David Runciman almost re-writes Karl Popper: Political Observer comments

Approaching Mr. David  Runciman’s essay published by The Times Literary Supplement on January 11, 2019, I have some thoughts, aided by other writes, who offer valuable insights into Popper’s thought/writings in general and specific ways.

Headline: Closed Minds

Sub-headline: The rise of conspiracy thinking

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/private/conspiracy-theories/

Mr. Runciman ‘reviews’ Michael Ignatieff and Stefan Roch, editors Rethinking Open  Society:New adversaries and new opportunities. Michael Ignatieff and Stefan Roch, editors What he focuses upon is Popper’s comments on the ‘conspiracy theory of society’:

The Austrian philosopher Karl Popper introduced a host of terms and phrases into academic discourse over his lifetime. They include “the open society”, “piecemeal social engineering” and “falsifiability”. But only one phrase coined by Popper has entered everyday language, though Popper himself is rarely (if ever) identified with it. In the second edition of The Open Society and its Enemies, published in 1952 (the original appeared in 1945), Popper included a new section where he discussed the anti-scientific view that a social phenomenon could be explained by “discovering the men or groups who are interested in the occurrence of this phenomenon (sometimes it is a hidden interest which has first to be revealed) and who have planned and conspired to bring it about”. Popper’s name for this way of thinking is “the conspiracy theory of society”.

Mr. Runciman takes the capacious notion of that ‘conspiracy theory of society’ and applies it to political manifestations of the political present. Yet what does Popper’s idea/construct have to do with the present manifestation of ‘conspiracy thinking’ in the contemporary world? Is this a mere shift of focus? or a misapplication of a societal critique, to very specific political phenomenon have legitimacy! In the political world of a collapsed Neo-Liberalism ‘Populism’ has become a threat to those who consider themselves ‘Liberals’. That Populism being founded upon ‘conspiracy’.

We now live in an age when the idea of the “conspiracy theorist” has become ubiquitous. It is how many of the politicians who are identified in this volume as the new enemies of the open society are routinely described. Donald Trump is sometimes called “the Conspiracy Theorist-in-Chief”. Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, the Law and Justice Party in Poland, the League in Italy: all these leaders and movements seek to explain phenomena they dislike as the result of secret plots against them. The plotters vary from case to case, though the cast list is depressingly familiar: it’s the EU, or the banks, or the Russians, or the deep state, or, inevitably, the Jews. Jan-Werner Müller, in his essay in this collection, calls conspiracy theory part of “the logic of populism”. If populist politicians represent the overwhelming majority of solid citizens (“the people”), and yet those politicians are not getting their way, it must be because hidden forces have secretly blocked them.

The reader need only look at Mr.  Ignatieff, acolyte of  Isaiah Berlin and Responsibility to Protect (R2P) architect, and his Neo-Conservative allies, and those pretending to the status of ‘Liberal’ ,as evidence of  their status as the agents of political rationalism, or more aptly labeled fellow travelers : Anne Applebaum, Niall Ferguson , Timothy Garton Ash, Michael Ignatieff , Robert D. Kaplan, Mark Lilla , Jan-Werner Müller , Sir Roger Scruton among others.

https://www.ceu.edu/rethinking-open-society/book

For indispensable insights into Popper see Katrina Forrester’s review of ‘After ‘The Open Society’: Selected Social and Political Writings’ by Karl Popper, edited by Jeremy Shearmur and Piers Norris Turner.

In After ‘The Open Society’, Jeremy Shearmur and Piers Norris Turner have collected a range of his published and unpublished essays, letters and lectures that tell the story of this transformation. To the picture Popper presented of himself in his autobiography Unended Quest (1976), this volume adds a map of his intellectual development during his later years. He was sympathetic to Marxism at the beginning of his political life, but ended up a reactionary neoliberal. He was not alone: as he slid to the right, so did the liberal consensus. The essays here tell both stories. Popper begins the volume as the kind of liberal who cares about equality and ‘the social question’. By the end, he is a free marketeer, angry with the spoilt, irresponsible younger generation, with their complaints about capitalism, their drugs and their alcohol – by all accounts, a grumpy old man. This is a far cry from Marxism, but a far cry too from the man who in The Open Society aimed at uniting the dispersed left – liberals and socialists – under the banner of ‘humanitarianism’.

