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Category: Politics & Law

“The adjustment to anthropophagous collectivism is found as often among left-wing political groups as among right-wing groups. Indeed, both overlap: repression and crowd mindedness overtake the followers of both trends. The psychologies tend to meet despite the surface distinctions in political attitudes.” – Theodor W. Adorno, “On Popular Music”

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“The changes in advanced democratic societies, which have undermined the basis of economic and political liberalism, have also altered the liberal function of tolerance. The tolerance which was the great achievement of the liberal era is still professed and (with strong qualifications) practiced, while the economic and political process is subjected to an ubiquitous and effective administration in accordance with the predominant interests. The result is an objective contradiction between the economic and political structure on the one side, and the theory and practice of toleration on the other. The altered social structure tends to weaken the effectiveness of tolerance toward dissenting and oppositional movements and to strengthen conservative and reactionary forces. Equality of tolerance becomes abstract, spurious. With the actual decline of dissenting forces in the society, the opposition is insulated in small and frequently antagonistic groups who, even where tolerated within the narrow limits set by the hierarchical structure of society, are powerless while they keep within these limits. But the tolerance shown to them is deceptive and promotes co-ordination. And on the firm foundations of a co-ordinated society all but closed against qualitative change, tolerance itself serves to contain such change rather than to promote it.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“Withdrawal of tolerance from regressive movements before they can become active; intolerance even toward thought, opinion, and word, and finally, intolerance in the opposite direction, that is, toward the self-styled conservatives, to the political Right—these anti-democratic notions respond to the actual development of the democratic society which has destroyed the basis for universal tolerance. The conditions under which tolerance can again become a liberating and humanizing force have still to be created. When tolerance mainly serves the protection and preservation of a repressive society, when it serves to neutralize opposition and to render men immune against other and better forms of life, then tolerance has been perverted. And when this perversion starts in the mind of the individual, in his consciousness, his needs, when heteronomous interests occupy him before he can experience his servitude, then the efforts to counteract his dehumanization must begin at the place of entrance, there where the false consciousness takes form (or rather: is systematically formed)—it must begin with stopping the words and images which feed this consciousness. To be sure, this is censorship, even precensorship, but openly directed against the more or less hidden censorship that permeates the free media. Where the false consciousness has become prevalent in national and popular behavior, it translates itself almost immediately into practice: the safe distance between ideology and reality, repressive thought and repressive action, between the word of destruction and the deed of destruction is dangerously shortened.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“In endlessly dragging debates over the media, the stupid opinion is treated with the same respect as the intelligent one, the misinformed may talk as long as the informed, and propaganda rides along with education, truth with falsehood. This pure toleration of sense and nonsense is justified by the democratic argument that nobody, neither group nor individual, is in possession of the truth and capable of defining what is right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, all contesting opinions must be submitted to ‘the people’ for its deliberation and choice.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“Tolerance cannot be indiscriminate and equal with respect to the contents of expression, neither in word nor in deed; it cannot protect false words and wrong deeds which demonstrate that they contradict and counteract the possibilities of liberation. Such indiscriminate tolerance is justified in harmless debates, in conversation, in academic discussion; it is indispensable in the scientific enterprise, in private religion. But society cannot be indiscriminate where the pacification of existence, where freedom and happiness themselves are at stake: here, certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed, certain behavior cannot be permitted without making tolerance an instrument for the continuation of servitude.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“The classics are full of moral atrocities—as they appear to us today, and sometimes as they appeared to the more enlightened members of the author’s own society—that the author apparently approved of. Rape, pillage, murder, human and animal sacrifice, concubinage, and slavery in the Iliad; misogyny in the Oresteia and countless other works; blood-curdling vengeance; anti-Semitism in more works of literature than one can count, including works by Shakespeare and Dickens; racism and sexism likewise; homophobia (think only of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida and Mann’s ‘Death in Venice’); monarchism, aristocracy, caste systems and other illegitimate (as they seem to us) forms of hierarchy; colonialism, imperialism, religious obscurantism, militarism, gratuitous violence, torture (as of Iago in Othello), and criminality; alcoholism and drug addiction; relentless stereotyping; sadism; pornography; machismo; cruelty to animals (bullfighting, for example); snobbism; praise for fascism and communism, and for idleness; contempt for the poor, the frail, the elderly, the deformed, and the unsophisticated, for people who work for a living, for the law-abiding, and for democratic processes. The world of literature is a moral anarchy.” – Richard A. Posner, “Against Ethical Criticism”

