we see this as a complex form of the reorganization of capitalism, constituting a new mode of economic and social organization with momentous consequences.

There has been less realization, however, that structures of power are multiple, plural, and decentralized, and that we live amidst a tangled matrix of systems anchored in logics of control, standardization, exploitation, and profit. Taken together, this “power complex” continues to expand throughout the globe and to grow new tentacles, each system or network overlapping with and reinforcing others, and the totality integrating nature, animals, and human beings ever deeper into a veritable global industrial complex. The expansive, colonizing, interconnected network is comprised of numerous industry-capital specific systems such as the criminal industrial complex, the agricultural industrial complex, the medical industrial complex, the animal industrial complex, the academic industrial complex, the military industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, the entertainment industrial complex, and the communication industrial complex, to name some of the more salient configurations.

the powerful logics of industrialization and capitalism, symbiotically interlocked at least since the nineteenth century, have expanded, diversified, and colonized ever more institutions and organizing systems, and expanded into a world system. In any one institutional node of this protean and rhizomatic network, one can find logics, functions, and procedures that include commodification, profit-seeking, corporatization, and privatization; hierarchical command and bureaucratic administration; exploitation of technoscience and expertise; electronic information networks and profit-making goals; and structures of state and military repression, coercive violence, and prison to enforce institutional power.

By no means is globalization to be understood as an inherently negative dynamic or consequence of human history, as if the desideratum is fragmentation, isolation, provincialism, and nationalism. Ever since Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa and dispersed itself globally across the continents, human existence has been a global dynamic and knowledge, culture, and technologies have spread in all directions, such as with the influence of Islam on the West. Certainly, from the standpoint of the natural environment and the countless animal species driven into extinction, the rapid global growth of human populations, technologies, and economies has not been a positive development. But dissemination of knowledge, culture, and people is a positive and enriching process; indeed, it is now urgent that the paradigm shift from economics and growth to ecology and sustainability take root on a global scale. A salient distinction to be made here is between globalization from above (as dictated by multinational capital) and globalization from below (as realized in self-organizing and democratic ways by people in cul-tural exchange and open movement). And just as we reject the false option of seeing power as either macrological or micrological, recognizing both that power, resources, and wealth are concentrated like never before and yet distributed throughout societies in a wide range of institutions, none of which are reducible to ruling elites or a dominant class, so we reject framing the issue as Marx or Weber, in favor of Marx and Weber, while affirming the need for a host of other fruitful perspectives, such as the standpoints of gender, race, and species.

Moreover, it would be a serious mistake to think that the octopus of interlocked power networks covering the globe does not generate appropriate responses and relevant modes of resistance and struggle. Through even perfunctory perusal of sites such as Indymedia, Infoshop,, Guerilla News, and Bite Back, one can see that resistance is intense, global, and total, against every system of hierarchy ever devised, giving rise to diverse and vital struggles for human, animal, and earth liberation. As dramatically evident in battles such as raged in Madrid in 1994, in Seattle in 1999, and in Genoa in 2001, “anti-” or, more accurately, “alter-globalization” groups throughout the world recognized their common interests and fates, and formed unprecedented kinds of alliances to fight against the globalization of capital. Global capitalism has emerged as the common enemy recognized by world groups and peoples, and resistance movements have come together in alliances that bridge national boundaries, North-South divisions, and different political causes.

Yet struggles have not kept pace with the scope and speed of planetary plunder; resistance movements are winning some battles, but losing the larger war against greed, violence, expanding corporate power, militarization, and against metastasizing systems of economic growth, technological development, overproduction, overconsumption, and overpopu-lation. The deterioration of society and nature demands a profound, systematic, and radical political response, yet in recent decades Left opposition movements have tended to become more reformist and co-opted on the whole, growing weaker in proportion to their strategic importance and the power of global capital. As the world spirals ever deeper into disaster, with all things becoming ever more tightly knit into the tentacles of global capitalism, there is an urgent need for new conceptual and political maps and compasses to help steer humanity into a viable mode of existence.

(..) It bears repeating that the forces of death, destruction, and domination today are not only capitalism, transnational corporations, and the banking and finance institutions, but are also states, militaries, bureaucracies, and sundry systems of control that aim to colonize and control nature, animals, and human populations. Additionally, the underlying mentalities of hierarchy and instrumentalism that have driven Western culture and beyond for over two millennia remain instantiated in the global consciousness. As such, they shape not only the materially systemic forms that domination now takes, but also present limiting factors for the planetary realization of liberation struggles.

If every moment is pregnant with revolution, this is an especially pivotal time in history, a crossroads for the future of life. As the social and ecological crisis deepens, with capitalism surging, inequalities growing, control systems tightening, forests disappearing, species vanishing, oceans dying, resources diminishing, and the catastrophic effects of global climate change now immanent and irreversible, windows of reasonable political opportunity for the production of an alternative social order are rapidly closing. The actions that humanity now collectively takes or fails to take will determine whether the future is more hopeful or altogether bleak.

As the corporate machines continue to slash and burn the planet, inequalities widen and power grows, logics of profit and control spread through social institutions, human numbers and the insatiable appetites of the global consumer society swell as the biodiversity of flora and fauna steeply declines, it is easy to become not only cautious or pessimistic about the prospects for planetary peace and freedom, but fatalistic and nihilistic. In the schools and social movement discourse, we are beginning to hear from some who appear resigned to the catastrophe playing out on this planet. Others, however, remain oblivious to this incredible moment in time and the epic tragedy of resigning humanity’s fate to be a failed primate species because of its inability to harness the evolutionary advantages of a large forebrain or overcome its predilection to tribalism, xenophobia, hubris, hierarchy, violence, alienation from nature and other life forms, and uncontrolled growth.

