Knowing state with corporatocracy, inverted totalitarianism

Sinha MA Sayeed
Nature, contents and contexts of politics, political science and government(s) evolve and move in various and varied moods and modes in the settings of time, space and dimension. All these are topics of social science and necessarily actors are human beings who are inherently possessed of changing minds with wavering set of perceptions and propositions, decisive or not. Government is the heart and brain of a state. In a democratic order leaderships in running the government are elected by the people for a term inserted in the constitution concerned and the purposes of this very government centre around the interests of the people upholding national sovereignty and territorial integrity as a whole. From such standpoints, American Legendary President Abraham Lincoln address capped as ‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people (Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863)’ acts as a live awakening call, which is mostly akin to correspondence theory in essence–P is true if and only if p corresponds to a fact– first projected in a nebulous form by Plato and by Aristotle in his Metaphysics followed by scores of philosophers with variations in approaches and understanding and currently in particular Performative Theory advocated by English philosopher Sir Peter Frederick Strawson.
This Performative theory is important in politics and administration as ‘It is telling us something about the speaker’s intentions. The speaker – through his or her agreeing with it, endorsing it, praising it, accepting it, or perhaps conceding it – is licensing our adoption of (the belief in) the proposition. Instead of saying, “It is true that snow is white”, one could substitute “I embrace the claim that snow is white.” The key idea is that saying of some proposition, P, that it is true is to say in a disguised fashion “I commend P to you”, or “I endorse P”, or something of the sort {
To run a government is not simply aerobics of power, will and ultra plus, reasonably government in the strictest sense of the term is too a trustee. Plans, policies and strategies, no doubt, undergo processes of adjustments and readjustments through deductions, altercation, modifications and additions, which are both a priori and a posteriori. Above all, political culture and psychology cannot be unattended, although attempts are made to overturn/ sidetrack or twist the voice of people. Having all these in true perspectives, looking at America one cannot but be wonder-struck, befooled and phobic that government therein either Republican or Democratic is virtually trapped into De facto one-party state with corporatocracy and inverted totalitarianism on the very sarcophagus of the democratic order enshrined in the historic declaration at Philadelphia on 4 July 1774. One may readily retort voicing ‘don’t talk nonsense? ‘How is it possible’? ‘Show documents, if any’. Therefore, it’s a Hobson’s choice to move towards realities, as if from political fiction to political reality, in today’s United States of America through the presentation of conceptual understanding of ‘De facto one-party state with corporatocracy and inverted totalitarianism’ This very concept of De facto one-party state was first applied by Avram Noam Chomsky who characterizes the U.S. as de facto one-party state viewing both Republican Party and Democratic Party as appearances of a single ‘Business Party’ controlled by corporate and financial interests (McGillivray, James (2014). Chomsky: Language, Mind, Politics (second Ed.).PP.14-15). This is manifested further in his book ‘Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (2004).’ De facto one-party state infers a state of affairs where all the major political parties contend for power and vie each other and one another for being elected through electoral processes and thus, lead the government in question. Curiously enough, their shielded so-called unique incompatible ideological manifestations and operations essentially echo almost identical spirits, plans, policies and strategies aimed seemingly at the promised-wellbeing of the people, but which for all intents and purposes all revolve around taking care of vested interests of corporate capitalism grabbing democratic outlets with an iron hand in the administration. Even foreign and defence policies are modelled as such to carry and gadget such vested corporate interests. Here the moot point behind the curtain is calculated deletion of the fundamentals of visions and missions, goals and approaches upon which a political party stands, swells, runs and continues. All the major parties characteristically and operationally, in reality, look as if one party in the political firmaments of the country concern. In such so-called multi-party political landscapes, honestly speaking, people are deceived, befooled, toasted, twisted and buttered and so, popular sovereignty, people is ultimately the source of power (John Locke), becomes subservient to legal sovereignty, parliament (Hillarie Barnett).
De facto one-party state (US) differs from De jure one-party state (a state with a single party such China, North Korea) and De facto one dominant party state (multiple parties with a single party dominance at a guess, Bangladesh, India, Egypt and states in central Asia).
So, the asking may be aired, are the states in South Asia with their ongoing state of affairs sliding towards catches of de facto one-party state?
