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    Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

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    Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:54 pm

    Use this thread to include any philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, and thinkers of deep and abstruse thoughts that you wish.

    My first: Giorgio Agamben

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    I've just come across Agamben, who has some extremely relevant thoughts on the world we live in, post 9/11. He ascribes to our time the first ever global "state of exception":

    The state of exception invests one person or government, with the power and voice of authority over others extended well beyond where the law has existed in the past. “In every case, the state of exception marks a threshold at which logic and praxis blur with each other and a pure violence without logos claims to realize an enunciation without any real reference" (Agamben, pg 40). Agamben refers a continued state of exception to the Nazi state of Germany under Hitler’s rule. “The entire Third Reich can be considered a state of exception that lasted twelve years. In this sense, modern totalitarianism can be defined as the establishment, by means of the state of exception, of a legal civil war that allows for the physical elimination not only of political adversaries but of entire categories of citizens who for some reason cannot be integrated into the political system" (Agamben, pg 2). However simplistic and obvious it is to mention, one must acknowledge the state of exception is a dangerous and violent place of operation.

    The political power over others acquired through the state of exception, places one government - or one form or branch of government - as all powerful, operating outside of the laws. During such times of extension of power, certain forms of knowledge shall be privileged and accepted as true and certain voices shall be heard as valued, while of course, many others are not. This oppressive distinction holds great importance in relation to the production of knowledge. The process of both acquiring knowledge, and suppressing certain knowledge, is a violent act within a time of crisis.

    Agamben’s State of Exception investigates how the suspension of laws within a state of emergency or crisis can become a prolonged state of being. More specifically, Agamben addresses how this prolonged state of exception operates to remove individuals of their citizenship. When speaking about the military order issued by President George W. Bush on 13 November 2001, Agamben writes, “What is new about President Bush’s order is that it radically erases any legal status of the individual, thus producing a legally unnamable and unclassifiable being. Not only do the Taliban captured in Afghanistan not enjoy the status of POW’s as defined by the Geneva Convention, they do not even have the status of people charged with a crime according to American laws" (Agamben, pg 3). Many of the individuals captured in Afghanistan were taken to be held at Guantánamo Bay without trial. These individuals were termed as “enemy combatants.” Until 7 July 2006, these individuals had been treated outside of the Geneva Conventions by the United States administration.

    Link to State of Exception PDF:

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    His related concept of Homo Sacer is intriguing too:

    Agamben describes the homo sacer as an individual who exists in the law as an exile. There is, he thinks, a paradox. It is only because of the law that society can recognize the individual as homo sacer, and so the law that mandates the exclusion is also what gives the individual an identity.

    Agamben holds that life exists in two capacities. One is natural biological life (Greek: Zoë) and the other is political life (Greek: bios). This zoe is related by Agamben himself to Hannah Arendt's description of the refugee's "naked life" in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). The effect of homo sacer is, he says, a schism of one's biological and political lives. As "bare life", the homo sacer finds himself submitted to the sovereign's state of exception, and, though he has biological life, it has no political significance.

    Agamben says that the states of homo sacer, political refugees, and those persecuted in the Holocaust and other sites are similar.[citation needed] As support for this, he mentions that the Jews were stripped of their citizenship before they were placed in concentration camps.

    Thus, Agamben argues, "the so-called sacred and inalienable rights of man prove to be completely unprotected at the very moment it is no longer possible to characterize them as rights of the citizens of a state", following in this Hannah Arendt's reasoning concerning the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which tied human rights to civil rights. Although human rights were conceived of as the ground for civil rights, the privation of those civil rights (as, for example, in the case of stateless people or refugees) made them comparable to "savages", many of whom were exterminated, as Arendt showed, during the New Imperialism period. Arendt's thought is that respect of human rights depends on the guarantee of civil rights, and not the other way around, as argued by the liberal natural rights philosophers.

    PDF link to Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life:

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    Wikipedia fails to explain the profoundity of his thought I feel, completely. The following piece from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy is much better. His thoughts on language, and the Sausserian semiotic system of the signifier and the signified are quite dazzling I think, where language is only self-referential and that the ultimate meaning of what a person wishes to say is entirely ineffable and uncommunicable.


    Aesthetics.

    In Language and Death, Agamben raises the question of the relation of philosophy and poetry by asking whether poetry allows a different experience of language than that of the “unspeakable experience of Voice” that grounds philosophy. From a brief reflection on Plato’s identification of poetry as the “invention of the Muses,” Agamben argues that both philosophy and poetry attain toward the unspeakable as the condition of language, though both also “demonstrate this asunattainable.” Thus rejecting a straightforward prioritization of poetry over philosophy, or verse over prose, Agamben concludes that “perhaps only a language in which the pure prose of philosophy would intervene at a certain point to break apart the verse of the poetic word, and in which the verse of poetry would intervene to bend the prose of philosophy into a ring, would be the true human language” (LD, 78). This thematic subsequently drives Agamben’s contributions to aesthetics, and in doing so, the distinction between philosophy and poetry grounds a complex exercise of language and representation, experience and ethos, developed throughout his works in this area and designed to surpass the distinction itself as well as those that attend it.

    This is also of note:

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    Criticism of US response to "9-11"

    Giorgio Agamben is particularly critical of the United States' response to 11 September 2001, and its instrumentalization as a permanent condition that legitimizes a "state of exception" as the dominant paradigm for governing in contemporary politics. He warns against a "generalization of the state of exception" through laws like the USA PATRIOT Act, which means a permanent installment of martial law and emergency powers. In January 2004, he refused to give a lecture in the United States because under the US-VISIT he would have been required to give up his biometric information, which he believed stripped him to a state of "bare life" (zoe) and was akin to the tattooing that the Nazis did during World War II.[19][20]


    However, Agamben's criticisms target a broader scope than the US "war on terror". As he points out in State of Exception (2005), rule by decree has become common since World War I in all modern states, and has been since then generalized and abused. Agamben points out a general tendency of modernity, recalling for example that when Francis Galton and Alphonse Bertillon invented "judicial photography" for "anthropometric identification", the procedure was reserved to criminals; to the contrary, today's society is tending toward a generalization of this procedure to all citizens, placing the population under permanent suspicion and surveillance: "The political body thus has became a criminal body". And Agamben notes that the Jews deportation in France and other occupied countries was made possible by the photos taken from identity cards.[21] Furthermore, Agamben's political criticisms open up in a larger philosophical critique of the concept of sovereignty itself, which he explains is intrinsically related to the state of exception.

    Agamben lecture on the State of Exception (quite dry stuff, but worthwhile persevering and really payng attention to). I've included them all here as it seems the video's playlist is all over the place on YouTube:













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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Lucid Memes on Fri Dec 25, 2009 12:14 pm

    Marshall McLuhan

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    Who was Marshall McLuhan?

    In a paragraph

    Herbert Marshall McLuhan was a visionary educator of mass media. "The medium is the message", perhaps his most often quoted phrase, was one of his many advanced perceptions. In media, he studied both their overriding effects on society and their character as extensions of the senses of the individual.

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    This man is one of the most amazing thinkers that I'm aware of. After learning about his ideas, I feel comfortable enough to making the claim that a view of history that lacks technological and media determinism, is a very limited understanding of history. The amount of information packed in just one of his books is worth spending years of study on (as I have been doing on and off for a couple of years now). But as much as I appreciate his work, in my opinion it is largely motivated by a nostalgia for the past. McLuhan was a medievalist and a Roman Catholic convert (lol yikes!). This is probably one of the reasons why he was rejected by academia because they may have seen him as a dark age regressionist lol. He's would speak out against the phonetic alphabet and books, but he was a fan of scribal media. And although I feel its good to be aware of this, I also still feel that his study is worth recognition regardless because it's very enlightening to understand the behavioral characteristics of a cultures after they've adopted particular forms of media and communication technology.

    Here's an amazing lecture done by Terence McKenna on the work of Marshal McLuhan complied into a playlist on youtube.

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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Fri Dec 25, 2009 4:42 pm

    McLuhan is another thinker I have to get onto next. What you say about McLuhan and his religious leanings effecting his outlook, and how modern academia views his thought, seems to mirror the case with Carroll Quigley as well. Though Quigley's texts are far more delicate in their content and who they put the spotlight on. I'm reading Tragedy and Hope now and it is a startling read just for the historical breakdown of the past century or so. It's a philosophy of history to boot. Amazing stuff.

    But I will have to read McLuhan soon. "The medium is the message" has to be one of the most complete, concise, self explanatory aphorisms for the modern age there is.