In the long march from socialism to neoliberalism, it is hardly a surprise to find that Popper was at his most interesting when he tried to combine the two. In the 1940s, he attempted to develop a political theory that would provide a practical basis for agreement among the anti-communist left. ‘Nothing is so important at the present time,’ he wrote in 1944, ‘as an attempt to get over the fateful dissention within the camp of the friends of the “open society”.’ He rejected the traditional, essentialist question of political philosophy – ‘What is the state, what is its true nature, its real meaning?’ – and asked instead: ‘What do we demand of the state? How do we want the state to be ruled?’ His answer formed part of what has been called his ‘negative utilitarianism’. Politics, he argued, should work towards the minimisation of human suffering, not the maximisation of human happiness. For Popper, this was a point on which the left could agree.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n08/katrina-forrester/tocqueville-anticipated-me

Here Prof. Forrester offers a definition of  the ‘conspiracy theory of society’ that is at odds with the definition presented by Prof. Runciman:

He objected to what he called the ‘conspiracy theory of society’ – namely, the idea that the capitalist system is evil or morally base.

I’m posting three screen captures from Charles Pigden’s Popper Revisited or What is Wrong with Conspiracy Theories? from 1995:

https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/sage/popper-revisited-or-what-is-wrong-with-conspiracy-theories-xG1LOZeInk

The second page of Prof. Pigden’s essay, as I have posted it,seems to  confirms Mr. Runciman’s claims, yet further reading seems to confirm the opposite. Prof. Pigden simply examines the claims of Popper, in the mode of an honest critic. Would that the reader of Mr. Runciman’s essay could say the same of its author.

Political Observer

 

 

 

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My reply to @onomasticator

@onomasticator

It is a moral challenge riding herd on all the apostates on this comments section! I being one of those ‘undesirables’ . Your polemic is impressive, in its way, yet your faith in the morally upright Mr. Mueller reminds me of David Bromwich’ s essay at The London Review of Books:

Comey’s memoir has now surpassed the combined sales of Michael Wolff’s portrait of the Trump White House, Fire and Fury, and Hillary Clintons’s election elegy What Happened. The book, written in an idiom identical to the one he uses in interviews and press briefings, is clearly the work of an un-ghosted author, and it contains passages most unusual for an official memoir:

There is a place I have visited on the coast of North Carolina where two barrier islands come close together. In the narrow passageway between them, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean meet the waters of the huge and shallow sound that lies behind the islands. There is turbulence in that place and waves appear to break even though no land is visible. I imagine that the leaders of the Department of Justice stand at that spot, between the turbulent waters of the political world and the placid waters of the apolitical sound. Their job is to respond to the political imperatives of the president and the voters who elected him, while also protecting the apolitical work of the thousands of agents, prosecutors, and staff who make up the bulk of the institution. So long as the leaders understand the turbulence, they can find their footing. If they stumble, the ocean water overruns the sound and the department has become just another political organ. Its independent role in American life has been lost and the guardians of justice have drowned.

This depth of formal piety cannot be faked; the passage shows the burden (as Comey sees it) of maintaining constitutional and legal restraints on Donald Trump.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/2018/08/09/david-bromwich/american-breakdown

I’ve placed  in bold what I think is relevant to your faith in Mueller, as mirrored in Bromwich’s faith in Comey. The mendacity of the FBI, and its record of political nihilism is exemplified by J.Edgar Hoover and his exercise of unchecked power over generations. Consider the latest cover up of the 20 year record of its ‘Crime Lab’ incompetence to be just the recent of its self-servingly mendacious incompetence!

Regards,

StephenKMackSD

https://on.ft.com/2FKPjOn

 

 

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BuzzFeedNews ‘report’ causes tumescence in America’s bourgeois political class! Political Cynic marvels at the latest ‘revelation’

Headline:President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project

Sub-headline:Trump received 10 personal updates from Michael Cohen and encouraged a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin.

