Mikael M. Karlsson made the above reference to Pinter in his lecture entitled “Free Speech, Freedom of the Press, and the Tapestry of Lies” delivered at the international conference Freedom of Expression and Social Responsibility: Theory and Practice, that was and organised by the Media Studies Programme and Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Akureyri in Iceland on the 29th of September 2014.
Those who know his work will recognize here my debt to John Pilger, journalist and documentary film-maker, who has both informed and inspired me.
On December 7, 2005, sixty-four years to the day after the Japanese attack on the American at Pearl Harbor, Harold Pinter, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, gave his Nobel Lecture, ” Art, Truth & Politics”. Here is an excerpt from that speech. “In 1958,” Pinter said, “I wrote the following:”
‘There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.’
“I believe that these assertions still make sense,” Pinter continued, “and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?“
Pinter went on to say this:
… language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.
But … the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.
Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.
As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.
The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.
I spoke earlier about ‘a tapestry of lies’ which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a ‘totalitarian dungeon’. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.
Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.
The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. ‘Democracy’ had prevailed.
But this ‘policy’ was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.
The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.
Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.
It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.
What Pinter was talking about is nothing new. In December, 1917, between David Lloyd George, Britain’s prime minister during much of the first world war said to C. P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian, “If people really knew the truth,” the prime minister said, “the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know, and can’t know.” And if you investigate war reporting, at least from the nineteenth century to the present, you will find that insofar as any country engaged in war has a public that can be reached by what we now refer to as “mass media”, that public has been lied to about war: cynically, deliberately, and over and over again.
In weaving this tapestry of lies, the mass media—from Pravda, to the New York Times, to London’s Mirror to Þjóðviljinn (now deceased) and Morgunblaðið—have, over time and considering different examples, variously complicit. (I mention only newspapers here; but radio and television have been equally complicit. A major vector for complicity is the so-called “news services”, such as the Associated Press and Reuters, upon which other mass media largely rely for content.) Each new war provides politicians and managers with new lessons about how potential embarrassment (i.e. the revelation of truth to the public) in the media can be avoided and the media rendered complicit in weaving the tapestry of lies. In some places, as we know, the media are simply controlled by governments. But, in general, the Western media, treasuring their “press freedom” or “freedom of information”, largely control themselves and may easily be granted their freedom as they present little danger. The public is equally complicit being for the most part thoroughly uncritical insofar as it can rise above its boredom with the news: Pinter speaks of the “vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.” For this purpose, the public, by various devices, must be kept moronized, and this effort seems to have thoroughly succeeded in the United States. It has succeeded less well in Europe, and less effort has been directed to it, politicians being aware that there are limits to how far you can moronize an educated population a significant part of which consist of the still-living remnants of nations that were all-too-recently decimated by war. Yet, it goes surprisingly well, and politicians can afford to wait until enough of those for whom the destruction of their nations is still a living memory to die off and let the powers that be get on with their business.
My audience here might ask, “OK, but what does this have to do with us? Our politicians have kept us out of wars, not pushed us into them. We do not live in a police state. We have freedom of speech here, and no one is hounded, persecuted or punished for saying whatever they want. Some of our news is censored, or self-censored, by our government or by our media themselves, but this is only light censorship, done for reasons that most of us agree with, and there are no signs that this is eroding press freedom. We don’t swallow American propaganda—or Russian, or British or Qatari—whole, as you can see from the widespread opposition here to the latest murderous suppression in Palestine and the widespread support here for a ‘yes’ vote in Scotland. Our public is pretty well educated and not entirely uncritical.”
All of this is true, dear friends; and it is to be hoped that we Icelanders sincerely appreciate the fact that, as far as these matters go, we live in a paradise as compared with most of the world. Yet we have not kept ourselves far enough distanced from the tapestry of lies and are vulnerable—and complicit. For we unfortunately have a weak Fourth Estate. Our media are docile, politically subservient and thus manipulated—perhaps most of all self-manipulated—and are not dedicated to what is required, at least in a supposedly democratic nation, in the way of getting truth to the public of the sort that is needed in order for the electorate to exercise rationally the power that is supposedly vested in it.
Although technological developments are rapidly changing things, mass media—ours and others—are, broadly speaking, conduits for four different kinds of things: news, opinion (including especially editorial opinion), entertainment, and advertising. Upon entertainment I will not comment here, although such comment would be relevant.
Advertising is mainly for the purpose of selling goods and services, although politicians and policies are also “sold” through advertising—witness the recent Scottish independence election. In this case, if we are to have a vigilant and independent Fourth Estate, two things must be secured: first, that advertising must not be allowed to be false, misleading or disingenuous, and second, those who advertise—and thus support the media financially, the new generation of “free” newspapers surviving entirely upon this—must not be allowed to influence news reporting. If we want a free press, or free media, these two things must be policed by the media themselves, but self-policing and self-regulation are notoriously weak in most areas where it is spoken of. In any case, Icelandic media have in no way come close to meeting their responsibilities in these matters. Most of them serve particular political parties and particular lobbies and are therefore compromised in advance with regard to the policing of advertising; but in fact party-independent media do not do much better. To the extent that these two requirements are not met, media are complicit in weaving the tapestry of lies spoken of by Pinter.
Opinion is the area in which media are entitled to be partial to some particular set of views or mouthpieces for party politics. Yet, again, there are two things that are necessary if we are to have the kind of responsible Fourth Estate needed to serve a democracy. First, such opinion as is channeled to the public by the media may not be built upon falsehoods, misrepresentations or even upon deliberate omissions. There are many matters, even in the sciences, that are controversial or uncertain; and where opinion builds upon it, it will take on the uncertainty or controversial nature of the foundation upon which it is built. Opinion that has no foundation should not be transmitted by the media, and I do not see that freedom of opinion or freedom of expression extend inherently to it although we may choose to grant them. But more pertinently, opinion whose foundation is uncertain or controversial should not be transmitted by the media under the pretense that its foundation is firm and may be taken for granted. For example, if an editor or politician speaks in favor of certain political actions or policies on the basis of the idea that “markets are self-regulating”, it should at least be made clear that this idea is not established. And if someone supports imposing sanctions on the Russian Federation in response to the shooting down of Malaysian flight MH 17, it should be made clear that has not been established that the Russians had anything to do with that tragic incident. Otherwise, the opinions transmitted are fraudulent, and the media become again complicit in weaving the tapestry of lies. In this connection, we should keep in mind that Iceland’s descent into financial crisis was in large part a media failure; and its possibility of being drawn, one way or another, into the American-NATO agenda for a European war is not negligible (a matter of which most Icelanders seem blissfully unaware.) The responsibility for not transmitting fraudulent opinion rests with the media themselves, and if they cannot control it—noting that such fraudulent opinion may come from their advertisers, political associates, editors or owners—then that invites external control. The freedom of opinion or of expression that I am sure we all support may extend to false or stupid opinion, as John Stuart Mill argued, but I cannot see that it inherently extends to fraudulent opinion.
The second demand is that despite the fact that the media are entitled to be partial as regards opinion, there must—if we are to have a Fourth Estate that serves a democracy as it should—be a forum in the mass media for a suitable variety of opinions in controversial matters. The mass media are the vehicle through which various relevant opinions reach the public, and the publication of opinion is meant to be influential upon policymakers, legislators and the electorate. This is perfectly legitimate—indeed, required in a democracy—insofar as the influence comes from the content of the opinion laid before the public for consideration. But if the influence simply comes from the exclusion of serious contrary opinion, or from the public’s being barraged by one kind of view while opposing views are, or by using other tricks of “public relations”—terrorizing the public is currently a popular one—then this is not legitimate. It is perhaps all right for one medium to be thoroughly one-sided, but it is not all right if the national media, taken together, are thoroughly one-sided. Otherwise, national media become complicit in weaving the tapestry of lies. They certainly were in the recent Scottish independence referendum, where the views and arguments of the “yes” group were given little media presence, while the “no” group enjoyed a media barrage and a studied, anti-“yes” terror campaign conducted by leading politicians. In my judgment, the Icelandic media do practically nothing to meet the first of these two demands, while the second demand is served haphazardly and superficially—the “alternatives” are generally restricted to the rather simplistic positions advanced by the political parties. Certainly, there is no systematic effort made by the Icelandic media to secure collectively what is known as “balance”, never mind intelligent balance.
Finally, but most importantly, nothing that is not conscientiously verified should be transmitted as news—or at least the sources and degree of verification must always be made clear. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of news media to obtain and transmit the information that “the public needs to know” in order to exercise the power that is said to reside in it in a democratic polity. Freedom of the press is not the freedom to misrepresent or distort what is reported as fact, whether by falsification, irresponsibility as to verification, by selectivity or by omission. In many jurisdictions, witnesses in cases before a court are made to swear to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”, and news reporting that is not dedicated to exactly that is the principle loom on which the tapestry of lies is woven, even when the lies themselves originate from outside of the media. The American President Obama gave a speech to the United Nations General Assembly the other day that as far as I can see consisted of little more than a mass of egregious lies and misrepresentations. I think personally that politicians and officials should be forbidden by law to lie to the public. For serious lies, including lies of omission and misrepresentation, they should be driven, by law, from office and perhaps even imprisoned, for it is through such lies that the greatest harms to individuals, nations, and mankind come about.
There is of course no chance at all that legislators—our dear politicians—will ever make laws that take politicians to task for lying, but one can dream. If anyone asks whether this would be a violation of the principle of free speech, my answer is no. Let us consider for a moment some of the more important limitations on the freedom of speech. It does not license perjury. It does not license libel or slander. It does not license academic misconduct, that is, the falsification or fabrication of data or results in a scientific or scholarly report. It does not license false advertising. It does not license falsification of a tax return, application for insurance, or mortgage application; indeed it does not license any sort of fraudulent misrepresentation. It does not license identity theft. It does not license expert testimony that is purposely false or misleading or in reckless disregard of the truth (as for example the infamous report of Frederick Mishkin and Icelandic collaborators on the stability of Icelandic banks). And so I maintain that it does not license political lying. Thus, in terms of “rights”, the way is open, I believe, to insist that politicians not lie (and to do something about it if they do).
As things stand, however, our mass media are our only protection from the lies, concealments and distortions peddled by our politicians, and the media can only protect us by exposing those lies for what they are, not by transmitting them as news. It is perfectly straightforward news to report Obama’s speech—he did give that speech—and even to reproduce it verbatim. But this is only part of that news; it needs also to be reported, and explicitly documented, that the speech consisted of lies, if it did. Politicians should not be able to transmit lies to the public—sometimes the global public—through the laziness, gullibility, incompetence or complicity of either newsmen or the media that employ them. This has to do with the ethics not only of newsmen but of the mass media as such. And it, too, could be, in principle, rightly backed up by law (as it is partially by the laws of libel). Freedom of the press does not extent to fraudulent news reporting any more than the freedom of speech extends to political lying.
The Icelandic media do not come out well on this score. Since most of them are in cahoots with, or manipulated by, one or another political party, they are uncritical of political lies, at least of their crony politicians. And they devote little effort to insuring non-fraudulent news reporting in any case. They are not assiduous at providing the public with the truths that it needs to know in order for Icelandic democracy to function as any kind of genuine democracy, and they are complacent in the face of all of the tricks that are pulled on the public in order to keep it in ignorance. For instance, when some “scandal” erupts in the news, as happens with upsetting frequency, the first thing that a critical reader should ask herself is, “What is going on that they don’t want me to pay attention to?” Scandal-mongering is one of the standard ways in which the reporting of news is rendered fraudulent, a diversion. Our politicians, and many of our economists, declare that “they didn’t see our financial crisis coming”, and sometimes add that no one could have done so. But even if we believe that they didn’t see it coming (which I don’t), we would all have seen it coming if the news media had done the job that they must be expected to do in a democracy. Does anyone remember the legislation that was passed from 1985 onward in order to allow the “asset stripping” of our savings banks (a project that succeeded, by the way)? Did anyone ever know about it in the first place? Was it reported? Was it discussed? Do you think that it was too complex for the average person to understand? Do you think that this kind of omission supports the democratic control of policy or is in the public interest? Thus are our news media complicit in the weaving of the tapestry of lies.
