Embedding messages in a postmodernist climate

I was just reading this morning about postmodernism and its application to Shakespeare. It seems that it intersects with the crowd of skeptics who do not believe Shakespeare was Shakespeare. Postmodernism itself is quite a rumble, and frankly, I don’t even know what it means, but when you combine that with Shakespeare and the missing Bard, then feathers fly. Last week there was a conference in London, and this is but a brief summary.

OK, guys, regular readers. They are gone now, the usual suspects. We can speak freely. This post really has to do with stupidity, and the unavoidable fact that stupid people do not know they are stupid, and so can never recover from it. They need to be left to themselves. I’ve had an invasion lately, and I am but one level above stupid, and so engage them. Steve W went off yesterday on a stupid person, and therein lay the rub: Because he wrote more than a couple of lines, the stupid person did not read what he wrote.

I am suggesting here a code that we speak when dealing with these people. It will be soft and non-offensive, but at the same time be bland enough that they no longer engage us and leave in puzzlement. It could be something like “That’s a great point. Thanks for bringing it up. We’ll be sure to expand on it in future posts and comments.”

Does that work? The idea is not to engage but also not to offend, which only prolongs the pain. Your ideas are welcome. What follows in this post, to make it appear long, is nonsense. Not the usual nonsense. Special nonsense. You need read no further.

It is the decline in the rate of expansion of a civilization which marks its passage from the Age of Expansion to the Age of Conflict. This latter is the most complex, most interesting, and most critical of all the periods of a life cycle of a civilization. It is marked by four chief characteristics: (a) it is a period of declining rate of expansion; (b) it is a period of growing tensions and class conflicts; (c) it is a period of increasingly frequent and increasingly violent imperialist wars; and (d) it is a period of growing irrationality, pessimism, superstitions and otherworldliness. All these phenomena appear in the core area of a civilization before they appear in more peripheral portions of the society.

The most important parts of Western technology can be listed under four headings:
1. Ability to kill: development of weapons.
2. Ability to preserve life: development of sanitation and medical services.
3. Ability to produce both food and industrial goods.
4. Improvements in transportation and communications.

At this point the demographic cycle of and expanding population goes into a third states (Population Type C) in which the birthrate also begins to fall. The reasons for this fall in the birthrate have never been explained in a satisfactory way, but as a consequence of it, there appears a new demographic condition marketed by a falling birthrate, a low death rate, and a stabilizing and aging population whose major part is in the mature years form thirty to sixty. As the population gets older because of the decrease in births and the increase in the expectation of life, a larger and larger part of the population has passed the years of bearing children or bearing arms. This causes the birthrate to decline even more rapidly, and eventually gives a population so old that the death rate begins to rise again because of the great increase in deaths from old age or form the casualties of inevitable senility. Accordingly, the society passes into a fourth stage of the demographic cycle (Population Type D). This stated is marked by a declining birthrate, a rising death rate, a decreasing population, and a population in which the major part is over fifty years of age.

The military level is concerned with the organization of force, the political level with the organization of power, and the economic level with the organization of wealth. By the “organization of power” in a society we mean the ways in which obedience and consent (or acquiescence) are obtained. The close relationships between levels can be seen from the fact that there are three basic ways to win obedience: by force, by buying consent with wealth, and by persuasion. Each of these leads us to another level (military, economic, or intellectual) outside the political level. At the same time, the organization of power today (that is, the methods of obtaining obedience in a society) is a development of the methods used to obtain obedience in the society in the earlier period.

Capitalism provides very powerful motivations for economic activity because it associates economic motivations so closely with self-interest. But this same feature, which is a source of strength in providing economic motivation through the pursuit of profits, is also a source of weakness owing to the fact that so self-centered a motivation contributes very readily to a lost of economic coordination. Each individual, just because he is so powerfully motivated by self-interest, easily loses sight of the role which is own activities play in the economic system as a whole, and tends to act as if his activities were the whole, with inevitable injury to that whole. We could indicate this by pointing out that capitalism, because as it seeks profits as its primary goal, is never primarily seeking to achieve prosperity, high production, high consumption, political power, patriotic improvement, or moral uplift. Any of these might be achieved under capitalism, and any (or all) of them may be sacrificed and lost under capitalism, depending on this relationship to the primary goal of capitalist activity – the pursuit of profits. During the nine-hundred year history of capitalism, it has, at various times, contributed both the achievement and to the destruction of these other social goals.

Thus, clearly, money and goods are not the same thing but are on the contrary, exactly opposite things. Most confusion in economic thinking arises form failure to recognize this fact. Goods are wealth you have, while money is a claim on wealth which you do not have.

23 thoughts on “Embedding messages in a postmodernist climate

  1. Global capital and technology are no longer contained within our notion of a system of nation states. Davos participants — rent-seekers mostly — have no real fear of any government, yet maintain an anti-government posture and meticulously-crafted propaganda to redirect middle-class anger as the looting continues unabated. The pension-investment scam will not end well. All pools of wealth are a target today.


    1. I take it you are responding to the Quigley excerpts that I used as filler? Have you by chance read that brick? If not*, we are coming your way mid-Feb and I’d be glad to drop it off.

      *and if you want to, and if you have hours and hours to spare.


  2. Can’t remember reading Quigley. If I did it was while attending DU in the early 70s. Blur! Was just trying to make sense of the “barrel of monkeys.” Bring it, but it sounds dense. Hours and hours it must be then. After Feb. 15?, otherwise I am totally wrapped up with Valentine’s Day flowers.

    U ski? Today was spectacular at Bridger Bowl — 65″ base and sunshine.


    1. It’s probably too much – but I’ll pass it on. It only gathers dust. It was written in 1965, and a guy named Gary Allen, based on a couple of pages in this book wrote one called “None Dare Call it Conspiracy” which spread about the notion that the Rockefellers and Rothschild’s owned and ran the world. The John Birch Society distributed that book.

      In fact, Quigley does talk about the Round Table of London and the Council on Foreign Relations as having huge influence in national affairs, the latter being a child of the former. But he wrote what he did because he thought that influence was overall beneficial and that the people doing that should simply be more open about it. There’s lots of interesting stuff in it, and Quigley has a bad case of imperial hubris. But I thought it was a good rendition of western history 1880 forward from that perspective. It certainly doesn’t dovetail with high school/college history, especially in the pre-war years as the Nazis were being aided and abetted by the US and Britain.

      I am not sure of our dates – Hassie says “any time after the tenth,” so you might be tied up during that time. We’ll be back again and again …



  3. ah yes, postmodernism. I read about that at university. it means exploring a scrambled territory where old tricks mix with new gimmicks. It requires cleverness and a touch of narcissism. Also, Derrida.


      1. as an undergrad at UM, I actually tried to grapple with what postmodernism meant, but then realized it was a joke to cover the end of cultural originality. there is some merit in postmodern thought, but I don’t see how any of it helps us understand the slowly worsening global crisis.


  4. I only read the last couple paragraphs and I have a couple questions.

    Quote: ” During the nine-hundred year history of capitalism, it has, at various times, contributed both the achievement and to the destruction of these other social goals.”

    Expand on the “destroyed social goals”.

    And the money you made on the sale of your Apple stock. Did you convert that money into “goods”?


          1. Great point, right up there with the mafia did it! We’ll be sure to expand on that in the future!



    1. “Oh Lord please don’t burn us don’t kill or toast your flock
      Don’t put us on the barbecue or simmer us in stock,
      Don’t bake or baste or boil us or stir-fry us in a wok”


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