Alan N. Shapiro, Visiting Professor in Transdisciplinary Design, Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, Germany

Blog and project archive about transdisciplinary design, media theory and creative coding

Homage to Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Socialism and George Orwell’s 1984, by Alan N. Shapiro

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Tom Moody comments (February 25th):

Bernie Sanders’ version of socialism essentially reconstitutes the New Deal policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt: improved social security, more oversight of banks, support for labor. His opponents couch this as radical, which shows how far the pendulum has swung since Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers and began the gradual dismantling of the New Deal. Sanders’ current opponent, the political team of Bill and Hillary Clinton, delivered the final blow for Reagan, ending welfare and allowing banks to trade stocks again; they seek to protect this legacy in the present election.

There is a point where serving the public becomes indistinguishable from controlling it, and restoring the New Deal in an era of technocratic surveillance carries dangers. To receive medical benefits, for example, citizens’ personal data will be digitized and could be used against them by unscrupulous public servants.

Yet the private sector is no more benevolent. Capitalism in the US has drifted from production into rent-seeking (“seeking to increase one’s share of existing wealth without creating new wealth” — Wikipedia) in almost every area (cars, phones, food, travel, medicine, etc). In the current race Sanders is the only candidate advocating meaningful checks on this parasitism. The leap of faith one takes in supporting him is that ultimately one has to trust government, suitably transparentized, over private accumulators, to moderate for the “greater good.”

The Clintons represent the status quo: on the civil side, “limited government” enabling rent-seeking; on the military side, unlimited government draining the public treasury with disproportionately ineffective results. For the environment and for working people, this state of affairs is increasingly untenable, Hence the sudden upswing in public momentum for Sanders and his program.

(end of Tom Moody comment)

February 23rd — after the Nevada Democratic caucus.

Since Nevada, I notice a slew of articles, including in the New York Times, saying that it’s over for Bernie.

Wow, that’s funny… in the year when supposedly the “in” thing is to be critical of the rigged establishment.
This is totally rigged… the superdelegates who go to Hillary regardless of how the voters vote.. and all that..

What has happened so far? Bernie went in 6 months from 5% to 45%. He might be on the rise still further…

So far Bernie lost by a hair in Iowa, won by 22 points in New Hampshire, and lost by 6 points in Nevada (where he trailed not long ago by about 30 points).

But now “the establishment” is telling us that it’s over !

Back to 1984 

On April 4th of a year that he presumes to be 1984, Winston Smith positions himself in a small recessed space in his apartment, the only spot from which he cannot be observed by the telescreen. He begins to tranfer his “interminable restless monologue” onto the pages of a clandestinely procured hardbound writing tablet. With this gesture, an act in defiance of the basic principles of the regimented society in which he lives, Winston gropingly initiates a clarification and honest appraisal of himself and his times. In a world gone mad in its relentless suppression of individual thought, experience and desire, the composition of a critical discourse is an appeal to no one. “From the age of uniformity,” he writes in his diary, “from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink – greetings!”

Winston’s project is also the project of Orwell. The mechanical production of documents and the manipulation of events to the point of distorting them out of existence is not far from the journalistic charlatanry and endless proliferation of repetitive slogans that Orwell denounced all his life. From his early experience of British colonialism in Burma (then an adjunct of British India, now Mynamar) (documented in his 1934 semi-autobiographical novel Burmese Days) to his first-hand participation in the dramatic events of the Spanish Civil War, Orwell was consistently impressed by the lies and omissions committed by writers across the political spectrum, and by all forms of the mass media.

“Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper,” he wrote in “Looking Back on the Spanish War.” “[No one ever talks about subjects like] the centralized ownership of the British press, with its consequent power to suppress any bit of news that it chooses, the question of who really controls the B.B.C.; the buying up of young writers by film units, the Ministry of Information, etc.; the methods by which British correspondents in foreign countries are squeezed into telling lies or concealing truths; the corruption of literary criticism by the publishing trade.” (Orwell, Collected Essays, volume 2, pp. 256,416)

The most basic facts about the Spanish situation in the 1930s, for example – the conflicting ideals of the different social forces within the Republican camp, the repression of the anarchists, the Barcelona uprising – were totally suppressed by the English-speaking media in the name of unity against fascism. Writing in the modern world, according to Orwell, was either pure propaganda or consisted of little more than the throwing down and around of words upon paper in a thoughtless manner. In our own day and society, books and articles, even in academic circles, are churned out more or less automatically for no other purpose than that of enhancing the job credentials of the author or exploiting the momentary marketability of a specific issue or set of ideas.

By contrast, Orwell himself was deeply concerned about language, always used it intelligently and honestly, and very rarely deviated from the characteristic tone of his thinking (the thinking of a democratic socialist), which was that of controlled anger against the injustice and mendacity of a social system. 1984 (published in 1949) is the culmination of George Orwell’s life’s work. There are scarcely any of his earlier writings that are not in some way assimilated into the carefully conceived structure of this magnum opus novel. The science fictional dystopian novel’s ironic portrayal of a world carved up among three super-powers, each of whose way of life remarkably resembles that of the other two, pinpoints one of the fundamental trends of contemporary society: the obsession with automation, the automating of all processes and procedures, managerial direction from above, mastery and control of social organization.

1984 has never been popular with the Left, which almost always saw this novel as being a condemnation of the now-defunct Soviet Union. Criticism of the Soviet Union during the twentieth century was a critical strategy which most of the Left only hesitatingly tolerated. Isaac Deutscher, Trotsky’s biographer, called 1984 an “ideological superweapon” in the Cold War. He accused Orwell of expressing a “dark disillusionment not only with Stalinism but with every other form and shade of socialism.” (Russia in Transition, Grove Press, pp.246,259) Deutscher was wrong. It is clear from George Orwell’s nonfiction works like Down and Out in Paris and London (1933),  The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) and Homage to Catalonia (1938) that Orwell was a democratic socialist. Deutscher had obviously read none of these three books.

The American mass media made extensive use of some of Orwell’s terminology and imagery during the height of the Cold War in the 1950s. But such a promotion was obviously based on crude vulgarization inspired mainly by the 1956 movie adaptation of 1984 (directed by Michael Anderson, later withdrawn from distribution by Orwell’s estate). It is rather Deutscher’s limited conception of what a socialist perspective can be that should be called into question. A fair reading of the novel 1984 cannot honestly arrive at the conclusion that it can simply be categorized as a landmark in the “god that failed” literature (the anti-communist writings of former communist intellectuals).

Deutscher also claims that Orwell lifted whole parts of 1984 from Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 1921 novel We. In fact, the character of Winston Smith is directly foreshadowed by Gordon Comstock, the protagonist of Orwell’s 1936 novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying, whose world of the Money God very much resembles Oceania (the name of the Anglo-American superpower in 1984). The main themes of Aspidistra are the tyranny of money, of alienated labour, and of commercialism. Gordon’s problem (not far from Winston’s or Orwell’s) is that he is a poet in a society that finds the best use of poets to be in writing advertising copy.

When the novel Animal Farm was completed in 1944, it was refused by 17 publishers (for political reasons, since Russia was Great Britain’s ally at the time) and had to be printed at Orwell’s own expense. (see Frederick Warburg, An Occupation for Gentleman, 1959). Raymond Williams, a fairly sophisticated British Marxist literary critic and theorist from whom one might have expected better, wrote a widely distributed small book on Orwell in the Fontana Modern Masters book series in which the discussion of 1984 makes the same assumption that the author took Soviet society as the model for his science fictional dystopia.