Most of the media exist as private corporations, engaged in news reporting, opinion, advertising and entertainment with the aim of turning a profit. There are of course also state media, but they are run in much the same way as private media, not least because they draw upon the same pool of personnel. This situation may be as it should be, but the way in which the media have come to function in society and politics needs to be squarely faced and better taken into account. Like hospitals, insurance companies and courts, there are certain standards that the media must be made to meet, despite (and not least on account of) temptations that may lead them in other directions.
The institutional framework of the media must also be regulated so as not to undermine the demands of their meeting those standards. For instance, the media corporations should not wind up in too few hands. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi is the controlling owner of most of the major Italian media corporations and is doubtless for that reason Italy’s most powerful politician. The U.S. media have concentrated in very few hands, and international media moguls, like Rupert Murdoch, own a large number of large media corporations globally. The few controlling owners of mass media all have their own personal and political agendas and become the non-elected controllers of national policies. The idea of a media-controlled democracy doesn’t pass the laugh test, especially when the media are themselves controlled by parties whose interests do not run with those of the public (although they can perhaps cozen the public into thinking otherwise in the short run). What I am saying here must be familiar to everyone in my audience and almost banal. Yet, nothing is done about this and the concentration of the media into an ever-smaller number of hands continues. This may seem to be less of a problem in Iceland than in some other places, but we must consider the utter dependence of the Icelandic media on a small number of outlets for all foreign news; and there is nothing in place that would prevent Rupert Murdoch from buying up all of the Icelandic private media before the end of this week.
In particular in Iceland, news reporting must be made to conform to the standards of truth, rather than to the interests of party politicians or to any other interests than those of supplying the public in a democratic society with the truths it needs to know in order to make up its mind and exert its influence in our struggle with the present and our course through the future. For, as George Orwell pronounced: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” It would be nice to think that our media will autonomously with these standards, through a respect for democracy and an ambition for professionalism. But at any rate, we, the public, should demand this, whatever our particular political persuasions may be.
As far as budding journalists are concerned, I’ll close with a quotation from the famous American news anchorman, Dan Rather, when explaining in an interview taken by John Pilger why he had failed in his role as a journalist in the case of the Iraq war (the last one, now there’s a new one):
. . . I have said, whether those of us in journalism want to admit it or not, then, at least in some small way, fear is present in every news room in the country. A fear of losing your job, a fear of your institution – the company you work for – going out of business, the fear of being stuck with some label, “unpatriotic” or otherwise that you will have with you to your grave and beyond, the fear that there’s so much at stake for the country, that by doing what you deeply feel is your job will sometime be interference; all these things go into the mix. But it’s very important for me to say, because I firmly believe it: I’m not the Vice-President in Charge of Excuses, and we shouldn’t have excuses. What we should do is take a really good look at that period and learn from it. And, you know, suck up our courage.
 Emphasis added.
 These are the most powerful lines in Pinter’s speech and have been frequently quoted, not least by John Pilger.
 The full text of Pinter’s speech may be read at:
 For this history, see the film by John Pilger mentioned in footnote 17, below.
 Some of these people, particularly the Germans, actually learned something from the Second World War, but, as I go on to indicate, the now-up-coming generations seem to be as clueless as their pre-war ancestors.
 Some instances in which the media have “policed” themselves have been as abusive and repressive as any government would be. See, for example, Paula Cruickshank, “42 Seconds That Sullied Helen Thomas—and New Media”, that can be found at:
This article, incidentally, quotes several interesting clauses from the (U.S.) Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, the content of which I believe it would be wise for our own journalists to incorporate into their ethical code. Birgir Guðmundsson informs me that some such has been proposed but that Icelandic journalists have not been willing to adopt.
 In the sequel, I call this “fraudulent opinion”.
 There is a difference between what is false and what is falsified, or what is unsubstantiated but pretends to be substantiated.
 The use of media terror campaigns is well known and a standard device of politicians, as Hermann Göring famously pointed out. In an interview in his cell in Nuremberg on January 3rd, 1946, Göring said “. . . the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. . . .?[T]he people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” (emphasis added). In Scotland recently, the threat was that of financial ruin; in the Cold War, the threat was the awful, lurking Russian hordes. Today, people in California are apparently terrified of being beheaded by militant Muslims. In short, Göring knew what he was talking about. Of course, as I indicate below, the media should warn the public of genuine threats, as they often do not (as for example, the obvious and verifiable threat of the collapse of the Icelandic banks in 2008, or, earlier, the riskiness of buying DeCode stock); but they should not uncritically communicate the threats manufactured for mass consumption by politicians and demagogues.
 In this paper, as the reader should easily understand, I use the term “lie” as an abbreviation for all of these sorts of misrepresentation.
 It is perhaps important to emphasize that it is often not possible to discern the truth; and in certain cases there may be no truth to discern, although I draw the reader’s attention to the opening passages of Pinter’s Nobel speech. Obviously, the media cannot be expected to arrive at the truth in such cases. But what it can do is to inform its audience either that the truth cannot be discerned or that there may be no truth to discern. The important thing is not to represent things to be more or less evident than they are and to educate the public.
 Speech of 24 September 2014; full text available here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/11119048/Full-text-of-Barack-Obamas-speech-to-the-UN-General-Assembly.html
The then-Secretary-of-State, Colin Powell, delivered an even more egregious fabrication to a plenary session of the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003, concerning Saddam Hussein’s supposed collection of “weapons of mass destruction”. The media did not do their job—it would have been easy enough to expose this fraud for what it was—and Powell’s ploy worked so well that it was doubtless an inspiration to Obama. The fraudulence of Powell’s performance has been richly documented. As for Obama’s speech, one has to assess the few kernels of information about current events that may be considered reliable, or tentatively reliable, in a morass of propaganda, channeled by the media, the like of which has been rarely seen. These few items reveal Obama’s speech to be thoroughly fraudulent.
 Frederic S. Mishkin and Tryggvi T. Herbertsson, “Financial Stability in Iceland” (Reykjavík: Icelandic Chamber of Commerce, 2006). The report is available at: http://www.vi.is/files/555877819Financial%20Stability%20in%20Iceland%20Screen%20Version.pdf
Warnings from competent sources—including Fitch, Merrill Lynch (rather ironically) and the Danske Bank—were coming from all directions at the time. But without having to understand any technicalities, it was clear that the banks were so highly leveraged (i.e. had issued loans that far surpassed their assets) that any small contraction in the interbank credit market (practically inevitable) would cause them instantly to collapse.
 The first real analysis of this process that I know of appeared not in the media but in an MA thesis in sociology by Þorvaldur Logason, Valdselítur og spilling: um spillingarorsakir hrunsins á Íslandi 2008 (University of Iceland, 2011). The Icelandic National Broadcast (RÚV) ran a short program in 2013 about the projected publication of a book (yet to be published) based upon the thesis, which is how I learned about the matter. Þorvaldur says that there was some minor media coverage around 2001-2002, which certainly passed me by. But this dangerous attempt to appropriate the assets of the savings banks should have received intensive, analytical coverage. Suppose someone thinks that Þorvaldur’s analysis and critique was mistaken. The point remains: there should have been detailed coverage and a public discussion. By 2008, it was far too late.
 George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four, Part 3, Chapter 2. This book, originally published in 1949, is available in many editions and is in the process of entering the public domain.
 Transcribed from the sound track of John Pilger’s documentary film, “The War You Don’t See” (2011). The film (along with most of Pilger’s other films) can be viewed at http://johnpilger.com/videos and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the responsibility that attaches to the freedom of the media.
Not even prophets like Chris Hedges decode it. Journalists are trained not to. Not even moral philosophers question the system worship masked as ‘the free market”. Freedom means no accountability to human and world life, while competition means competing to externalize all costs onto the lives of citizens and environments. The value driver behind it all is no more questioned than the Almighty. It can do no wrong. But one underlying lock-step of false equations propels this unnamed war on the world through its mutations and metastases:
Rationality = Self-Maximizing Choice
= Always More Money-Value for the Self is Good
= Self-Multiplying Sequences of Ever More Money to the Top as the Ruling Growth System
= All Else is Disposable Means to this Multiplying Pathogenic Growth
My 15-year study, The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure diagnoses this ruling value mechanism as cancerous. It is, in short, a deregulated self-multiplication of transnational money sequences accountable to nothing but their own multiplication with no committed life functions. With the Hayek-Reagan-Thatcher crusade to reverse the history of the world into a moronic ‘free market’ and ‘conservative values’, the march was on. Marxists would not engage this Great Reversal on moral grounds because morality was believed to be only ruling class ideology. This left no value ground to stand on. From the transnational victory of corporate world rule from 1991 on, reversals of social states were portrayed as ‘market miracles’ whatever the results for people’s lives. ‘The magic of the market’ was the new world religion, ‘the end of history’. The mass media were consolidated into one collective corporate organ across cities and borders. Death squads erased community opposition in the South. The academy was and is still defunded to serve the global corporate market and commodity development.
The nations of the world are all ‘restructured’ to be subordinate functions to the supreme moral goal of transforming humanity and the world into ever more private commodities and profits. Society itself s does not exist to this ruling value mechanism. Its logic of growth is totalitarian and malignant to the marrow. More precisely, deregulated global corporate money sequences abolish by treaties and wars all barriers whatever to their free multiplying growth through all that exists whatever the destruction of natural and social life support systems. My work has been to decode this globally life-invading value system. Predictably the diagnosis is taboo to mention in the press, however confirmed by the facts and predictions. No social disorder allows its ruling program to be publicly unmasked. Thus the malignant value code marches on. Alarm bells at the degenerate symptoms increase, but policies of solution only extend the system further and deeper. Life-value economics is as unspeakable as the fatal disorder itself.
The Essential First Step in Winning the War of the World is Comprehension of It
The essential first step in winning the war of the world is comprehension of it. Only system analysis can lay bare the underlying value program, but it is avoided. The sciences do not study values and specialize in domains of self-referential meaning. Journalists report facts, spectacles and impressions, but not the underlying values governing them. Philosophers seldom analyse the ruling value system of the societies within they live from social habit and fear. In the age of instant culture, value-system comprehension does not sell. Together these blocks of normalized avoidance make the value code selecting for all the degenerate trends invisible to us. As in immune system failure, the life host fails to recognise the disorder devouring it.
Lacking any unifying framework of comprehension, people are lost. Thus when millions rise in the Occupy Wall Street movement, there is no diagnosis or policy demand. Although Wall Street had indisputably defrauded masses and had failed to its knees broke, no policy shift arose – not even public control of the public money infusing the system cancer, $16 trillion dollars by Senate count in the U.S. alone – thanks to the heroic Bernie Sanders. Nor was there movement for a needed public mortgage system – even after the private system had perpetrated the biggest fraud in history, indebted tens of millions into ruin and collapsed the economies of the West in irreversible debt. The lost alternative of public banking on which the U.S. revolution was founded, Lincoln won the war of Union, North Dakota has had 100 years of debt-free prosperity, the West itself managed the 1939-45 war and post-war years to unprecedented full employment, and first Japan and now China wins in productive investment – all is amnesiac in the West.
Fast forward to today, and the underlying system cancer advances on. The financial giants causing the 2008 Crash are bigger and richer in criminal impunity. They speculate with publicly supplied trillions on food and water futures. They control even Rio + 20 as the life-ground catastrophe they finance explodes on one front after another. Transfused with endlessly with more public money to bleed and indebt the world dry, the money-printing system metastasizes further – now occupying the once prosperous social democracies of the European Union with public money bled out of peoples’ lives and life bases to private banks with no limit . Refusing any regulatory limits, converting pensions into more stockmarket feeding troughs, investing nothing as youth unemployment and debt spike ever higher – where does it all end? It ends when public money and human rights stop being fed to the failed system. It ends when commodity cycles of destructive waste are stopped. It ends at the base of the disorder when the 97%-counterfeiting of debt and credit by private financial institutions is publicly controlled.