Corporatocracy is a form of plutocracy and it, not to be mixed up with Corporatism, is a term used as an economic and political system controlled by corporations or corporate interests through various moods and modes, pressures and lobbies, tactics and strategies, open and/or hidden, in a democratic order that meaningfully results in rule by corporationে. In corporate capitalism such multifaceted activities are functioning, ballooning and expanding nearly in the same vein and spirit in national, regional and global contexts. Since the earth planet is nowadays a global village due to rapidly growing and developing of science and technology, worst to say, it is faced with the stark-naked manifestation of corporate capitalism. However, it is, as a rule, a pejorative term frequently used by knockers of the current economic state of affairs in a specific country, especially the United States. It is currently also a preferable term to liberal and left-leaning critics, some economic libertarian critics and other political observers across the political continuum.
In his 2004 book ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man’ John Perkins designated corporatocracy as a collective composed of corporations, banks, and governments. This collective is known as what author C Wright Mills would name the ‘Power Elite’. The Power Elite are affluent individuals who hold striking positions in Corporatocracies.
These personages control the process of determining society’s economic and political policies, a de facto one-party state.
Jeffrey Sachs, American economist, liberal, academic, public policy analyst and Blue Planet Prize Winner, 2015, styled the United States as a corporatocracy in his book ‘The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity’ (2011). He pointed that it originated from four trends: weak national parties and strong political representation of individual districts, the outsized U.S. military establishment after World War II, big corporate money financing election campaigns, and globalization tilting the balance away from workers.
Corporations have a substantial influence on the regulations and regulators that monitor them. As an illustration, Elizabeth Warren Senator, first professor in Harvard’s history to win the law school’s Sacks–Freund Teaching Award for a second time in 2009, clarified in December 2014 how an omnibus spending bill required to fund the government was modified late in the process to flag banking regulations. The modification made it laid-back to allow taxpayer-funded bailouts of banking ‘swaps entities’, which the Dodd-Frank the banking regulations banned.
She singled out Citigroup, one of the largest banks, which had a role in modifying the legislation. She also explained how both Wall Street bankers and members of the government that formerly had worked on Wall Street stopped bi-partisan legislation that would have broken up the largest banks. She repeated President Theodore Roosevelt’s warnings regarding powerful corporate entities that threatened the ‘very foundations of Democracy’.
Economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate(2001), holds there has been a spartan increase in the market power of corporations, largely due to US antitrust law being weakened by neoliberal reforms pushing to growing income inequality and a largely underperforming economy. He affirms that to improve the economy, it is necessary to decrease the influence of money on U.S. politics. His 2019 book ‘People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent’ is considered as an eye-opener in totality.
In his 2013 book ‘Mass Flourishing: How Grass Roots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change’, economist Edmund S. Phelps, a Nobel laureate(2006), analyzed the economic system of the U.S. and other western countries in contemporary decades as being what he labels ‘the new corporatism’’, which he describes as a system in which the state is far too involved in the economy, tasked with ‘protecting everyone against everyone else’, but in which simultaneously large companies have a mountain of influence on the government, with lobbyists’ suggestions being ‘welcome, expressly if they come with bribes.
In one of the articles titled ‘Bureaucratic-Politico Archetypal: Case of Bangladesh’, published in Centre for Governance Studies, CGS’s website, 13 May 2020 followed by the extended one in online daily Green Watch Dhaka on 17 May.2020, I stated ’Concentration of so many businesses ruthlessly –shelving conflicts of interests– into few hands generated a small number of sharks/Sumerian. These remind us the black chapter of USA economy before the passage of Glass Steagall Act in 1933 within the packages of ‘Roosevelt Deal’. Enacted in response to the stock market crash of 1929 together with Great Depression of 1930, the Act, as a part of Banning Act of 1933, effectively separated commercial banking from investment banking and created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, among other things. It was one of the most widely debated legislative initiatives before being signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in June 1933. Later in the face of chronic pressures from corporate capitalists, most of it was repealed in 1999, during Clinton administration, by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), also known as Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, because it was seen as being too cramping for banks and businesses.
Repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, which effectively let banks become even larger, could be considered a factor of the 2008 financial crisis. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, 2010 passed during Obama administration, targeted the sectors of the financial system that were believed to have caused the 2008 financial crisis, including banks, mortgage lenders, and credit rating agencies. One of the moot points was the inclusion of ‘Volcker Rule’.as section 619 of the Act. Congress in 2018, during Trump administration, passed a new law that rolled back some of Dodd-Frank39’s restrictions. All these denote that the US economy is mostly shaped by pressures and counter-pressures of corporate capitalists’.