The only evidence that Williams offers to support this assertion is that the figures of Big Brother and Goldstein are reminiscent of Stalin and Trotsky, and that the ruling Party, whose official ideology is called “Ingsoc” or English Socialism, is intended to represent a formerly oppositional leftist movement that has come to power. Williams does not see that it is just as possible that the hierarchical structure of Oceanic society is a further development of an American capitalism that has taken as its own certain ideas about centralization and organization traditionally associated with (let us say, authoritarian) elements of the Left.

One of Orwell’s last letters before his death (a published letter to Life magazine in 1949) clearly indicates that he was upset about the way his book was being instrumentalized by American propaganda: “My recent novel is not intended as an attack on Socialism or the British Labor Party (of which I am a supporter) but as a show-up of the perversions to which a centralised economy is liable and which have already been partly realised in Communism and Fascism. I believe also that totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere, and I have tried to draw out these ideas to their logical consequences. The scene of the book is laid in Britain in order to emphasize that the English-speaking races are not innately better than anyone else and that totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere.” (Collected Essays, Volume 4, p.502).

Orwell was disgusted by the “very shame-making publicity” (Collected Essays, Volume 4, p.505) taking place on behalf of his book, a sentiment it would have been very unlikely for him to feel if he had truly believed that the only danger of impending totalitarianism in the Western world came from the leftist parties. A fresh re-reading of 1984 indicates that Orwell understood much more about the evolution of advanced capitalism than Marxists like Deutscher or Williams. Key features of American society are profoundly illuminated by Orwell’s fictional and conceptual landscape. The notion of a dominant power seeking to control the thoughts and emotions of citizen-subjects is not so outlandish an hypothesis as long as we remain cognizant that this is only a tendency. We should avoid absolutes.

The Ministry of Truth, disseminating information, instruction and entertainment, reaching into all domains of social and everyday life… the superintendence of work norms, evening recreations, the increased rationalization of activities through bureaucratic administration… Newspeak: the fabricated anti-language, an explicit design accomplished through the simple elimination of words. Not formal and legal restrictions on freedom of expression, but the restriction of the cultural and linguistic fields… “Heretical thought will be literally unthinkable, as least so far as thought is dependent on words.” (1984)

Emmanuel Goldstein’s clandestine text on the concise history of mass communication: “In the past no government had the power to keep its citizens under constant surveillance. The invention of print, however, made it easier to manipulate public opinion, and the film and the radio carried the process further. With the development of television, and the technical advance which made it possible to receive and transmit simultaneously on the same instrument, private life came to an end… The possibility of enforcing not only complete obedience to the will of the State, but complete uniformity of opinion on all subjects, now existed for the first time.”

Democratic Socialist Thinkers

There is no existing society on Earth that comes anywhere close to the nightmare that Orwell describes. His novel 1984 should be read as the satire it is intended to be. Yet Orwell’s understanding of totalitarianism, as expressed in Newspeak, doublethink, and in the concluding dialogue between Winston Smith and O’Brien on the relationship between philosophy and power compares deeply with the great 20th century thinkers of democratic socialism such as Albert Camus, Hannah Arendt, Claude Lefort, and Sheldon Wolin.

One key to the political philosophy of these thinkers is that they defended democratic socialism while criticizing the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union. In his 1976 book Un homme en trop, a study of Solzenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago,  Claude Lefort as democratic socialist deeply questions the position taken by almost the entire Left, from Trotsky to the Eurocommunists, that the savagery committed by the ruling bureaucracies of the “Communist” countries should be understood within the context of a ‘generally positive development’.

This formidable hierarchical society, according to Lefort, is a new formation in history that must be understood in its specificity. The rule of the Soviet bureaucracy can be comprehended through grasping the symbolic dimension of power which exists at the interstices of the levels of social structure and the collective imaginary. In the ‘pure form’ of bureaucratic domination, the massive repression of the people is carried out in the name of the people. It is the embodied symbolic representation of a totally harmonious social body, a fused entity without internal divisions, mobilized in the service of an imputed common aim. The body must totally cleanse itself of anti-bodies, must eliminate all parasites and dissenters who would imperil the collectivity’s self-image as the incarnation of socialism. If the steamrolling movement of society in inseparable from the social, then there must be an anti-social. If the violator of the oneness does not exist, then he must be invented. He must be exhibited on ignominious parade as public proof that conflict is masterable, to be eliminated by the omnipotent people-State.

