The article begins with an overview of the historic moment of ‘the end of the Cold War’, and of the paradoxically deepening moral, social, and environmental problems posed by the military system. It demonstrates that historical and contemporary analyses of defence and war have dogmatically presupposed the military paradigm, and have therefore failed to recognize the self-reproducing structure of coven premisses and inferences upon which it rests. In laying bare this underlying system of unreason, the analysis demonstrates that the military paradigm’s ultimately self-contradictory concepts of ‘security’ and ‘defence’ repose on unstated interests of social and political rule. Proposing new distinctions between pathological and life-enabling forms of war, and between guilty and innocent combatants, the argument develops alternative, non-military principles of war to guide rational and moral agency
A standard critical view of the relationship between capitalism and religion is that religion is an ideological cover story for capitalism. Capitalism, it is contended, structures the real world. Religion conceals and sanctifies it in justifying illusions. Marx most famously pressed this view with an enlightenment epigram derived from Voltaire: “Religion is the opiate of the people.” He sought, in contrast, to scientifically lay bare the “real relations of society” underneath.
This paper will explore a deeper possibility – that the classical and neo-classical market doctrine is itself a religion, and that its “invisible hand” prescriptions regulate society’s economic relations themselves. Beneath the notice of the social sciences, I will argue, market theory and practice together depend on a core structure of presuppositions of a necessary and benevolent design which constitutes an unacknowledged religious metaphysic.
The following article was part of a Science for Peace Forum and Teach-In, about How Should Canada Respond to Terrorism and War on Sunday December 9, 2001. A speech was made there by Professor of Philosophy, John McMurtry. It looks at a wider and deeper issue of totalitarianism that is creeping in, or, as McMurtry suggests, continuing in more earnest.
Aeron Davis(ed), THE DEATH OF PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE? How Free Markets Destroy the General Intellect. London: Goldsmiths Press, University of London, 2017 (i-xi, 262 pages with Index)
By John McMurtry
The title and subtitle of this book tell the untold story of the neo-liberal era – a cumulative destruction of foundational institutions of public knowledge. This ‘free markets destruction of the general intellect’ (subtitle) is described in 15 chapters by 20 authors. Its method is empirical and copiously referenced, but with no second order level of theory to join the dots. Yet every chapter provides a significant substantiation for a yes answer to the title’s arresting question.
The degeneration of ‘the general intellect’ of society across borders does not delve into what draws increasing attention concern today and supports the book’s case – the growing incapacitation of the millennial generation to perform operations of thinking through on their own. While research increasingly indicates that the wireless generation are cognitively/affectively locked into their i-phones, facebook, twitter, computer games, and ever more non-stop exchanges and hits from separated life places – oxymoronically called ‘social media’ – this is not an issue of this study. That attention spans measurably decline in substance and length by electronic-screen captivity is certainly relevant to the decline of ‘the general intellect’ of society, but is only a silent background to what is examined case by case in this collection – the destruction of institutional public knowledge. The authors refer to the “privileging of speed, technology and homogeneity – – [in] recycling journalistic content on BBC online services”, for example (p. 55). Yet the electronic revolution itself is only glancingly taken into account. The question is thus not posed of whether the electronic-media revolution itself has propelled the marketizing degradation of public knowledge.
One might argue on the work’s behalf, however, that market totalization has selected forever more velocities and volumes of commodities and commodifications with no limit, and so the electronic media revolution has fitted like a glove to the marketing invasions everywhere in the public sector – which is the book’s main concern. But this underlying line of inquiry does not arise. Nor, relatedly, does the issue that hard copy foundations themselves disappear in the pervasive marketing electrification. Most profoundly, as the commodification of society’s civil commons advances – even of language as commercial property – any common life-ground is eliminated. As social communication becomes more dominated by advertising and corporate sellers invading ever more of society’s policy discussions, information sources, sports, arts and news as marketing sites, citizens are reduced to atomic consumers rather than joint participants in understanding and effecting the common life good. Beneath notice, the very bases of public choice are erased.