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“Bureaucracy was not invented by anti-capitalists. It began with the ancient empires of Egypt, Persia, Rome and China, and it necessarily accompanies most large institutions, from churches to armies to corporations. ‘The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”,’ Ronald Reagan famously said. He must have led a sheltered existence, but in any case it is worth asking when this has ever happened to anyone. The closest most of us come to opaque, arbitrary and unwieldy bureaucracy is with insurance or telecommunications companies. The scariest nine words might actually be spoken by the faceless operatives of my far from local and earth-sprung health insurer: ‘I’m going to transfer you to the correct department.’ ” – Jonny Thakkar, “Why Conservatives Should Read Marx”

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“Only in a vague way can we conceive the character of ant-society, and the nature of ant-morality; and to do even this we must try to imagine some yet impossible state of human society and human morals. Let us, then, imagine a world full of people incessantly and furiously working,—all of whom seem to be women. No one of these women could be persuaded or deluded into taking a single atom of food more than is needful to maintain her strength; and no one of them ever sleeps a second longer than is necessary to keep her nervous system in good working-order. And all of them are so peculiarly constituted that the least unnecessary indulgence would result in some derangement of function. The work daily performed by these female laborers comprises road-making, bridge-building, timber-cutting, architectural construction of numberless kinds, horticulture and agriculture, the feeding and sheltering of a hundred varieties of domestic animals, the manufacture of sundry chemical products, the storage and conservation of countless foodstuffs, and the care of the children of the race. All this labor is done for the commonwealth—no citizen of which is capable even of thinking about ‘property,’ except as a res publica;—and the sole object of the commonwealth is the nurture and training of its young,—nearly all of whom are girls. The period of infancy is long: the children remain for a great while, not only helpless, but shapeless, and withal so delicate that they must be very carefully guarded against the least change of temperature. Fortunately their nurses understand the laws of health: each thoroughly knows all that she ought to know in regard to ventilation, disinfection, drainage, moisture, and the danger of germs,—germs being as visible, perhaps, to her myopic sight as they become to our own eyes under the microscope. Indeed, all matters of hygiene are so well comprehended that no nurse ever makes a mistake about the sanitary conditions of her neighborhood. In spite of this perpetual labor no worker remains unkempt: each is scrupulously neat, making her toilet many times a day. But as every worker is born with the most beautiful of combs and brushes attached to her wrists, no time is wasted in the toilet-room. Besides keeping themselves strictly clean, the workers must also keep their houses and gardens in faultless order, for the sake of the children. Nothing less than an earthquake, an eruption, an inundation, or a desperate war, is allowed to interrupt the daily routine of dusting, sweeping, scrubbing, and disinfecting.” – Lafcadio Hearn, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things

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“Did feudalism and chattel slavery reside within the nascent globalizing frame? Did Kant drink coffee? The second question answers the first. Yes, and there’s no reason why we have to choose between these modes of production when thinking macrohistorically, as long as we are specific about what makes both so different. In this effort, it’s especially important to understand that consumption as the auratic telos of ‘trade’—the sweets you eat, the tobacco you smoke—has a pesky habit of mystifying differences in modes of production and unevenness in history (and thus in human lives), with the result that the vast distances between regions are closed into one airtight global space. The movement of commodities like sugar, tobacco, coffee, and cotton from colonies to nation-states; the transformation of European aesthetics to suit the colonial imperial imagination in all its overreach; the emergence of entire legal systems to try to eradicate feudalism (unsuccessfully); the parliamentary decisions to withdraw from the slave trade (unsuccessfully)—these all will disclose the total frame of their own possibility as long as we adopt a version of difference that remains deeply critical and enables us to think the abstract identities through which globalization itself obliquely appears.” –Andrew Cole, “The Function of Theory at the Present Time”