Thus democratic socialism must place its emphasis on a serious commitment to and reflection on democracy. 1984 is about all the tendencies in the major 20th century societies – East and West, communist and oligarchical capitalist, state-political and media-instituted-hyper-real, the tendency to absolutist non-communicative thinking and speaking — which are the opposite of democracy. The violence of the Stalinist regime was so totalizing and systematic because it was founded upon the phantasm of the unified society completely transparent unto itself.

Society as smoothly-functioning machine, the Organization Man, Man the Producer. The manipulability of individuals in a world denied its radical uncertainty, its indetermination, its radical illusion. Scientific management: Frederick Taylor, Henry Ford, Vladimir Illych Lenin.

The achievement of the West, of European and North American societies, of democracy, of communicative rationality (Jurgen Habermas), of humanism: one speaks of the social, but always remains at a gap from the social in some way. There is a self-aware gap between the social and the discourse on the social (the latter being the political discourse of the state or the public sphere).

The myth of the self-institution of the social is the totalitarian impulse which seeks to abolish the tension between political society and civil society, between the Ideal Forms and the real instances (ignoring the lesson of Plato’s Republic), claiming to embody a mastery of the whole of social reality through society itself. Democracy never realizes its ideals. This non-completion is what democracy is. It is non-absolutist. It lives in the paradox mediating between economic and political liberalism.

The totalitarian state, on the contrary, strives to grab hold of and encompass the integral social matrix, taking it into itself. This state wants to know where everyone is and what they are doing at every moment. It seeks the elimination of autonomous social relations which are independent of power. To paraphrase both Claude Lefort and Hannah Arendt, it is only by understanding totalitarianism that one can understand what is at stake in democracy.

In his essay “What is Bureaucracy?” (Telos Winter 1974-1975), Lefort convincingly demonstrates that even the great sociologist Max Weber stayed within a definition of bureaucracy restricted to an enumeration of criteria, not sufficiently identifying bureaucracy’s specific dynamic. In the bureaucratic society, all processes get automated. The implementation of software in its mainstream paradigmatic form (the opposite of Creative Coding) is the continuation of twentieth-century factory and office automation.

The large-scale organization envisages all of its activities and procedures from a technical point of view. Efficiency dictates that results should be as predictable and calculable as possible. Operations are the carrying out of a pre-conceived norm with an already-defined objective. Yet bureaucracy is also an ideology, convincing people that the present hierarchical organization of the task is identical with rational organization as such. Workers and citizens become passive participants who engage in mechanical functions linked by an outside coordination beyond their control.

The Architects of Oceania

Emmanuel Goldstein, the fictitious leader of the fictitious oppositional movement in 1984, writes in The Book: “In the early twentieth century, the vision of a future society unbelievably rich, leisured, orderly, and efficient – a glittering antiseptic world of glass and steel and snow-white concrete – was part of the consciousness of nearly every literate person.” A great deal of twentieth-century thought is a thinking of social design — it is nothing less than architectonic in its ambition. What is the relationship between political vision, science fiction and design? Let us consider H.G. Wells as an exemplary figure. Wells began his career in the early 1890s with scientific romances of unusual literary quality, such as The First Men in the Moon (1991). Later, as Orwell points out in his essay “Wells, Hitler and the World State,” Wells moved increasingly towards a technocratic and scientistic vision of the world.

