March 21, 2004

The mp3 neo-con complex

An interesting addendum to the mp3 discussion here by the genius Carmody. By New Right, I wonder if Robin means quasi-Fascist-nationalist or neo-con pro-market? It makes all the difference.

Quite how file-sharing maps onto molar politics is a fascinatingly fraught question, but not at all clear. I've already cited the simplistic arguments of the so-called dot communists. Their message: culture should be free. Free, that is, in a double sense, liberated (as in, 'information wants to be free'), but also gratis, available to all. As I've argued, the apparent nobility of this position conceals some lazy and unsupportable assumptions. I hesitate to call it leftist, actually - how can a position so pro-consumer and so anti-labour/ producers be leftist? - but it certainly conveniently highlights the vices of a certain left mentality (the assumption that charging for things is wicked and indefensible, that people somehow have a right to culture but no obligation to pay for it). It seems to me that Mark S and Abe - in the comments here - represent a much more subtle and sophisticated version of this type of thinking, spliced with, especially in Abe's case, a strain of libertarianism. It's this libertarianism that suggests the dove-tailing of a pro-mp3 position with elements of neo-conservatism.

But where I don't see a connection with neo-conservatism is on the issue of marketization. Take, for instance, Mark's point - from Jefferson - that culture should be considered a 'necessity' and effectively removed from the marketplace. I would expect neocons to take exactly the opposite view: i.e. that everything should be marketized. I don't see how this can be squared with P2P practice AT ALL.

Posted by mark at March 21, 2004 07:52 PM | TrackBack

I curious as to what your definition of neo-conservative is. I'm guessing there is probably a cross ocean meaning shift. Hoping there is too, cause if not I'd be seriously offended.

I'll freely admit to having a anarchist/libertarian streak, although I certainly differ from their ideologies on more points then I agree.

But neo-conservative?

Not a fucking chance in the world, at least by the American definition.

In fact the American neo-conservativism barely even has an economic component. It is a political philosophy of domination. While most practitioners pay a degree of lip service to the pro business, pro market American version of libertarianism (ie Cato Institute and the Libertarian Party), there real economic position is essentially what ever serves American power best is a go.

Dig back to American neo-conservatives intellectual roots with Leo Strauss and you're not going to find much about economics. This is a philosophy of power and power alone. Wolfowitz and Perle don't give two shits whether Iraq is free market or a welfare state, as long as America is in power. And believe me, there is nothing at all in this way of thinking I agree with AT ALL.

Posted by: Abe at March 22, 2004 02:11 AM

That out of the way, there definitely is a big P2P-anarchist/libertarian connection. John Perry Barlow of the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is very much a libertarian, and a long time Republican of a very particular breed. He was also of course one of the main song writers for the Grateful Dead and firmly anti-Bush antiwar. And that contrast illustrates the hacker libertarian philosophy well. Its base is anti-authoritarianism, note the Frontier in the EFF its there very deliberately. Its a philosophy that just doesn't work in Europe for spacial reasons, the state is actually immanent there, while in America you can just out run it (although nowadays it requires living in Alaska).

While the hacker libertarians sometimes borrow the pro-market views of their antitax businessmen counterparts, at there core they don't give a fuck about markets at all. In fact at their very extreme intellectual edge (aka Richard Stallman) they flirt with marxism, while embracing an idealized cowboy freedom from government. The irony that the government directly funded the creation of the internet, was the prime funder of all early computer research, and through defense contracts to HP essentially built Silicon Valley is lost on most of these idealists...