BuzzFeedNews’ ‘report’ from two anonymous ‘federal law enforcement officials’ is the latest ‘evidence’ of the Guilt of Trump, he committed an impeachable offense!

President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.

And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/jasonleopold/trump-russia-cohen-moscow-tower-mueller-investigation?ref=bfnsplash

Political Cynic

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janan.ganesh@ft.com embraces ‘The Class Struggle’: Almost Marx scoffs

Headline: Time for America to embrace the class struggle

Sub-headline: This faultline feels less fraught than rifts over race, gender and sexuality

Mr. Ganesh spends most of his essay chattering about ‘Identity Politics’ in its various iterations of Left and Right, ( Usually its the Right that attacks the Left for this political crime!) yet he misses entirely ,or is simply ignorant of, The Rainbow Coalition of Jesse Jackson, as a uniting force in the desert of Identity Politics?

Mr. Ganesh ends his essay with this paragraph awash in jejune political chatter. Mr. Ganesh’s political myopia, allows him his expression of cultivated ignorance of the fact that the American Nation is still in the collapse of the Neo-Liberal Swindle. The real division between the 1% and the 99% defines our political present, in all its bleakness. Senator Sanders reminds his fellow citizens, that Mrs. Clinton was the partner of President Clinton, and his Financial Reform ‘Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999’ that was/is the harbinger of economic catastrophe, that has become a permanent part of American life. And the concomitant rise of the dreaded Know-Nothing Trump, in all his Game Show Host glory. The ‘choice’ has already been made, Mr. Ganesh myopia again expresses itself.

How telling that it was Bernie Sanders, a socialist, who blamed Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016 on a fixation with such things. The “fight of today”, he said, is against the “oligarchy”. The senator for Vermont sees a class-based politics as good for the party. A better argument is that it is good for the US. A democratic nation has to fall out over something. Exactly what, it must choose with the most enormous care.

Almost Marx

https://www.ft.com/content/0c6be82a-1976-11e9-b93e-f4351a53f1c3

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edward.luce@ft.com : ‘Trump as Russian Asset’ episode DCCVII . Political Observer

Mueller has indited Russians who cannot be tried in any American Court, and he won’t be conducting any Show Trials in absentia. A poor investment of his fraudulent prestige, of time and absent any self-serving propaganda potential, not to speak of its absurdist potential .
It isn’t the ‘Left’ who is accusing Trump, its center lies in the Clinton/Clapper/Brennan political alliance, and the myth not backed by any evidence- why weren’t the computers and servers attacked by Russia impounded by the FBI, when the charges of ‘Russian Interference’ were leveled by Clinton? In the face of manufactured hysteria ’empirical evidence‘ becomes an irrelevance!

Mr. Luce being a Posh Boy and potentially an Integrity Initiative fellow traveler, might lead to speculation, certainly the sine qua non of the whole of this myth’s reason d’etre, that the charge of Trump being a ‘Russian Asset’ has about it the stench of the Frankenheimer’s adaptation of the Condon’s Cold War pot boiler of the Manchurian Candidate, published in 1959 at the height of  American Soviet paranoia.

As for Mueller and Comey as paragons of FBI virtue, recall the fact that the FBI, and its Directors, were party to the cover-up of the their utterly incompetent Crime Lab, see Tainting Evidence : Behind the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab’by John Kelly and Phillip Wearne. Cases based on the ‘evidence’ provided by that ‘Crime Lab’ through the years 1980 t0 2000 were thrown out! Twenty years of demonstrated incompetence, not to mention mendacity. A record the FBI would like to bury, with the help of de facto apologists like Mr. Luce.