    My reading list right now is: Tragedy and Hope. The Anglo-American Establishment, The Empire of the City, and (another thinker to introduce here) Main Currents of Marxism: The Founders, The Golden Age, The Breakdown, by Leszek Kołakowski. I've heard a lot about Kolakowski's monumental work on the history of Marxism, and I think it may be a worthy counterpoint to Quigley's work which also goes into the ideological underpinnings of Marxist thought, and the Soviet Union in particular. He breaks it down so concisely and clearly. His book so far makes me realise even more how much modern American conspiracy theory is either rooted in anti-semitism or the old "Reds under the bed" scare. Or both. Quigley details how the Eastern Bloc was moulded by Byzantine-Greek gnostic-type dualism which was, and still is in many ways, at war with Western Christian orthodoxy. Even though Marxist thought and Communism itself was, is, against the idea of God and religion it still possesses this theological underpinning it seems. Utterly fascinating. bounce study
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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Lucid Memes on Fri Dec 25, 2009 7:27 pm

    Extant wrote:McLuhan is another thinker I have to get onto next. What you say about McLuhan and his religious leanings effecting his outlook, and how modern academia views his thought, seems to mirror the case with Carroll Quigley as well. Though Quigley's texts are far more delicate in their content and who they put the spotlight on. I'm reading Tragedy and Hope now and it is a startling read just for the historical breakdown of the past century or so. It's a philosophy of history to boot. Amazing stuff.

    But I will have to read McLuhan soon. "The medium is the message" has to be one of the most complete, concise, self explanatory aphorisms for the modern age there is.

    See The Gutenberg Galaxy too. Basically details the modern age as beginning with print and books, and ending with electronic media such as televisions (and the internet). McLuhan was ahead of his time for sure (which may be somewhat ironic). Like on the point of his religious motivations, his critics may have very well have been right lol. For example, you could consider Johannes Gutenberg's printing press as the rise of the Catholic Church's greatest enemy, for the dissemination of non-Latin bibles caused the Protestant Reformation, mass literacy, education and the transition out of the dark age (when the Catholic Church reigned supreme) and into the modern world.

    Extant wrote:My reading list right now is: Tragedy and Hope. The Anglo-American Establishment, The Empire of the City, and (another thinker to introduce here) Main Currents of Marxism: The Founders, The Golden Age, The Breakdown, by Leszek Kołakowski. I've heard a lot about Kolakowski's monumental work on the history of Marxism, and I think it may be a worthy counterpoint to Quigley's work which also goes into the ideological underpinnings of Marxist thought, and the Soviet Union in particular. He breaks it down so concisely and clearly. His book so far makes me realise even more how much modern American conspiracy theory is either rooted in anti-semitism or the old "Reds under the bed" scare. Or both.

    To the last sentance, I totally noticed the same thing. And I think one very strong reason for "both" is in Christian Millennialism.

    The communist ideals of communal sharing and giving "onto Caesar" are not inherently opposed to Christ-like teachings. The creators of socialism were devout Christians, which makes the Christian opposition to communism not readily apparent unless one realizes the main religious grip against communism is derived from an opposition to atheism. Because most of the Marxist intellectuals were atheists and Christians feared the undermining of their religious world view (sorta like McLuhan but before the event lol). And the antisemitism in Christianity is really nothing new. Yes, so I contend that Christianity is behind "both" and also conspiracy culture to a very very large degree.

    And also, the irony of atheistic communism, is that it's easy to trace Hegelian Millennialism (religiosity) in communist ideals. Communism was like a secular millennialist sect of sorts lol.

    Extant wrote:Quigley details how the Eastern Bloc was moulded by Byzantine-Greek gnostic-type dualism which was, and still is in many ways, at war with Western Christian orthodoxy. Even though Marxist thought and Communism itself was, is, against the idea of God and religion it still possesses this theological underpinning it seems. Utterly fascinating. bounce study

    Yeah, I hadn't read all of Tragedy and Hope, but I did read that passage about how Constantinople continued the memetic stream of Platonism in the Greek Orthodox branch of Christianity that the Russians adopted. It also reminds me of a book that seems to related (although I've only read the reviews) Gnostic Wars by Stefan Rossbach ...tis rather pricey...hopefully next Christmas lol


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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Fri Dec 25, 2009 7:37 pm

    Lucid Memes wrote:
    Extant wrote:His book so far makes me realise even more how much modern American conspiracy theory is either rooted in anti-semitism or the old "Reds under the bed" scare. Or both.

    To the last sentance, I totally noticed the same thing. And I think one very strong reason for "both" is in Christian Millennialism.

    The communist ideals of communal sharing and giving "onto Caesar" are not inherently opposed to Christ-like teachings. The creators of socialism were devout Christians, which makes the Christian opposition to communism not readily apparent unless one realizes the main religious grip against communism is derived from an opposition to atheism. Because most of the Marxist intellectuals were atheists and Christians feared the undermining of their religious world view (sorta like McLuhan but before the event lol). And the antisemitism in Christianity is really nothing new. Yes, so I contend that Christianity is behind "both" and also conspiracy culture to a very very large degree.

    And also, the irony of atheistic communism, is that it's easy to trace Hegelian Millennialism (religiosity) in communist ideals. Communism was like a secular millennialist sect of sorts lol.

    Yes. Norman Cohn's Pursuit of the Millennium goes into the ancient origins of the Communist Millenarian eschatology as well.

    Lucid Memes wrote:Yeah, I hadn't read all of Tragedy and Hope, but I did read that passage about how Constantinople continued the memetic stream of Platonism in the Greek Orthodox branch of Christianity that the Russians adopted. It also reminds me of a book that seems to related (although I've only read the reviews) Gnostic Wars by Stefan Rossbach ...tis rather pricey...hopefully next Christmas lol

    That looks a fascinating book. Thanks for letting me know. Right up my alley right now that is. bounce bounce
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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Sat Dec 26, 2009 2:28 pm

    An interesting little piece here on Carroll Quigley. I've highlighted some of the most pertinent segments to me, at the bottom of the piece:

    Carroll Quigley: Theorist of Civilizations

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    Carroll Quigley (November 9, 1910 - January 3, 1977) was a noted historian, polymath, and theorist of the evolution of civilizations.

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    Quigley was born in Boston, where he attended school and planned to pursue a career in biochemistry. But he soon shifted to history, to which he brought an analytical, scientific approach. After receiving a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D in history from Harvard University, he taught at Princeton and Harvard. In 1941 Quigley joined the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where he came to teach a highly regarded course, "Development of Civilization".

    Endowed with a Napoleonic constitution and willing to work 16 hours a day, Quigley was a rapid, acute reader who devoured the contents of countless thousands of books and came to possess an exceptional range of knowledge in many fields. Not one to hide his light under a bushel basket, he claimed to have read everything worth reading. Fields of special expertise included aspects of primitive culture (e.g., primitive poison fishhooks), the impact of weapons technology on social organization, and the Anglo-American elite. He emphasized "inclusive diversity" as a value of Western Civilization long before diversity became a commonplace, and he denounced Platonic doctrines as an especially pernicious deviation from this ideal. Quigley argued that the reintroduction of Aristotle's teachings in the Middle Ages, most notably in the work of Thomas Aquinas, led Western Civilization away from Platonism and onto the track of a highly fruitful approach to knowledge based on scientific observation and experimentation, and driven by ethical concerns.

    As a spell-binding lecturer, Quigley made a strong impression on many of his students, including future U.S. President Bill Clinton, who referred to Quigley in his acceptance speech to the 1992 Democratic National Convention, saying:

    As a teenager, I heard John Kennedy’s summons to citizenship. And then, as a student at Georgetown, I heard that call clarified by a professor named Carroll Quigley, who said to us that America was the greatest Nation in history because our people had always believed in two things–-that tomorrow can be better than today and that every one of us has a personal moral responsibility to make it so.

    According to Clinton's biographers, he developed a relationship with Quigley and seems to have considered him his guru. During his presidency, Clinton did not discuss Quigley in public but was said to refer to him repeatedly inside the White House.

    In addition to his academic work, Quigley served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, the Smithsonian Institute, and the House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration, which went on to establish NASA. Although Quigley remained a sought-after lecturer, over time he received fewer offers to consult, perhaps because he was unwilling to say what was politically acceptable.

    Quigley served as a book reviewer for the "Washington Star" and was a contributor and editorial board member of "Current History".

    Quigley authored two influential books: Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (1966); and The Evolution of Civilizations (1961, 1979). Several other books were published posthumously from his manuscripts, including The Anglo-American Establishment (1981).

    Although he received only limited public and professional recognition for his contributions, Quigley was in fact a leading theorist of the rise and fall of civilizations, developing a 7-stage model (Mixture, Gestation, Expansion, Age of Conflict, Universal Empire, Decay, and Invasion) that was integrated into a framework of analysis that included dimensions of power (military and political), wealth (economic and social), and outlook (intellectual and religious). His illuminating discussion of the geographical and climatic matrix in which a civilization develops, his keen interpretation of the political and epistemological underpinnings of ancient philosophy, and his dynamic analysis of the mechanisms of expansion and conflict stages of civilization were a good deal more scientific and well-grounded than the more literary efforts of other historians of civilizations.

