You know, we have little bits of understanding, glimpses, a little bit of light here and there, but there's a tremendous amount of darkness, which is a challenge. I think life would be pretty boring if we understood everything. It's better if we don't understand anything and know that we don't, that's the important part.
Even in a largely depoliticized society such as the United States, with no political parties or opposition press beyond the narrow spectrum of the business-dominated consensus, it is possible for populate action to have a significant impact on policy, though indirectly. That was an important lesson for the Indochina Wars.
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The Occupy movement did create spontaneously communities that taught people something: you can be in a supportive community of mutual aid and cooperation and develop your own health system and library and have open space for democratic discussion and participation. Communities like that are really important.
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Precisely constructed models for linguistic structure can play an important role, both negative and positive, in the process of discovery itself. By pushing a precise but inadequate formulation to an unacceptable conclusion, we can often expose the exact source of this inadequacy and, consequently, gain a deep understanding of the linguistic data. More positively, a formalized theory may automatically provide solutions for many problems other than those for which it was explicitly designed.
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Anarchism means all sort of things to different people but the traditional anarchists' movements assumed that there'd be a highly organized society, just one organized from below with direct participation and so on. Actually, one piece of the media confusion has a basis because there really are two different strands in the occupy movement, both important, but different.
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To pay attention to the actual core of the movement - that would be pretty hard. Can you concentrate for example on either the policy issues or the creation of functioning democratic communities of mutual support and say, well, that's what's lacking in our country that's why we don't have a functioning democracy - a community of real participation. That's really important. And that always gets smashed.
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But on the other hand, in discussion and debate concerning social issues or American foreign policy, Vietnam or the Middle East, for example, the issue is constantly raised, often with considerable venom. I've repeatedly been challenged on grounds of credentials, or asked, what special training do you have that entitles you to speak of these matters. The assumption is that people like me, who are outsiders from a professional viewpoint, are not entitled to speak on such things.
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Compare mathematics and the political sciences - it's quite striking. In mathematics, in physics, people are concerned with what you say, not with your certification. But in order to speak about social reality, you must have the proper credentials, particularly if you depart from the accepted framework of thinking. Generally speaking, it seems fair to say that the richer the intellectual substance of a field, the less there is a concern for credentials, and the greater is the concern for content.
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Capitalism is a system in which the central institutions of society are, in principle, under autocratic control. Thus, a corporation or an industry is, if we were to think of it in political terms, fascist, that is, it has tight control at the top and strict obedience has to be established at every level... Just as I'm opposed to political fascism, I am opposed to economic fascism. I think that until the major institutions of society are under the popular control of participants and communities, it's pointless to talk about democracy.
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Kaplan can't understand trivialities. The triviality here is that nobody except the ultra right-wing jingoists like Kaplan are comparing atrocities by various countries. What honest people are saying seems to be incomprehensible: that we should keep to the elementary moral level of the gospels. We should pay attention to our own crimes and stop committing them. This would be true even if we were killing one person, OK? And it's even more true when we're killing millions of people.
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I think it's just been a core part of the Cuban revolution to have a very high level of internationalism. I mean, these cases you've mentioned are cases in point, but the most extreme case was the liberation of Africa. Take the case of Angola for example, and there are real connections between Cuba and Angola-much of the Cuban population comes from Angola.
Neoliberal democracy. Instead of citizens, it produces consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless. In sum, neoliberalism is the immediate and foremost enemy of genuine participatory democracy, not just in the United States but across the planet, and will be for the foreseeable future.
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Anarcho-syndic alism took for granted that working people ought to control their own work, its conditions, the enterprises in which they work, along with communities, so they should be associated with one another in free associations, and democracy of that kind should be the foundational elements of a more general free society.
Democracy, in the United States rhetoric refers to a system of governance in which elite elements based in the business community control the state by virtue of their dominance of the private society, while the population observes quietly. So understood, democracy is a system of elite decision and public ratification, as in the United States itself. Correspondingly, popular involvement in the formation of public policy is considered a serious threat. It is not a step towards democracy; rather it constitutes a 'crisis of democracy' that must be overcome.
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In any institution-factory, university, health center, or whatever-there are a variety of interests that ought to be represented in decision-making: the work force itself, the community in which it is located, users of its products or services, institutions that compete for the same resources. These interests should be directly represented in democratic structures that displace and eliminate private ownership of the means of production or resources, an anachronism with no legitimacy.
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Everyone engaged in research must have had the experience of working with feverish and prolonged intensity to write a paper which no one else will read or to solve a problem which no one else thinks important and which will bring no conceivable reward - which may only confirm a general opinion that the researcher is wasting his time on irrelevancies.
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When I was in high school I asked myself at one point: "Why do I care if my high school's team wins the football game? I don't know anybody on the team, they have nothing to do with me... why am I here and applaud? It does not make any sense." But the point is, it does make sense: It's a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority and group cohesion behind leadership elements. In fact it's training in irrational jingoism. That's also a feature of competitive sports.