The destruction of public knowledge on which this study is focused is not, however, on system-structural abolition of the public world itself. Nor does it conceive of the marketing elimination of any common life ground at all. More specifically, the degraded downstream effects are addressed in regard to instituted public knowledge. The privately-owned communications technology enabling super speeds and volumes of messages and data to spellbind higher public offices themselves is not a causal mechanism that is examined – even as it advances into control of citizens’ every move and decision. For example, my Apple i-phone (just given to me by my children) travels by publicly owned electro-magnetic spectrum and bandwidths, but locks on me again and again demanding it “can only help you if you choose home apps”. One must connect to some marketing repertoire, or the phone turns off – until a fuss is made. The future here shows itself at another level of the ‘market destruction of the general intellect’ – a total market-computerization of citizens in which every life choice and function is reduced to commercial-machine control, changing prices, and one-dimensional options.
While most people may sense that capitalist marketing lies behind the systemic loss of social and planetary life bearings on many levels, this dissolution of shared life coordinates through time is heretical to examine at its base. The ‘general intellect’ is blocked across siloes, expertises and narratives ruling out any comprehensive life frame of reference. The notion of any unifying meaning is has come to be repelled within even the academy as an oppressive thought. Marxism remains essentially stuck inside industrial mechanics with no determining life-ground or life capital base. What this book’s analyses show is the pervasive drivers of total marketing and privatization destroy the public institutional environment so that all reliable public bearings are lost. What is destroyed is the once sovereign state upon whose facts, findings and evolved public-policy parameters were once authoritatively available, reliable and above private-interest selection, slanting and erasure.
There is a hidden war of value codes in the world today. On the one hand, there is the life code of value: Life → Means of Life → More Life (L → M of L→ L1). On the other hand, there is the money code of value: in its classical form, Money → Commodity → More Money ($ → C → $1). In its carcinogenic form, this sequence becomes: Money → More Money → More Money ($ → $1→ $2 → – $n). The latter money sequence of value is decoupled from any commitment to life function and is driven by the lending and investment cycles of banks. This paper demonstrates the carcinogenic properties of this sequence at the social level of life-organization.
The second part of the paper proposes a remedy. The first step consists in making the government-conferred privileges of banks – creating money by credit and lending others’ money stocks at compound interest – accountable to society’s life requirements. The second step consists in returning central banks to their constitutional mandate of lending to governments rather than alienating this function to private banks. The article concludes by arguing that the great obstacle to Canada’s and other countries’ economic well-being is the abdication by governments of their sovereign powers over society’s money supply, and the long cultivation of public ignorance on this ultimate issue of public policy and value decision.
Department of Philosophy
University of Guelph
Bank of Montreal Distinguished Visitor Lecture, Trent University, March 13, 1997. Read More
Philosophical reflections by John McMurtry and Martha Nussbaum are presented in this article qua projections of the capabilities approach to life that has been developing in the humanities and social sciences over the past twenty-five years. In particular, it is shown how both McMurtry and Nussbaum reveal that human life is under attack not solely because of the eco-biological collapse denounced by the world’s scientific community at its highest levels, but also in many of those socially evolved civil commons that contribute to the flourishing of life’s capabilities and, in essence, make life worth living. What is more, a common causal root is found behind this ongoing two-pronged assault upon life capabilities, that is to say, the defining search for ever-increasing profits of the global free-market economy.