Economic Doctrine Allows Money-Cancer System Free Reign
Neo-economic theory is a pseudo-science. Its defining postulates are unfalsifiable by facts. All organic, social and ecological life requirements are absurdly assumed away. Infinite demand on finite resources is presupposed as sustainable. Mechanical reversibility of everything is taken for granted. Whatever does not fit the doctrine is rejected. Endlessly self-maximizing atomic selves are believed to necessitate the best of all possible worlds by the market’s invisible hand.
Is this not a fanatic religion? Supra-human laws dictate commands across peoples. No deadly consequences lower certitude in the miracles of the market God. Even when the ruling value mechanism visibly depredates the very life bases of the world, the only reforms are to globalize it further. Corporate-lawyer treaties coined in secret rule as the new laws of nations, while hostile zones are subjected to covert forces sponsoring civil wars, as promised in 2001 – Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Syria Iraq, and now the Ukraine as I write. All is believed in and pursued as a world crusade, even if fascists lead it. One supreme goal governs underneath bizarre beliefs – multiplying growth of transnational money-sequences at ever higher velocities and volumes with no life limits tolerated. This is the moral DNA of the ruling value mechanism. In theory, it is expressed well by University of Chicago professor and godfather of the U.S. National Security Council, Leo Strauss, who wrote in his canonical Natural Right and History (p. 60): “limitless capital accumulation” is “a moral duty and perhaps the highest moral duty”. On the ground, Strauss’s patron, David Rockefeller, expressed the moral-political program more concretely at the turning point in 1991, “A supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries”. The promises are kept. There is no binding regulation to protect any life carrying capacity on earth from the loot-and-pollute bank money system in the years since.
Many blame capitalism, but unlike classical capitalism this mechanism is not driven by productive force development. It is driven by transnational money-sequence multiplication with no productive standard which despoils more means of life than it produces. It eliminates the working class itself. The ruling idea that the system is peerlessly productive is increasingly contradicted by far more life goods disappearing than are created. Something much more sinister is afoot. The social and natural life bases by which the human species evolves are reversed and overrun. Yet not even the opposition defines what ultimately counts – humanity’s universal life necessities themselves. The meaning of ‘the economy’ itself – to produce and distribute life goods otherwise in short supply through generational time – is lost. While the very air humanity breathes is going more toxic and acidic, the contradiction to ‘productive growth’ is unseen. As the waters of the world are simultaneously destroyed, the dots are not joined. Even as there are mass extinctions of species, youth without futures, and irreversible debt servitude of the world, all is well if ‘more growth is returning to the system’ which causes all of them. That at the same time the earth’s very soil cover taking tens of millions of years to evolve is simultaneously mined, acidified, salinated, degraded and exhausted as forest and mineral covers are stripped from one continent to the other are not connected into common meaning. The ruling value mechanism devours the life substance of humanity and the earth, but remains assumed as ever ‘more productive’ even by angry unions.
Well at least, someone might reply, climate warming has been recognized by a blue-ribbon economic panel, Britain’s Stern Review, as “the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen”. This is a step towards rational observation. But even with a UN panel of over-1600 scientists on the case, there is no connection to the other basic life carrying capacities driven towards collapse by the same organizing value mechanism. No secret is more unspoken. So more rights to pollute and profit are instituted, and the climates and hydrological cycles spiral to more deadly extremes. “The world’s poor suffer first and most”, Lord Stern also rightly observes, but this fits the reigning value mechanism. Those without money do not exist.
Unmasking the Ruling Code of Value Driving the War on Life
Let us summarize. Behind every step of the Great Reversal lie failures of knowledge and value understanding: (1) failure to diagnose the regulating value mechanism at work; (2) failure to connect across the domains of life despoliation as predictable from the system’s blind money-sequence multiplication; (3) failure to define or demand any public policies against its feeding on life support systems with public treasure; (4) failure to recognise any life-value principle or the life ground of the economy itself.
This knowledge black-out is understandable once one recognises that the vaunted “knowledge economy” has no criterion from the start. All it means is what can be controlled, sold or manipulated to grow the ruling value mechanism. Pause on that general fact. This is why true knowledge is now so often denied or attacked as “uncompetitive’. Look for exceptions to this spread of the ruling money-value mechanism into the very capacities of human understanding. Diagnosis of this disorder is the knowledge most needed, but unspeakable. Who even now recognises that ‘new efficiencies’, ‘reforms’ and ‘cost cutting’ are always attacks on people’s lives, means of life and life functions? Who connects across the one-way falls of life standards and regulations, public science and testing, agrarian communities and lands, workers’ rights and unions, social infrastructures and protections, and social life security while money demand multiplies out of control at the top? Who names the innermost ruling code driving all – whatever protects or enable human and ecological life is eliminated as a barrier to private money-sequence multiplication. This is the source code of the cancer system. It explains why transnational corporate, equity and bank profits grow to ever new records as the world’s majorities are dispossessed. It explains why social and natural life-carrying capacities are despoiled across continents. The war on life is built in.
The ideals of “freedom”, “democracy”, and “economic growth” are thus reversed in the name of them. The big lies become so automatic that few notice them– for example as I write, food-stamp slashes reducing 47 million hungry U.S. people below $1.40 a meal and $90 less a month for life necessities “protects the most vulnerable Americans” (President Obama, Jan. 29, 2014). There is a recourse against lies which is as old as the species. Humanity’s deciding evolutionary advantage is that knowledge wins in the end. Above all knowledge evolves through recognition of how life is enabled or disabled by material conditions and social rules. For example, the binding abolition of the most profitable commodity of world trade ever, human slaves, won. Knowledge won again from the 1929 Crash and subsequent World War when the collective life security of peoples evolved by known facts and social policies more in 30 years than in the prior twenty-five centuries.
The missing link for this long life-and-death struggle is the life value code. We do not know it because we are without a reference body in a vast ocean of self-maximizing money-sequences for which the goods are only what sell for private profit. A life-ground and compass almost emerged after 1945 when peoples recognised how ruling delusions of self-maximizing fanaticism almost destroyed civilisation. Learning from the greatest war and depression in history, societies forged binding international covenants for collective life security and free human development. Universal education, health, and income security infrastructures were publicly formed across societies. But no unifying life-value code underlying them was found. In absence of any sound life base of understanding to re-ground in, the Great Reversal from 1980 on has gone from one extreme of life-blindness to the next with endless lies of better days to come – even as there is ever more joblessness, meaningless employment, deprivation of more majorities, commodity diseases across the globe, debt servitude chaining the futures of peoples, and deepening ecodidal trends advancing one way with the system’s growth. Locked into the ruling frame of thinking, people blame humanity for the catastrophe unfolding even as the demands of the ruling value mechanism have been imposed every step by a secretly negotiated and adjudicated transnational corporate system backed by global armed force, financial sabotage and embargo, and limitless lies. From secret codification by corporate lawyers of treaties overriding constitutions to free looting of human and natural life-carrying capacities across borders, ever more money-sequence ‘investor’ rights are prescribed and multiplied across nations. Those who resist are ‘against competition’ or ‘terrorists’. Reverse projection rules.
An absurd metaphysic is assumed throughout. The economy’s provision of goods through time mutates to ‘laws of supply and demand’ that are fatuous caricatures of both. Demand is never people’s needs or necessity. It is private money demand minted by private banks without the legal tender to back it to indebt people and gamble on their future means of life. ‘Supply’ is not the life means people require to survive and flourish. It is ever more priced commodities for profit promoting more human and ecological ill-being across continents. The supreme moral value of the system is then equated to its opposite as well. Freedom = freedom for private money demand only = in proportion to the amount controlled = ever less freedom for those with less of it = no right to life for those without it.
When mass uprooting, joblessness and misery follow, more reverse meaning is proclaimed. “Uplifted out of poverty” headlines proliferate over a money-gain equal to the cost of a coffee for subsistence farmers who have been forced into city slums without any means of natural and communal life support left. Peoples are too distracted by competitions for vast prizes to notice. The global struggle for life is displaced by ever more contest spectacles as global mass-marketing sites – the meaning now of ‘sport’. But behind the perpetually revolving mirrors, the meaning is taboo. People may see “greed of the rich”, but not that greed is the global system’s r driver at every level. “More productivity” is liked across classes, but who sees that it only means less cost per unit of profitable commodities bringing more life waste and destruction. Workers and left thinkers may no more want to see this than the corporate press.
The meaning of ‘the free market’ itself is reversed. Over centuries it has meant the opposite of the global corporate system – public places of local life goods, all exchanged for legal tender, featuring real foods and crafts, no mass conditioning ads, no debt servitude, no dominance of transnational money-sequences, no throwaway packages and waste, no lobbies controlling government, no invisible head offices pulling puppet strings, and no bribery controlling supply and demand. Yet the free market like the real economy is overwhelmed. There are only more absentee money sequences with no required life functions or accountability to the communities and life conditions they competitively bleed. The enemy is undefined. The common life capital it attacks is unknown. But the life and death choice cannot be made without knowing both.
The Life-Value Turn as the Next Stage of Civilisation
Reality hides in the language of the past. So ‘capitalism’ is blamed by critics when real capital is, in fact, destroyed every step. Journals report ‘global wealth has soared 68% in 10 years’. But life wealth is devoured as fast as the money-sequence system can grow. Always the underlying life ground is lost beneath the competitive self-multiplication of money demand invading all that exists. With no life value anchor and compass, the degenerate trends only deepen beneath reference body to recognise them. I have spent most of my life as a professional philosopher on the problem of life value and social value systems. Although the sane may agree life value is what ultimately matters, nothing has been less understood. People called ‘pro-life’ usurp the woman’s body in the name of fundamentalist religions. Nations absurdly assume that ‘standard of living’ is measured by the private money spent. Animal rights theory has no criterion to tell the life value of a snail from a person. ‘Life sciences’ sacrifice billions of animal lives a year for private money-value gain. ‘New and better technology’ has no life-value standard to decide better from worse.
Life value is the missing base. But there are as many proxies for life value as there are values. Specialist domains like physiotherapy and medicine recognise life-value in organic functions, but without principled meaning to apply to wider life systems. In general, life value ignorance defines the age. This is how the greatest of all fatal confusions has mutated: that money-sequence growth = life value growth. Just as the multiplying grotesque cells eating the life-host alive are not recognised on the micro level, so too on the social level. Thus tidal bank notes of bets, credit and debt without legal tender drive ‘financialization’ across the planet. They must loot life and life bases to keep growing without inflation as trillions of new dollars are printed without life function. Endless slashing of life goods in wages, benefits, social security, pensions and environmental protections result, as money-demand powers multiply at the top. This is why endless bonuses for financial failure, stripping of the middle classes and the poor, squandering of public wealth on rich corporations – the list can go on – are demanded as U.S.-led wars for resources, lands and corporate markets never stop and taxes on the rich are reversed. All is predictable once the cancer system is diagnosed.
An ultimate question arises. What is the ground of response to this ruling value mechanism which cumulatively plunders human and other life to feed itself? We know the ultimate ground is life value. But what is life value? To roll thirty years of research now in three UNESCO volumes – the objective standard and measure can be defined in three steps:
(1) all value whatever is life value,
(2) good versus bad equals the extent to which life is more coherently enabled versus disabled,
(3) by greater/lesser ranges or capacities of thought, felt being and action through time.
Visions of world peace, the classless flourishing of peoples, a planetary ecology in which humanity is its conscious understanding – all such ideals express this underlying life code of value. But “who decides?” skeptics ask. No-one decides because gains and losses in life capacity are as objective as the laws of biology and medicine. Anything is better or worse by the greater or lesser range of life capacities it enables. This value code is built into evolution itself. It is no more a matter of opinion than people’s life necessities are: that without which life capacities are always reduced. The ruling value mechanism is the polar opposite. It attacks life and life conditions everywhere as ‘externalities’ to its self-multiplying growth. Because this growth is assumed to be life value, however, the greatest value reversal in history goes unseen.