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The person who wins the Nobel Prize is not the person who read the most journal articles and took the most notes on them. It's the person who knew what to look for. And cultivating that capacity to seek what's significant, always willing to question whether you're on the right track - that's what education is going to be about, whether it's using computers and the Internet, or pencil and paper, or books.
The main purpose of advertising is to undermine markets. If you go to graduate school and you take a course in economics, you learn that markets are systems in which informed consumers make rational choices. That's what's so wonderful about it. But that's the last thing that the state corporate system wants. It is spending huge sums to prevent that.
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Plainly, such an approach does not exclude other ways of trying to comprehend the world. Someone committed to it (as I am) can consistently believe (as I do) that we learn much more of human interest about how people think and feel and act by reading novels or studying history than from all of naturalistic psychology, and perhaps always will; similarly, the arts may offer appreciation of the heavens to which astrophysics cannot aspire.
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To achieve respectability, to be admitted to the debate, they must accept without question or inquiry the fundamental doctrine that the state is benevolent, governed by the loftiest intentions, adopting a defensive stance, not an actor in world affairs but only reacting to the crimes of others...If even the harshest of critics tacitly adopt these premises, then the ordinary person may ask, who am I to disagree?
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The US and Israel have demanded further that Palestinians not only recognize Israel's rights as a state in the international system, but that they also recognize Israel's abstract right to exist, a concept that has no place in international law or diplomacy, and a right claimed by no one. In effect, the US and Israel are demanding that Palestinians . . . formally accept the legitimacy of their expulsion from their own land. They cannot be expected to accept that, just as Mexico does not grant the US the right to exist on half of Mexico's territory, gained by conquest.
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The US is a country [in which] eighty percent of the population thinks the Bible was written by god. About half think every word is literally true. So it's had to appeal to that - and to the nativist population, the people that are frightened, have always been... It's a very frightened country and that's increasing now with the recognition that the white population is going to be a minority pretty soon, "they've taken our country from us."
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Since Jimmy Carter, religious fundamentalists play a major role in elections. He was the first president who made a point of exhibiting himself as a born again Christian. That sparked a little light in the minds of political campaign managers: Pretend to be a religious fanatic and you can pick up a third of the vote right away. Nobody asked whether Lyndon Johnson went to church every day. Bill Clinton is probably about as religious as I am, meaning zero, but his managers made a point of making sure that every Sunday morning he was in the Baptist church singing hymns.
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One substitute for the disappearing Evil Empire (The Soviet Union) has been the threat of drug traffickers from Latin America. In early September 1989, a major government-media blitz was launched by the President. That month the AP wires carried more stories about drugs than about Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa combined. If you looked at television, every news program had a big section on how drugs were destroying our society, becoming the greatest threat to our existence, etc.
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Most problems of teaching are not problems of growth but helping cultivate growth. As far as I know, and this is only from personal experience in teaching, I think about ninety percent of the problem in teaching, or maybe ninety-eight percent, is just to help the students get interested. Or what it usually amounts to is to not prevent them from being interested. Typically they come in interested, and the process of education is a way of driving that defect out of their minds. But if children['s]... normal interest is maintained or even aroused, they can do all kinds of things in ways we don't understand.
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The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum-even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.
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To begin with, we have to be more clear about what we mean by patriotic feelings. For a time when I was in high school, I cheered for the school athletic teams. That's a form of patriotism - group loyalty. It can take pernicious forms, but in itself it can be quite harmless, maybe even positive. At the national level, what "patriotism" means depends on how we view the society. Those with deep totalitarian commitments identify the state with the society, its people, and its culture. Therefore those who criticized the policies of the Kremlin under Stalin were condemned as "anti-Soviet" or "hating Russia". For their counterparts in the West, those who criticize the policies of the US government are "anti-American" and "hate America"; those are the standard terms used by intellectual opinion, including left-liberal segments, so deeply committed to their totalitarian instincts that they cannot even recognize them, let alone understand their disgraceful history, tracing to the origins of recorded history in interesting ways. For the totalitarian, "patriotism" means support for the state and its policies, perhaps with twitters of protest on grounds that they might fail or cost us too much. For those whose instincts are democratic rather than totalitarian, "patriotism" means commitment to the welfare and improvement of the society, its people, its culture. That's a natural sentiment and one that can be quite positive. It's one all serious activists share, I presume; otherwise why take the trouble to do what we do? But the kind of "patriotism" fostered by totalitarian societies and military dictatorships, and internalized as second nature by much of intellectual opinion in more free societies, is one of the worst maladies of human history, and will probably do us all in before too long. With regard to the US, I think we find a mix. Every effort is made by power and doctrinal systems to stir up the more dangerous and destructive forms of "patriotism"; every effort is made by people committed to peace and justice to organize and encourage the beneficial kinds. It's a constant struggle. When people are frightened, the more dangerous kinds tend to emerge, and people huddle under the wings of power. Whatever the reasons may be, by comparative standards the US has been a very frightened country for a long time, on many dimensions. Quite commonly in history, such fears have been fanned by unscrupulous leaders, seeking to implement their own agendas. These are commonly harmful to the general population, which has to be disciplined in some manner: the classic device is to stimulate fear of awesome enemies concocted for the purpose, usually with some shreds of realism, required even for the most vulgar forms of propaganda. Germany was the pride of Western civilization 70 years ago, but most Germans were whipped to presumably genuine fear of the Czech dagger pointed at the heart of Germany (is that crazier than the Nicaraguan or Grenadan dagger pointed at the heart of the US, conjured up by the people now playing the same game today?), the Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy aimed at destroying the Aryan race and the civilization that Germany had inherited from Greece, etc. That's only the beginning. A lot is at stake.