Surrender, however, is not an option. Our debt to the past and present is great, and we have no choice but to live in the tension that pits hopes and ideals against grim realities and unprecedented challenges. As Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci wrote, “The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and without becoming disillusioned.” But every crisis harbors opportunities for profound change, and the “grow or die” imperative that ought to shape our priorities is not capitalist in nature, but rather evokes the need for moral, psychological, and social evolution, to be realized in radically new forms of consciousness, species identities, ethics, values, social arrangements, and lifeways. There is no swift economic or technological fix for the myriad complex crises we confront. The only solution lies in organizing informed radical change across all levels of the integrated systems of domination—commencing with an emancipatory education into and critical understanding of the precise nature and dynamics of the systematic barriers blocking our journey into sustainable planetary community. Let us hope that this long march through the institutions does not further transform into a trail of tears.

mandag den 12. august 2013

Et frigjort samfund består af frigjorte individer.

Som en orienterende generalisering kunne man sige, at den politiske filosofi siden oplysningstiden har været (over)fokuseret på kollektiv emancipation. Hvem der indgår i det kollektiv man ønsker at frigøre varierer godt nok, men fokuset er altså ikke desto mindre først og fremmest på kollektiv emancipation. Lidt firkantet kunne man sige, at den klassiske liberalisme havde en kollektiv emancipation af borgerskabet som dens mål, mens socialismen har en kollektiv emancipation af arbejderklassen som sit mål. Det er imidlertid problematisk udelukkende at have sit fokus på kollektiv emancipation, for et samfund består selvsagt ikke blot af forbindelser imellem individer (heriblandt de strukturer som individerne er underlagt), men selvfølgelig også af de individer der er forbindelser imellem.

Spidsformuleret kunne man sige, at et strukturelt emanciperet samfund ikke er til megen nytte, såfremt det består af traumatiserede neurotikere med misbrugsproblemer. Et velfungerende emanciperet kollektiv kan altså med andre ord næppe bestå eller udvikles kontinuerligt, hvis det udgøres af dysfunktionelle individer, hvorfor kollektivet bør bestræbe sig på, at bruge ressourcer på at frigøre såvel den enkelte som helheden. Det psykopatologiske individ der ikke kan overskride sin egocentrisme vil således snarere være en byrde for den demokratiske udvikling af et samfund, end en force, idet selvoverskridelse og selvbeherskelse er nødvendige forudsætninger for at en egalitær og libertær samfundsorden kan komme på benene og ikke mindst bestå. En helhedsorienteret libertær praksis er derfor nødt til både at beskæftige sig med de individuelle og kollektive facetter af emancipationen.

Et eksempel kunne være en konsensusdemokratisk beslutning. For at kunne få en sådan til at fungere er det nødvendigt, at de implicerede er i stand til at indgå kompromisser og tilsidesætte egne viljer og ønsker for at få tingene til at køre. Konsekvensen kan ellers blive træghed og ubeslutsomhed, i en proces som trækker tænder ud, idet den kan forekomme ikke at være stort andet end et langstrakt og perspektivløst skænderi. Konsensusbeslutninger er derfor heller ikke noget man bør bestræbe sig på af princip, for de kan være meget svære at opnå - især jo større mængden af individer som skal indgå i konsensusbeslutningen er - såfremt blot nogle få forventer altid at få deres stemme hørt og deres vilje sat igennem. Alle kan ikke få ret hele tiden. Det egocentriske individ vil i en demokratisk sammenhæng spørge “hvad synes jeg er bedst for mig og hvordan opnår jeg det?” og vil således kunne bremse for den demokratiske proces, udelukkende fordi vedkommende ikke er i stand til at se hinsides egen næsetip, mens det egentligt demokratiske og derfor gruppeorienterede individ vil spørge “hvad synes vi er bedst for os og hvordan opnår vi det bedst sammen?”.

Ser man det som undertrykkelse, at man ikke altid får sin stemme hørt, er man egocentriker snarere end gruppeorienteret. Det er barnets logik, ikke den voksnes. Det er ikke dine små individuelle interesser der er væsentlige, men vores interesser og hvordan vi bedst plejer dem sammen. Hvis du insisterer på altid at blive hørt, altid at udvirke indflydelse på en beslutning, altid på at få noget at skulle have sagt, så evner du ikke at overskride dig selv og din overdrevne fokus på dig selv vil være det egentligt repressive i sammenhængen. Det er ikke undertykkelse at blive nedstemt i en beslutningstagningsproces, man frivilligt befinder dig i. Det er den pris man må betale, hvis tingene skal fungere og beslutninger skal træffes. Alle vil aldrig være lige glade for alle beslutninger der træffes, men det bør man heller ikke forvente. Såfremt man føler, at der ingen lydhørhed er for de idéer og holdninger man bringer til bordet og sjældent er tilfreds med de beslutninger der træffes, bør man imidlertid nok spørge sig selv om man har lyst til at bruge mere af sin tid i det pågældende fællesskab. Grundlaget for et velfungerende demokratisk fællesskab er nemlig altid frivillighed, og man skal selvfølgelig være fri til at indgå i andre associationer med andre mennesker, under andre forhold, såfremt det passer een bedre.