Starting with A Modern Utopia (1905), Wells focused on the themes of the limitless possibilities of science, its historical struggle against tradition and the status quo, and the marvellous ordering of the human environment that technology and the machine could bring about. Wells was one of the first thinkers of “human engineering” and he self-identified as a socialist (authoritarian not democratic). His heroes were both scientists and revolutionaries. He explicity envisioned the seizure of power by an elite stratum of managers and technologists who would force human beings to do what was good for them.

Wells’ 1896 novel The Island of Dr. Moreau (from his first phase) is a great work of literature. Although anticipating Wells’ later themes of the manipulated reconstruction of society, the story of a mad scientist who uses his surgical skills to give human characteristics to animals exhibits a multiplicity of possible meanings, including a profoundly pessimistic view of human nature which stands in marked contrast to the complacency of Wells’ later “utopianism.”

For us in 2016, democracy is the key to the renaissance of socialism. When democracy was removed from capitalism and when democracy was removed from socialism, the result was pretty much the same: there was a bad convergence of bad capitalism and bad socialism.

In a few rare moments of great lucidity, H.G. Wells questioned the moral wisdom of his own idea of the “new aristocracy.” And he did so in a remarkable and quietly explanatory tone. In his 1934 Interview With Stalin (Sydney: Current Books, 1950 reprint), Wells presents a ‘convergence’ analysis of non-democratic capitalism and non-democratic socialism: “My visit to the United States excited my mind. The old financial world is collapsing; the economic life of the country is being reorganized on new lines. Lenin said ‘We must learn to do business,’ learn this from the capitalists. Today the capitalists have to learn from you [Stalin!], to grasp the spirit of socialism. It seems to me that what is taking place in the United States is a profound reorganization, the creation of planned, that is, socialist, economy. You and Roosevelt begin from two different starting points. But is there not a relation in ideas, a kinship of ideas, between Washington and Moscow? In Washington, I was struck by the same thing I see going on here… their need, like yours, is directive ability… Organization, and the regulation of individual action, hae become mechanical necessities, irrespective of social theories.”

In response, Stalin admits to Wells that J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford are good organizers of rationalized production “from whom we take lessons.”

The origins of modern advertising and the ideal of mass consumption which developed in America in the 1920s as redesigns of the social landscape were responses to intensive labour unrest and the crisis of social control in the period of rapid capitalist-industrial expansion. Having always considered workers from the point of view of their productive capacity, managers or “captains of consciousness” (Stuart Ewen) began to view worker-consumers as social and psychological beings whose total existence must be contemplated as an arena for influence and control.

Nowaways we express our commitment to the existing social order in our leisure hours, and through the media culture and the consumer society. We need look no further than the brilliant TV series Mad Men, which depicts the rise of the hegeomy of the advertising industry in and over American life around 1960, to understand this. Advertising, at the service of industry and the consumer market, created new needs and desires to seal people’s allegiance to a model of existence in which they sought satisfaction in the purchasing of goods rather than in the quality of their work life. The theory of advertising as a doctrine of social and cultural management, the real diversity among people covered over by the appearance of a common semiotic belonging to a world of signs.

George Harrison Phelps, the head of a Madison Avenue advertising agency in the 1920s, wrote a small book speculating about the changes required to perfect the work-consumption cycle as the basis for “Americanizing the world.” In Our Biggest Customer (New York: Horace & Liveright, 1929), Phelps asserts that a capitalism then in crisis could only be saved by radically increasing wages and granting more leisure time to workers.

Racism and segregation in the South must also be eliminated, according to Phelps, as they perpetuate an “antiquated marginal zone” of impoverished laborers outside the reach of the national or global markets of automobilies, radios, celebrity icons, entertainment, soup can labels, etc.

Widespread New Deal-type reforms and programs are needed, according to Phelps, as a prerequisite to giving birth to a virginal social tissue bereft of traditions that can then be inundated with the messages of advertising. Society must be reformed in order to be informed. A society of fully transparent communication and information, a society that is permanently speaking to itself about itself, a society permanently knowable to itself.

