Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beyond Orwellian Nightmares and Neoliberal Authoritarianism

by Henry A. Giroux

Those who fight against neoliberalism must not settle for reforming a system that is as broken as it is dangerous. Any viable, transformative struggle will need a boldly democratic vision; durable, longstanding organizations and strategies that make politics meaningful.
To be corrupted by totalitarianism, one does not have to live in a totalitarian country.
- George Orwell

Central to George Orwell's nightmarish vision of a totalitarian society was a government so powerful that it not only dominated all of the major institutions in a society, but it also was quite adept at making invisible its inner workings of power. This is what some have called a shadow government, deep state, dual state or corporate state. (1) In the deep state, politics becomes the domain of the ultra-wealthy, the powerful few who run powerful financial services, big corporations and the imperious elite of the defense industries and other components of the military-industrial complex. Corporate interests such as ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies, megabanks such as Bank of America, and defense industries such as Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are powerful lobbying groups and as such have control of the major seats of political power and the commanding institutions necessary to insure that the deeply anti-democratic state rules in the interests of the few while exploiting and repressing the many.
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A recent Princeton University study analyzed policy initiatives passed under the influence of the deep state from 1981 to 2002 and concluded that rather than being a democracy, however weak, the United States had become an oligarchy where power is effectively wielded by "the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military." (2) Bill Blunden adds to this description with a useful map of the interpenetrating elements and overlapping layers of interest that make up the deep state. He writes:
The American Deep State, or what Colonel Fletcher Prouty called the Secret Team, is a structural layer of political intermediaries: non-governmental organizations (e.g. National Endowment for Democracy, Ford Foundation), lobbyists (e.g. Chamber of Commerce, AIPAC), media outlets (e.g. Time Warner, News Corp), dark money pits (e.g. Freedom Partners, NRA), and private sector contractors (e.g. Booz Allen, SAIC) that interface with official government organs (CIA, Department of Defense). This layer establishes a series of informal, often secret, backchannels and revolving doors through which profound sources of wealth and power outside of government can purchase influence. . . . the American Deep State is a fundamentally anti-democratic apparatus that caters to the agenda of heavily entrenched elites. (3)
This is a state in which people participate willingly in their own oppression, often out of deep insecurity about their freedom and the future. This is a mode of governance in which individual and social agency are in crisis and begin to disappear in a society in which 99 percent of the public, especially young people, low-income groups and minorities of class and color are considered disposable. The rulers of the deep state no longer care about the social contract and make no concessions in their ruthless pursuits of power and profits. One consequence is the creation of a state and society that no longer believes in social investments and is more than willing to condemn young people, often paralyzed by the precariousness and instability that haunts their lives and future, to a savage form of casino capitalism.

The full article can be read at TruthOut.