    The penetration of Quigley's analytical mind, his flow of novel concepts, his penchant for provocative formulations, his ceaseless crossing of disciplinary boundaries, and his willingness to challenge specialists and authorities led to a fair amount of controversy, though in fact his political and social views were moderate. He was an early and fierce critic of the Vietnam War; and he inveighed against the activities of the military-industrial complex that, in his mind, were threatening to transform the United States into an empire, thereby dooming it to eventual corruption, fossilization, and decline. He was ever on the alert for signs of the processes by which a dynamic "instrument" of society that satisfied the needs of individuals could turn into a stagnant, self-aggrandizing "institution".

    A central concern of Quigley was whether Western Civilization could renew its best traditions--including investing in innovation and emphasizing spiritual values and interpersonal relations rather than material things--after the Age of Conflict between 1895 and 1945, or whether it would slide into an era of Universal Empire. Initially full of hope on this subject, he grew more pessimistic about it in his later years. Quigley said of himself that he was a conservative defending the liberal tradition of the West.

    Quigley became well known among those who believe that there is an international conspiracy to bring about a one-world government. In his book Tragedy and Hope, he based his analysis on his research in the papers of an Anglo-American elite organization that, he held, secretly controlled the U.S. and UK governments through a series of Round Table Groups. The Round Table group in the United States was the Council on Foreign Relations. He argued that both the Republican and Democratic parties were controlled by an "international Anglophile network" that shaped elections.

    Conspiracy theorists assailed Quigley for his approval of the goals (not the tactics) of the Anglo-American elite while selectively using his information and analysis as evidence for their views. Quigley himself thought that the influence of the Anglo-American elite had slowly waned after World War II and that, in American society after 1965, the problem was that no elite was in charge and acting responsibly.


    No matter how reasonable Quigley's thinking on this and other subjects was, the association of his findings with the kooky, paranoid fantasies of the conspiracy theorists, in combination with the sheer originality of his ideas, caused rumors to circulate about his mental status. In addition, toward the end of his Georgetown career, Quigley ran into criticism from students unhappy about his grading, was roughed up in class by student antiwar protesters, and had his "Development of Civilization" course taken away from him in an academic power game. Teaching appears to have lost some of its charm for him, and he eventually retired to work on his book manuscripts.

    Nowadays Quigley is often spoken of in reference to his writings about the Anglo-American Establishment or as an influence on Clinton. But his theory of the evolution of civilizations, his methods of thinking, and his philosophy of social good have much more general and enduring importance. Among other things, they provide a valuable framework for understanding the interaction of civilizations in a global era as well as pointing out pathways to the future for Western Civilization. In addition, Quigley's teachings and his dynamic persona had a profound impact on thousands of students and intellectuals, with outcomes that we are not yet in a position fully to assess.
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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Lucid Memes on Sat Dec 26, 2009 4:35 pm

    Yeah, you're right. He is similar to McLuhan. Thanks for that article.


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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:55 pm

    Lucid Memes wrote:
    Marshall McLuhan

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    Who was Marshall McLuhan?

    In a paragraph

    Herbert Marshall McLuhan was a visionary educator of mass media. "The medium is the message", perhaps his most often quoted phrase, was one of his many advanced perceptions. In media, he studied both their overriding effects on society and their character as extensions of the senses of the individual.

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    A post from Philosophy Forums:

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    Spoiler:
    [quote=Shamantrixx]First of all I need to introduce my self. As you can see I'm a new member, and since English is not my native language I hope that you'll have a bit of understanding for the lack of flow in my sentences. Having said that I'll move on with the subject.

    Few years ago I have read Marshall's "Understanding The Media", and since than I'm quite interested in technology of language. For those who are not familiar with McLuhan's ideas, the main theme of his work seams to be the relation of language and literacy with personal identity and linearity. Almost all modern concepts of our society seem to be routed in the technology of language, phonetic alphabet, literacy and print. One can hardly avoid the conclusion that emergence of language was also the emergence of the cognitive quality that we often refer to as intelligence.

    A few quotes could be helpful at this point:

    "The spoken word was the first technology by which man was able to let go of his environment in order to grasp it in a new way."

    This fits nicely into modern linguistic theory by Noam Chomsky who argues that the purpose of language had nothing to do with communication, but rather that language was a tool (technology) for internal cognitive organisation (thinking), and that communication (speech) was a further adaptation of the cognitive faculty of language. So far so good, but Marshall goes on to say:

    "Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy."

    It's important to distinguish "spoken word" from "literacy" because the latter involves the process of linear decoding of the abstract set of individual phonemes (words) that by them self have no meaning whatsoever. Literate man, unlike non literate, falls into the habit of linear perception and constant assigning of "meaning" to it. McLuhan argues that out of that linearity we get concepts like causality:

    "As David Hume showed in the eighteenth century, there is no principle of causality in mere sequence. That one thing follows from another accounts for nothing. (But) neither Hume nor Kant, however, detected the hidden cause of our Western bias toward sequence as "logic" in the all-pervasive technology of the alphabet. Today in the electric age we feel as free to invent non-lineal logics as we do to make non-Euclidean geometries. Even the assembly line, as the method of analytic sequence for mechanizing every kind of making and production, is nowadays yielding to new forms."

    This is what McLuhan calls the "reversal" of technology...

    "We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us."

    ...Nietzsche had a similar statement about drawing the conclusions and later being driven by them.

    ---

    Since this is my first post I will end it here. I don't wan't to insult anyone by overexplaining what is already obvious to you, but if you have any questions or need some clarification I'll be more than glad to answer.

    As far as I can see, McLuhan had little or no impact on philosophy (of language) whatsoever, and I find that to be quite strange. I would like to hear what you think about his ideas, and I apologize if you already have a similar topic that I've failed to find.
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    Umberto Eco

    Post by Extant on Sun Apr 04, 2010 7:35 pm

    Wikipedia: Umberto Eco.

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    Terrorism [is] a biological consequence of the multinationals, just as a day of fever is the reasonable price of an effective vaccine . . . The conflict is between great powers, not between demons and heroes. Unhappily, therefore, is the nation that finds the "heroes" underfoot, especially if they still think in religious terms and involve the population in their bloody ascent to an uninhabited paradise.

    -- "Striking at the Heart of the State" (1978) from Travels in Hyperreality

    Wikipedia: The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

    A narrator should not supply interpretations of his work; otherwise he would have not written a novel, which is a machine for generating interpretations.

    -- Postscript to The Name of the Rose (1984)

    Zipped archive of PDFs of The Name of the Rose and The Key to the Name of the Rose (the latter is extremely valuable for translating all the Latin passages in the novel and many other things):

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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Sun Apr 04, 2010 9:19 pm

    David Eagleman: 'We won't die – our consciousness will live forever on the internet' - Seeing God as a microbe is just one way the neuroscientist's debut novel gets to grips with the afterlife

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    In one of the stories in David Eagleman's first work of fiction, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives (Canongate), God consoles himself for the mess that is humankind by reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. In another, people pay vast sums to ensure the glamorous afterlife they desire, only to find themselves marooned in the most cliched version of heaven, where they sit on white clouds, clad in ill-fitting white robes, strumming harps.

    By day, Eagleman is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, where he specialises in the study of time perception and synesthesia. He also directs the college's Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. Sum is his first foray into fiction – but it has become a word-of-mouth bestseller and earned him plaudits from Stephen Fry and Brian Eno, who called it "as surprising a book as I've read in years".

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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:10 pm

    Referring to the above post this video interview with David Eagleman is well worth a watch. Especially from about 7 mins in when he briefly discusses neuroscience and law. I'm amped to read his novel. Sounds great.

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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Fri Apr 09, 2010 5:08 pm

    Hat tip to Technoccult:

    Are we zeroing in on the hard problem of consciousness?



    H+ Magazine:
    Consciousness is the “hard problem” in mind science: explaining how the astonishing private world of consciousness emerges from neuronal activity. Recent research using EEG (brain-wave sensing) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) measurements by Steven Laureys of the University of Liege offers evidence for the “global workspace theory,” and may also offer clues to the “hard problem” of how patterns of electrical activity give rise to our complex internal lives.

    The global workspace model of consciousness, proposed by Bernard Baars, an Affiliated Research Fellow of The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California, proposes that perceptions below the threshold of consciousness are processed in relatively small, local areas of the brain. Broadcasting this pre-conscious information to the global workspace — a network of neural regions — results in conscious experience.

