UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper LV: August 25, 2008, 7:00 p.m.
Sheldon S. Wolin,
Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and theSpecter of Inverted Totalitarianism
(Princeton and Oxford: PrincetonUniversity Press, April 2008).
“[I]nverted totalitarianism . . .represents the
coming of age of corporate power and the
demobilization of the citizenry” (x, emphasisin original). Inverted totalitarianism “is notexpressly conceptualized as an ideology orobjectified in public policy. Typically it isfurthered by power-holders and citizens who[exhibit] a certain heedlessness, an inabilityto take seriously the extent to which apattern of consequences may take shapewithout having been preconceived,” anattitude linked to “the well-known Americanzest for change” and their “good fortune inhaving at their disposal a vast continent richin natural resources” (x). “Americandemocracy has never been trulyconsolidated” (xi). The failure of the 2006midterm elections to change the direction of U.S. policy is persuasive evidence that theU.S. is not democratic (xii). Terminology:“Superpower” means “the projection of power outward,” “inverted totalitarianismprojects power inwards” (xiii). Thecombination is “the political coming-of-age of corporate power” (xiii). Checked byPopulism, Progressivism, and the New Deal,corporate power revived during the ColdWar, a time also inculcating political passivityin the citizenry (xiv-xv). The concept of “inverted totalitarianism” is “tentative,hypothetical . . . [it] exists as a set of strongtendencies rather than a fully realizedactuality” (xvi).
Among others, ArnoMayer.
Leni Riefenstahl’s “The Triumph of the Will” (1934) compared to G.W. Bush’slanding on the USS Abraham Lincoln (2003)—both were “myth creation” spectaclesusing inherently “tyrannical” media (cinema,television) (1-3).
Ch. 1: Myth in the Making.
With 9/11, amodern myth has been created that isgoverning decision-makers: 9/11 was a“symbolic event” revelatory of “Americanpolitical life” (4-5). The media unanimityproduced by 9/11 demands explanation (5-8). That the myth, chaos-combating andpredominantly Christian in its themes, isgoverning is demonstrated by the troop“surge” that followed the 2006 midtermelections (8-12). Science, technology,media, and advertising have facilitated thecreation of a mythic credulousness (12-14).
Ch. 2: Totalitarianism’s Inversion:Beginnings of the Imaginary of aPermanent Global War.
A “politicalimaginary” is a repertoire of notions used inpolitics but not really existing (15-18). Twosorts: “power imaginary” seeking to expandcapabilities, and “constitutional imaginary”prescribing how power is legitimated andconstrained (19-20). In contrast to FDR’sNew Deal, with WW II an American imaginarycentered on the projection of unprecedentedpower began to emerge, embraced by ColdWar “vital center” liberals like Arthur J.Schlesinger Jr.; “war” with Communism wasadopted as policy—NSC-68 (1950) was a keydocument (20-33). Corporate connectionsdeveloped (34-35) and the ideological warturned inward: McCarthyism (35-38). Thenew imaginary included the notions of sacrifice, legitimation of state power over thepeople’s power, and elitism (38-40).
Ch. 3: Totalitarianism’s Inversion,Democracy’s Perversion.
In analyzing theconsequences of this project for domesticpolitics, the U.S. has developed “a new typeof political system” which Wolin calls“inverted totalitarianism” because it is“seemingly one driven by abstract totalizingpowers” and “independent of any particularleader” (44; 41-45). “For our purposes aninversion occurs when seemingly unrelated,even disparate starting points converge andreinforce each other. . . . An inversion ispresent when a system, such as ademocracy, produces a number of significantactions ordinarily associated with itsantithesis . . . The new system, invertedtotalitarianism, is one that professes to bethe opposite of what, in fact, it is” (46). It islargely the creation of the Republican Party’s“dynamic reactionary movement,” but