Posted by: Abe at March 22, 2004 02:42 AM

Abe's basically correct about American neo-cons not being much concerned with markets. Milton Friedman and Leo Strauss both taught at Chicago, but had radically different orientations . . . . I always took "neo-conservative" to refer to New York Jewish intellectuals who began as Trotskyites in the 1930s and then drifted ever rightward, especially in reaction to the perceived excesses of the 1960s. Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (an Irish ringer), Daniel Bell. Of these figures, only Kristol (best know for founding the foreign policy journal the National Interest, and his son Bill edits the Weekly Standard and was Quayle's top advisor) claims to have been influenced by Strauss . . . . As for Leo Strauss, he was a highly charismatic teacher of political philosophy, variously described as anti-modern or post-modern in orientation. Had a theory of exoteric/esoteric writing that he adopted from Nietzsche, and he, like Nietzsche, has followers on both the left and the right. Pioneered the "literary" reading of Plato, whereby Plato is understood more in terms of poetry and finesse than in terms of hard truth and geometry. Stanley Rosen is perhaps his most prominent student on the political left. On the right, his most prominent students are perhaps Jaffe, a natural law revivalist (much in common with the Podhoretz/Himmelfarb strand of neo-conservatism), and Allan Bloom (best known for his translations of The Republic and Emile and for his best-selling Closing of the American Mind; Bloom was the inspiration for Saul Bellow's Ravelstein and the mentor for Wolfowitz; Bloom is generally taken to be a not-so-closeted Nietzschean.) . . . . A lot gets laid at Strauss's feet, but I think this goes more to the conspiratorial nature of the American mindset. No matter where an American is on the political spectrum, he thinks everything's a conspiracy. But Strauss, like many other German-Jewish emigre scholars, had a fascinating life. And he had high-wire intellectual exchanges with Carl Schmitt, Gadamer, Kojeve. With friendly with Gershom Scholem. And he and Arendt, despite their apparent intellectual affinity, hated each other.

Posted by: Dominic at March 22, 2004 05:08 PM

But yeah, Abe's main point is correct. American Neo-Cons could care less about economics. (So, perhaps different meanings for the terms in England and American?) The Nietzschean wing thinks in terms of perpetuating/maximizing American power, and the more traditionalist wing thinks in terms of defending/promoting the American way of life, republican order, and Judeo-Christian values . . . . Perle, to my mind, is a lot freakier than Wolfowitz, however. And there's no Strauss connection in Perle's case. They both get called Neo-Cons, however, because they're Jews. WASPs like Cheney and Rumsfeld aren't so labeled. So, there's something like anti-Semitism going on here as well, though I wouldn't call it exactly that

Posted by: Dominic at March 22, 2004 05:22 PM

On a more English note, those who revile Strauss take particular issue with his Hobbesian reading of Locke. They say he elides the difference between the two, such that the republican Locke is swallowed whole by Hobbes

Posted by: Dominic at March 22, 2004 05:28 PM

I agree with Abe: there is so much pollution in the definition; although the word is still politically functional in outlining the contemporary power formations but it’s getting more banal and absurdly perplexing day by day just like the word Bourgeoisie which has been slyly exploited by the Bourgeois themselves to the point of complete exhaustion [1] (the way Bourgeoise concocted to radically conceal itself, make itself detteritorialized or precisely speaking, retteritorialized within the Other); seems many people mix the neo-cons of the new American front with the Habermasian characterization of neo-conservatism (which comes from the opposition of false and true Consensuses). Although the two have undeniable common concerns but merging them into one intellectual sphere is not as easy as it looks like. Actually postmodernists like Krokers and Cook are apparently against what is called the neo-con of American defense policies but according to Habermas there is nothing more neo-conservative than their ‘produktive destruction’ and theoretic protocols.

In regard to marketization issue, I think Mark is right; although neo-conservative reformationists principally focus on power grids (professionally utilizing all power anomalies disregarded by other parties as not very direct and resourceful) but because of the very inter-connections between economic fluxional meshworks and dynamism of power, they are highly interested in Market fundamentalists.

[1] This is the political rhetoric which has granted a ruinous political poverty for Iranian intellectuals both before and after 1979 Revolution.

Posted by: Reza at March 22, 2004 06:20 PM

Dominic: Daniel Patrick Moynihan = neocon?!? He may have rolled in some of the same circles, but politically he was going left when the neo-cons where drifting (or running?) to the right.

Posted by: Abe at March 22, 2004 07:34 PM

It's obviously a term with errr elastic meaning. It doesn't have much of a currency this side of the Atlantic actually.