Det egocentriske individ befinder sig i et mentalt og emotionelt fangenskab. Det er så at sige fængslet i dets eget hoved, følelsesliv og perspektiv. Det evner ikke at drage omsorg for andre, og som oftest ikke engang for sig selv. Det fuldstændig egocentriske menneske er godt nok en patologisk sjældenhed, for de fleste udvikler heldigvis (i det mindste en grad) af empati og kan drage omsorg for andre end dem selv, men vi har alle tendensen til selvretfærdighed og egoisme i os, hvorfor vi er nødt til at se på den indre repression i os selv, samtidig med at vi fokusere på den udefrakommende repression som forvoldes af andre. Vi er altså nødsaget til at arbejde med os selv og være os bevidste om vore skyggesider, hvis vi skal gøre os forhåbninger om at kunne opretholde emanciperede fællesskaber. Det er så den individuelle side af sagen. Den kollektive side af sagen er, at der ikke blot gøres plads til den enkeltes emancipation, men at den ligefrem tilskyndes. Det frie samfund er således omsorgsfuldt og omfavnende, men aldrig omklamrende. Fællesskabet vil derfor til envher tid bestræbe sig på at skabe institutioner som fodrer den enkeltes udvikling. Institutioner hvori den enkelte oplever og derfor lærer værdien af både frihed og demokratisk samarbejde allerede fra barnsben. Der bør derfor være fokus på at skabe, eller måske snarere generindre, en frigørelsens pædagogik og dernæst på at etablere institutioner hvori en sådan praktiseres. Det vil jeg derfor skrive om i et senere blogindlæg.

fredag den 9. august 2013

Dagens citat: Keith Thomas Lohse.

"....Når der f.eks tales om vores krigsdeltagelse, er der glatte, vandkæmmede, som oftest unge eller yngre "eksperter" i studiet. IKKE, eller meget sjældent, forældre til faldne eller soldater med erfaring fra diverse kamppladser. Når der tales økonomi, er det altid velklædte, veluddannede, veltalende knivskarpe jakkesæt, som HAR mælk og rugbrød og penge nok til endnu mere mælk og rugbrød, der udtaler sig i eksperternes sted. Det er konstant som at betragte sjælløse robotter tale om deres egne gigabytes eller foretrukne maskinolie: ingen indlevelse, ikke én sveddråbe på "ekspertens" pande og absolut ingen menneskelig indignation. Bare fravær. Fravær og mekanisk upersonlig afliring af behageligt velkendte "kendsgerninger". Som en slags kontrolleret udgave af Fluernes Herre, bare i flottere tøj og med de veltrænede røvbalder i designermøbler nu:

barnemennesker med barneholdninger der bestemmer hvad "tegnene" betyder, for alle de mange frygtsomme, mindre heldige børn, der aldrig kommer til, eller som har alt for travlt med at bore fingerneglene ned i afgrundens kant, til at kunne koncentrere sig om HVAD der egentlig sniksnakkes om, inde i skærmens flimrende flimmer. Og imens brænder hele verden naturligvis til slagger allevegne. 

Hvor er vores indignerede debattører på TV? Vores bekymrede, vrede politikere? Vores eksperter - som står ved deres rådvildhed og ikke bare kolporterer illusionen om ET eller andet jakkesæts tankesæts snarlige overhøjhed? Hvor fanden er MENNESKELIGHEDEN? Hvor er tvivl, ærlighed og det vi med et lidt fortærsket ord kan kalde ægthed? Hvor er originalerne, fritænkerne, fuckfingrene, de som ikke bare bringer flere ens, fabrikfremstillede  trækul til kedsommelighedens sløvt osende Webergrill?

(...) Det vi har fået, i det moderne runestens-landskab, er fuldkommen ens studieværter der taler med fuldkommen ens gæster, om fuldstændig det samme. Og bevares, de SER behagelige ud, de er som regel også behagelige at høre på - fordi de aldrig siger noget som ikke er selvindføjet og vi derfor altid falder fra, efter nogle sekunder. Altid, alle steder. Og det, synes jeg, er en utilgivelig svaghed i såvel det primitive som det såkaldt ædle samfund. Det er naturligvis også én af hovedårsagerne til den allestedsnærværende apati og opgivenhed. Danmark er blevet en bager med tretusinde slags fuldstændigt ens kager og millionvis af ligeglade, apatiske kunder, der bare shopper fra vugge til grav, med krummer i mundvigene og glasagtige, ligeglade øjne.  

Det er en ny tids skoledukse der styrer på alle fronter, ulidenskabelige omega-hanner og hunner, der burde prøve noget LSD og lidt analsex. Og måske at være hjemløse et par måneder. Vores politikere har aldrig arbejdet, de har aldrig sultet eller frygtet for næste måneds husleje. Vores "eksperter" - uanset indenfor HVAD - har aldrig strejfet væk fra den slagne vej, de har tilsyneladende aldrig deltaget i NOGET som helst, der ikke bekræftede de vinkler og holdninger de allerede havde i forvejen - og de fleste af dem, kommer de samme 2-3 steder fra og har (tilsyneladende) også samme skrædder. Vi har fået en ny adel, et velklædt normativt demokratur, bestående af upassionerede levebrøds-eksperter, hvis eneste raison d'etre tilsyneladende er dette: at opretholde et stadigt, maskinelt flow af endnu mere levebrød, ind i de glat snurrende maskiner de selv og deres holdninger er."