The three-step life code of value provides the generic value compass and base which has been missing. It is objective because it is true independent of anyone’s perception of it. It has unlimited validity because there is no exception to it (which is testable by searching for one). It is presupposed in value judgements – as you can observe when these judgements are defended. Life value is also universalizable because all values derive their worth from it. Finally life value is sovereign because it trumps any other value in cases of conflict. All are testable generalizations.
But what of measure of more or less life value? Life value is measurable in degrees by greater/lesser capacities of thought, felt being and action shown through time – for example, how much life capacities gain or lose by nourishing versus junk foods. Today the macro trends are in one-way loss of life capacities. Knowledge is the exception. It forms the way stations of life understanding passed onto others and subsequent generations across epochs, the distinguishing life capacity of our species. But even knowledge is threatened by corporate rights against its dissemination at the same time as there is mass propagation of public lies. New electronic communication capacities without corporate control still win the war by the greatest civil community development in history. But the life-and-death fields of invasion by the ruling money-value mechanism are not decoded – the money tides of hit-and-run buying and selling of lands and currencies across the world, free and growing use of ecocidal extraction methods, life-starving hours, wages and no benefits in global dispossession of workers’ century-long gains, one way global growths of disease commodities and lethal arms trading, oil-guzzling and air-polluting noise vehicles of multiplying kinds, big oil and big pharma looting of public lands and health dollars growing business on ill effects, a world-wide pension raid for corporate-stock gains at the life cost of hundreds of millions of people, and most invisibly, full-spectrum assault on humanity’s thinking and feeling sides of living itself – the zombie effect.
Where we might ask do the transnational money-sequences not destructively invade the evolved fields of life of humanity and fellow species? The movement is by exponentially multiplying money-sequences eating away at the margins of every private transaction, public funding, life exchange and substance within and across borders. Consider all the bites every moment across business and exchange sites – before and beyond the ‘carrying trade’ in exploiting lower interest in one country to flood another with the cheaper money advantage, beyond the trillions in derivatives betting every day, beyond the raids on sovereign currencies and bonds without tax or regulation. On the local level, hardly a shop, a buyer, a builder, a home-dweller, anybody who lives today is not invaded by the same financial mechanism with ever more rights to demand at every exchange site with no function while enforcement is paid by the public being stripped by it. The apparently free credit-card system, for example, imposes a 2% charge to the seller for sales at a hidden 33% annual debt-charge rate, before the debt predation of poorer consumers begins. There is no end to the invisible lines of life devouring demands now deeply into higher learning and public health themselves while destroying workforces and companies overnight by hostile takeovers, bid-up mergers, asset strippings, capital flights, and straight-on funding of civil wars and destabilizations from which fire prices and dominant positions are extracted. Ruining societies is the medium of metastases. How else would a cancer system behave?
The world-choosing choice begins with what you buy. Clearly for example eating, selling or supplying junk foods is objectively bad to the measure that it disables human life and produces global epidemics of obesity, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. Yet even economic ‘science’ calls them all ‘goods’ whatever the rising disease effects. Simultaneously violence entertainments flood public airwaves and play-spaces before the same consumers – most avidly the young – with images of humanity being killed, tortured, injured and humiliated. As the sugar-salt-lard concoctions are ladled into bloodstreams and throwaways clog the earth`s circulatory channels at the same time, we begin to see the multiplying destructive occupation of the fields of life and life substance as built into these runaways growths and their ‘goods’. Life capacities at every level are attacked as ‘market freedom’. Only life-value ground and measure can penetrate the disease mechanism none define – to addictively disable human life capacities for more transnational money-sequences through ever more lives from infancy onwards. Where is there exception to the pattern? Life-activity-replacing motors and commercial games in multiplying life occupation, endless unneeded and non-recycled conveniences locking into habits of life, political-junkie election images and spectacles where the truth is what sells corporate lines and candidates, and commercial internet and television hooks everywhere in front of which children spend 11 waking hours. Which of any of these is not geared to addict consumers to compulsive consumption against life capacity development? Which does not input toxic wastes into the circulatory flows of ecosystems at the same time? But all is optimal for the ruling economic model for which life and society are reduced to atomic desiring machines propelling more money demand to money controllers as the nature of the growth the official world calls for..
The moving line of the true war of liberation begins with what we are able to control, our own lives. Consider your own life, what you know best. Every value you enjoy, lose or gain has a bottom line – its life capital, what enables life to reproduce and grow rather than degrade and stagnate through time. We defend it and our health by buying life goods and nothing else. The turning point is as old as physical and cultural evolution. Every human advance is by knowing what enables life from what does not. Collective life advance is transmitting this life-and-death knowledge across selves, space-time and generations. The life value code holds across cultures. But the universal life goods and necessities are not even known. Their meaning is obscured everywhere, but are exactly definable. Life goods are always that without which life capacities decline and die. All real needs are known by this criterion. Every human life suffers and degenerates towards disease and death without breathable and unpolluted air, clean water and waste cycles, nourishing food and drink, protective living space, supportive love, healthcare when needed, a life-coherent environment, symbolic interaction, and meaningful work to perform. All are measurable in sufficiency across cases. (author note: a systematic explanation is available by google of “Universal Human Life Necessities”). Yet all universal human life needs and capacities are attacked, polluted or perverted by the ruling value mechanism in product, process and lobby demand across the world. Yet where are the universal life needs named and connected against the malignant growth system spreading through ever more nodes?
Not zero growth, but zero bad growth is the way. A real economy by definition regulates for these universal life necessities and against toxic junk, and individuals would not buy 99% of corporate commodities if they did. Victory or loss in the war of the world lies in how we live.. So why does anyone buy such commodities? System addiction is how it grows, and knowledge of life goods versus bads is the through-line of the good life and human evolution itself. What deeper motivation could there be? I like others have long lived without corporate-ad television, regular private auto or gas-vehicle use, any junk food or beverage, any throwaway item, any new fashion or commodity not more life enabling than the old, or business with big private banks – selecting solely for life goods at the local level. The organizing principle is the spirit of the Tao-te Ching and the free autonomy of the wise. It is as old as the good life. The life-code formula is clear: minimal market demand to enable life capacities to flourish. This value imperative defines transformation to true economy and liberates life wherever it moves.
Collective Life Capital as the Common Value Ground and Measure Across Divisions
We know the war of the world can be won. The plague addiction to corporate cigarettes has been conquered by 30-50% of the developed world’s population. This shows how the life code can select against habituated system harms of the most compulsive kind, and everyone live better the more it is done. At the personal level, it begins with zero-base accounting with money demand only justified by life-enabling gain. Yet for collective life goods, we do not have a principled ground and measure. Collective life capital does not exist in public or expert meaning. Any common life interest or agency at all is excluded unless it promotes profits. The implications are fatal but unseen. Collective provision of the universal human life necessities that have evolved by long social organization and human evolution are blinkered out of the ruling value mechanism. It sees only mechanical ‘growth’ by commodity sales and profits. Everything that makes a society civilised or liveable is blinkered out – common water and sewage systems for all, free movement pathways and life spaces without cost to use, public libraries with unpriced books and films, non-profit healthcare and disease-prevention by public institution, public income security from disemployment, old age and disability, life-protective laws including sufficient minimum wages and environmental regulations, primary to higher education without multiplying debts, and family housing, food and means of life assistance for children without parental money. Yet all these are defunded or eliminated to pay debt-services to private banks and grow business, with the IMF to the Tea Party leading the charge as ‘new efficiencies’ and ‘savings’.
From this built-in erasure of common life ground, the hollowing out of collective life goods proceeds without any feedback correction. Public wealth is privatized at every level to feed corporate money sequences. Thus fed with endless giant tax and subsidy hand-outs and deregulations to invade further, the demands of the ruling value mechanism multiply further. The collective life base to steer by and regulate does not exist. For example, when Amartya Sen titles his Nobel Laureate monograph “Social Choice”, even he can get no further than atomic aggregates of individual preferences. No collective life goods in themselves are conceivable within the market paradigm. When another progressive economist, Elinor Ostrom, wins the Nobel Prize for Economics years later for her book, Governing the Commons: The Evolution and Institution of Collective Action, she is trapped within the same paradigm. No principle of common life interest or agency beyond mutual self advantage can be conceived. “The commons” and “collective action” are posted on the cover, but no civil commons or agency is seen from universal health care to a public bicycle path. Common life bases can no more compute through the ruling prism than the collective actions required to provide them.
In fact, the underlying problem is ancient. We have lacked a common life-ground since the genocides of first peoples began. It is a very ancient blind spot which has become increasingly fatal with all-powerful technologies of destruction and the deranged money-value code driving them. The eco-genocidal streak goes deep – from the old-testament tribal god command to exterminate all other peoples in Palestine to, millennia later, the first peoples in the New World saying to their modern invaders: “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.” Even “life, liberty and freedom” in the US Constitution reduces to the commerce clause and corporate rights by Supreme Court interpretation. Abdication of life responsibility is built into the-system. The Global Market God rules, and the common life interest and its agency do not exist to it.
How are we to ground beneath this life-blind paradigm whose global mutations threaten evolved life on earth? In the end, the organizing principle crosses the lines of death itself – the life code of value at the collective level. But this common life interest is usurped in its very name. That is why, for example, the young can be killed in masses and arms budgets bankrupt U.S. public sectors to enrich Big Oil, or people’s homes can be expropriated for private developers as ‘the public interest’ and ‘eminent domain’. This is the dark side of history, one oppressor rule after another. But the collective life interest is the true bottom line of legitimate governance. The proof is in the conditions of its definition. It must be consistent with the life carrying capacities of all through time. It must be open to life-enabling change. It must go deeper than family, gender, and culture differences. It must include past as well as future generations. It must supersede the ruinous man/nature, economy/environment splits and individual/society duality of interests. It must realize the Three R’s of ecological literacy to be life coherent. It must bridge the past to the present to the future as one process to steer development beyond the holocausts of history. It must embody the economic principles of efficiency, productivity and innovation in life-serving form. It must make all freedom responsible to its life conditions of possibility. It must embed the life bases of all as supreme so it cannot in principle go wrong.
Such a moral code seems impossible. Every demand of the ruling value mechanism is structured against it. Opposing ideologies do not find its common life base. Postmodernism and relativism deny any universal principle of value except the actually ruling one. Political policies are confined to what serves the corporate market system. Issue politics rule fixated on sexual preferences. There is no common life ground recognized or life-value compass to steer by. Collective life capital re-grounds us. It is the life base of the common interest – that without which humanity’s life capacities degrade and die. It is the bridging concept across the ‘the economy-environment’ division as well as cross present and future generations. It is the true meaning of economic necessity and the sole substance of growth and development. In all, collective life capital transcends all divisions by impartial principles that cannot go wrong: (1) a unifying life value regulator enabling all, (2) a generic life-value measure to tell greater from lesser by margins of capacity loss or gain in any case, (3) production of more life value capacity through generational time, (4) cumulative life gain as the organizing goal of the process throughout, (5) the more coherently inclusive in enabling life the better. In this way, the common interest is provided an exact progressive meaning, and collective agency is built into its inner logic of life progression.
Conversely, whatever person, group or system destroys common life capital is objectively evil to the extent of life capacity destruction through time – for example, corporate U.S. oil wars or leisure vehicles destroying natural life. Advancing collective life capital, in contrast, is what “make the world a better place” means. It could be by cures to diseases, more ecological methods, life infrastructure building, advancing knowledge, new ways of seeing, or life-protective laws. All more inclusively enable life without loss and cumulative gain. No real progress is ever made without satisfying this logic of value. Feeling with across species and tribes, for example, may bind many of us in this room. So too even more so advancing life-coherent knowledge and visual comprehension, as Peter’s films do. The understanding and feeling sides of life keep extending despite death and moral numbing by the ruling value mechanism. Public knowledge via the Internet commons wins against corporate media silencing and propaganda. We see here the underlying struggle across the fields of life. The rising and falling of life capital base and compass can in fact be found in every social policy, decision or movement that goes right or goes wrong. There is no exception. The war of the world is everywhere, and so is our task of life commons awareness and building.