    One way to think about Dr. Baars’ global workspace is to use a “theater” metaphor – but not the notion of a dualistic “Cartesian theater” (which assumes someone is viewing the theater) which is criticized by philosopher Daniel Dennett and others. In the theater of consciousness, a spotlight of selective attention shines a bright spot on stage. The bright spot reveals the contents of consciousness, actors moving in and out, making speeches or interacting with each other. Behind the scenes, also in the dark, are the director (executive processes), stagehands, script writers, scene designers and so forth. They shape the visible activities in the bright spot, but are themselves invisible. Baars’ theater is not located in a single place in the mind but distributed throughout it, nor is there a viewer distinct from what is being viewed.
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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:20 pm

    Hat-tip to cryptogon:

    New Scientist: Enter the matrix: the deep law that shapes our reality

    Spoiler:
    SUPPOSE we had a theory that could explain everything. Not just atoms and quarks but aspects of our everyday lives too. Sound impossible? Perhaps not.

    It's all part of the recent explosion of work in an area of physics known as random matrix theory. Originally developed more than 50 years ago to describe the energy levels of atomic nuclei, the theory is turning up in everything from inflation rates to the behaviour of solids. So much so that many researchers believe that it points to some kind of deep pattern in nature that we don't yet understand. "It really does feel like the ideas of random matrix theory are somehow buried deep in the heart of nature," says electrical engineer Raj Nadakuditi of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

    All of this, oddly enough, emerged from an effort to turn physicists' ignorance into an advantage. In 1956, when we knew very little about the internal workings of large, complex atomic nuclei, such as uranium, the German physicist Eugene Wigner suggested simply guessing.

    Quantum theory tells us that atomic nuclei have many discrete energy levels, like unevenly spaced rungs on a ladder. To calculate the spacing between each of the rungs, you would need to know the myriad possible ways the nucleus can hop from one to another, and the probabilities for those events to happen. Wigner didn't know, so instead he picked numbers at random for the probabilities and arranged them in a square array called a matrix.

    The matrix was a neat way to express the many connections between the different rungs. It also allowed Wigner to exploit the powerful mathematics of matrices in order to make predictions about the energy levels.

    Bizarrely, he found this simple approach enabled him to work out the likelihood that any one level would have others nearby, in the absence of any real knowledge. Wigner's results, worked out in a few lines of algebra, were far more useful than anyone could have expected, and experiments over the next few years showed a remarkably close fit to his predictions. Why they work, though, remains a mystery even today.

    What is most remarkable, though, is how Wigner's idea has been used since then. It can be applied to a host of problems involving many interlinked variables whose connections can be represented as a random matrix.

    The first discovery of a link between Wigner's idea and something completely unrelated to nuclear physics came about after a chance meeting in the early 1970s between British physicist Freeman Dyson and American mathematician Hugh Montgomery.

    Montgomery had been exploring one of the most famous functions in mathematics, the Riemann zeta function, which holds the key to finding prime numbers. These are numbers, like 2, 3, 5 and 7, that are only divisible by themselves and 1. They hold a special place in mathematics because every integer greater than 1 can be built from them.

    In 1859, a German mathematician called Bernhard Riemann had conjectured a simple rule about where the zeros of the zeta function should lie. The zeros are closely linked to the distribution of prime numbers.

    Mathematicians have never been able to prove Riemann's hypothesis. Montgomery couldn't either, but he had worked out a formula for the likelihood of finding a zero, if you already knew the location of another one nearby. When Montgomery told Dyson of this formula, the physicist immediately recognised it as the very same one that Wigner had devised for nuclear energy levels.

    To this day, no one knows why prime numbers should have anything to do with Wigner's random matrices, let alone the nuclear energy levels. But the link is unmistakable. Mathematician Andrew Odlyzko of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis has computed the locations of as many as 1023 zeros of the Riemann zeta function and found a near-perfect agreement with random matrix theory.

    The strange descriptive power of random matrix theory doesn't stop there. In the last decade, it has proved itself particularly good at describing a wide range of messy physical systems.
    Universal law?

    Recently, for example, physicist Ferdinand Kuemmeth and colleagues at Harvard University used it to predict the energy levels of electrons in the gold nanoparticles they had constructed.

    Traditional theories suggest that such energy levels should be influenced by a bewildering range of factors, including the precise shape and size of the nanoparticle and the relative position of the atoms, which is considered to be more or less random. Nevertheless, Kuemmeth's team found that random matrix theory described the measured levels very accurately (arxiv.org/abs/0809.0670).

    A team of physicists led by Jack Kuipers of the University of Regensburg in Germany found equally strong agreement in the peculiar behaviour of electrons bouncing around chaotically inside a quantum dot - essentially a tiny box able to trap and hold single quantum particles (Physical Review Letters, vol 104, p 027001).

    The list has grown to incredible proportions, ranging from quantum gravity and quantum chromodynamics to the elastic properties of crystals. "The laws emerging from random matrix theory lay claim to universal validity for almost all quantum systems. This is an amazing fact," says physicist Thomas Guhr of the Lund Institute of Technology in Sweden.

    Random matrix theory has got mathematicians like Percy Deift of New York University imagining that there might be more general patterns there too. "This kind of thinking isn't common in mathematics," he notes. "Mathematicians tend to think that each of their problems has its own special, distinguishing features. But in recent years we have begun to see that problems from diverse areas, often with no discernible connections, all behave in a very similar way."

    In a paper from 2006, for example, he showed how random matrix theory applies very naturally to the mathematics of certain games of solitaire, to the way buses clump together in cities, and the path traced by molecules bouncing around in a gas, among others.

    The most important question, perhaps, is whether there is some deep theory behind both physics and mathematics that explains why random matrices seem to capture essential truths about reality. "There must be some reason, but we don't yet know what it is," admits Nadakuditi. In the meantime, random matrix theory is already changing how we look at random systems and try to understand their behaviour. It may possibly offer a new tool, for example, in detecting small changes in global climate.

    Back in 1991, an international scientific collaboration conducted what came to be known as the Heard Island Feasibility Test. Spurred by the idea that the transmission of sound through the world's oceans might provide a sensitive test of rising temperatures, they transmitted a loud humming sound near Heard Island in the Indian Ocean and used an array of sensors around the world to pick it up.

    Repeating the experiment 20 years later could yield valuable information on climate change. But concerns over the detrimental effects of loud sounds on local marine life mean that experiments today have to be carried out with signals that are too weak to be detected by ordinary means. That's where random matrix theory comes in.

    Over the past few years, Nadakuditi, working with Alan Edelman and others at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed a theory of signal detection based on random matrices. It is specifically attuned to the operation of a large array of sensors deployed globally. "We have found that you can in principle use extremely weak sounds and still hope to detect the signal," says Nadakuditi.

    Others are using random matrix theory to do surprising things, such as enabling light to pass through apparently impenetrable, opaque materials. Last year, physicist Allard Mosk of the University of Twente in the Netherlands and colleagues used it to describe the statistical connections between light that falls on an object and light that is scattered away. For an opaque object that scatters light very well, he notes, these connections can be described by a totally random matrix.

    What comes up are some strange possibilities not suggested by other analyses. The matrices revealed that there should be what Mosk calls "open channels" - specific kinds of waves that, instead of being reflected, would somehow pass right through the material. Indeed, when Mosk's team shone light with a carefully constructed wavefront through a thick, opaque layer of zinc oxide paint, they saw a sharp increase in the transmission of light.
    Random matrix theory comes up with strange possibilities not suggested by other analyses, which are then borne out by experiments

    Still, the most dramatic applications of random matrix theory may be yet to come. "Some of the main results have been around for decades," says physicist Jean-Philippe Bouchaud of the École Polytechnique in Paris, France," but they have suddenly become a lot more important with the handling of humungous data sets in so many areas of science."

    In everything from particle physics and astronomy to ecology and economics, collecting and processing enormous volumes of data has become commonplace. An economist may sift through hundreds of data sets looking for something to explain changes in inflation - perhaps oil futures, interest rates or industrial inventories. Businesses such as Amazon.com rely on similar techniques to spot patterns in buyer behaviour and help direct their advertising.

    While random matrix theory suggests that this is a promising approach, it also points to hidden dangers. As more and more complex data is collected, the number of variables being studied grows, and the number of apparent correlations between them grows even faster. With enough variables to test, it becomes almost certain that you will detect correlations that look significant, even if they aren't.
    Curse of dimensionality

    Suppose you have many years' worth of figures on a large number of economic indices, including inflation, employment and stock market prices. You look for cause-and-effect relationships between them. Bouchaud and his colleagues have shown that even if these variables are all fluctuating randomly, the largest observed correlation will be large enough to seem significant.

    This is known as the "curse of dimensionality". It means that while a large amount of information makes it easy to study everything, it also makes it easy to find meaningless patterns. That's where the random-matrix approach comes in, to separate what is meaningful from what is nonsense.

    In the late 1960s, Ukrainian mathematicians Vladimir Marcenko and Leonid Pastur derived a fundamental mathematical result describing the key properties of very large, random matrices. Their result allows you to calculate how much correlation between data sets you should expect to find simply by chance. This makes it possible to distinguish truly special cases from chance accidents. The strengths of these correlations are the equivalent of the nuclear energy levels in Wigner's original work.