- Keith Thomas Lohse aka. Mit Navn Er Keith: Fugl Føtex.

torsdag den 25. juli 2013

De historieløse politikeres håbløse ørkenkrig.

Det var en ikke blot en mindre fejltagelse at sende danske soldater ind i Afghanistan. Det var en historisk hovedløs forsvarspolitisk beslutning, som har kostet dusinvis af danske soldaters liv og milliarder af danske kroner. Penge, som eksempelvis kunne have været brugt på at lave hospitaler og skoler i andre tredjeverdenslande, som befinder sig i fredstid.

Samtidig må en udtalt historieløshed præge de krigspositive politikere, for er den fortsat igangværende krig virkelig en ædel kamp imod religiøse mørkemænd? Selv hvis vi - for argumentets skyld - tager den officielle krigsbegrundelse for gode varer, så kan krigen højst opfattes som et omfattende oprydningsarbejde efter Reagans udenrigspolitiske parløb med fundamentalisten og ekspræsidenten af Pakistan Muhammed Zia ul-Haq, idet man med saudiarabiske midler i 1980’erne byggede islamistiske koranskoler i stor stil langs den pakistansk-afghanske grænse og sendte mange tusinde hellige krigere ind i Afghanistan for at bekæmpe den sovjetiske tilstedeværelse i landet. Efterfølgende så man den anden vej, mens både etableringen af al-Qaeda fandt sted, og grundlaget for det Taliban-styrede Afghanistan blev lagt. Den islamistiske radikalisering af såvel Pakistan som Afghanistan kan således let vurderes at være en utilsigtet konsekvens af en særdeles aggressiv koldkrigspolitik, men denne betydningsfulde nøgle til forståelse af konfliktens historik undlader bannerførerne for den aktivistiske udenrigspolitik i reglen at komme ind på. Derfor foranlediges man let til at stille spørgsmålet: Har de danske krigspositive politikere virkelig en så snæver historisk horisont, at de ikke engang evner at analysere blot få årtier tilbage?

Ser vi nærmere på krigens begyndelse, bliver det endvidere hurtigt krystalklart, at de vestlige krigsmagter ikke har rent mel i posen. Krigen påbegyndtes allerede lidt over en måned efter angrebet på tvillingetårnene d. 11. september. Et angreb, der ifølge den officielle forklaring primært blev begået af folk med saudiarabiske pas, som havde forberedt angrebet i Tyskland, hvorfor det altså ikke blev udført af hverken folk med afghansk baggrund eller forberedt på afghansk jord. Washington forlangte efterfølgende udlevering af Osama bin Laden, hvilket man nægtede fra afghansk side, såfremt der ikke blev leveret konkrete beviser på bin Ladens medskyldighed. Et ganske legitimt krav, burde man mene. Sådanne beviser blev så vidt vides aldrig leveret, og krigen blev kort efter påbegyndt, uden at der forelå autorisation hertil fra FNs Sikkerhedsråd, hvilket teoretisk set betyder, at krigen blev påbegyndt i uoverensstemmelse med folkerettens forskrifter. Den var med andre ord, ligesom Irak-krigen, i strid med flere internationale konventioner, som Danmark har underskrevet og dermed lovet at holde i hævd. I det mindste til at begynde med. FN-sanktioneringen af krigen kom nemlig først senere og altså derfor retroaktivt, hvilket i sig selv er interessant.

Vi kæmpede den gode krig på de godes side, forsikrer politikerne os, men krigen har gennem størstedelen af dens tid været logistisk muliggjort af Usbekistan, et af verdens mest korrupte og brutale diktaturer, og økonomisk af Folkerepublikken Kina, et andet af verden mest repressive regimer, da den amerikanske del i krigen finansieres gennem gældsstiftelse til blandt andre Kina. Endvidere er det meget svært at sluge for folk, der har ulejliget sig med at læse op på den amerikanske udenrigspolitiks historie, at vores soldater skulle kæmpe blandt de noble og moralsk ophøjede. Det er der ganske enkelt ikke noget grundlag for at vurdere, såfremt man, ulig politikerne i det danske Folketing, besidder blot en smule historisk bevidsthed om den amerikanske udenrigspolitik siden anden verdenskrig og især siden krigen i Vietnam. Det bliver ikke lettere at sluge denne underliggende påstand, når man tager med i betragtningen, at vi, blot to år efter krigens påbegyndelse, blev løjet med ind i en anden ørkenkrig, der som bekendt baserede sig på til lejligheden fabrikerede “beviser”. Næppe ligefrem noget man ville forvente af de noble og moralsk ophøjede.

Tilbage står, at vi i tolv år har været i krig med afghanske stammekrigere, som aldrig har udgjort nogen trussel mod dansk territorium, hvorfor det vi nysprogligt kalder forsvarspolitik vanskeligt kan tolkes som andet end en udbredt vilje til at bakke fuldstændig ukritisk op om den amerikanske dominanspolitik. Selvom det er velkendt, at amerikanerne benytter sig af tortur, fortsat støtter repressive regimer verden over og har været i nærmest konstant krig de seneste 65 år, og selvom det nu også blevet kendt, at den amerikanske stat udspionerer os, støtter politikerne dem fortsat ubetinget, hvilket både er ganske sigende og foruroligende.

