Two Lewises and the America Empire. Oh, and resonance machines…

So, new policy.  Stuff that gets read while I walk around the park with a backpack full of books and weights [walk in the park], gets written up before I am allowed to do any more reading.  And the job is to try to

a) highlight interesting theory/facts
b) relate the reading to other (academic) reading, and
c) how it helps me move forward on my Thesis, (Handing Over M-phatically   August/September (’17)   (Thomas).

Therefore, in theory (hah!) I won’t be reading stuff that doesn’t have a more-than-tangential-relationship to THOMAS.

This morning I read

Lapham, L. 2004. Tentacles of Rage: The Republican propaganda mill, a brief history. Harpers Magazine, September, pp.31-41.

Lewis Lapham is writing about how the Republicans managed to shift ‘common sense’ to the ‘right’.  It basically argues that the “neoliberal” revolution didn’t start with Thatcher, Reagan getting elected but the (Lewis) Powell Memorandum in 1971.  Lapham argues that in the late 60s the elites were shook up by all the hippies and anti-war activity (there’s a lovely scene at the end of the Elliot Gould moving ‘Going Straight’, which I’d use if I were writing an essay.  Maybe I will).

And according to Lapham the growth of the interlocking mutually reinforcing thinktanks can be “traced to the recognition on the part of the country’s corporate gentry in the late 1960s that they lacked the intellectual means to comprehend, much less quell or combat, the social and political turmoil then engulfing the whole of American society.”

And, with the Powell Memorandum (the clue is in the name – Confidential Memorandum: Attack on the American Free Enterprise System, i.e. a call to arms by a guy who later became a Supreme Court justice) and some deep-pocketed millionaires and billionaires (including today’s betes-noirs the Koch Brothers) various outfits like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute etc were brought into existence. Lapham is good on the mechanics of this, and also on the coalition with the Christian right, in an electoral pact that continues even with the thrice married and until recently pro-choice Donald Trump (see this excellent piece for more on that).

My favourite piece was Lapham observing that “In the glut of paper I could find no unifying or fundamental principle except a certain belief that money was good for rich people and bad for poor people. it was the only point on which all the authorities agreed, and no matter where the words wee coming from a report on federal housing, an essay on the payment of Social Security, articles on he sorrow of the slums or the wonder of the U.S. navy) the authors invariably found the same abiding lesson in the tale  money ennobles rich people,making them strong as well as wise; money corrupts poor people, making them stupid as well as weak. “

There are two criticisms of the piece that I’ve found.

Less seriously, one of lesser known apparatchiks had a go at Lapham, and pointed out that “liberal philanthropy outspends conservative by 25 to 1”. But of course he was comparing apples and oranges, in that most liberal philanthropy is NOT funding policy-attack-doggery but this or that social program.  More seriously, well, this from wikipedia ;

Lapham wrote a September 2004 column for Harper’s in which he included a brief account of the Republican National Convention as if the event had already happened and he had witnessed it, “reflecting on the content and sharing with readers a question that occurred to him as he listened”,[4] as Jennifer Senior wrote in the New York Times Book Review. But the magazine arrived in subscribers’ mailboxes before the convention had actually taken place, as Senior says “forcing Lapham to admit that the scene was a fiction”. The columnist apologized, “but pointed out political conventions are drearily scripted anyway – he basically knew what was going to be said”. Senior continues, “By this logic, though, I could have chosen not to read Pretensions to Empire before reviewing it, since I already knew Lapham’s sensibility, just as he claims to know the Republicans.”[4] Indeed, Senior’s reading of Pretensions to Empire was called into question by her claim that the convention essay was “conspicuously” missing from Pretensions to Empire, when, in fact, an edited version of that essay opens the book. The New York Times published a correction and Senior described her error as “an honest mistake”.[5]

Relate the reading to other (academic) reading/literature


Connection to THOMAS

Potentially useful on the shaping of ‘common sense’/setting limits on the art of the possible, seeding ideas/instruments into the policy stream, denial in the problem stream etc.

The key differences in Australia from what Lapham/Connolly/Barley etc describe  is that the pockets of the philanthropists just aren’t that deep, the number of think-tanks is significantly smaller,and the ‘right’ has not been able to hook up with the religious, because the white people who came were not leaving because Britain was insufficiently religiously intolerant for them…  The soil simply not as fertile for the evangelical/capitalist resonance machine….


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