    Bouchaud's team has now shown how this idea throws doubt on the trustworthiness of many economic predictions, especially those claiming to look many months ahead. Such predictions are, of course, the bread and butter of economic institutions. But can we believe them?

    To find out, Bouchaud and his colleagues looked at how well US inflation rates could be explained by a wide range of economic indicators, such as industrial production, retail sales, consumer and producer confidence, interest rates and oil prices.

    Using figures from 1983 to 2005, they first calculated all the possible correlations among the data. They found what seem to be significant results - apparent patterns showing how changes in economic indicators at one moment lead to changes in inflation the next. To the unwary observer, this makes it look as if inflation can be predicted with confidence.

    But when Bouchaud's team applied Marcenko's and Pastur's mathematics, they got a surprise. They found that only a few of these apparent correlations can be considered real, in the sense that they really stood out from what would be expected by chance alone. Their results show that inflation is predictable only one month in advance. Look ahead two months and the mathematics shows no predictability at all. "Adding more data just doesn't lead to more predictability as some economists would hope," says Bouchaud.

    In recent years, some economists have begun to express doubts over predictions made from huge volumes of data, but they are in the minority. Most embrace the idea that more measurements mean better predictive abilities. That might be an illusion, and random matrix theory could be the tool to separate what is real and what is not.

    Wigner might be surprised by how far his idea about nuclear energy levels has come, and the strange directions in which it is going, from universal patterns in physics and mathematics to practical tools in social science. It's clearly not as simplistic as he initially thought.

    Mark Buchanan is a writer based in the UK. His latest book is The Social Atom (Bloomsbury)
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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Wed Apr 14, 2010 6:09 pm

    PDF download link to Carl Jung's Red Book:

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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Thu Apr 22, 2010 5:20 pm

    Jorge Luis Borges cheers

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    He da' man. Cool

    The Lottery in Babylon

    Spoiler:

    Like all the men of Babylon, I have been proconsul; like all, I have been a slave. I have known omnipotence, ignominy, imprisonment. Look here— my right hand has no index finger. Look here— through this gash in my cape you can see on my stomach a crimson tattoo—it is the second letter,Beth.
    On nights when the moon is full, this symbol gives me power over men with the mark of Gimel, but it subjects me to those with the Aleph, who on nights when there is no moon owe obedience to those marked with the Gimel. In the half-light of dawn, in a cellar, standing before a black altar, I have slit the throats of sacred bulls. Once, for an entire lunar year, I was declared invisible—I would cry out and no one would heed my call, I would steal bread and not be beheaded. I have known that thing the Greeks knew not—uncertainty. In a chamber of brass, as I faced the strangler’s silent scarf, hope did not abandon me; in the river of delights, panic has not failed me. Heraclides Ponticus reports, admiringly, that Pythagoras recalled having been Pyrrhus,and before that, Euphorbus, and before that, some other mortal; in order to recall similar vicissitudes, I have no need of death, nor even of imposture.
    I owe that almost monstrous variety to an institution—the Lottery— which is unknown in other nations, or at work in them imperfectly or secretly. I have not delved into this institution’s history. I know that sages cannot agree. About its mighty purposes I know as much as a man untutored in astrology might know about the moon. Mine is a dizzying country in which the Lottery is a major element of reality; until this day, I have thought as little about it as about the conduct of the indecipherable gods or of my heart.
    Now, far from Babylon and its beloved customs, I think with some bewilderment about the Lottery, and about the blasphemousconjectures that shrouded men whisper in the half-light of dawn or evening. My father would tell how once, long ago—centuries? years?—the lottery in Babylon was a game played by commoners. He would tell (though whether this is true or not, I cannot say) how barbers would take a man’s copper coins and give back rectangles made of bone or parchment and adorned with symbols. Then, in broad daylight, a drawing would be held; those smiled upon by fate would, with no further corroboration by chance, win coins minted of silver. The procedure, as you can see, was rudimentary. Naturally, those so-called "lotteries" were a failure. They had no moral force whatsoever; they appealed not to all a man’s faculties, but only to his hopefulness. Public indifference soon meant that the merchants who had founded these venal lotteries began to lose money. Someone tried something new: including among the list of lucky numbers a few unlucky draws. This innovation meant that those who bought those numbered rectangles now had a twofold chance: they might win a sum of money or they might be required to pay a fine— sometimes a considerable one. As one might expect, that small risk (for every thirty "good" numbers there was one ill-omened one) piqued the public’s interest. Babylonians flocked to buy tickets. The man who bought none was considered a pusillanimous wretch, a man with no spirit of adventure. In time, this justified contempt found a second target: not just the man who didn’t play, but also the man who lost and paid the fine. The Company (as it was now beginning to be known) had to protect the interest of the winners, who could not be paid their prizes unless the pot contained almost the entire amount of the fines. A lawsuit was filed against the losers: the judge sentenced them to pay the original fine, plus court costs, or spend a number of days in jail. In order to thwart the Company, they all chose jail. From that gauntlet thrown down by a few men sprang the Company’s omnipotence— its ecclesiastical, metaphysical force.
    Some time after this, the announcements of the numbers drawn began to leave out the lists of fines and simply print the days of prison assigned to each losing number. That shorthand, as it were, which went virtually unnoticed at the time, was of utmost importance:It was the first appearance of nonpecuniary elements in the lottery. And it met with great success—indeed, the Company was forced by its players to increase the number of unlucky draws.
    As everyone knows, the people of Babylon are great admirers of logic, and even of symmetry. It was inconsistent that lucky numbers should payoff in round silver coins while unlucky ones were measured in days and nights of jail. Certain moralists argued that the possession of coins did not always bring about happiness, and that other forms of happiness were perhaps more direct. The lower-caste neighborhoods of the city voiced a different complaint. The members of the priestly class gambled heavily, and so enjoyed all the vicissitudes of terror and hope; the poor (with understandable, or inevitable, envy) saw themselves denied access to that famously delightful, even sensual, wheel. The fair and reasonable desire that all men and women, rich and poor, be able to take part equally in the Lottery inspired indignant demonstrations—the memory of which, time has failed to dim. Some stubborn souls could not (or pretended they could not) understand that this was a
    novusordosedorum,a necessary stage of history.... A slave stole a crimson ticket; the drawingdetermined that that ticket entitled the bearer to have his tongue burned out. The code of law provided the same sentence for stealing a lottery ticket. Some Babylonians argued that the slave deserved the burning iron for being a thief; others, more magnanimous, that the executioner should employ the iron because thus fate had decreed.... There were disturbances, there were regrettable instances of bloodshed, but the masses of Babylon at last, over the opposition of the well-to-do, imposed their will; they saw their generous objectives fully achieved. First, the Company was forced to assume all public power. (The unification was necessary because of the vastness and complexity of the new operations.) Second, the Lottery was made secret, free of charge, and open to all. The mercenary sale of lots was abolished; once initiated into the mysteries of Baal, every free man automatically took part in the sacred drawings, which were held in the labyrinths of the god every sixty nights and determined each man’s destiny until the next drawing. The consequences were incalculable.
    A lucky draw might bring about a man’s elevation to the council of the magi or the imprisonment of his enemy (secret, or known by all to be so), or might allow him to find, in the peaceful dimness of his room, the woman who would begin to disturb him, or whom he had never hoped to see again; an unlucky draw: mutilation, dishonor of many kinds, death itself. Sometimes a single event— the murder ofC in atavern, B’s mysterious apotheosis— would be the inspired outcome of thirty or forty drawings. Combining bets was difficult, but we must recall that the individuals of the Company were (and still are) all-powerful, and clever. In many cases, the knowledge that certain happy turns were the simple result of chance would have lessened the force of those outcomes; to forestall that problem, agentsof the Company employed suggestion, or even magic. The paths they followed, the intrigues they wove, were invariably secret. To penetrate the innermost hopes and innermost fears of every man, they called upon astrologers and spies. There were certain stone lions, a sacred latrine called Qaphqa, some cracks in a dusty aqueduct—these places, it was generally believed, gave access to the Company, and well- or ill-wishing persons would deposit confidential reports in them. An alphabetical file held thosedossiers of varying veracity.
    Incredibly, there was talk of favoritism, of corruption. With its customary discretion, the Company did not reply directly; instead, it scrawled its brief argument in the rubble of a mask factory. Thisapologia is now numbered among the sacred Scriptures. It pointed out, doctrinally, that the Lottery is an
    interpolation of chance into the order of the universe, and observed that to accept errors is to strengthen chance, not contravene it. It also noted that those lions, that sacred squatting-place, though not disavowed by the Company (which reserved the right to consult them), functioned with no official guarantee. This statement quieted the public’s concerns. But it also produced other effects perhaps unforeseen by its author. It profoundly altered both the spirit and the operations of the Company. I have but little time remaining; we are told that the ship is about to sail—but I will try to explain.
    However unlikely it may seem, no one, until that time, had attempted to produce a general theory of gaming. Babylonians are not a speculative people; they obey the dictates of chance, surrender their lives, their hopes, their nameless terror to it, but it never occurs to them to delve into its labyrinthine laws or the revolving spheres that manifest its workings. Nonetheless, the semiofficial statement that I mentioned inspired numerous debates of a legal and mathematical nature. From one of them, there emerged the following conjecture: If the Lottery is an intensification of chance, a periodic infusion of chaos into the cosmos, then is it not appropriate that chance intervene inevery aspect of the drawing, not just one? Is it not ludicrous that chance should dictate a person’s death while the circumstances of that death—whether private or public, whether drawn out for an hour or a century— should not be subject to chance? Those perfectly reasonable objections finally prompted sweeping reform; the complexities of the new system (complicated further by its having been in practice for centuries) are understood by only a handful of specialists, though I will attempt to summarize them, even if only symbolically.
    Let us imagine a first drawing, which condemns a man to death. In pursuance of that decree, another drawing is held; out of that second drawing come, say, nine possible executors. Of those nine, four might initiate a third drawing to determine the name of the executioner, two might replace the unlucky draw with a lucky one (the discovery of a treasure, say), another might decide that the death should be exacerbated (death with dishonor, that is, or with the refinement of torture), others might simply refuse to carry out the sentence----That is the scheme of the Lottery, put symbolically.In reality,the number of drawings is infinite. No decision is final; all branch into others. The ignorant assume that infinite drawings require infinite time; actually, all that is required is that time be infinitely subdivisible, as in the famous parable of the Race with the Tortoise. That infinitude coincides remarkably well with the sinuous numbers of Chance and with the Heavenly Archetype of the Lottery beloved of Platonists.... Some distorted echo of our custom seems to have reached the Tiber: In hisLife of Antoninus Heliogabalus, AElius Lampridius tells us that the emperor wrote out on seashells the fate that he intended for his guests at dinner—some would receive ten pounds of gold; others, ten houseflies, ten dormice, ten bears. It is fair to recall that Heliogabalus was raised in Asia Minor, among the priests of his eponymous god.
    There are alsoimpersonal drawings, whose purpose is unclear. One drawing decrees that a sapphire from Taprobana be thrown into the waters of the Euphrates; another, that a bird be released from the top of a certain tower; another, that every hundred years a grain of sand be added to (or taken from) the countless grains of sand on a certain beach. Sometimes, the consequences are terrible.
    Under the Company’s beneficent influence, our customs are now steeped in chance. The purchaser of a dozen amphorae of Damascene wine will not be surprised if one contains a talisman, or a viper; the scribe who writes out a contract never fails to include some error; I myself, in this hurried statement, have misrepresented some splendor, some atrocity— perhaps, too, some mysterious monotony.... Our historians, the most perspicacious on the planet, have invented a method for correcting chance; it is well known that the outcomes of this method are (in general) trustworthy— although, of course, they are never divulged without a measure of deception. Besides, there is nothing so tainted with fiction as the history of the Company....A paleographiedocument, unearthed at a certain temple, may come from yesterday’s drawing or from a drawing that took place centuries ago. No book is published without some discrepancy between each of the edition’s copies. Scribes take a secret oath to omit, interpolate, alter. Indirect falsehood is also practiced. The Company, with godlike modesty, shuns all publicity. Its agents, of course, are secret; the orders it constantly (perhaps continually) imparts are no different from those spread wholesale by impostors.
    Besides— who will boast of being a mere impostor? The drunken man who blurts out an absurd command, the sleeping man who suddenly awakes and turns and chokes to death the woman sleeping at his side—are they not, perhaps, implementing one of the Company’s secret decisions? That silent functioning, like God’s, inspires all manner of conjectures. One scurrilously suggests that the Company ceased to exist hundreds of years ago, and that the sacred disorder of our lives is purely hereditary, traditional; another believes that the Company is eternal, and teaches that it shall endure until the last night, when the last god shall annihilate the earth. Yet another declares that the Company is omnipotent, but affects only small things: the cry of a bird, the shades of rust and dust, the half dreams that come at dawn. Another, whispered by masked heresiarchs, says thatthe Company has never existed, and never will. Another, no less despicable, argues that it makes no difference whether one affirms or denies the reality of the shadowy corporation, because Babylon is nothing but an infinite game of chance.
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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Wed Apr 28, 2010 1:29 pm