Den aktivistiske udenrigspolitik har været alt andet end en succes. Afghanistan er langt fra aftalebaniseret og er igen centrum for verdens opiumsproduktion. Irak er stadig nedsunket i kaos ovenpå angrebskrigen mod landet, og Libyen-interventionen skabte ikke et demokratisk paradis på jord men blev i stedet kilden til den nuværende konflikt i Mali. Alligevel er man mere end villig til at drage i krig igen, så snart Washingtons diktat lyder. Det burde vække større forundring, skepsis og kritik, for for blot få årtier siden var det modsatte tilfældet.

tirsdag den 9. juli 2013


The following passage is taken from the abstract of a new paper by the Danish philosopher Søren Brier entitled "Cybersemiotics: A New Foundation for Transdisciplinary Theory of Information, Cognition, Meaningful Communication and the Interaction Between Nature and Culture"

"Cybersemiotics constructs a non-reductionist framework in order to integrate third person knowledge from the exact sciences and the life sciences with first person knowledge described as the qualities of feeling in humanities and second person intersubjective knowledge of the partly linguistic communicative interactions, on which the social and cultural aspects of reality are based. The modern view of the universe as made through evolution in irreversible time, forces us to view man as a product of evolution and therefore an observer from inside the universe. This changes the way we conceptualize the problem and the role of consciousness in nature and culture. The theory of evolution forces us to conceive the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities together in one theoretical framework of unrestricted or absolute naturalism, where consciousness as well as culture is part of nature. But the theories of the phenomenological life world and the hermeneutics of the meaning of communication seem to defy classical scientific explanations. The humanities therefore send another insight the opposite way down the evolutionary ladder, with questions like: What is the role of consciousness, signs and meaning in the development of our knowledge about evolution? Phenomenology and hermeneutics show the sciences that their prerequisites are embodied living conscious beings imbued with meaningful language and with a culture. One can see the world view that emerges from the work of the sciences as a reconstruction back into time of our present ecological and evolutionary self-understanding as semiotic intersubjective conscious cultural and historical creatures, but unable to handle the aspects of meaning and conscious awareness and therefore leaving it out of the story. Cybersemiotics proposes to solve the dualistic paradox by starting in the  middle with semiotic cognition and communication as a basic sort of reality in which all our knowledge is created and then suggests that knowledge develops into four aspects of human reality: Our surrounding nature described by the physical and chemical natural sciences, our corporality described by the life sciences such as biology and medicine, our inner world of subjective experience described by phenomenologically based investigations and our social world described by the social sciences. I call this alternative model to the positivistic hierarchy the cybersemiotic star. The article explains the new understanding of Wissenschaft that emerges from Peirce’s and Luhmann’s conceptions"

Green Capitalism: An oxymoron.

Green capitalism is an oxymoron. A life-supporting, sustainable and therefore ecologically viable system cannot be built upon rampant consumerism, constant spatial expansion and a never-ending quest for still higher rates of economic growth i.e. three central components of late capitalism. A non-expansive economic system that does not have profitability as its central axis and that seeks to regenerate and improve upon ecological conditions can't be called a capitalist system. It would be as different from the dominant economic paradigm as day is to night.

Green capitalism is an attempt to heal the wound with it's cause, in that it continues to rely upon viewing nature as a mere pool of resources. It does not in any way cure our cultural and individual dissociation from the natural world, which is simultaneously both the root cause of this dire ecological crisis of mass extinction and the hidden premise of capitalism. We need a green economic and political system to be sure. What we don't need is the old wine on new bottles referred to as green capitalism. We need to weave a new story of reciprocity and sustainability in which human beings and nature are interwoven threads. We don't want to prolong the existence of the old story and remain oblivious to the abyss. 

mandag den 8. juli 2013

Embracing Liberation.

When the human being acquires language it is gradually but surely freed from the imprisonment of being locked inside its own mind, unable to communicate the contents of its consciousness to others. This freedom is usually accompanied by a freeing of movement in that bipedalism generally emerges in close temporal proximity to the emergence of language.  

Both of these freedoms – the freedom of movement and the freedom of language – are certainly both very rudimentary to begin with. They evolve only gradually and they lie at the root of all other forms of freedom. We might even say that, at least in the West, one of them soon becomes predominant. Great athletes are usually not very impressive thinkers and great thinkers are usually not known for their proficiency in athletic ability.

They are not complete forms of freedom to be sure, neither to begin with or when they have reached a certain degree of maturity, for we are never totally free to move as we please without aids from outside of us (flying and deep water diving requires technology for example), and it is anything but certain that the freeing of the mind due to the emergence of language, will continue its trajectory of liberation, for the child might have its mind ensnared by what is communicated to it by others through the medium of language.

Both of these freedoms are accompanied by an extension of our embrace. When language is acquired we may embrace the world in the sphere of our consciousness in that it allows us to embrace the thoughts of others and to make sense of the world in which we are embedded. When we acquire the skill of bipedalism this is done by embracing inanimate objects in our world and the legs of those who have already acquired that skill. Both forms of early personal liberation are therefore grounded in an embrace of the world around us.

It is only later in life that the embrace of the parent becomes antithetical to freedom for us. In early adolescence we thus become uncomfortable when our parents embrace us in front of our peers (“please stop hugging and kissing me mom, it's embarrassing”). This is likely to be because the embrace of the parent is experienced as a blockade against an even wider embrace of the world and it is thus felt as an inhibition – the antithesis of freedom.