Ethical standards, under all circumstances, favourable or not, should not be allowed to begin falling down. Unfortunately, corporate capitalism has contaminated people’s character causing serious erosion of values and morality, which triggered much pains to poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson who felt the necessity to embrace ‘transcendentalism’ in its new manifestation in American contexts. In his 1987 book ‘On Ethics and Economics’ Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate (1998), claims that closer contact between welfare economics and modern ethical studies can centrally enrich and benefit both disciplines.
Thus, the asking may arise, are states in south Asia, even being at the initial phase of corporate capitalism, sloping prematurely towards such clutches of Corporatocracy?
Inverted totalitarianism, coined in an article titled ‘Inverted Totalitarianism’, The Nation, May 19, 2003, by the American Political philosopher Sheldon Sanford Wolin, an instrumental in founding Berkeley School of political theory, labels what he saw as the evolving form of government of the United States. He studied and analyzed the United States as gradually turning into a managed democracy (identical to an illiberal democracy). Purposes of his consuming the term ‘inverted totalitarianism’ is to draw attention to the totalitarian aspects of the American political system while accentuating its metamorphoses from apposite totalitarianism, such as Nazi and Stalinist regimes.
Sheldon contends that the United States is all the time more totalitarian as a result of recurring military mobilizations: to fight the Axis powers in the 1940s, to enclose the Soviet Union during the Cold War and to fight the War on Terror after the September 11 attacks. He describes this development toward inverted totalitarianism in terms of two incompatible political power centres, to be precise, the constitutional imaginary and the power imaginary. His imaginaries encapsulate both political tendencies and standing political conditions. He explains that a political imaginary involves going beyond and challenging current capabilities, inhibitions, and constraints regarding power and its proper limits and improper uses. It envisions an organization of resources, ideal as well as material, in which a potential attributed to them becomes a challenge to realize it.
He notes that the constitutional imaginary ‘prescribes the means by which power is legitimated, accountable and constrained”. Referring to Thomas Hobbes he understands the power imaginary as a quest for power that is rationalized by fear of collective mortality. The power imaginary may ‘undermine or override the boundaries mandated in the constitutional imaginary’ through fears of a dangerous enemy. A power imaginary is usually accompanied by a justifying mission ‘to defeat communism’ or ‘to hunt out terrorists wherever they may hide’) that requires capabilities measured against an enemy whose powers are dynamic but whose exact location indeterminate. The power imaginary does not only reduce democracy within the United States, it also promotes the United States as ‘Superpower’ that develops and expands its current position as the only global superpower.
While the versions of totalitarianism represented by Nazism and Fascism consolidated power by suppressing liberal political practices that had sunk only shallow cultural roots, Superpower represents a drive towards totality that draws from the setting where liberalism and democracy have been established for more than two centuries. It is Nazism turned upside-down, ‘inverted totalitarianism’ While it is a system that aspires to totality, it is driven by an ideology of the cost-effective rather than of a ‘master race;’ (Herrenvolk), by the material rather than the ‘ideal The book ‘Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt’ (2012) by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco portrays inverted totalitarianism as a system where corporations have corrupted and subverted democracy and where economics creams politics. Every natural resource and breathing being is commodified and exploited by large corporations to the point of collapse as superfluous consumerism and sensationalism lull and manipulate the population into capitulating their liberties and their participation in government.
Hence, the asking may crop up in our south Asian perspectives, are states in south Asia leaning precipitately towards such holds of Inverted totalitarianism?
Such spectacles in a mufti-party political system may be an interesting topic in the coming days as the theoretical frame in political science, politics and government. Therefore, it is better to be dealt by academics, researchers, analysts, political thinkers and political scientists in the domains concerned. Here my sincere intentions aim at presenting hindsight to possible understanding of De facto one-party state with corporatocracy and inverted totalitarianism with a metaphorical reference to the states in South Asia [this write-up is an enlargement of the article under the same title published in Centre for Governance Studies, CGS recently].
(Dr. Sinha MA Sayeed (titled ‘Global voice’ for the book O United Nations), writer, columnist, public speaker, member of International Political Science Association, IPSA, and Chairman of Leadership Studies foundation, LSP, at