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“If all gender is on some level a performance (and it is), then it can be co-opted and perverted by the state. But if it’s also innate on some level (and it is), then we are powerless against whatever it is that enough people decide gender performance should look like. We are constantly trapped by gender, even when we know we are trapped by it. You can’t truly escape something so all-pervasive.” – Emily VanDerWerff, “How Twitter Can Ruin a Life”

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“India was the most populous region of the world at the time of the Periplus, as it was the most cultivated, the most active industrially and commercially, the richest in natural resources and production, the most highly organized socially, the most wretched in the poverty of its teeming millions, and the least powerful politically. The great powers of India were the Kushan in the far northwest, the Saka in the Cambay country, the remains of the Maurya in the Ganges watershed, the Andhra in the Deccan, and the Chera, Pandya and Chola in the South. The economic status of the country made it impossible that any one of these should possess political force commensurate with its population, resources and industries. It was made up of village communities, which recognized the military power only so far as they were compelled to do so; and they were relatively unconcerned in dynastic changes, except to note the change in their oppressors.” – The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea (Wilfred H. Schoff, trans. & ann.)

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“A tax is not an assessment of benefits. It is a means of distributing the burden of the cost of government. The only benefit to which the taxpayer is constitutionally entitled is that derived from his enjoyment of the privileges of living in an organized society, established and safeguarded by the devotion of taxes to public purposes. Any other view would preclude the levying of taxes except as they are used to compensate for the burden on those who pay them, and would involve the abandonment of the most fundamental principle of government—that it exists primarily to provide for the common good.” – Justice Garman, Arangold Corp. v. Zehnder, 204 Ill. 2d 142 (Ill. 2003) (internal cites and quotations omitted).

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“Psychologists have attempted to understand how and why individuals and groups who
usually act humanely can sometimes act otherwise in certain circumstances. A number of
psychological concepts explain why abusive behavior occurs. These concepts include:

Deindividuation. Deindividuation is a process whereby the anonymity, suggestibility, and contagion provided in a crowd allows individuals to participate in behavior marked by the temporary suspension of customary rules and inhibitions. Individuals within a group may experience reduced self-awareness which can also result in disinhibited behavior.

Groupthink. Individuals often make very uncharacteristic decisions when part of a group. Symptoms of groupthink include: (1) Illusion of invulnerability-group members believe the group is special and morally superior; therefore its decisions are sound; (2) Illusion of unanimity in which members assume all are in concurrence, and (3) Pressure is brought to bear on those who might dissent.

Dehumanization. Dehumanization is the process whereby individuals or groups are viewed as somehow less than fully human. Existing cultural and moral standards are often not applied to those who have been dehumanized.

Enemy Image. Enemy image describes the phenomenon wherein both sides participating in a conflict tend to view themselves as good and peace-loving peoples, while the enemy is seen as evil and aggressive.

Moral Exclusion. Moral exclusion is a process whereby one group views another as fundamentally different, and therefore prevailing moral rules and practices apply to one group but not the other.”

– James R. Schlesinger, et al., Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DoD Detention Operations

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“A dominion whose well-being depends on any man’s good faith, and whose affairs cannot be properly administered, unless those who are engaged in them will act honestly, will be very unstable. On the contrary, to insure its permanence, its public affairs should be so ordered, that those who administer them, whether guided by reason or by passion, cannot be led to act treacherously or basely. Nor does it matter for the security of a dominion, in what spirit men are led to rightly administer its affairs. For liberality of spirit, or courage, is a private virtue; but the virtue of a state is its security.” – Benedict de Spinoza, A Theological-Political Treatise and A Political Treatise (trans. R.H.M. Elwes)