In Phelps’ imagined future, citizens “in luxurious metropolitan apartments and in the betterthatched huts on the banks of the Congo River” will all tune in to hear the latest news and social and psychological advice from the “great international broadcasting organization.” The leaders of the great global organizations will be smiling at them from the telescreen, engaging the target audience of one in intimate dialogue. The object of personalized advertising cannot help but smile back.

Rolf Neumann writes:
“So you mean the point of advertising, Alan, which everyone hates, but thinks of as influencing you to buy products, is deeper? They devised it to hide the fact that you are not happy at work by substituting the satisfaction of buying social goods that superficially make you cool or trendy or fit in society and be superficially admired. Their end goal is to keep you at that dissatisfying robotic work, churning away to satisfy the elites and pay taxes into the system.
“What do you/Phelps mean by New Deal programs for a society “fully transparent” – that society, as when liberating the poor to spend and influence, as democratizing software and Internet, not for the benefit of freedom of expression, but for further control, that the transparency and free flow of information and mobile “Smart(Phone)” ubiquity is all a ploy to influence even more?”
Alan: It is both. In the spirit of Marshall McLuhan, I would say that every new technology is both a gain and a loss for democracy. A perhaps cynical way of saying it would be: it liberates us from the previous forms of control only to design, implement and disseminate new forms of control.

Apple Macintosh 1984 Television Advertisement

“1984″ was a television commercial first aired in the USA on New Year’s Eve 1984. It introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer for the first time. The second and most important viewing of the advertising spot occured during the Super Bowl on January 22, 1984. The Mac PC was depicted as the savior of humanity from a conformist or totalitarian society, the possibility of individual creativity and empowerment against the society of the spectacle. There are also images in the advertisment’s video reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 dystopian science fiction film Metropolis. Citizens in drab clothing and surroundings are controlled by telescreens and the Thought Police. A Big Brother-like figure on a massive screen speaks to his passive, mesmerized audience:

“Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology—where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death, and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!”

A rebel female runner hurls a hammer at the immense screen, destroying it. A text appears on the American TV screen:

“On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

And this was the text of Apple’s 1997 advertising campaign “Think Different”:

“Here’s to the CRAZY ONES. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you CAN’T do is IGNORE them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see GENIUS. Because the people who are CRAZY ENOUGH to think they can CHANGE THE WORLD, are the ones who DO.”

Video footage of Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Branson, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Muhammed Ali and other famous twentieth-century visionaries is shown.

Apple’s non-conformist philosophy for creative capitalism is perhaps the appropriate complement to democratic socialism in a mixed economy, going beyond oligarchical American Capitalism. 

Democracy morphs and evolves endlessly in the incompletion of its ideals. (Rolf Neumann)

Democracy Not Metaphysics

I agree with the American political scientist and philosopher Dick Howard, who, in his important book The Specter of Democracy (Columbia University Press, 2002), argues that the Left must renew itself through a serious and rigorous engagement with the question of democracy. Howard investigates Claude Lefort’s theory of the political, Cornelius Castoriadis’ idea of the “imaginary insitution of society,” and Jurgen Habermas’ reorientation of critical theory towards democratic theory.

In my view, radical thought took an unfortunate wrong turn at the beginning of the nineteenth century when it identified the questions of the political and of democracy with the so-called ‘bourgeous’ or capitalist-industrial revolution. Marxism (deriving from Hegel) then sought its own focus in the identifying of a “philosophical truth” incarnated in an historical subject. What some on the Right today call the “political correctness” of the “identity politics” of the Left (first it was the workers, then the third world downtrodden, then displaced to women, to African-Americans, to gays and lesbians) is this coupling of a given economic, racial, gender, etc. status and an allegedly corresponding enlightenened consciousness or historical destiny, a privileged awareness built into your built-in condition. Although I am an (independent) thinker of the Left, I have always felt that this identity politics is largely suspect.