This is not hope without substance. The common life interest is already built into our lives over millennia without our knowing it – the ‘civil commons’ of language, collective water sources and sewage, common safety regimes, shared pathways everywhere, community health rules and healing sites, and everyday life-enabling knowledge institutions at every level – all collective life capital formations that keep advancing beneath notice despite and through diseases and wars. Unseen too is that all are more threatened now by the ruling value mechanism than ever before. The defining general meaning is all social constructs which enable universal access to life goods. This too is no utopian ideal. It is the measure of true development across all cultures before and after our lives – from environmental economy to universal libraries and education to public water and waste cycles to life-serving laws before which all are equal. These are all forms of collective capital in continuous development without loss and cumulative gain but all are attacked bite by bite by the multiplying money-sequence system now out of control.
The collective life capital developments that are needed now are many, but can be crystallized into three system shifts in general:
(1) public banking for credit and investment in individual and collective life capital growth,
(2) ecological quotas for all consumption of non-renewable energies and materials,
(3) citizen income security guaranteed in return for life-enabling hours of public service.
Movements of masses to demand them completes knowledge in public action.
Under the ruling value mechanism today, in contrast, evolved life on earth is under totalizing attack. 95% of all gains go to 1% with no required life function, while 95% of the world’s life support capacities are pillaged by life-blind money-sequences.. Yet life-value steering is easier than not. Norway for example has led the world in holding onto and advancing its common life capital bases through the system sickness, and emergent Latin America is implicitly building collective life capital deciders from decades of death-squad and foreign money-sequence ruin. Before the Great Reversal, societies everywhere were becoming governed by public policy patterns of similar kinds – national recovery of control over public owned resources, progressive taxation, public banking and investment, and policy-led elimination of structural depredation of the poor and the environment. All are methods of collective life capital formation inclusively enabling the lives of individuals across time. “Inclusiveness” is a concept much invoked today, but not with the life capital bases and compass required in the real world.
Let us overview the condition we face. Once upon a time in the distant past, capitalist organization under public control mass-produced healthy food, clothing and utensil commodities despite brutally exploitative methods. There was a long painful taming of it over 200 years, and then the Great Reversal from 1980 on usurped progressive social development at every level possible. Since then, the private transnational money-sequence system has been increasingly deregulated to competitively multiply and override all life carrying capacities as its supreme goal – propelling endless wars, public and public sector debt slavery, mass disemployment and majority dispossession for obscene riches. This is the global cancer system which occupied states subsidize, enforce and grow as fast as they can – stripping the soils and forests, poisoning the waters, disemploying peoples and producing disease-causing junks in ever greater volumes. Re-grounding in common life capital, however, exposes every disorder and directs solution to it – the long missing base and measure of ‘the moral science’. It re-sets evolutionary theory itself in which only selfish gene multiplication counts – the biological correlative of the self-multiplying money mechanism. Self-maximizing game theory dominates both and military doctrine, justice and moral analysis besides. Yet common life capital bases are excluded from all of them as the lost life-ground and reference body of our capsizing planetary condition.
New ‘natural’ and ‘social capital’ categories may seem to assist us here. But they now only repeat the vicious circle. ‘Natural capital’ is what can be exploited for more money. ‘Human capital’ is more future private money-demand for its owner. ‘Social capital’ is lower transaction costs for profit. ‘Physical capital’ follows suit. Life capital remains without a name. Collective life capital does not exist. All must be steered back into conserving and producing life goods rather than destroying them, the ultimate policy imperative of the world. The public authority, policies, subsidies and right to issue sovereign money now lavished upon the life-destructive mutations of private money capital thus end without a shot fired. They are now so dependent on counterfeit money-sequences, treaty edicts, public hand-outs and resources that they cannot go a day without them. The public needs only to reclaim them, not to take a thing. .
“Let the Market decide!” all money interests cry. This ruling superstition is more barbaric than any before – essentially, ever more for those with more money to suck the lifeblood of humanity and the earth dry. Its ruling delusion is that the best of all possible worlds must follow by the invisible hand. In fact, a deregulated global chaos of private transnational money-sequences exponentially multiply while the world of life capital and goods is cumulatively destroyed. The life capital alternative is self-evident once seen. It grounds in common life capital – life wealth that produces more without loss and new gains for successive generations. Its moral logic is, in fact, the through-line of all human development since language and the cooperative provision of means of life. Unlike the global market of atomically self-maximizing corporations devouring the world for more private profit extraction without end in the delusion that an unseen hand directs all to the best of all possible worlds, collective life capital steers across divisions by an objective and universal life-value base and measure in exact progression which cannot as life-coherent go wrong. Ecological capital and knowledge capital are its baselines of value compass and coordination across life capital domains, and the unifying principle of all is already implicit in the architecture of modern human thought.
All that is lacking is life value, ground and measure. They connect life, the ultimate onto-ethical concept, to capital, the ultimate concept of political economy: and so by transitivity, to law, human rights, sustainability and intergenerational equity. The meaning is clear. Valid law is a collective life capital formation providing the rules to live by that coherently protect and enable life. Human rights are instituted claims of all to what enables their life capacities to be realised as human. Sustainability is of collective life capital, or it is a fraud. Intergenerational equity is access to collective life capital across generational time without loss, or it is a lie. Throughout we see a missing life base presupposed but not yet conscious or defined. Throughout we see that the ruling money-sequence value mechanism is incompetent to comprehend it. Building without loss and for better life across generations is what is ultimately worthwhile. No-one might deny it, but ignorant usurpation of its meaning is what rules. All universally life-enabling progressions of human evolution and history to now are the result of its implicit understanding. You cannot take a clean breath, meet a child safely, enjoy a drink of water, without their support from the past. The warped streak of epics and histories of power is opposite, but even state mass murderers and Wall Street bankers think that they are improving the world – the primary delusion which received theory rationalizes so that few understand.
The lost life-ground is already implicit in healthy lives. Our organic fitness and powers, our depth and breadth of knowledge acquisition, our abilities to perform productive tasks of needed kinds, and most of all our sustained intent to create more life wealth without loss and cumulative gain are the generic parameters of a life code already built into us as human. More than ever we know the plague is ruling, and “the 1% and the 99%” expresses it. But a real economic law holds beneath opinions and times. Public investment in common life capital capacities is the only allocation that works over time. We know this from America and Canada before their falls, Germany, Japan, Korea after 1950, and the post-1945 age of social life standards across the world. It has been proven again despite sabotages, coups and financial strangulations in Latin America after 1999. The unseen enemy is borderless money sequences with ever more rights. The missing map is diagnosis of the ruling value cancer. The missing link is the life-capital economy all breathe and move by. The war of the world today is won by knowledge action.
It is the age of forgetting everything,
It is the age of remembering all.
It is the age of competing to death,
It is the age of our coming together.
It is the age of ignorance and falling apart,
It is the age of more knowing more than ever.
It is the age of losing all that lives,
It is the age of finding common life ground.
It is the age of ever more commodity diseases,
It is the age of choosing world life.
It is the age of sleepwalk
It is the age of awakening
to shared life meaning.
It is the age when capital destroys the world.
It is the age when life capital wins.
At the end of the 20th century the modern project has become untrustworthy! Or rather: the possibility of finding or creating a pure, rational and ahistorical foundation for science as well as ethics, and the idea that such a foundation will of necessity lead to human emancipation has been called into doubt. The possibility of this doubt must be seen in the light of the horrors that occurred in the heart of enlightened Europe throughout the 20th century, but it must also be understood in relation to the history of the philosophical critique of objectivity and metaphysics. Today we find it impossible to believe in the modern project. We cannot believe in a linear historicity, in objective truth, in the idea that the rationalization of society and technological advances necessarily will lead to the good society. In the slipstream of the dismissal of the modern project, post-modern philosophy has focused on the particular and the singular instead of the general and the universal. In post-modernity, universality and objectivity have been replaced by pluralism and differing perspectives.
Nevertheless, the post-modern belief is not unproblematic. It has considerable consequences for the status of ethics and science. Without an ethic provided by either nature, God or reason, how are we to imagine — not to say create — a good society? If truth is not something we can discover, a riddle we can solve in the great book of nature, how are we to understand the role of science? On the basis of these problems pluralistic thinking is, in the perspective of some, equivalent to a total annihilation of values as such.
Thus, on the one hand, we would like to avoid the metaphysics of the enlightenment, which claims to have a conditionless insight into the true state of the world. This way of thought has ‘proven to be’ untrustworthy on the political and practical level as a result of the unredeemed promises of progress, as well as on the epistemological level because the objective perception of science ‘turned out to be’ only one perspective among others, which aims to achieve something with the world that is made the subject of inquiry. On the other hand, we strive to avoid the negative nihilism: a metaphysics that insists on the inherent insolvability of the obstacles, that all values are relative and therefore non-committing and indifferent, and can be put into practice as existential angst, loss of identity, cosmic absurdity and alienation. It is between these two extremes, the veritable Scylla and Charybdis of philosophy, that different post-modern philosophical projects try to navigate. But how can one acknowledge the negative implications of post-modern philosophy if one – in the light of the history of modernity and the modern critique of metaphysics – finds it impossible to return to the universalistic thought of foundations? How is it possible, at the same time, to take the critique of universality and objectivity seriously, and still believe in the value of ethics and science? How is it possible to understand the notions of ethical and scientific thought if one does not have unconditional confidence in rationality? How is it possible to establish a critical perspective without an objective and universal foundation? How can a dismissal of the basis of the modern thought of enlightenment be combined with a defense of the Enlightenment’s political ambitions of human emancipation and radical democracy?
Programme and research question
If one takes the questions above seriously, it becomes clear that one exhaustive and definitive answer is not asked for, but, instead, that a certain degree of pluralism in the process of thought is presupposed. This implies, on the one hand, that one is to remain humble in regards to the status ascribed to the knowledge acquired, and, on the other hand, that one makes a virtue out of necessity: all answers to the great questions will remain provisional and uncertain. There have been innumerable attempts to formulate answers to these types of questions, and just as many attempts to reformulate the questions themselves and to conceptualize the circumstances that serve as the context for their understanding.
Here, however, I wish to investigate only two of these related types of thought: namely social constructivist discourse theory and radical hermeneutics, as these theories are represented respectively in the work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, and Gianni Vattimo. It may not seem intuitive that these two theoretical formations, which can be regarded as expressions of different kinds of scholarly tradition – political sociology and continental philosophy, respectively – and which are often operationalized in separate research environments, should be obvious subjects for comparison. Nevertheless, I hold that these two theories are, within their respective disciplines, converging in what could be called the sociological turn of philosophy and the philosophical orientation of the sociology of knowledge. Here, my objective is to argue that one can talk about a kinship or an affinity between these two seemingly heterogeneous types of thought, and, furthermore, to illuminate the character of this relationship. In other words, I wish to argue in favor of the claim that these two theoretical formations are engaged with related types of problems, but have conceptualized them differently. They share central insights, but understand these insights with different vocabularies. Furthermore, I wish to undertake a comparative analysis that aims at throwing light upon the different analytical strategies and horizons of understanding the two meta-theories offer / open, in order to discuss how hermeneutics and constructivism could mutually inform and enrich each other or benefit from each others’ insights, when it comes to the question of human emancipation and radical democracy.
What kinship can be described between Laclau & Mouffe’s discourse theory and Vattimo’s hermeneutics, and how can this relation contribute to a rethinking of the question of human emancipation and radical democracy?