0.0 Capitalism and freedom is not only the title of a 1962 book by Milton Friedman playing a pivotal role in asserting worldwide the neoliberal paradigm, but also the slogan that leading statesmen, politicians and opinion-makers have been heralding in recent years, in order to justify, amongst other things, the slashing of welfare states and the invasion of foreign countries…
Table of Contents
- I. THE RIGHTS OF THE “HUMAN” OVER THE “NON-HUMAN”: THE UNDECLARED WORLD WAR OF HUMAN RIGHTS VERSUS CORPORATE RIGHTS
- Right to Life: From Right-Wing Slogan to Life-Grounded Comprehension
- Intrinsic Life Worth and Humanity’s Universal Being
- Projecting Personhood onto the Non-Human to Deprive the Human
- The Life-Value Onto-Ethic in Contrast
- II. FINDING THE LOST LIFE-VALUE GROUND AND MEASURE: THE COMMON LIFE INTEREST OF LEGITIMATE RIGHTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
- Capabilities: Regrounding Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum in Life Need and Value
- Individual Differences and the Life-Value Criterion and Measure of Legitimate Rights
- Thinking Past the Life-Blind Paradigms
- The Universal Human Life Necessities
- Universal Life Needs the Basis of All Legitimate Rights
- III. GROWING THE LIFE GOODS BASE: BEYOND MONEY, IDEOLOGY AND PRODUCTIVE FORCES
- Why Marx Does not Solve the Problem
- Predictable Downfall of Human and Planetary Life Until Life-Value Turn
- From Moral and Legal Philosophy to Marxian Revolution: The Missing Life-Ground
- The Modern Blind Eye: No Life-Value Standard to Steer Productive Development
- The First Requirement of Social Justice: Re-Grounding in Universal Human Life Goods
- Recognising the Human Vocation Above All
- Right of Access to Universal Life Goods: The Missing Argument
- IV. THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN LIFE NECESSITIES: THE LIFE GROUND OF ECONOMICS AND HUMAN RIGHTS DEFINED
- Blocking Out Life Necessity: The Compulsion of High Theory
- The Universal Life Needs and Goods: Explaining the Base of All Rights and Obligations
- Beyond the Invisible Hand: Naming Humanity’s Universal Life Necessities and Goods
- How to Test the Universal Life Goods and Necessities for Validity
- Sufficiency and Insufficiency of Provision Recognised by Life Capacity Margins
- Thinking Through “From Each According to Ability, To Each According to Needs”
- V. RECOVERING THE BASES OF OUR LIVES FROM SILENCE AND OCCUPATION: THE HUMAN VOCATION, THE CIVIL COMMONS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
- Being Human: Why We Must Work for Our Own Life Good and Others’ at the Same Time
- The Civil Commons: Real Economic Base and Social Correlative of the Human Vocation
- The Corporate-Rich War on Civil Commons to Expropriate and Degrade Them for Profit
- From Commons-Blind Theory on Both Sides of Class Division to Life-Goods Economy and Justice.
- Regaining the Lost Bearings of Civil Commons as First Premise of Human Evolution
- From Corporate State versus Social State to Life-Coherent Rationality
- VI. EVOLVED CIVIL COMMONS VERSUS CORPORATE GLOBALIZATION: A PERFORMANCE EVALUATION ACROSS UNIVERSAL LIFE GOODS
- Re-Setting to the Common Life-Ground of Our Existence
- Economic Advance and Social Justice Both Decided by Universal Provision of Life Goods
- Atmospheric Goods
- Bodily Goods
- Home and Habitat Goods
- Environmental Integrity
- Life-Protective Goods of Security and Healthcare
- Cultural Life Goods
- The Good of Human Vocation
- VII: WHY CONTEMPORARY JUSTICE THEORY FAILS: THE MISSING COMMON INTEREST OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND REASON
- Abstracting Away Everything that Ultimately Matters: Mapping High Theory’s Correspondence to the Life-Blind Ruling System
- G.A. Cohen’s Egalitarian Rescue Remains Within the Ruling Alibi as First Premise
- Economic Science and Pareto Optimum/Efficiency Unmasked in Principle
- Rawlsian Justice as Trickle-Down Myth in Formal Costume
- VIII. BEYOND EQUIVOCAL EQUALITY AND MASKING MYTHS: GROUNDING JUSTICE IN WHAT WE ALL NEED TO LIVE AS HUMAN
- From Rational Plan of Life to Human Vocation: The Ultimate Moral Regrounding
- Life-Ground Ethics Rejects a Career Plan as a Universal Good of Justice or Morality
- Linking Life Right and Obligation at System-Wide and Historical Levels
- The Life-Coherence Principle, Civil Commons, and the Human Vocation
- IX. REGAINING THE REAL ECONOMY FROM THE CANCER SYSTEM: THE CHOICE SPACE FOR HUMANITY’S EVOLUTION OR DESTRUCTION
- Evolution of Humanity by Rules of Life-Enabling Economy and Justice
- Progressive or Regressive Meta Pattern of History?
