Sheldon Wolin, our most important contemporary political theorist, died Oct. 21 at the age of 93. In his books “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism” and “Politics and Vision,” a massive survey of Western political thought that his former student Cornel West calls “magisterial,” Wolin lays bare the realities of our bankrupt democracy, the causes behind the decline of American empire and the rise of a new and terrifying configuration of corporate power he calls “inverted totalitarianism.”
Wendy Brown, a political science professor at UC Berkeley and another former student of Wolin’s, said in an email to me: “Resisting the monopolies on left theory by Marxism and on democratic theory by liberalism, Wolin developed a distinctive — even distinctively American — analysis of the political present and of radical democratic possibilities. He was especially prescient in theorizing the heavy statism forging what we now call neoliberalism [… a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector. It takes from the basic principles of neoclassical economics, suggesting that governments must limit subsidies, make reforms to tax laws in order to expand the tax base, reduce deficit spending, limit protectionism and open markets up to trade. It also seeks to abolish fixed exchange rates, back deregulation, permit private property and privatize businesses run by the state … Neoliberalism supports fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, privatization and greatly reduced government spending.], and in revealing the novel fusions of economic with political power that he took to be poisoning democracy at its root.”
Wolin throughout his scholarship charted the devolution of American democracy and in his last book, “Democracy Incorporated,” details our peculiar form of corporate totalitarianism. “One cannot point to any national institution[s] that can accurately be described as democratic,” he writes in that book, “surely not in the highly managed, money-saturated elections, the lobby-infested Congress, the imperial presidency, the class-biased judicial and penal system, or, least of all, the media.”
Inverted totalitarianism is different from classical forms of totalitarianism. It does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader but in the faceless anonymity of the corporate state. Our inverted totalitarianism pays outward fealty to the facade of electoral politics, the Constitution, civil liberties, freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary, and the iconography, traditions and language of American patriotism, but it has effectively seized all of the mechanisms of power to render the citizen impotent.
Wolin saw the militarists and the corporatists, who formed an unholy coalition to orchestrate the rise of a global American empire after the war, as the forces that extinguished American democracy. He called inverted totalitarianism “the true face of Superpower.”
Chris Hedges | Sheldon Wolin and Inverted Totalitarianism
Flat as the table
it’s placed on.
Nothing moves beneath it
and it seeks no outlet.
Above—my human breath
creates no stirring air
and leaves its total surface
Its plains, valleys are always green,
uplands, mountains are yellow and brown,
while seas, oceans remain a kindly blue
beside the tattered shores.
Everything here is small, near, accessible.
I can press volcanoes with my fingertip,
stroke the poles without thick mittens,
I can with a single glance
encompass every desert
with the river lying just beside it.
A few trees stand for ancient forests,
you couldn’t lose your way among them.
In the east and west,
above and below the equator—
quiet like pins dropping,
and in every black pinprick
people keep on living.
Mass graves and sudden ruins
are out of the picture.
Nations’ borders are barely visible
as if they wavered—to be or not.
I like maps, because they lie.
Because they give no access to the vicious truth.
Because great-heartedly, good-naturedly
they spread before me a world
not of this world.
Wisława Szymborska Winner, Nobel Prize | Map: Collected & Last Poems,
translated, from the Polish, by Clare Cavanagh & Stanistaw Baranczak
“There isn’t always an explanation for everything.”
Ernest Hemingway | A Farewell to Arms
Surrounded by Water. Second color from stone lithograph matrix.
“If I were called upon to define briefly the word Art, I should call it the reproduction of what the senses perceive in nature, seen through the veil of the soul.”
Layout in conté crayon and gum arabic
Painting out non-image areas with gum
Rubbing crayon application
Ready to etch. 12 drop nitric acid etch.
Etched stone. Gum buff and ready to roll up.
“Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do.”
The big stone ‘ALOYS’ is named in honor of Johann Alois Senefelder
Johann Alois Senefelder (6 November 1771 – 26 February 1834), the inventor of stone lithography.
“Look, and look again,
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.”
Hansa, Primsrose & Warm (Chrome) Yellows + Litho Varnish #7 and Tint Base. Proof run on newsprint with layout.
This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls”
John Muir | John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir
Relief Matrix and Flocking from Generosity & The Way Across | Edition #109
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water
Edition papers ready for more ink!
Checking the registration on ‘The Island.’ Editioned the water base in [ Imperial Blue + Litho Varnish #7 + Tint Base + Setswell ].
I made a relief matrix from cardboard. Gaylord Lake will be printed on the chine-collé in a clear tint base or varnish.
Proofing the varnish matrix of Gaylord Lake and the island.
Out & About south of the river today Noteworthy Paper and Press has reopened their newly located & renovated gift and print shop and it is wonderful.
“Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.”
F. Dostoevsky | The Idiot
Plate matrix for ‘The Island’; water layer #3
Emerald Green with Tint Base for ‘The Island’ forested or base matrix
Ink draws for ‘The Island’ forested areas matrix
New 20 and 25 inch scraper bars for lithography
I find, after all these years, I am a believer—
I believe what the thunder and lightning have to say;
I believe that dreams are real,
and that death has two reprisals;
I believe that dead leaves and black water fill my heart.
I shall die like a cloud, beautiful, white, full of nothingness.
The night sky is an ideogram,
a code card punched with holes.
It thinks it’s the word of what’s-to-come.
It thinks this, but it’s only The Library of Last Resort,
The reflected light of The Great Misunderstanding.
God is the fire my feet are held to.
by Charles Wright
Edition #109 Generosity relief block proof on Kozo with flocking.
Edition #109 Generosity relief block proof on Kozo printed in varnish on draft of print.
Shimenawa :: the wrapping of sacred space. Mylar draft for the edition #109 ‘Generosity.’
So I proceeded with the layout for my initial idea of a shimenawa; used to indicate a boundary to something sacred, thus there be a sacred space called Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park! This is indicated in a stylized manner on the companion print ‘The Way Across’.
There are places, like this, that must be wrapped by shimenawa. We are such a selfish species. In her “Memorandum to the Animals” Amy Leach says “If you are concerned about the devastation of your genetic type and you do not see your name on the Keep-Alive List, you might think about clumping some vegetation together into rafts on which to rescue yourselves… Anyway, we need the space for our works and wonders. Many of you are being superannuated because we must give priority to our machinery, our televisions and computers and refrigerators and cars, trucks, airplanes, combination microwave/convection ovens with auto-time zone adjusters. We will still bring a few of you with us, especially those of you with rumps and ribs (please refer to the Keep-Alive List). But we are not going to waste time holloing for the bush babies, waiting for the mayflies to drift in and the kiwis to materialize. We are certainly not going to stand around until the tortoises figure out what’s going on.”
“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” Herman Melville | Moby Dick
May 4th 1970, The Kent State Massacre
An emotional Governor Rhodes, yelling and pounding his fists on his desk called the student protesters un-American, referring to them as revolutionaries ”…They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. Now I want to say this. They are not going to take over [the] campus. I think that we're up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America…..” and then the Kent State massacre … the shootings of unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio …The shootings were ordered by members of the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970, agitated by an undercover FBI agent. Twenty-nine guardsmen fired approximately 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.
“When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then… You can’t make them change if they don’t want to.” Andy Warhol
“Water is good, so is thirst; … shadow is good, so is sun; … the honey from the rosemarys … and the honey of the bare fields.” Antonio Machado