The adolescent liberation from the parents can unfortunately become quite pathological if it is extended into the future and to others in general, in that we may become afraid of losing our liberty by embracing others and therefore cannot fully love and be intimate with others, for intimacy and love requires embrace. The inability to love others is rooted in fear, that is, rooted in the fear of losing oneself in the act of loving the other. So what may seem as a bulwark against lesser liberty (losing one's control in the act of loving) is actually rooted in the greatest of inhibitions – the inhibition of fear - and it is thus actually the exact opposite of liberty, for liberty should broadly be defined as a state in which the least possible degree of inhibition (inner as well as outer) is present.

The purpose of a good education is therefore simultaneously to give us greater liberty and to teach us how to embrace the world with ever-greater hugs, as it were. Seen in this way, acquiring language and attaining the ability of bipedalism are the most rudimentary forms of education, in which all others forms of later education are rooted. Here, I think, it is necessary to differentiate between schooling and education, for whereas the purpose of an education worth its salt, is to widen both our liberation and our embrace, the result (if not the purpose) of schooling the young mind, is often the exact opposite.

tirsdag den 25. juni 2013

Skal universitetet blot logre for guldkalven?

Uvilkårligt trænger ordene “fabrik, arbejdsmarked, tilbud, nyttiggørelse” - og hvad egoismens moderne hjælpeord nu hedder – sig på, når man vil skildre den yngste generation af lærde.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche.i

I den vestlige idéhistories åndelige guldmine finder vi et dannelsesideal, som levede i bedste velgående i civilisationens tre mest intellektuelt frugtbare perioder - antikken, renæssancen og oplysningstiden - og som først i nutiden synes at være blevet aflivet.

Det klassiske dannelsesideal.

Platons akademi havde ikke uddannelsen af omstillingsparate kontorister og lydige teknokrater som dets mål. Målet var snarere menneskelig frigørelse, og midlet en livslang dannelsesproces, som skulle skrælle illusionerne bort og dermed få de oplysningens sædekorn, som dannelsen plantede i menneskenes sind, til at spire. En af akademiets fremmeligste elever var unægteligt Aristoteles. Hans efterladte skrifters brede spektrum vidner om et akademi med et holistisk dannelsesideal. Aristoteles filosofi spænder således over adskillige discipliner, heriblandt etik og politik, fysik og metafysik.

En anden af antikkens store begavelser, som ligeledes havde den platoniske tradition som sit udgangspunkt, var filosoffen Plotin, som blev født i Egypten i begyndelsen af det tredje århundrede. Plotins genialitet havde sine formative år i datidens Alexandria, hvor han studerede under Ammonius Saccas i ti år. Denne læretid skabte dog ikke alene Plotins syntetiske og dannede intellekt, for det var i høj grad også et produkt af en vidtfavnende og åndeligt mangfoldig kultur. Den polyhistoriske amerikanske tænker Ken Wilber skriver i sit hovedværks behandling af Plotin om det intellektuelle klima, der opfostrede ham:

“Alexandria of the third century was extraordinary for the cross-currents of intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual teachings that poured in, literally, from all over the world – there has probably been nothing else quite like it in the history of the West. Clement and Origen (arguably the most important of the early Church Fathers) were fellow townsmen of Plotinus. In Alexandria, one had direct access to at least the following teachers or their schools: The Goddess cult of Isis, Mithra worship, Plutarch (eclectic Platonism), the Neo-Pythagoreans, the Orphic-Dionysian mysteries, Appolonius of Tyana, the extraordinary Jewish mystic Philo, Manicheanism, the all-important Stoics, Numenius, the great African novelist Apuleius, much of the Hermetic writings, the Magi, Brahmanic Hinduism, early Buddhism, and virtually every variety of Gnosticism [..] It is only a slight exaggeration to say that Plotinus took the best elements from each school and jettisoned the rest (in fact, at age thirty-nine, he deliberately joined Gordianus’ Eastern campaign in order to familiarize himself with whatever wisdom traditions he might find); and, based on his own contemplative experiences, fashioned the whole thing into what can only be called an awesome vision, as coherent as it is beautifully compelling.”ii [min kursivering]

Antikkens holistiske og generalistiske dannelsesideal genoplives under renæssancen (genfødslen) og fremavler et kvantespring i menneskelig viden, velsagtens med universalgeniet Leonardo da Vinci som kronen på værket. Denne genfødsel af antikkens dannelsesideal lever i oplysningstiden videre i bedste velgående. "Vov den selvstændige tanke!” lyder det fra en af tidens mest prominente tænkere Immanuel Kant. Det generelle og holistiske dannelsesideal var altså fortsat i højsædet for blot nogle få århundreder siden, hvilket også kan udledes af den kendsgerning, at man i både den franske og skotske oplysningstid så forsøg på at encyklopædisere den menneskelige viden i henholdsvis Diderots encyclopédie og den skotske Encyclopedia Britannica, som for sidstnævntes vedkommende fortsat eksisterer den dag i dag. Den amerikanske intellektuelle Noam Chomsky pointerer i sin kritik af uddannelsessystemet, at det emancipatoriske projekt var indbygget i oplysningstidens dannelsesideal:

“We can ask ouserlves what the purpose of an educational system is and of course there are sharp differences on this matter. There is the traditional interpretation that comes from the Enlightenment, which holds that the highest goal in life is to inquire and create. To search the riches of the past and try to internalize the parts of them that are significant to you and carry that quest for understanding further in your way. The purpose of education, from that point of view, is just to help people determine how to learn on their own.”

Nutidens universitet: Karrieremageriets arnested.