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There are few genuine conservatives within the U.S. political system, and it is a sign of the intellectual corruption of the age that the honorable term 'conservatism' can be appropriated to disguise the advocacy of a powerful, lawless, aggressive and violent state, a welfare state for the rich dedicated to a lunatic form of Keynesian economic intervention that enhances state and private power while mortgaging the country's future.
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..reading a book doesn't mean just turning the pages. It means thinking about it, identifying parts that you want to go back to, asking how to place it in a broader context, pursuing the ideas. There's no point in reading a book if you let it pass before your eyes and then forget about it ten minutes later. Reading a book is an intellectual exercise, which stimulates thought, questions, imagination.
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Modern industrial civilisation has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilisation has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits in the classic formulation. Now, it's long been understood very well that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist with whatever suffering and injustice it entails as long as it's possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited: that the World is an infinite resource, and that the World is an infinite garbage-can. At this stage of History, either one of two things is possible: either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community-interests, guided by values of solidarity and sympathy and concern for others; or, alternatively, there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialised class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole and, by now, that means the Global Community. The question is whether privileged elites should dominate mass-communication, and should use this power as they tell us they must, namely, to impose necessary illusions, manipulate and deceive the stupid majority, and remove them from the public arena. The question, in brief, is whether Democracy and Freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly-terminal phase of human existence, Democracy and Freedom are more than values to be treasured, they may well be essential to survival.
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Respectable opinion would never consider an assessment of the Reagan Doctrine or earlier exercises in terms of their actual human costs, and could not comprehend that such an assessment-which would yield a monstrous toll if accurately conducted on a global scale-might perhaps be a proper task in the United States. At the same level of integrity, disciplined Soviet intellectuals are horrified over real or alleged American crimes, but perceive their own only as benevolent intent gone awry, or errors of an earlier day, now overcome; the comparison is inexact and unfair, since Soviet intellectuals can plead fear as an excuse for their services to state violence.
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In rational inquiry, we idealize to selected domains in such a way (we hope) as to permit us to discover crucial features of the world. Data and observations, in the sciences, have an instrumental character. They are of no particular interest in themselves, but only insofar as they constitute evidence that permits one to determine fundamental features of the real world, within a course of inquiry that is invariably undertaken under sharp idealizations, often implicit and simply common understanding, but always present.
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How people themselves perceive what they are doing is not a question that interests me. I mean, there are very few people who are going to look into the mirror and say, 'That person I see is a savage monster'; instead, they make up some construction that justifies what they do. If you ask the CEO of some major corporation what he does he will say, in all honesty, that he is slaving 20 hours a day to provide his customers with the best goods or services he can and creating the best possible working conditions for his employees. But then you take a look at what the corporation does, the effect of its legal structure, the vast inequalities in pay and conditions, and you see the reality is something far different.
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First of all, we've never had capitalism, so it can't end. We have some variety of state capitalism. If you fly on an airplane, you're basically flying in a modified bomber. If you buy drugs, the basic research was done under public funding and support. The high-tech system is permeated with internal controls, government subsidies. And if you look at what are supposed to be the growing alternatives, China is another form of state capitalism... The question is whether these systems, whatever they are, can be adapted to current problems and circumstances. For example, there's no justification, economic or other, for the enormous and growing role of financial institutions since the 1970s. Even some of the most respected economists pint out that they're just a drag on the economy. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times says straight out that the financial institutions shouldn't be allowed to have anything like the power they do. There's plenty of leeway for modification and change. Worker-owned industries can take over. There's interesting work on this topic by Gar Alperovitz, who has been right at the center of a lot of organizing around worker control. It's not a revolution, but it's the germ of another type of capitalism, capitalism in the sense that markets and profit are involved.
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[A]s long as individuals are compelled to rent themselves on the market to those who are willing to hire them, as long as their role in production is simply that of ancillary tools, then there are striking elements of coercion and oppression that make talk of democracy very limited, if meaningful.
It [predatory capitalism] is incapable of meeting human needs that can be expressed only in collective terms, and its concept of competitive man who seeks only to maximize wealth and power, who subjects himself to market relationships, to exploitation and external authority, is antihuman and intolerable in the deepest sense.
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That comes to about one hundred million people in India alone from 1947 to 1980. But we don't call that a crime of democratic capitalism. If we were to carry out that calculation throughout the world... I wont even talk about it. But Sen is correct; they're not intended, just like the Chinese famine wasn't intended. But they are ideological and institutional crimes, and capitalist democracy and its advocates are responsible for them, in whatever sense supporters of so-called Communism are responsible for the Chinese famine. We don't have the entire responsibility, but certainly a large part of it
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