Political Observer

https://www.ft.com/content/8a5c64fc-1a53-11e9-9e64-d150b3105d21


StephenKMackSD 

As that current cliche goes ‘you drank the Kool-Aid’ ! As an American of 17 years I ,like so many others, saw the result of John Kennedy’s death and the publication of The Warren Report: the presentation of the Magic Bullet theory postulated /invented by Arlen Specter, and the 30 foot tower built by CBS to prove the guilt of Lee Harvey Oswald. Even Cronkite couldn’t sell this!
Then, Senator Church’s report that said that there was more than one assassin! My point, who today believes that Mr. Oswald was that lone assassin.
The Warren Commission was run by CIA head Allen Dulles. Kennedy said he would ‘smash the CIA into a million pieces’ over the Bay of Pigs.
I have no faith in the liars Clinton/Clapper/Brennan nor the CIA ,The NSA, the FBI. But I have absolute faith in your gullibility, in your belief in the evolving narrative constructed/confected by this trio of liars and their National Security State allies. Everything they have said, and the ‘evidence’ and their reconstruction of the timeline of that Russian Interference is set in stone like the guilt of Mr. Oswald! History teaches some very valuable lessons: the value of propaganda is that it is endlessly repeated, for maximizing the number of impressions, that then becomes the measure of its truth value.

Regards,

StephenKMackSD   

 

 

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janan.ganesh@ft.com on Houellebecq’s Légion d’honneur & the seductions of pessimism. American Writer comments

Mr. Ganesh, in this essay, is back where he belongs, as feuilletonist. On the dissolute M. Houellebecq read this interview by

Sub-headline: Michel Houellebecq is the ageing enfant terrible of French literature. His new book imagines a France ruled by Islamists and he has been under 24-hour police protection since the Charlie Hebdo attack. Does he really hate women and Muslims or is he just a twisted provocateur?

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/06/michel-houellebecq-submission-am-i-islamophobic-probably-yes

On Voltaire’s Bastards that 1995 doorstop, or coffee table decor , by John Ralston Saul, see this exhaustive review :

‘Are We “Voltaire’s Bastards?”‘ : John Ralston Saul and Post-Modern Representations of the Enlightenment by Nicholas Hudson

Yet the resemblance with Voltaire goes even deeper,
and is marked by the ironies also inherent in the career of his predecessor in the eighteenth century. For all his irreverence, Voltaire was a man enamored with the life of the court and the privileged world of the aristocracy. He thirsted for recognition at Versailles and when it was not served with sufficient flourish, he escaped to Berlin, where he showed himself entirely willing to set aside his anti-militarism in obeisance to the bellicose, if belletristic, Frederick the Great. Voltaire was not without democratic and populist impulses, which showed themselves in his
defense of the natifs in Geneva and his courageous campaigns in favor of victims of religious persecution such as Calas and La Barre. But one cannot not help noticing that both Voltaire and the husband of our
Governor-General tend to view the world’s sufferings through the bay-windows of large houses. Part of the fun of Voltaire’s Bastards is that Saul seems to know many of the people he attacks. His understanding of culture, like Voltaire’s, concentrates on the role of the ‘elite,’ whom he
both blames for social dysfunction, and loads with the responsibility of leading the masses out of darkness.

https://www.erudit.org/en/journals/lumen/2001-v20-lumen0276/1012306ar.pdf

American Writer

https://www.ft.com/content/eee12b7a-14d0-11e9-a581-4ff78404524e

 

 

 

 

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Macron must go! Almost Marx

Two questions and a comment that the mendacious,recalcitrant Neo-Liberal Macron is incapable of answering, with anything like honesty : Macron must go !

“I’m here today because I’m not happy with what is happening in France,” said Serge Perrin, a 70-year-old retiree. “You can’t ask the French people to pay for the errors of globalisation.”

The mayor of Bourges, Pascal Blanc, said that the government needed to act quickly and bring an end to the protests by finding a way to reconnect with the people of France. “This is the ninth act of this movement. How many acts will there be in this play?” asked Mr Blanc.

“This national debate won’t change anything,” said Audrey, who declined to give her second name. “Macron has already said he won’t change his direction. So it is optics.”

Almost Marx

https://www.ft.com/content/2f517eda-1698-11e9-9e64-d150b3105d21

 

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