Det er mere, end man kan sige om nutidens dannelsesideal og udannelsespraksis. Snarere end at emancipere den enkelte studerende, gøres hun ofte mindre fri, da selve uddannelsesprocessen typisk afføder gældens lænker. Forgældelsen tvinger derfor den forgældede til at sælge sit liv og sin tid til andre. Konsekvensen er et signifikant frihedstab, for som det intellektuelle makkerpar Michael Hardt og Antonio Negri skriver: 

“Gælden kontrollerer dig. Den disciplinerer dit forbrug, påtvinger dig spareforanstaltninger og reducerer dig ofte til overlevelsesstrategier, men hinsides dette dikterer den sågar dine arbejdsrytmer og -valg. Hvis du afslutter universitet i gæld, må du sige ja til den første lønnede stilling, der tilbydes, for at kunne honorere din gæld. Hvis du købte en lejlighed ved at optage lån, må du sikre dig ikke at miste dit arbejde eller tage ferie eller studieorlov fra arbejdet. Gældens virkning er, ligesom arbejdsmoralens, at holde dig til ilden. Mens arbejdsmoralen fødes indeni subjektet, begynder gælden derimod som en ydre begrænsning, der snart ormer sig vej ind. Gæld udøver en moralsk magt, hvis primære våben er ansvar og skyld, som hurtigt bliver genstand for tvangstanker.”iii

Dannelsesidealet er desuden ingenlunde generalistisk længere. I nutidens verden uddanner de højere uddannelsesinstitutioner specialister med kompetencer indenfor et relativt smalt fagligt spektrum. Generalistiske universitetsuddannelser, der spænder over alle tre videnskabsgrene og mange forskellige discipliner, udbydes så vidt vides ikke noget sted her i landet.

Universitetet er desværre i høj grad blevet en fabrik, som fremstiller såkaldt menneskelige ressourcer. Omvandrende computere af kød og blod udstyret med den instrumentelle fornufts akkumulationsnyttige styresystem. I stedet for at være dannelsens og oplysningens højborg er universitetet mange steder degenereret til blot at være karrieremageriets arnested. Det er ikke blot uønskværdigt men også ganske farligt, hvis vi skal tro den amerikanske samfundsrevsende intellektuelle Chris Hedges, som i sin tekst “Karrieremagerne” skriver følgende:

“Den farligste kraft i den industrialiserede verden kommer ikke fra dem, som bærer radikale trosbekendelser, hvad end vi taler om islamisk radikalisme eller kristen fundamentalisme, men fra legioner af ansigtsløse bureaukrater, som med kløerne baner sig vej op gennem private og statslige maskinerier. De tjener et hvilket som helst system, som møder deres ynkelige behovskvoter.

Disse systemforvaltere tror ikke på noget. De har ingen loyalitet. De tænker ikke hinsides deres små, ubetydelige roller. De er blinde og døve. De er, i det mindste hvad angår den menneskelige civilisation og histories store ideer og mønstre, fuldstændige analfabeter. Og vi fremstiller dem på stribe på de store universiteter [..] Mænd og kvinder som intet kender til historien, intet til ideer. De lever og tænker i et intellektuelt tomrum, en verden bestående af meningsløse detaljer. De er T.S. Eliots “de hule mennesker”, “de udstoppede mennesker.” “formløse forme, skygger uden farve” skrev poeten. “paralyseret kraft, gestikulation uden bevægelse.”

Det var karrieremagerne som muliggjorde folkemordene, fra udryddelsen af de indfødte amerikanere til den tyrkiske nedslagtning af armenerne til det nazistiske holocaust til Stalins udryddelser. Det var dem som sørgede for at togene kørte til tiden. De udfyldte formularerne og stod bag beslaglæggelserne af ejendom. De rationerede maden mens børnene sultede. De fremstillede våbnene. De styrede fængslerne. De håndhævede rejseforbuddene, konfiskerede passene, beslaglagde bankkonti og udførte raceadskillelsen. De håndhævede loven. De passede deres arbejde.”iv

Universitetets samfundsrolle.

Den eneste måde at reproducere det menneskelige samfund på, er ved at lade yngre generationer tage ved lære af de forudgående, så de kan internalisere og videreføre og/eller raffinere og forbedre det lærte. Indlæring og dannelse er derfor limen som forhindrer, at civilisationen går op i sømmene. Det er stopklodsen, som forhindrer kulturel dekadence og som holder bestialiteten og barbariet for porten. Det er en af pointerne, som den konservative intellektuelle Allan Bloom fremførte i sin bog Historien om Vestens Intellektuelle Forfald:

“Man kan sige, at universitetets rolle i et demokrati er at forhindre og kurere den særlige demokratiske blindhed, ikke for at etablere et slags aristokrati, men netop for demokratiets egen skyld og for at bevare sindets frihed – en af de vigtigste former for frihed – i det mindste for nogle individer i demokratiet. Et succesfuldt universitet er beviset på, at et samfund er i stand til at sørge for alles ve og vel, uden at afstumpe menneskers evner eller indskrænke sindet til kun at arbejde på de samme mål som styret […]

De store europæiske universiteter var førhen vores intellektuelle samvittighed, men efter deres nedtur er vi overladt til os selv. Vi har brug for en upopulær institution, som sætter klarhed over velbefindende og blødsødenhed, som imødegår vores stærkeste tilbøjeligheder og fristelser, som er fri for snobberi, men med en hvis standard. En sådan kan vi hente fra det bedste i vores fortid, selv om den bør være imødekommende overfor enhver nytænkning, der lever op til denne standard. Kommer der ikke noget nyt er det ingen katastrofe. Perioder med stor åndelig frugtbarhed er sjældne, men giver næring til andre, mindre frugtbare. Katastrofen ville være at miste inspirationen fra disse højdepunkter og ikke have noget at sætte i stedet. Så ville det være endnu mere usandsynligt, at sjældne talenter ville komme til deres ret hos os […]