Note that I wasn't 'accusing' anyone whose posted here of being a neo-con. :-) On the contrary, as I said, I don't see how neo-cons could square what I still regard as their enthusiasm for the market with the anti-market bias of the file-sharing community.

On this. Does anyone remember this from-the-horse's-mouth post on the late, lamented Pillbox? .
Interesting for lots of reason; not least, a self-proclaimed neo-con explaining his ideology; and also the distinction between libertarianism and neo-conservatism.

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 22, 2004 09:43 PM

Reza: I forgot that Habermas had his own definition of "neo-conservative." Which thinkers or tendencies qualify, again?

Abe: There's several strands of Amer neo-conservatives. Moynihan definitely counts as one. Big cold warrior in the 70s (alongide Jean Kirkpatrick, another early neo-con), wrote about the "unintended consequences" of liberal social policy, etc. He didn't move as far right as Kristol and others, there's no Strauss connection, but he fits the multivalent mold. Especially if you're mapping the first 30 yrs of neoconservatism, before it became a full-blown phenomenon.

Posted by: Dominic at March 22, 2004 09:47 PM

well I don't have a huge regard for most free market based theories, but there is a pretty good market based justification for file sharing. When the supply is potentially infinite as any unprotected digital file is, regardless of the demand the price should approach zero. Now that's not the argument most file traders go for, but it is market based...

Dominic, I need to dig more into Moynihan, apparently a lot more to him then image got of my senator as I grew up. Of course neo-con ideology is not what his campaign would be emphasizing when down in NYC...

Posted by: Abe at March 22, 2004 11:27 PM

Which thinkers or tendencies qualify, again?

Dominic: the most concentrated work on Habermas and "New Conservatism":
1. The New Conservatism: Cultural Criticism and the Historians' Debate (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought)-- by Jürgen Habermas, ShierryWeber Nicholson (Translator)

but also there is much debate on neoconservatism in Habermas' ealry works on Communication Theory and the book that McCarthy has written about Habermas (The Critical Theory of Jürgen Habermas). [The new conservatives, who reduced reason (Vernunft) to understanding (Verstand)]

Habermas early neo-conservative pantheon includes French legion (Bataille, Foucault, ...) but later he expanded the term to postmodern / post-structural theorists and most of writers oscillating between these two: Baudrillard, Virilio, ...

Posted by: Reza at March 23, 2004 04:54 AM

What could be a clearer example of the bizarro stretches in the meaning of the term 'conservative' if it can be taken to apply to Bataille. Sheesh....

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 23, 2004 10:47 AM

apparently he's michael howard's favourite theorist

Posted by: luke at March 23, 2004 10:55 AM

What could be a clearer example of the bizarro stretches in the meaning of the term 'conservative' if it can be taken to apply to Bataille.

YES! ... Unfortunately, Habermas has apparently dominated most of the theories of communication here in iran.

Posted by: Reza at March 23, 2004 02:12 PM

apropos not much more than further muddling everyone, garry wills's reading of locke [in his books on jefferson and madison] (persuasively) contrasts JL's crypto-hobbesian hyper-individualism with the far more attractive (and intellectually sensible) community-mindedness of david hume and (haha wait for it) adam smith

(the mediating vector into the american revolution being a once-ubiquitous now apparently somewhat forgotten thinker called francis hutcheson, who was also hugely important to hazlitt!)

Posted by: mark s at March 23, 2004 03:47 PM

ps habermas was PRO the interventions in kosovo and/or afghanistan: iraq i don't know about (i might be wrong abt this)

derrida has i think been against them (but again i might be wrong)

most of the other (so-called) "neo-con" frenchies didn't get to comment (being dead): baudrillard is doubtless explaining as we write that (hoho cheapshot ahoy!) none of these wars have actually happened

Posted by: mark s at March 23, 2004 03:55 PM

Fuck. Ing. Hell. Who will volunteer to give me a crash course in political philosophy, then? I'm feeling rather crushed by all these names. And as crude as a catcall, too.

Posted by: oliver at March 24, 2004 03:21 PM