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    Norman Mailer and Marshall McLuhan Debating 1968

    Norman Mailer and Marshall McLuhan expound on violence, alienation and the electronic envelope. The clash of two great minds. (1968) [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Fri May 14, 2010 8:48 am

    Extant wrote:An interesting little piece here on Carroll Quigley. I've highlighted some of the most pertinent segments to me, at the bottom of the piece:

    Carroll Quigley: Theorist of Civilizations

    Spoiler:
    Carroll Quigley (November 9, 1910 - January 3, 1977) was a noted historian, polymath, and theorist of the evolution of civilizations.

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    Quigley was born in Boston, where he attended school and planned to pursue a career in biochemistry. But he soon shifted to history, to which he brought an analytical, scientific approach. After receiving a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D in history from Harvard University, he taught at Princeton and Harvard. In 1941 Quigley joined the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where he came to teach a highly regarded course, "Development of Civilization".

    Endowed with a Napoleonic constitution and willing to work 16 hours a day, Quigley was a rapid, acute reader who devoured the contents of countless thousands of books and came to possess an exceptional range of knowledge in many fields. Not one to hide his light under a bushel basket, he claimed to have read everything worth reading. Fields of special expertise included aspects of primitive culture (e.g., primitive poison fishhooks), the impact of weapons technology on social organization, and the Anglo-American elite. He emphasized "inclusive diversity" as a value of Western Civilization long before diversity became a commonplace, and he denounced Platonic doctrines as an especially pernicious deviation from this ideal. Quigley argued that the reintroduction of Aristotle's teachings in the Middle Ages, most notably in the work of Thomas Aquinas, led Western Civilization away from Platonism and onto the track of a highly fruitful approach to knowledge based on scientific observation and experimentation, and driven by ethical concerns.

    As a spell-binding lecturer, Quigley made a strong impression on many of his students, including future U.S. President Bill Clinton, who referred to Quigley in his acceptance speech to the 1992 Democratic National Convention, saying:

    As a teenager, I heard John Kennedy’s summons to citizenship. And then, as a student at Georgetown, I heard that call clarified by a professor named Carroll Quigley, who said to us that America was the greatest Nation in history because our people had always believed in two things–-that tomorrow can be better than today and that every one of us has a personal moral responsibility to make it so.

    According to Clinton's biographers, he developed a relationship with Quigley and seems to have considered him his guru. During his presidency, Clinton did not discuss Quigley in public but was said to refer to him repeatedly inside the White House.

    In addition to his academic work, Quigley served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, the Smithsonian Institute, and the House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration, which went on to establish NASA. Although Quigley remained a sought-after lecturer, over time he received fewer offers to consult, perhaps because he was unwilling to say what was politically acceptable.

    Quigley served as a book reviewer for the "Washington Star" and was a contributor and editorial board member of "Current History".

    Quigley authored two influential books: Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (1966); and The Evolution of Civilizations (1961, 1979). Several other books were published posthumously from his manuscripts, including The Anglo-American Establishment (1981).

    Although he received only limited public and professional recognition for his contributions, Quigley was in fact a leading theorist of the rise and fall of civilizations, developing a 7-stage model (Mixture, Gestation, Expansion, Age of Conflict, Universal Empire, Decay, and Invasion) that was integrated into a framework of analysis that included dimensions of power (military and political), wealth (economic and social), and outlook (intellectual and religious). His illuminating discussion of the geographical and climatic matrix in which a civilization develops, his keen interpretation of the political and epistemological underpinnings of ancient philosophy, and his dynamic analysis of the mechanisms of expansion and conflict stages of civilization were a good deal more scientific and well-grounded than the more literary efforts of other historians of civilizations.

    The penetration of Quigley's analytical mind, his flow of novel concepts, his penchant for provocative formulations, his ceaseless crossing of disciplinary boundaries, and his willingness to challenge specialists and authorities led to a fair amount of controversy, though in fact his political and social views were moderate. He was an early and fierce critic of the Vietnam War; and he inveighed against the activities of the military-industrial complex that, in his mind, were threatening to transform the United States into an empire, thereby dooming it to eventual corruption, fossilization, and decline. He was ever on the alert for signs of the processes by which a dynamic "instrument" of society that satisfied the needs of individuals could turn into a stagnant, self-aggrandizing "institution".

    A central concern of Quigley was whether Western Civilization could renew its best traditions--including investing in innovation and emphasizing spiritual values and interpersonal relations rather than material things--after the Age of Conflict between 1895 and 1945, or whether it would slide into an era of Universal Empire. Initially full of hope on this subject, he grew more pessimistic about it in his later years. Quigley said of himself that he was a conservative defending the liberal tradition of the West.