Universitetets opgave er altså veldefineret, men hverken let at udføre eller holde i hævd. Først og fremmest går den ud på at fastholde de permanente spørgsmål i forreste linie og som det vigtigste. Det gøres især ved at bevare værkerne af de forfattere, der bedst besvarede disse spørgsmål – og holde disse værker i live.”v

Som det indledningsvise citat af den tyske filosof Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) vidner om, sneg kommercialiseringen og den økonomiske nyttigtænkning sig ikke ind på universitetet i går. Det er derimod en proces, som har været i gang i mere end hundrede år. I Danmark mødtes markedsgørelsen af universitet allerede med hård og velformuleret kritik for mange årtier siden. I kampskriftet “Studenter eller Peblinge” tordnede den danske åndsaristokrat Vilhelm Grønbech mod et universitet, som i hans øjne var blevet reduceret til en “pølsefabrik”:

“Universitetet er til for at hævde livets ret, på trods af tidens tendens til at nedbryde det. Det er vor adel, det er vor adelspligt, ti ret beset er det dertil folket har sat os. (…) Universitet er ved at sætte sin ære og sin autoritet overstyr ved at logre for guldkalven og rende i hælene på de praktiske mænd, ved at hviske: vi må gøre os nyttige, for ellers er der fare for at myndighederne anser os for at være en dårlig forretning og kniber på budgettet. Skal universitetet ikke ranke sig og sige: vi veed at den unge som får dybde i sine tanker, som får vidde i sin erfaring, duer bedst til at hjælpe og lede fordi han er et menneske og ikke et drivhjul der går når man spænder en rem om ham. Hvis vi holder hart ved dette krav og betaler hvad det koster, vil det ske at vort folk kommer til at forstå at vi netop i vor uafhængighed af dagens slagord gør folkets gerning, ja den vigtigste af alle gerninger; det vil se vi har ret, når vi siger at menneskene ikke alene lever af træmasse der forvandles til syntetisk føde, men også af det gudsbrød som hedder tænkning og kunst.”

Ja, universitetet skal ranke ryggen, for det må aldrig forfalde til blot at være vandingshul for fremtidens karrieremagere. Universitetets samfundsrolle er ikke blot at udklække kandidater, som kan opretholde den økonomiske vækst. Når der lyder en kritik fra undervisningsministeren gående på, at universitetet ikke er erhvervsrettet nok, bør der lyde højlydte protester, for universitetets problem er snarere det modsatte. Det er blevet alt for erhvervsrettet. En kultur, som mestendels vurderer uddannelsesvæsenets værdifuldhed indenfor rammerne af en økonomisk logik med nytte og rentabilitet som det centrale omdrejningspunkt, er nemlig ikke blot en fattig kultur. Det er en kultur i frit fald! 

Fremtidens universitet: En kilde til oplysning og frigørelse.

Universitetets samfundsværdi kan ikke gøres op i kroner og øre. Refleksiv dybde, kritisk fornuft og bredspektret dannelse har både værdi i sig selv, men også for samfundet som helhed. Vi bør derfor tilskynde, at universitetet vedbliver med at være et bolværk mod den allestedsnærværende fordummelse, som uundgåeligt indtræffer i en befolkning, der konstant bedøves af underholdningsindustriens og reklamebranchens narkotika. Men det bør ikke lade det blive ved det. Dets mål bør først og fremmest være at skabe grundlaget for en ny oplysningstid, og det bør konstant forsøge at plante sædekornene til en sådan ved at genoplive det holistiske dannelsesideal, som tidligere bar så velsmagende kulturelle frugter.

Efter genkoden er knækket og den såkaldte gudepartikel er fundet, står vi overfor et andet presserende og ubesvaret spørgsmål, nemlig, hvad bevidsthed vil sige generelt, og i særdeleshed hvad det vil sige i det menneskelige tilfælde. Skal vi knække bevidsthedskoden, bliver vi nødt til at gå interdisciplinært og holistisk til problemstillingen. Vi er nødt til at inddrage mange forskellige discipliner, som hver især kan belyse problemstillingen fra forskellige vinkler, hvorfor det altså er nødvendigt med en omfattende multiperspektivistisk krydsbestøvning, som transcenderer de traditionelle skel mellem disciplinerne og de tre overordnede videnskabsgrene. Om det tyvende århundrede kan man sige, at det var specialiseringens monoperspektivistiske tidsalder. Vi bør bestræbe os på at gøre det enogtyvende til polyperspektivismens, syntesens og interdisciplinaritetens tidsalder, så en ny periode med stor åndelig frugtbarhed kan bryde frem og berige vores videre kollektive evolution!

iFriedrich Nietzsche, Historiens Nytte, Gyldendal (1994), s. 97.
iiKen Wilber, Sex, Ecology and Spirituality, Shambhala Publications (2000), s. 343.
iiiHardt & Negri, Declaration (pdf) s. 8. Dansk oversættelse af Kritisk Modpol.
ivChris Hedges, Karrieremagerne. Dansk oversættelse af Kritisk Modpol.
vAllan Bloom, Historien om Vestens Intellektuelle Forfald, Nordisk Forlag (1991), s. 244-45.