- The Corporate-State War Against Human Evolution
- Recovering the Real Economy in Principle and Fact
- X. THE SOCIAL STATE VERSUS THE CORPORATE STATE: FROM EUROPEAN FASCISM TO GLOBAL MONEY-SEQUENCE ABSOLUTISM
- Social State Evolution versus Corporate State Growth: The Battle Lines Defined
- From the Depression, Anti-Fascist War and Decolonisation to the Corporate Occupation
- The Morality of Corporate Rights: No Rights Except for Private Money Sequences
- Social Justice and Economic Integrity: The Life Code in Social Defence
- XI. THE LIFE-AND-DEATH WAR OF RIGHTS SYSTEMS DEFINED
- Defining the Global Corporate Mechanism in Formal Terms
- The Age-Old Life Economy of the Civil Commons versus the Corporate-Rights System
- Holding and Advancing the Life-Ground of Resistance: Clarifying the Civil Commons of Economic and Human Rights Around and Under Us
- Beyond Amnesiac Despair: The Life Economy and Human Rights Base Already Won
- The Real Private Sector is the Opposite of Global Corporate For Profit
- XII. HUMANITY’S EVOLUTION AND THE GREAT REVERSAL: AN ANATOMY OF THE CORPORATE RIGHT COUNTER-REVOLUTION
- Getting Our Historical Bearings in the Turning-Point Time
- The Great Reversal
- The Historic Choice Today
- XIII. HISTORY’S LONG WAR FOR LIBERATION: RECLAIMING THE LIFE RIGHTS WHICH HAVE BEEN WON
- The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Societies’ Life Rights Against Corporate Fascism Across Borders
- Resolving Confusions of Meaning to See the Historical Pattern Across Generational Time
- Reclaiming and Moving Beyond the Human Life Rights That Have Already Been Won.
Address to Faculty and Students
Neatby-Timlin Lecture Theatre
University of Saskatchewan
April 7, 2009
by John McMurtry Ph.D, F.R.S.C.
My experience of the university extends over almost half a century. For the first 20-odd years, I was worried the place was disconnected from the real world in self-referential guild specialties. For the next 20-odd years, I have observed the cumulative subordination of the university to corporate-market methods and to rising financial-management appropriation of public educational funds by central administrations – all with no accountability to academic standards.
This invisible occupation of the academy by a corporate agenda forwarded by central administrations within universities has been analysed by University of Saskatchewan’s own Howard Woodhouse in his forthcoming book, Selling Out: Academic Freedom and the Corporate Market.[note]Howard Woodhouse, Selling Out: Academic Freedom and the Corporate Market. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009.[/note] Tracking of this corporate invasion of the academy ultimately leads back to what is not examined – the unaccountable right of central administrations to spend public money on their own growth, privileges and salaries instead of the constitutional objectives of the university – advancement of learning and dissemination of knowledge. University presidents who once received a faculty member’s salary with a modest stipend now arrange with their business-dominated boards to be paid more than the U.S. President while incurring steeper debts and raising tuition fees for debt-ridden students.
Scientific and everyday language have long lacked generic concepts to identify the market’s underlying systems of natural and social reproduction. In consequence, expropriation and destruction of these ecological and civil infrastructures by monetised capital expansion has evaded understanding. This investigation provides the conceptual bearings required to understand what has occurred and its modes of resolution by explanation of the long overlooked “life-ground” and “civil commons”; their evolving “social immune system”; and a “life-value calculus” whereby to assess authentic social development and retardation. At the same time, the analysis explains the causal structure behind a world-wide degradation and confiscation of life infrastructures whose principal victims and resisters are unwaged women. Finally, the argument distinguishes the civil commons and the life-ground from notions of “the global commons”, “the life-world” of Habermas, and the now dominant concept of “civil society.” Throughout, the analysis draws on real-life examples to demonstrate deep infrastructures of human life advance and regression which have eluded the received paradigms of social and political analysis.
Depuis bien longtemps, il manque dans le langage scientifique quotidien de notions générals pour identifier les systèmes de la reproduction naturlle et sociale qui sont à la base du marché. Par conséquent, l’expropriation et la destruction des ces infrastructures écologiques et civiles par l’expansion du capital monétaire échappent à la comprehension. Pour expliquer ce phénoène et ces modes de résolution actuels, cette étude fournit une base conceptuelle des notions ignorées depuis longtemps, telles que la «base vitale», la «commune civile», le «système immunitaire social» qui en émerge, et le «calcul des valeurs vitales», notions par lesquelles on évalue le vrai développement social ou le retard. Par ailleurs, l’analyse démontre la structure causale entre la dégradation mondiale et la confiscation des infrastructures vitales dont les principales victimes et opposantes sont les femmes au travail non rémunéré. Enfin, l’analyse différencie la notion de la commune civile et de la base vitale de celles des «biens publics globaux», du «monde de la vie» de Habermas, et de la «société civile» qui dominent dans le discours présent. L’analyse se sert des exemples actuels pour illustrer les infrastructures profondes des progrès et des reculs de la vie humaine qui ont échappé aux paradigmes de l’analyse sociale et politique actuelle.