    Quigley became well known among those who believe that there is an international conspiracy to bring about a one-world government. In his book Tragedy and Hope, he based his analysis on his research in the papers of an Anglo-American elite organization that, he held, secretly controlled the U.S. and UK governments through a series of Round Table Groups. The Round Table group in the United States was the Council on Foreign Relations. He argued that both the Republican and Democratic parties were controlled by an "international Anglophile network" that shaped elections.

    Conspiracy theorists assailed Quigley for his approval of the goals (not the tactics) of the Anglo-American elite while selectively using his information and analysis as evidence for their views. Quigley himself thought that the influence of the Anglo-American elite had slowly waned after World War II and that, in American society after 1965, the problem was that no elite was in charge and acting responsibly.


    No matter how reasonable Quigley's thinking on this and other subjects was, the association of his findings with the kooky, paranoid fantasies of the conspiracy theorists, in combination with the sheer originality of his ideas, caused rumors to circulate about his mental status. In addition, toward the end of his Georgetown career, Quigley ran into criticism from students unhappy about his grading, was roughed up in class by student antiwar protesters, and had his "Development of Civilization" course taken away from him in an academic power game. Teaching appears to have lost some of its charm for him, and he eventually retired to work on his book manuscripts.

    Nowadays Quigley is often spoken of in reference to his writings about the Anglo-American Establishment or as an influence on Clinton. But his theory of the evolution of civilizations, his methods of thinking, and his philosophy of social good have much more general and enduring importance. Among other things, they provide a valuable framework for understanding the interaction of civilizations in a global era as well as pointing out pathways to the future for Western Civilization. In addition, Quigley's teachings and his dynamic persona had a profound impact on thousands of students and intellectuals, with outcomes that we are not yet in a position fully to assess.


    Link to a PDF download of a lesser known book by Carroll Quigley:

    Weapons Systems and Political Stability: A History - Carroll Quigley
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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Mon May 24, 2010 5:14 pm

    Cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling on the cultural notion of atemporality at the 2010 Transmediale Festival, keynote speech.
    Transcript available here.

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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Lucid Memes on Wed May 26, 2010 1:47 pm

    Howard Bloom (born 1943 in Buffalo, New York ) is an American science author and former music industry publicist. Howard Bloom was born in 1943 in Buffalo, New York. In 1971, Bloom took over as editor of Circus, a rock and roll monthly magazine. From 1973 to 1976, Bloom started public and artist relations departments for Gulf & Western's fourteen record companies and for ABC Records. He also launched the careers of Stephanie Mills and Chaka Khan. In 1976, Bloom founded the Howard Bloom Organization, Ltd., the largest public relations firm in the record industry. His clients included Prince, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Bette Midler and John Mellencamp. Bloom has published three books, The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History, Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, and The Genius of the Beast: A Radical re-Vision of Capitalism. He is also the author of the e-book book How I Accidentally Started the Sixties.

    Here are a series of interesting interviews

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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Fri Jun 18, 2010 5:03 am

    Subtopia Blogspot: Decoding Military Landscapes: #demilit





    Last edited by Extant on Mon Jun 28, 2010 5:05 am; edited 2 times in total
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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Lucid Memes on Fri Jun 18, 2010 12:21 pm

    ^^^
    That kinda reminds me of culture jamming or adbusting...but instead of subverting corporate advertisements, they're focusing on the increasing militarization of society. I always thought of myself as aware of it, but was never really cognizant of it like that...very interesting Smile


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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:11 pm

    This book sounds like the severely neglected classic of the conspiracy community, or at the least hardly mentioned:

    Gigapedia: The Power Elite By C. Wright Mills

    Reviews from the Gigapedia description page:

    Spoiler:
    Product Description:

    First published in 1956, The Power Elite stands as a contemporary classic of social science and social criticism. C. Wright Mills examines and critiques the organization of power in the United States, calling attention to three firmly interlocked prongs of power: the military, corporate, and political elite. The Power Elite can be read as a good account of what was taking place in America at the time it was written, but its underlying question of whether America is as democratic in practice as it is in theory continues to matter very much today.
    What The Power Elite informed readers of in 1956 was how much the organization of power in America had changed during their lifetimes, and Alan Wolfe's astute afterword to this new edition brings us up to date, illustrating how much more has changed since then. Wolfe sorts out what is helpful in Mills' book and which of his predictions have not come to bear, laying out the radical changes in American capitalism, from intense global competition and the collapse of communism to rapid technological transformations and ever changing consumer tastes. The Power Elite has stimulated generations of readers to think about the kind of society they have and the kind of society they might want, and deserves to be read by every new generation.



    Summary: Corroborates Assertions that the Elected Gov't is not the Real Gov't
    Rating: 5

    This leading Sociology professor at Columbia University is considered by many to be the father of sociology. An authoritative figure as prominent as C. Wright Mills makes it difficult for the Establishment to socially ostracize and villify him in their routine Two-Minutes Hate, in which they spew their vitriol toward anyone espousing "unorthodox" government viewpoints. C. Wright Mills spent his lifetime (short as it was) studying sociolgoy, society, and government. C. Wright Mills' findings surprises none of us familiar with the story written about in Don't Weep for Me, America: How Democracy in America Became the Prince (While We Slept). Specifically, in reference to the corporate rich, the political directorate, and the military establishment, C. Wright Mills writes, "the leading men in each of the three domains of power-the warlords, the corporation chieftains, the political directorate-tend to come together, to form the power elite of America. He then makes clear that these are the real governors of America, referring to the "elected" officials as the "visible" government througout the book. Perhaps most shocking to the casual reader is Mills' revelation that the warlords of Washington/Pentagon "maintain the largest motion-picture studio in the East, bought from Paramount in 1942" and proceeds to explain how the military propagandizes to the American public by writing the copy for the theater and press. "They prepare scripts, make recordings, and take pictures for radio and TV outlets...and ready to serve magazine editors with prepared copy". And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how America gets into wars with Iraq, Vietnam, ect...



    Summary: Where does the power lie? American society deconstructed.
    Rating: 5


    Over 50 years old, but still remarkably relevant and prescient to this day. This is a thorough analysis and breakdown of American Society, with a focus on the power structure. This is the granddaddy of anti-establishment literature. Chomsky is just footnotes to this.

    Who's really in charge? Who's running this ship? Where do they come from? What are their motivations? What do they want?

    I think it's essential to know the answers to these questions in order to fully understand this country, our place in it; who we are, and what we want out of life.

    Mills would no doubt be fascinated by the changes the last 50 years have wrought. In the age of Eisenhower the military was undoubtedly a seat of power in this country. However the institution has seen its influence decline steadily since Ike was around. Today it is not only subservient to the alternates, but has become little more then a tool the others exploit to further their immoral interests. Pathetic really. Consider this, Eisenhower was the last president to achieve the rank of Colonel or higher. Before him there were 15 presidents with senior military experience.

    While it's well known today that the media is a tool of economic and political manipulation, it wasn't in the 50's. The level of sophistication by which we are constantly bombarded today is positively astounding. Media, Advertising, PR and Politics have incorporated formal scientific disciplines in their quest to sell you crap that you don't need.

    What percentage of our consumer choices are truly ours, and what percentage is due to exposure?

    How many folks wind up bankrupt from necessities vs. luxuries?

    Why is the national savings rate negative, and personal indebtedness the highest it's ever been?

    Illuminations abound.

    This book should be required reading ***ESPECIALLY*** chapter 13.

    You and I will never join the Power Elite. But we can join the Personal Elite.



    Summary: Who Rules in America?
    Rating: 5

    _The Power Elite_, first published in 1956, by sociologist and social critic C. Wright Mills, is a disturbing work which examines the ruling class (or what Mills more appropriately terms a "power elite") in the United States at the time. C. Wright Mills (1916 - 1962) was an American sociologist who was heavily influenced by the works of Karl Marx and Max Weber. Mills takes a cynical attitude towards American politics and those who wield power, arguing that the rich and powerful constitute an elite in America who rule in a mindless manner. Mills shows how three interlocking prongs of power - the military, the corporations, and the politicians - constitute an elite and thus control the fate of Americans. This book was written after the Second World War during the period of the build-up of the Cold War and Mills' theory of the three pronged power elite may have shaped the farewell speech of President Eisenhower when he coined the term "the military-industrial complex". This work has become a classic for what it reveals about the nature of power within the United States and for its particularly important message in its own time. As such, it remains an important work of sociological research that can be fruitfully read even in our own time in our efforts to understand the sources of power within the United States.