The structure of the article
This article is structured in the following way: the first two chapters consist respectively of readings and presentations of Vattimo’s weak thought and Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory. I have attempted to focus on how each of these authors present their theory’s’ ‘antecedent’ or background (that is, what and whom they write in continuation of and in opposition to), how they formulate their central problems, and, furthermore, how they formulate, introduce, legitimate and reflect upon their own ‘meta-perspectives’. I have also attempted to explain important notions and key concepts, as they appear. In the third chapter, I have undertaken an analytical comparison of the two theories. This comparison focuses on the (anti-)foundations inherent to the two positions on theory of science, and their implications for which types of analysis and narratives that are made possible by the employment of their different categories. Furthermore I discuss the status and role of science, social critique and ethics as they appear in the light of the two theories. In the fourth chapter, I will discuss the relationship between emancipation and truth, using discourse theory and weak thought as points of reference.
1. The weak thought
How is it possible to understand ethics, justice and emancipation if one accepts that no final foundation of thought is ever given? This is the question that Gianni Vattimo raises and attempts to answer with “The Weak Thinking” (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 53-55; Nielsen, 2005a, p. 9). According to Vattimo, this question becomes meaningful when one accepts nihilism as part of today’s human and philosophical conditions (Vattimo, 1997, p. 5). This acceptance is to be understood in light of Vattimo’s syncretic interlacing of Nietzsche’s perspectivist teachings of interpretation with Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics and positing of the hermeneutic turn in phenomenology (Nielsen, 2005a, p. 19-20; Nielsen, 2005b, p. 132-133; Rorty, 2004, p. 9).
In regard to hermeneutics, Vattimo takes as a point of departure the existential analytics from the first part of Martin Heidegger’s magnum opus Being and Time, in which human being as Dasein is explored and conceptualized. One of the central points here is that being human is always-already being in the world (with others) and, thus, always-already being engaged in the practice of understanding and interpreting. Humanity is, in other words, embedded in concrete relations of sense and meaning, in such a way that prejudice precedes perception. This means that human beings are interested subjects rather than neutral observers. Thus, in this perspective, knowledge is always interpretation (Vattimo, 2005b, p. 44; Heidegger, 2007, p. 79 § 12, p. 171 § 31 & p. 177ff § 32).
Similarly, Vattimo’s starting point with regards to Nietzsche is the part of the latter’s teachings of interpretation that roughly reject all of the western philosophical tradition’s aspirations to obtain a pure and objective, universal and ahistorical cognition of the true structure of the world. This aspiration presupposes a distinction between the immediate experienced phenomena and the intrinsic nature of the world. In this context, Nietzsche’s famous statements that “God is dead” and “the true world finally became a fable”, come to express two things: first, that nothing is given and absolute truth thus must yield in favour of different historically situated, reality constituting interpretations; and, second, a repudiation of every metaphysical position claiming an unconditional insight into the unconditional foundation of knowledge. The God, whose death certificate Nietzsche signs, is thus not solely a reference to the Christian God whose historically privileged position as the indubitable Archimedean point were challenged and undermined in the age of Nietzsche, but is instead to be understood as a metaphor for all metaphysical axiomatic final grounds (i.e. reason, reality, humanity, nature, etc.).
The point of departure that Vattimo inherits from both Heidegger and Nietzsche is – in the words of the latter – that there are no facts, only interpretations. The philosophical project of Vattimo thus starts where the central insight of hermeneutics, that knowledge is a historico-cultural interpretation, has been accepted, and continues as Vattimo uses hermeneutics to question the status of hermeneutics itself: if one accepts that everything is interpretation, this must necessarily be an interpretation as well. In other words, the claim that hermeneutics should be more valid or more truthful than other philosophical or epistemological positions cannot be maintained on the basis of hermeneutics itself. According to Vattimo, this means that the hermeneutical critique of metaphysics, which states that no ahistorical and objective foundations of knowledge exists, does not match up to its own standards and thus does not vanquish but instead reinstitutes metaphysics (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 241; Vattimo, 2005b, p. 43ff). Against this backdrop (that not even the absence of a foundation can constitute a foundation for thinking), Vattimo investigates the possibilities of an emancipatory and non-totalitarian nihilistic philosophy.
Central to Vattimo’s project is a distinction between what he terms strong and weak thinking, which, as I will discuss later, plays a key role in his critique of culture and ethico-political enterprise. Strong thinking is a generic term referring to the kind of thinking which implicitly or explicitly claims to be based upon universal and ahistorical facts, and thus claims to hold a privileged and true understanding of fundamental and objective conditions. Strong thinking is synonymous with metaphysically based thinking, in a sense where metaphysics – in the words of Vattimo – is defined as the ultimate foundation ”for which no conditions can be adduced that in turn found it; if it has no conditions, it is unconditioned, it can only present itself as an absolute truth” (Vattimo, 2004, p. 38). To this category belong those variants of post-modern philosophy that insist that no foundation of ethics or knowledge exists, because this implicitly is a statement of unconditional insight into the true structure of reality (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 57, 96). The weak thinking is the kind of thinking which does not claim to be an expression of absolute truth and therefore permits a plurality of interpretations of the world. The two types of strong thinking – modern thinking and the negative nihilism, respectively – are among the objects of Vattimo’s criticism.
Vattimo’s critique of culture is thus, on the one hand, aimed at the strong thinking, which since the beginning of modernity has been characterized by a linear and progressive conception of history, where the western world has been perceived as the culmination of the evolution of humanity. That is, Vattimo does not believe in progress or enlightenment in the sense of a linear process, where the rationalization and the accumulation of truth (i.e. scientific and technological advances) lead to or are independently to be considered human progress. On the contrary, modern rationality has – in the perspective of Vattimo – historically proven to result in a suspension of the subject it was brought about to serve. In the same manner, it has been exactly the strong certainty of an elevated insight in universal and objective values that has legitimized the fact that the West has “felt itself called upon to civilize, as well as colonize, convert, and subdue, all the other peoples with whom it came in contact” (Vattimo, 2004, p. 21; Vattimo, 2005a, p. 72ff, 138). In Vattimo’s version of the history of modernity, which is inextricably linked to his critique of culture, it is modern history which has made a radical doubt in the necessary connection between enlightenment and human emancipation possible, and thus created the conditions of possibility for a post-modern philosophy which refuses the existence of universal and ahistorical first principles (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 99ff, 108-109). It is, however, of crucial importance to Vattimo that the historical attempts to establish a non-metaphysical thinking does not end in what he calls “negative nihilism”; that is, a perspective where nothing can be said to have any value. More specifically, negative nihilism draws the conclusion from the death of God – i.e. from the absence of a universal meta-ethical criterion, in reference to which a true ethics can be derived – that all valuation and all normativity is of arbitrary character, and that, therefore, all justifications in principle refer to nothing or are based on random assertions, the negations of which could have an equal claim to truth. Nevertheless, Vattimo insists that nihilism will undermine itself if it is thought through.
With the weak thinking, Vattimo attempts to walk the thin line between the extremes described above: blinkered fundamentalism and negative nihilism. Weak thinking means, in broad outlines, to accept that “with the end of metaphysics we are not attaining a truer vision of reality – that would be metaphysics” (Vattimo, 2004, p. 32). Or, in other words, it means to acknowledge that metaphysics can never be overcome in a manner that does not imply a simultaneous reinstallation of a new metaphysics. According to Vattimo, one must instead accept that our understandings always are historico-culturally tied interpretations, and that hermeneutics itself is an interpretation, and thus cannot be made a universal foundation. On this view, we will never get rid of our historical baggage and must therefore endure and come to terms with our metaphysical heritage, our culture and history, on the background of which our understanding is based, and, at the same time, become conscious that these could have been different and that even this difference could have been otherwise (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 95, 98). In light of both the radical absence of a certain foundation of knowledge and ethics, and in light of the indispensability of both, Vattimo points towards what he terms “faith”. Faith or “belief” can be understood as a weak parallel to unconditional insight in the sense that it enables one to put forward an understanding of the world, without simultaneously implying that it could not be otherwise. Faith is to choose to regard as truth, or not being able not to believe in, while knowing that one cannot chose freely, but is somehow bound to one’s historical and cultural heritage (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 101ff). Thus, in Vattimo’s view, the answer to the opening question – “How is it possible to understand ethics and emancipation after the death of God?” – is: on the basis of faith. Furthermore, in the eyes of Vattimo, faith points back towards humanity and the immanent potentiality of putting value into the world by oneself, which is synonymous with the positive nihilism, the ‘superman’ and the conditions for the possibility of emancipation (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 111-113). In the case of Vattimo himself, he is managing heritage from Roman Catholic Christianity, Marxist Communism and Philosophical Hermeneutics (Nielsen, 2005, p. 10; Vattimo, 1999; Vattimo & Zabala, 2011). The weakening of thinking nevertheless means that the task of philosophy – as historicity is taken seriously and the project of uncovering the eternal truth is called off – becomes that of being occupied with the finite and particular, the transitory and perishable. The validity of philosophical answers must thus be evaluated by those who ask the questions, and must – when it comes to their status – also be considered as provisional and temporary, as every new generation must formulate and answer the questions of particular relevance to their respective era (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 65ff; Nielsen, 2005a, p. 19).
2. Discourse theory
The theoretical work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe is an attempt to reopen an analytical as well as emancipatory perspective, in a world where the distance between the teleological Marxist teachings regarding the end of history and the actual historical developments of modernity seems to be growing greater and greater; that is, where the belief that the societal contradictions through class struggle with historical necessity will lead to the realization of the utopia of the classless communist society is increasingly difficult to sustain (Boucher, 2008, p. 1-4; Clausen et al., 2002, p. 15-19; Laclau & Mouffe, 2001, 149-193). More specifically, Laclau and Mouffe wish to break with all theoretical frames of explanation that operate with logics of necessity or determination, and instead to develop an apparatus of concepts which enables them to frame matters of political opposition and social transformation in terms of contingency (Clausen et al., 2002, p. 15; Mouffe, 1997a, p. 22-23). Contingency here refers to something that could have been different and that makes the specific historical structuring in itself the pivotal point of the (meta-)political struggle(s) (Laclau & Mouffe, 2002, p. 19ff). These efforts are carried out as a social constructivist discourse theory.
In the early phases of the development of this theory, Laclau and Mouffe draw on the Marxist legacies of both Antonio Gramsci and Louis Pierre Althusser, while also – implicitly and explicitly – trying to cut their ties to this legacy (Boucher, 2008, p. 7ff; Butler et al., 2000, p. 2). Both Gramsci and Althusser are, in the eyes of Laclau and Mouffe, favourable due to fact that both of them refuse the variants of the Marxist cosmology in which the economic conditions are omni-determining and where the superstructure is therefore reduced to a function of the material basis, or is perceived of as a detached and random epiphenomenon with no actual influence on the end of history (Boucher, 2008, p. 7-22). Nevertheless neither Gramsci nor Althusser are, according to Laclau and Mouffe, radical enough in their break with the model of structure/superstructure, inasmuch as they only attribute the phenomena of the superstructure a relative autonomy (Mouffe, 1997b, Mouffe, 1997c). In contrast to Gramsci and Althusser, the theoretical perspective of Laclau and Mouffe contains a break with the model of structure /superstructure, including in particular a break with the distinction between economy and ideology, which they describe as having an ideological character itself. Discourse theory can thus be understood as a continuation of the Marxist critique of ideology, but with the crucial difference that Vladimir Lenin’s theory of reflection – that is, the conception that the objective of scientific socialism’s critique of ideology is the dissolving of false consciousness and the establishment of a 1:1 correspondence between the objective reality and the scientific knowledge – are rejected qua rejection of an extra-ideological objective base (Laclau & Mouffe, 1997, p. 21ff, 33ff).
This rejection, however, implies a break with the simple notion of class as an ontological category and the idea of the classes’ objective interests and conflicts of interests, in favour of a perception that emphasizes the historical construction of political subjects and the impossibility of a notion of interests detached from the constituted subjectivities (Laclau & Mouffe, 2002, p. 15ff). The field of inquiry of discourse theory is, in contrast, the endeavours for hegemony; that is, the struggle to construct specific forms of subjectivity and to constitute reality in a certain way, and the consequences of this for social practices.