Karl Marx started this unfortunate misreading of democracy in On the Jewish Question (1843) where he claimed that democracy is a set of institutions which operate to ensure the rule of “the bourgeoisie” and the submission of the dominated. Marx contended that the “political emancipation” accomplished by the democratic revolution is an deception because it convinces people that they have the same rights and equality before the law as all others. According to Marx, civil society is divided into irreconcilably antagonistic economic classes. For Marx, the “political emancipation” of the late 18th century French and American revolutions would have to be supplemented by the so-called “human” or “social” emancipation whose realization would be the historical task of the proletariat or working class.

Marx’s view in On the Jewish Question reduces the meaning of democracy to its alleged ideological instrumentalization in the defense of extremely skewed wealth distribution. Democracy is in fact an historical achievement of Western society that goes far beyond the interests of any economic class. The French and American revolutions signified the separation of knowledge from the existing constellation of power, the demand for and legitimation of new rights, and the detaching of the law from its inscription in the real (less governmental powers than in previous regimes such as monarchy).

Democratic demands go against the claims to “self-institution” of top-down conceptions of a social unity, projects (such as Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon) to occupy the place from which society can be observed and conceived in a totalizing knowledge and mastery. There is no future for the idea of socialism as the work of an historical agent seeking a metaphysical foundation in some fixed definition of human nature or self-realization as a ‘creative’ or ‘social’ being. There can be no philosophical, metaphysical, or essentialist argument for socialism.

Go, Bernie, Go!

By emphasizing the “democracy” in democratic socialism, Bernie Sanders can transform the image which many Americans have of what socialism is. In the economic sphere – which as a topic is largely outside the scope of this essay – we obviously don’t want socialism. We want a mixed economy of capitalism and socialism. Economically, to say that “I am a democratic socialist” means that I want more socialism than we have now. Nobody here is a purist.

Young people in America, hungry for change to a better society, deserve an intelligent, honest discussion about democratic theory and practice: the progressive unfolding of rights and continuous redefinition of political relations.

One does not seize the place of power (as in non-democratic or autocratic socialism); one looks towards the symbolic space. The formulation of rights always demands their reformulation. Society would be the arena of a permanent contestation, an open-mindedness.

Democratic socialism opens up a space: the tension between political society and civil society that every form of totalitarianism seeks to close or to snap by claiming to embody the whole of the collective. Neither identical with nor different from society, the political should be designed as that realm where citizens discuss their relations with their institutions.

The political should be articulated at an existential and experiential level. But without ever trying to overcome the suspense between the Platonic Ideal and the (Hyper-)Real. As Guy Debord might say, it will be a movement for the construction of situations.

Therefore I endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States.

Many Americans have an unfounded fear that socialism equals Communism. It does not. Democratic socialism as a corrective to the excesses of oligarchical capitalism. The balanced mixed economy of capitalism and socialism. By obsessively fearing Communism (perhaps because American society already is in so many ways so much like that…), we miss out on the enormous benefits that social democracy can bring. The great democratic socialist thinkers like Orwell and Lefort, for example, were the most astute critics of Communism.

Bernie is the sole Presidential candidate ever who does not fear socialism, who does not fear to invoke the phrase “democratic socialism”  – the right kind of socialism.

Bernie will be an open-minded leader — fearless, bold, intelligent, articulate, honest, authentic, caring, respectful, consistent, and dedicated. A new era of a world less politically controlled, more politically open, flexible, creative and experimental.

Bernie has spent his entire career outside of the political establishment. He was the Independent mayor of Burlington, Vermont, then an Independent member of the U.S. House of Representatives, then an Independent United States Senator from 1981 until 2015. Since 2015, he has been a Democratic U.S. Senator.

Bernie has called himself a democratic socialist since he joined the Young People’s Socialist League as an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago in the early 1960s.

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