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“The traditional philosophic treatment of politics has been based on an unreal conception of human psychology. As philosophical ethics are grounded not in reality but in the dreams of authors, the resultant politics are equally utopian and useless as guides for the practical challenges of policy making.” – Menachem Lorberbaum, “Spinoza’s Theological-Political Problem”

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“The object of government is not to change men from rational beings into beasts or puppets, but to enable them to develop their minds and bodies in security, and to employ their reason unshackled; neither showing hatred, anger, or deceit, nor watched with the eyes of jealousy and injustice. In fact, the true aim of government is liberty.” – Benedict de Spinoza, A Theological-Political Treatise and A Political Treatise (trans. R.H.M. Elwes)

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“Perhaps the most striking fact about the organized religious life of the colonials in the eighteenth century is the large number of people who were left out of it. Whether they had lost their faith before migrating or had been torn loose from church life in the business of moving, or whether they resented the authority of the dutiful ministers or the loose ways of the less dutiful, or were lost through the inability of the churches to establish viable church-community life in the open spaces and diffused settlements of America, surprisingly large numbers in the English continental colonies enjoyed little or none of the amenities and comforts of a religious community, and many seemed not to be trying very hard to get them. America has always liked to dwell upon those who came to win religious liberty or to realize some other religious ideal. But the extraordinary number who were content to live either without organized religion or with only a weak or a token relation to it suggests the majority of white colonials may have come for very mundane reasons—not to reach the glories of the other world but to relieve the hardships of this.” – Richard Hofstadter, America at 1750: A Social Portrait

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“The ideal of the simple yeoman living close to nature, applying himself with loving care to the soil, and supplying virtually all his modest needs with his own labor and that of his family was an ideal first of the educated elite who read pastoral poetry and later of agrarian ideologues and politicians who wanted to claim a moral superiority for the farmer. It was never an ideal of the yeoman farmers themselves. They might pride themselves on being able to meet the demands of self-sufficiency, but they were in haste to get out of their original lean-tos and log cabins into comfortable frame houses which they might hope to furnish with a respectable share of the world’s comforts.” – Richard Hofstadter, America at 1750: A Social Portrait

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“The English colonies of the North American mainland, the rude provinces that would in time form the nucleus of the United States, were the elements of the first post-feudal nation, the first nation in the world to be formed and to grow from its earliest days under the influence of Protestantism, nationalism, and modern capitalist enterprise. This was the transcendentally important reality about this new country.” – Richard Hofstadter, America at 1750: A Social Portrait

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“Sumer, its rise and fall, provides the historian with the most ancient example of the poignant irony inherent in man’s fate. As the Sumerian literary documents make amply manifest, it was the competitive drive for superiority and preeminence, for victory, prestige, and glory, that provided the psychological motivation sparking the material and cultural advances for which the Sumerians are justifiably noted: large-scale irrigation, technological invention, monumental architecture, writing, education, and literature. Sad to say, this very passion for competition and success carried within it the seed of destruction and decay. In the course of the centuries, Sumer became a ‘sick society’ with deplorable failings and distressing shortcomings: it yearned for peace and was constantly at war; it professed such ideals as justice, equity, and compassion, but abounded in injustice, inequality, and oppression; materialistic and short-sighted, it unbalanced the ecology essential to its economy; it was afflicted by a generation gap between parents and children, and between teachers and students. And so Sumer came to a cruel, tragic end, as one melancholy Sumerian bard bitterly laments: Law and order ceased to exist; cities, houses, stalls, and sheepfolds were destroyed; rivers and canals flowed with bitter waters; fields and steppes grew nothing but weeds and ‘wailing plants.’ The mother cared not for her children, nor the father for his spouse, and nursemaids chanted no lullabies at the crib. No one trod the highways and the roads; the cities were ravaged and their people were killed by the mace or died of famine. Finally, over the land fell a calamity ‘undescribable and unknown to man.’ – Samuel Noah Kramer, “Sumerian History, Culture, and Literature”

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