    This book begins by considering the "higher circles" - the positions of men in high places. Mills begins by contrasting the life of the ordinary man, constrained by financial and social constraints, with that of the rich and powerful which is largely unconstrained. Mills considers various notions of the elite and the role they might have to play in American society. In line with the idea of Pareto, Mills outlines a theory of the elite as being those who possess the greatest amount of some given quality (the highest men in their respective fields of endeavor). Mills contrasts these ideas to those who argue for a "counter-elite" and those who argue for an "elite of virtue". Following this, Mills considers "local society", noting the role of the "local elite" in the shaping of politics (though maintaining that such a role has become increasingly diminished with the nationalization of power structures). Mills contrasts those of "old wealth" and the "nouveau riche" in a post-Civil War America. Mills notes how those of "old wealth" frequently have local connections and value place. Further, those of "old wealth" look down on the obsession with money-making of the new wealth. Mills also notes the contrasting emphasis on frugality versus spendthriftiness among the rich. Mills also mentions the theories of Thorstein Veblen concerning the "leisure class", but notes how much of Veblen's understanding results from a confusion of "bourgeois values" with "artistocratic values", also maintaining that in the United States there is no genuine aristocracy. Following this, Mills turns his attention to "the Metropolitan 400", the elite among the old wealth. Mills emphasizes the role of celebrity in the creation of the new wealth and contrasts the celebrities with the old wealth. Mills also notes how a "New Metropolitan 400" has developed. Mills notes the obsession with celebrity (an obsession which has grown in our own times into near unimaginable importance) and explains the role that celebrities have played in American life. Following this, Mills turns to the "very rich". Mills notes the role of the "robber barons" in accumulating vast quantities of wealth. Mills contrasts the "very rich" with the "old wealth", and notes how "old wealth" frequently is made to feel inadequate because of new discrepancies in money and wealth as they become increasingly superfluous. Mills also explains the role of tax shelters among the very rich and the manner in which wealth is hidden. Following this, Mills turns to the "chief executives". Mills contrasts the chief executives with the "old fashioned entrepreneurs", noting their increasing mediocrity. Mills also shows how executives relying on "expense accounts" are increasingly involved in immoral and frivolous activity. Mills also turns to the "corporate rich", revealing those who have risen to the top of the corporate ladder. Mills shows how such individuals increasingly bear out a certain stereotype and rarely rise from a lowly position to the top as is often believed. Mills further argues that the "corporate rich" have become increasingly less defensible as a noble elite. Mills next turns to "the warlords", i.e. the military elite. Mills argues along lines laid out by Mosca that in any society there will be men who seek to do violence to others; however, in societies which are run by civilians such men are largely consigned to the military. Mills shows how such men increasingly bear out a certain stereotype. Further, Mills argues that the military has come to play an increasing role in American life with the rise of a "military ascendancy", a process which Mills views as highly disturbing. More and more an alliance is developed between the corporate elite and the military elite, thus constituting the power elite. Following this, Mills turns to the "political directorate", noting the increasing mediocrity of the political elite. Mills also notes the conflicting roles between the political elite and the military elite. Mills argues that following the Second World War and increasingly as seen in the development of the Cold War the military elite have come to play a greater role in the civilian sector as America enters a period of permanent military ascendancy. Mills also shows how many of the political elite may bounce between roles played in the corporate sector and among the military elite. Following this, Mills explains the "theory of balance". Mills argues that the idea that the power elite are so checkmated that they are simply incapable of wielding their power over ordinary citizens is faulty. At the same time, Mills rejects the idea that the power elite are omnipotent. Mills maintains that the balance of power is increasingly being overturned by an executive branch which has gained in power. Mills also shows how the three branches of power - corporate, military, and political - interact in achieving their goals for America. Following this, Mills discusses "the power elite". Mills argues that the power elite are increasingly men of mediocrity and that their interests do not coincide with the interests of the ordinary citizen. Mills also explains the rise of "mass society", arguing in a similar line to that taken by such conservative critics of democracy as Ortega y Gasset and Gustave le Bon that the masses have become increasingly mediocre and prone to irrationalism. Mills sees the role of the media in manipulating the beliefs and opinions of the masses (particularly the role of television (and of course the internet) is something that Mills could not have likely foreseen as the power of the media continued to grow since his time). Following this, Mills examines the "conservative mood", arguing that many conservative theories that attempt to defend the present elite are faulty. Further, Mills argues against such theories which maintain that an elite of the virtuous exists. Finally, Mills turns to the "higher immorality". Here, Mills appears as social critic and at his most polemical. He shows how the elite are increasingly immoral and mediocre men who largely rule mindlessly. This book concludes with an Afterword by Alan Wolfe explaining how the theories of Mills are increasingly important today, despite the fact that Mills may have been incorrect about certain aspects of the American elite.

    This book remains an important and fascinating sociological work. In our own time, we have seen how the power elite have continued to consolidate their power in an ever growing state bureaucratic apparatus. Mills' important work foretold much of this at a time when the Cold War and McCarthyism were raging. As such, this work remains a sociological classic which is certain to provide profound insights not only into the time of Mills but also into our own time and the future. Highly recommended.



    Summary: How to Subvert a Republic
    Rating: 3

    Like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, CW Mills' The Power Elite has proven to be a seminal and prophetic work. The Power Elite might well have formed the text for Eisenhower's Farewell Address, and so much of this 1956 book will read like old news to twenty-first century Americans: A triumvirate of political, military, and corporate power form a shadow government that rules the United States. This triumvirate Mills terms "the power elite". This block of de facto power working behind the scenes of de jure government is assisted in achieving its ends by media complicity, dumbed-down public education, and popular amorality.

    "For Mills, politics was primarily a facade in any case. Historically speaking, American politics has been organized on the theory of balance: Each branch of government would balance the other; competitive parties would ensure adequate representation; and interest groups like labor unions would serve as a counterweight to other interests like business. But the emergence of the power elite had transformed the theory of balance into a romantic Jeffersonian myth" [page 376].

    "Alongside the power elite, there is the propagandist, the publicity expert, the public relations man" [page 315].

    "The prime task of public education, as it came widely to be understood in this country, was political: To make the citizens more knowledgeable and thus better able to think and to judge of public affairs. In time, the function of education shifted from the political to the economic: To train people for better-paying jobs and thus to get ahead" [page 317].

    "The absence of any firm moral order of belief makes man in the mass all the more open to the manipulation and distraction of the world of celebrities" [page 345].

    Mills' thesis then (mirroring that of the film The Corporation) is that America's political problem is not just "a few bad eggs": America's problem is what he terms "structural immorality" brought about by "the higher immorality" of the power elite. Mills posits that the trickle-down effect of the power elite causes an informed citizenry to degenerate into a mass society - a politically naive society far less interested in the health of its political institutions than in mindless entertainment: America has fulfilled Mills' prophecy.

    The book is a model of clarity, the writing style is engaging, and the logic is crisp. Highly commended.

    Wiki: The Power Elite

    Anyone else heard of it?
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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Lucid Memes on Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:42 pm

    Extant wrote:This book sounds like the severely neglected classic of the conspiracy community, or at the least hardly mentioned:

    Gigapedia: The Power Elite By C. Wright Mills

    [...]
    Wiki: The Power Elite

    Anyone else heard of it?

    I don't know about him directly, but have heard about him peripherally while researching G. William Domhoff who also used Mills' term "Power Elite" in his work.

    Domhoff is also neglected by the conspiracy community despite his breakdown of world power structures. You'd think CTers would be all about it, but part of the problem CTers have with Domhoff (perhaps with Mills too) is that he debunks conspiracy theories throughout his work. Nobody could just settle for the idea that they're rich and powerful people running things without taking things out of proportion. Instead CTers would make it either about supernatural bloodlines, or aliens, or try to make it fit biblical millennialism, or some type of grand conspiracy lasting thousands (if not millions) of years by one continuous group of people, etc...The stuff that makes it like The X-Files (conspiratainment) is the stuff he excludes while breaking the power elite's societal functions down into a reasonably understandable and realistic level. They still obviously work and function conspiratorially...but a well developed bullshit detector will know when the source has crossed the line.

    Domoff has done a good analysis on the Bohemian Grove and the group power structures that annually coheres there. Bohemian Grove and Other Retreats: A Study in Ruling-Class Cohesiveness

    I'm still interested in C. Wright Mills. Thanks for the reminder, indeed.


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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:16 pm

    Lucid Memes wrote:
    I don't know about him directly, but have heard about him peripherally while researching G. William Domhoff who also used Mills' term "Power Elite" in his work.

    Domhoff is also neglected by the conspiracy community despite his breakdown of world power structures. You'd think CTers would be all about it, but part of the problem CTers have with Domhoff (perhaps with Mills too) is that he debunks conspiracy theories throughout his work. Nobody could just settle for the idea that they're rich and powerful people running things without taking things out of proportion.

    Cool. Another interesting avenue to explore. Smile
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    Re: Thoughtforms, thinkers, visionaries, and culture shapers

    Post by Extant on Mon Jun 28, 2010 5:02 am

    Rob Ager's Collative Learning website:

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    Most in depth, cerebral, and original critique and interpretation of themes in movies.
    The analysis of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddysey is a good place to start:

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