In the late phases of the development of Laclau and Mouffe’s theory, the Marxist vocabulary is, to a large extent, substituted by an apparatus of concepts that revolves around the concept of discourse from Michel Foucault’s theories of the dispositive and the knowledge/power-relation. At the same time, they incorporate concepts and perspectives from Jacques Derrida’s deconstructivism and Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalysis into their theory (Laclau & Mouffe, 2002, p. 15, 21; Butler et. al., 2000, p. 2-3). In simple terms, the most important insight Lacalu and Mouffe adopt from Foucault is the idea that the description of the world is neither objective nor neutral, but, on the contrary, is an historical product and has comprehensive normative implications; power is exactly naturalization and neutralization of ‘knowledge’ and the related structuring of the human space for thought and action. Laclau and Mouffe, however, dismiss Foucault’s conception of the existence of anything extra-discursive, on the grounds that a distinction between discursive and non-discursive must itself be of a discursive nature (Laclau & Mouffe, 2001, p. 105-106). The ontological level is – in the theory of Laclau and Mouffe – a pure abstraction, to which they refer as the “discursive field”. As the name indicates, this field consists of pure discourse and is understood as a continuously flowing pulp of meaning(s), a surplus of meaning. The discursive field is not, inasmuch as it is not something. This empty existence only becomes sensible and meaningful being, as a result of the discursive mediation. The discursive mediation is instituted and shaped by the social process of articulation, which connects and modifies elements of the flowing meaning in discourses through the construction and fixation of nodal points. The flowing of meaning is thus restricted and certain meanings are temporarily fixed (Laclau & Mouffe, 2001, p. 113). The processes of articulation therefore (re)construct the social reality: though the incorporation of meaning(s) into discourses – and the incorporation of discourses into discursive formation – all identity is constituted: objects, phenomena, subjects, relations, actions etc. (Laclau & Mouffe, 2001, p. 105, 107; Laclau & Mouffe, 2002, p. 52ff, 64; Torfing, 1999, p. 92; Thomsen, 2007, p. 183-84; Hansen, 2004, p. 392-394). Laclau and Mouffe’s concept of discourse is a broad concept that encompasses three dimensions: a) The verbal representations or concrete articulations – language and its usage, b) the objects, the identity of which the articulation constructs, and, c) the actions, relations and interactions, which, on the one hand, are made possible by a given articulation and, on the other hand, constitute and themselves make up the (re)articulations (Laclau & Mouffe, 2001, p. 105-108; Thomsen, 2007, p. 181-182). One of Laclau and Mouffe’s central points is that every articulation is an implicit exclusion of other possible meanings apart from the one articulated (Hansen, 2004, p. 401-02). The articulative practice – and thereby the discursive mediation of the world – are therefore of decisive importance for the arrangement of the human spaces of thought and action. Put another way, the discursive construction of the world makes possible and normalizes certain forms of social patterns of action and excludes and delegitimizes others. Power is therefore inevitably implied in all discursive practices (Hansen, 2004, p. 401-02). The discourses are, however, not solely a restriction of possible thoughts and actions. They also serve to condition what there is and how it is, and therefore they give – or rather are – the meaning and sense of the social reality in which human beings live together.
Another of the substantial points is that discourses never becomes completely fixed or static, but on the contrary, are continuously dislocated and thus can be made the object of new rearticulations (Hansen, 2004, p. 394-395). No discourse can close itself around itself to a large enough extent that it unambiguously determines how the social reality is constructed and what social practices are made possible (ibid. p. 395). Structural dislocation and principal undesirability differentiate discourse theory from deterministic structuralism, because it operates within a space where change – as a result of decision – is not only possible but required (ibid. p. 395). Discourse theory however does not employ a classical concept of agency. It is not the intentional human individual who makes these decisions (Laclau & Mouffe, 2002, p. 115). The subject in discourse theory is the need to transcend the absence, distance and imperfection in the discourses that the absence, distance and imperfection institute themselves (Laclau, 1990, p. 33 according to Hansen, 2004, p. 396-97).
In negative terms it is relatively easy to identify a series of ‘essential’ common features of Laclau and Mouffe´s discourse theory and Gianni Vattimo’s weak thought. Both perspectives present themselves as alternatives to or even rejections of essentialist thought. That is, both perspectives deny that phenomena or objects have actual or authentic, intrinsic and contextless substance or meaning, which is the same as saying: there is no objective real world behind or beneath, external to and independent of appearance or understanding that could be represented more or less adequately or that philosophical speculation, scientific method – or for that matter, religious revelation – could recognize, discover or deduce. The concepts of knowledge of both discourse theory and weak thought thus contrast with the correspondence theory of truth, where truth is understood as the establishment of a linguistic 1:1 representation of reality. Instead both theories operate with the idea that the meaning of phenomena is contingent and identity is dependent on the historical and socio-cultural context. The common leitmotif can thus be said to be: where we thought being was, nothing appeared to be. Both positions are in other words – more or less elegant – renunciations of the distinction between ontology/epistemology and the dualism of subject/object. That is, they both, to a large extent, refuse to distinguish between being and human perception. Nevertheless Laclau and Mouffe and Vattimo address the break with these categories very differently.
The approach of Laclau and Mouffe can be explained as ascribing privilege to epistemology, which leads to an emptying of ontology. Their preliminary assumption is, as mentioned, that everything is discursively mediated, that is a product of articulation. In this conception, this means that identity is constituted through verbal ‘putting-into-words’, and that essence / materiality / objectivity are things that are constructed and thus do not refer to – that which is constituted as – an object’s intrinsic nature. Instead, these refer to something which is external to constructed identities. Even though Laclau and Mouffe explicate that nothing exists outside of discourses, they nevertheless address the extra-discursive, both implicitly and explicitly, all the same. It is ambiguous, in other words, precisely what status the ontological level has in their theory: on the one hand, they present their foundation as an empty ontology or an ontological absence, only characterized by its non-presence, but nevertheless playing a central (but obscure) role in regard to the articulative practices’ ‘discursivating’ function and the discursive formation’s concrete ‘structurization’. On the other hand, Laclau and Mouffe at times describe the extra-discursive as the field of discursivity, and address it as a regular and bubbling surplus of meaning – a sizzling mire – composing the unrestricted raw material, rendering a (re)articulative formation of specific identity possible through the excluding establishment of dissimilarity with other possible identities.
Vattimo’s mode of breaking with the distinction between object and subject is remarkably different from Laclau and Mouffe’s approach. First, one major difference consists in Vattimo claiming that we are already out with the things, whereas Laclau and Mouffe argue that the objects are constituted linguistically, and therefore are already with us, to the extent that language refers to humans. Secondly, instead of the concept of an empty ontology, Vattimo works with an idea of a weak or weakened ontology. Where the ontological absence with Laclau and Mouffe is presented as a metaphysical fact and – with the vocabulary of Vattimo – as an expression of strong thinking, Vattimo argues that the best one can do is to refrain from insisting upon reaching a final conclusion about the world and to regard the weakening as an ongoing process instead of a condition. Acknowledging that one is always addressing the world and being (linguistically and interpreting), he instead recommends that we come to terms with the always provisional, imperfect and fragile character of our interpretations of the world. The result, however, is close to that of discourses being dislocated by definition, and therefore always only temporary fixations of meaning and sense, but has the character of an ideal more than a description.
In spite of the similarities between Laclau & Mouffe and Vattimo there is a relatively large difference in the implications of their respective theories: with Laclau and Mouffe the contingency and flowing of meaning are presented as an historical condition. In the perspective of Vattimo historicity is historical itself, which has two notable implications. On the one hand, it is possible that being at an historical moment had an objective, universal and ahistorical character, but due to an event – that can only be understood in terms of miraculous creation-from-nothing – retroactively has become historically variable. Vattimo is, in other words, implicitly working with a notion of inverted causality. It is, on the other hand, possible that historicity itself one day will become historical, in the sense of a re-‘essentialization’ of being, which in the terminology of Vattimo is referred to as nihilism’s inherent possibility of a reopening towards being (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 76-78).
The absence of a metaphysical foundation
Both Laclau’s and Mouffe’s discourse theory and Vattimo’s weak thinking investigate the possibilities of establishing a meaningful (post/un-metaphysical) concept of knowledge, in the light of their respective emphasis of the inaccessibility of a universal, ahistorical and cross-cultural foundation for knowledge and cognition. However, where Laclau and Mouffe stop with the recognition that the foundational categories of understanding are contingent and that the conditions of possibility of cognition therefore are always changeable, Vattimo is not satisfied with the conclusion that there is no foundation. From his point of view, not even the absence of a foundation can be considered a certain and firm foundation that can provide the basis for our (lack of) knowledge. Thus, Laclau and Mouffe can be regarded as exponents of a post- / last metaphysic, or the absolute meta-theory, while Vattimo has abandoned the efforts to overcome metaphysics and accepted that weakening or continuing “wervindung” of metaphysics is the closest to non-metaphysical thinking we will get.
Central categories: discourse and interpretation
Common to the concepts of discourse and interpretation is the fact that both are all-embracing meta-categories, encompassing all meaning and sense: ‘There is nothing outside of the discourses; everything is interpretation’. There are nevertheless a series of differences in terminology and connotations. A discourse is a product of articulation(s), and therefore it always has a linguistic dimension. Apart from the concrete (non-)verbal expressions, discourses also encompasses both the objects, phenomena, relations etc., the identity of which they constitute, and the frames of human (rearticulative) practices. Even though it might seem that articulation/practice presupposes a subject capable of speech, action and speech-action, the concept of discourse is however over- or extra-subjective, in the sense that it is not directly linked to individuals: the discourse has priority over, precedes and constitutes the subject’s positions, in reference to which speech as well as action is possible. In comparison, Vattimo’s concept of interpretation is way more related to the single individuals, or stated more precisely, to ‘Dasein’ (the being characterized by raising questions towards its own being and – which is the most important in this connection – by definition are in the world with others). Interpretation is thus carried out on an individual level, but presupposes that others are and that mutual understanding, to begin with, is both possible and the case. An interpreting approach to the world is regarded as a feature of the human mode of being, which nevertheless could have been otherwise because the historicity – with Vattimo – precedes human interpretation, in such a manner that the descriptions of the human mode of interpretation in themselves are an interpretation, which (only) are possible in a certain historical context.
Overall, Vattimo’s terminology is less formalistic and less analytic than Laclau and Mouffe’s elaborations on discourses. Yet another difference consists in the concept of interpretation not focusing on – but neither excluding – linguistic-verbal ascribing of meaning, but to a large extent referring to the process of thinking as the main level of creating meaning. Summarily, it can be said that both discursive mediation and interpretation are categories concerned with historical and particular humans’ relationships to a world, which is not independent from them. The terms also differ from each other, due to the fact that hermeneutics has a conception of the subject that, to a wider extend than discourse theory, is tied to the individual human. There are, however, also subtle indications of the opposite: in statements such as ‘the reality is a social construction’, being is indirectly described or located as a man-made product, while terms and phrases from the vocabulary of hermeneutics such as ‘being drifts its essence’, ‘being happens’ or ‘being vicissitude itself’ can be said to place the shaping of phenomena beyond human influence. It can be argued that, whereas articulation is performed by someone, meaning and sense exist for someone; discourses are something one identifies or (re)constructs, while interpretation is something one carries out.
Common to Vattimo’s and Laclau & Mouffe’s perspectives is the idea that, even though the being of the world is not independent of, but on the contrary intimately connected to human understanding, there are relatively narrow bounds to how the world can be respectively interpreted or articulated meaningfully. With Laclau and Mouffe, the bounds of articulation are referred to as the linguistic structures, and even though the concrete usage of language always modifies the language system as a whole, the question about which discourses win the hegemonic struggles, and therefore constitute the frames and conditions of possibility for rearticulation, is a question of different projects’ relative strengths. With Vattimo, the bounds of which interpretations can be made meaningfully are decided by the historical-cultural heritage, of which there always are different ways to manage; one out-throws one’s thrownness.
Change: ‘The management of heritage’ and ‘the struggle for hegemony’
Development or dynamic – that is, the reconstruction and transformation of reality over time – is, in the theory of Laclau and Mouffe, a result of competing discursive projects’ struggle for hegemony. That being said, two provisions are of importance to the question on the premises for transformation of discourses. First, by virtue of the relational constitution of identity, every modification of a moment in a given discourse will change all other parts of a discourse and is therefore a radical change of the structural whole. Second, as a result of the structural dislocation it is, in the view of Laclau and Mouffe, a formal impossibility that a discourse would close itself upon itself, i.e. becoming final and once and for all constituting the world in one certain way. In other words, dominance, as the term is employed by Foucault, is never possible. This implicates that change as such is a structural inevitability, even though no specific development is a necessary product of intra-discursive logic or dynamics. When something appears, or rather becomes constituted, as an exigency or (logical) necessity, it is the result of one out of several possible decisions having won hegemony at the expense of alternative routes of development. Furthermore, this means that nothing (by nature) is reducible to something else or can be viewed as a random expression of an immutable root principle. In Laclau’s and Mouffe’s elaborations of this, they refer to both the surplus of meaning, as well as to the ontological absence: on the one hand, it seems like the ontological is richer that its symbolization / articulation, and thus partially escape fixation, which is why new articulations always can constitute a new object. On the other hand, it is due to the chronic imperfections, that no ‘discursivation’ can become permanent and unchallenged. When it comes to the question of who – that is, what subjects – there, in the cosmos of discourse theory, is struggling for hegemony, it is easier to answer in negative then in positive terms. It is neither individuals nor collective subjects, as, for example, persons or classes, but, rather, a decentralized subject, a plural swarm, a multitude of motions structured around contingent points of conflict.
In contrast to Laclau and Mouffe, Vattimo does not attempt to sketch out universal rules or conditions for change, but notes that the ‘diversity of interpretations’ and the ‘epochal character of reality’ occur in this historical epoch. Whereas Vattimo address historical development in terms of managing, out-throwing of new projects and opening of new horizons, Laclau and Mouffe address it in terms of struggle or competition and exclusions of alternative constructions of the world. Vattimo operates, as mentioned – to the degree of which he addresses the dynamics of history – within the possibility of a reopening towards being.
Merging of horizons and antagonisms
Whereas the concepts of discourse and interpretation, as shown, share a series of similarities, there is a great difference between how the relations between, respectively, discourse and discourse, and interpretation and interpretation are presented and viewed in discourse theory and hermeneutics. Laclau and Mouffe theorize over the inter-discursive relations in terms of antagonism and equivalence (Laclau & Mouffe, 2002, p. 74-84), while one in hermeneutics often works with a conception of the possibility of the fusion of horizons. We are, in other words, dealing with a conflict and a consensus perspective respectively. A fusion of horizons would, in the perspective of Laclau and Mouffe, be an expression of political hegemony; a situation where a set of particular understandings and interests have been made a common project. In her later works, Mouffe, however, begins to operate with the concept of agonism (a relation of conflict where the positions do not necessarily prevent each other’s realization), in order to have a positive ideal for political / democratic negation (Laclau & Mouffe, 2002, p. 15, 30-31, 185ff). Vattimo, on the other hand, points out that a plurality of perspectives cannot necessarily be equaled with peaceful coexistence, but on the contrary can be the cause of conflicts (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 97).
After truth: politics and ethics
The question of what happens when truth is no longer considered the yardstick for, but rather the product of scientific work, is central to both Vattimo’s and Laclau’s & Mouffe’s work, but is answered differently in the two theories. In the perspective established by Laclau and Mouffe, the focus is on the political implications of the articulation instead of the truth-value of a given discourse. Under the discourse-theoretical perspective, the political is comprised of the structuring and constitution of society (the social), and is thus not a social subsystem or autonomous superstructure. Instead it is that which institutes the social as such (Laclau, 1996, p. 47-48). That is to say, the political is the implication of the way in which the social reality is constructed and especially what forms of practices (actions, thoughts, wills, relations etc,), to begin with, are rendered (im)possible and, on the second pass, (de)legitimized or (de)naturalized. The actual political struggle or negotiation is therefore the question about how interests or wills (and their possible objects) are constituted in the social. It can be argued that Laclau’s and Mouffe’s discourse theory focuses indirectly upon the power struggle over the distribution of resources in the broadest possible sense (that being food, shelter, recognition, education, etc. and everything else that can be perceived of as desirable). Yet with a strict reservation: the question of interests and desire cannot be understood independently of the forms of subjectivity connected to the subject positions as they are constituted and made possible within the frames of a concrete formation of discourses. The standard for evaluation of knowledge is thus not truth, but rather justice. Nevertheless, there is no theoretical and general definition of justice; there is no universal meta-perspective. On the other hand, there is neither any concrete sociality, where particular interests, conflicts and struggles for hegemony between a plurality of possible decisions are not instituted (Laclau1996:48-50). The hermeneutics of Vattimo operate, as described above, not with truth as a criterion for evaluation of the ‘quality’ of different interpretations. Instead it focuses on the question of ethics. The challenge, to make a short summary, to a weak or non-metaphysical thinking of ethics is, that it – as it fully accepts the historicity – cannot lead to the formulation of universal ethical principals or general imperatives (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 101). Instead, one is left with a ‘demand’ to put value into the world oneself, and by oneself to find out how to act in concrete situations. In addition, such a thinking implies a skeptic attitude towards imperatives which ”pretend to present itself a final and universal principle” (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 112-115, own translation) as well as an awareness that not even one’s skepticism towards metaphysical legitimization is universal nor recommendable at all times, because it also builds upon a socio-cultural and historical ideal (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 112-115). The weak thinking is thus putting forward a conception of ethics as an adducing of historic-cultural prejudice. Or said differently: Ethics is a managing of that, which one always-already is. In this perspective, the idea of ‘neutral’ behavior is an absurdity and the scientific ideal of objective or purely descriptive statements about the world is undermined, in favor of an attempt to realize that descriptions always have normative implications. Thinking always also shapes and opens a normative space.
4. Freedom after truth
Weak hinking and discourse theory are – as they find expression with, respectively, Vattimo and Laclau & Mouffe – philosophical systems which undermine the basis of the project of Enlightenment, or better, the emancipatory horizon of the modern epoch. If the politico-ethical dimension of the enlightenment is interpreted as an ambition to realize the inner principle of the world, to acquire true and ahistorical knowledge corresponding to the nature of reality and the natural laws governing the material world, and then – when humanity have thrown away the veil of ignorance – hereby have the basis of a rational approach to the world (that is, an approach not being muddled by religious myths, unenlightened superstition and irrational emotions), it becomes overt that the dismissal of the possibility of absolute truth demands a rethinking of the idea of human emancipation: Without an ahistorical anthropology, no rational and scientific social critique; Without a universal moral, no general ethical imperatives; Without context-independent value, no objective justice. That said, both discourse theory and weak thinking agree that what Laclau refers to as ‘the rejection of the myth of foundation’ and Vattimo calls ‘the weakening of the thinking’ or ‘rethinking of being in weak terms’ is not necessarily synonymous with nihilism in the negative sense of the term (i.e. abolition of value as such and impossibility of political engagement). On the contrary, they argue that the rejection of the Enlightenment’s understanding of history and the concept of knowledge are actually strengthening the political dimensions of the Enlightenment project, and reopen the emancipatory horizons associated therewith. More specifically, they argue that:
A) as totalitarian force is exercised with reference to universal absolutes, the absence of metaphysical first principles could be the ‘foundation’ of a radical and plural democracy, where the discussions cannot be brought forth by referring to the truth, but instead must be influenced by a mutual respect of each other’s perspectives (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 85; Laclau & Mouffe, 2002, p. 112, 120);
B) the dismissal of the belief in the possibility of a final foundation of ethical and political practice gives a consciousness about our values not being matter of course or natural, but rather an expression of decision and faith, and thus requires an ongoing managing and defense.
There are, nevertheless, many obstacles for an attempt to establish a post-metaphysical thinking. If one tries to overcome metaphysics once and for all, one will inevitably come in a situation where “something that should have been thrown overboard, will be smuggled back in” ; where the abolition of one metaphysical foundation implicitly reinstalls another. If ‘postmodernism’ should not become the ‘Pharisees’ reappearance in a world without gods’, philosophy must accept never to get rid of metaphysics; never to establish an ultimate meta-perspective. The ambitions are, in other words, not to stop using words such as is or truth, but instead to render it unimportant whether they are said or not. Concretely, discourse theory – as Laclau and Mouffe have contributed to develop it – contributes with analytical tools, which can be operationalized to denaturalize and unontologize contingent phenomena and the related forms of power. However, this unavoidably implies a (re)construction, a new discursive mediation. The new scientific ideal is thus – as Vattimo encourages – to attempt to become conscious about the ethical and political implications of what one is replacing the old with.
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Among the most obvious examples – which I however will restrict myself from dealing with here – could be mentioned Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty (Mouffe, 1996, p. 1).
”From now on, (…) let us protect ourselves better from the dangerous old conceptual fantasy which posits a “pure, will-less, painless, timeless subject of cognition,” let’s guard ourselves against the tentacles of such contradictory ideas as “pure reason,” “absolute spirituality,” “knowledge in itself”—those things which demand that we imagine an eye which simply can’t be imagined, an eye without any direction at all, in which the active and interpretative forces are supposed to stop or be absent—the very things through which seeing first becomes seeing something. Hence these things always demand from the eye something conceptually empty and absurd. The only seeing we have is seeing from a perspective; the only knowledge we have is knowledge from a perspective” (Nietzsche, 1993, p. 130).
(Nietzsche, 1997, p. 125-126 & Nietzsche, 1994, p. 42-43)
(Nietzsche, 2003, p. 139)
In his attempts to work with the problem of the impossibility of overcoming metaphysics, Vattimo employs Heidegger’s notion of Verwindung as a weak alternative to Überwindung (overcoming) (Vattimo, 2005a, p. 95).
(Farveholt, 1978; Lenin, 1975)
Articulation thus denotes not only verbal ’putting-into-words’ and conceptualization, bur also non-verbal ’putting-into-signs’ and quantitative ’putting-into-numbers’ (Laclau & Mouffe, 2001, p. 105ff).
”Every object, every possible entity is articulated all the way through. No core or layer avoids the modifications of the articulations” (Hansen, 2004, p. 393, own translation)
A distinction between discursive and unmediated is, in the view of Laclau and Mouffe, in itself having a discursive character. The distinguishing between the material and the immaterial, idea and reality is likewise in itself a product of a specific discursive mediation. Discourse is thus a meta-category, which according to Laclau and Mouffe cannot be placed within the traditional dualisms of realism/idealism and materialism/idealism (Laclau & Mouffe, 2001, p. 108-111).
In accordance with for example the concept of empty signifiers (Laclau & Mouffe, 2002, p. 121-122, 135ff).
However, this is not necessarily the case because the discourse is primary to and constitutes the subject positions, such as Human (Laclau & Mouffe, 2001, p. 114ff).
Even though Laclau and Mouffe explicitly states that discourse theory is not founded metaphysically (Mouffe, 1996; Laclau and Mouffe, 2002, p. 22) I have not been able to find anywhere in their authorship, where they – in the light of discourse theory’s (own) implications – have looked self-critically and reflexively on the question of discoursetheory’s (metaphysical) status. This is one of the reasons why I am arguing in favour of a synthesis or mutual inspiration of discourse theory and weak thinking.
Laclau and Mouffe expand both the concept of articulation and concept of discourse so much that they do not only encompass verbal language, but the creation of meaning and sense in general.
It is not hereby said that humans cannot misunderstand or consciously mislead one another. What is said is that the problem of the psychology of the alien / the problem of solipsism, as a general problem is to be considered a pseudo problem.
In line with “The epochal essence of being” (Heidegger, 2002, p. 52)
 ”The post-modern discourse reproduce the ’logic of foundation’, which professedly is the main characteristic of modernity” (Laclau & Mouffe, 2002, p. 104, own translation)