Monday, 15 October 2018

Science, Technology and Capitalist Reification

Before moving to the final parts of our study of the origins of science and technology as the chief productive ideology of the bourgeoisie, I wished to propose this introduction to the problematic that we are seeking to confront in our examination of the work of Descartes, Bacon and Hobbes. This type of reflection is utterly essential at a time when the bourgeoisie is attempting – but only attempting, because the attempt will fail and is already floundering – to undermine political freedom through the contemptible utopia of “artificial intelligence “. Each and every day we are finding out, with growing alarm, how idiotic is this ambition, and how despotic is its intention! Cheers.

The original sin of Western reflection is the oblivion of being. From its inception in pre-Socratic Greece, philosophy abandons its unique focus on attaining knowledge as wisdom (whence the equation of the two notions in the Greek word sophia and the literal meaning of philo-sophia as “love of knowledge-wisdom”) and con-fuses it instead with the empirical discovery of the make-up and functioning of the physical universe. Hence, philosophy relinquishes its most sublime task – that of exploring and championing the role of human conscience and action in the cosmos or life-world – and then traduces this quest by defining itself as the handmaiden of scientific enterprise. In other words, the oblivion of being – the reification of being into the world of inert objects and perennial entities - leads to the acceptance of what is called “science” as “the continuation of philosophy by experimental means” (to paraphrase von Clausewitz) – implying thereby that “science” possesses an epistemological status, a methodological identity and solidity – to be sure, a “scientific objectivity”! - that it quite simply does not possess.

The mischievous misapprehension is that philosophy and the instrumental activity universally known as “science” are merely different stages of a single process known as the acquisition of knowledge or, in the title of Francis Bacon’s magnum opus, “the advancement of learning”, where knowledge and learning are understood as power and dominion over an indomitable nature extrinsic and alien to humans. In this perspective, science and philosophy have the same homogeneous object: - that is, the pursuit of knowledge as power and domination by human beings over the life-world and, per extenso, over one another. Yet what we call “science” is not an independent sphere or dimension of human knowledge understood as an innate intellectual and cerebral faculty – the way logico-mathematics or music and art are. Instead, as we are demonstrating here, science is simply “technique” (techne’ as against episteme or indeed poiesis). Nor is science a “technical-neutral” dimension of human action whose “truth” is independent of human social relations and practical goals. Rather, it is a practical pursuit of historically specific goals by instrumental means – through induction and manipulation or experimentation where the creation of an artificial environment goes hand in hand with establishing the “validity” or “success” of “scientific experiments and discoveries”! In sum, “science” is a non-entity; scientific methodology is a mirage pure and simple.

It is thus that philosophy confuses and traduces its scope and unique role of comprehending the human experience of the life-world for the utilitarian advantage of subjecting the environment, the life-world, into an instrument for human gratification. Rather than concentrate on the being of beings, philosophy reduces and therefore traduces the experience of life with its objectification. It also perniciously allows the ascription to “science” of an epistemological and methodological status that, again, is quite simply fictitious. Given that human existence inevitably entails objectification – we cannot but do and act as we live – such a reduction would be politically harmless were it not for the fact that under capitalist social relations of production the specific historical form of objectification is the alienation of human living activity and its reification in terms of dead objectified labour (“goods” or “commodities”). The task of philosophy – its indispensable and ineluctable attribute – is to remind human beings of the reality that they exist within the life-world (the cosmos), and therefore can never observe it “from without” – wherein consists the irrefragable human faculty to initiate action and, as a corollary, to be free. The unique mission of philosophy is to remind human beings of their freedom, of the reality of their existence. The oblivion of being is tantamount to the relinquishment of human freedom.

Already, human living activity has a tendency to become reified and crystallised into its extrinsic inert products: thus, the quest for knowledge understood as wisdom turns into the relentless pursuit of knowledge as power and domination over nature and, through nature, over human beings. This fundamental reduction of the question of being to the observation of particular beings and their instrumental utilization (a utensil is an instrument, a tool), this reification of human thinking activity, this crystallization and freezing of being into static substance or essence or presence and the consequent confinement of human action to mere instrumental exploitation of the world – this is the process whereby being (Etre, Sein) is reduced to beings (etants, Seiende) and philosophy is turned into the handmaiden of “science and technolog”. The reification of human life – this is the true sense and ultimate outcome of “the oblivion of being” claimed by Heidegger but in truth originally seized upon by Nietzsche as the “end [Voll-endung] of metaphysics” and the beginning of European nihilism.

Contrary to the mythology made ubiquitous in bourgeois society, science is not the objective observation of reality but it is rather a precise project whose purpose (Zweck) must be recognized and rendered explicit as a political social goal that involves intervention and manipulation, not neutral observation, of the life-world. The very survival of the human species depends entirely on us acting on this realization. Our principal aim here is to trace this transformation and ultimate reification of practical scientific enterprise at the hands of the bourgeoisie, its corruption and degradation of European thought and society from the original goal, however distorted by Judaeo-Christian religion, of pursuing knowledge as wisdom to the instrumental utilitarian acquisition of knowledge as power (over the life-world, over other humans) and its reduction to a productive technique under the guise of “the advancement of learning” or “science and technology” as the handmaiden of capitalist industry – the aim is to evince this nihilistic process whereby the birth and global expansion of capitalist industry and the social relations of production has come to underlie all of human society nowadays, and to this pursuit of “science” as a “will to truth” that is the thinnest disguise for the will to power of the bourgeoisie right from its origins at the end of the Middle Ages in the transition from feudalism to capitalism.

The Reification of Science

The process of production, therefore, is seen as “technology”, as an ob-ject – that is, as a “neutral scientific process” that is “external” or “exogenous” to economic “science” - rather than as a pro-duct, as the very embodiment of political antagonism over the production and satisfaction of human needs. At a broader level, the capitalistic domination of living labour by means of dead labour (productive materials, machinery and produced goods) is reified as “science and technology” in such a manner that (a) they are mistaken for “objects” or “tools” when in fact they are mere extensions of human activities, they are “techniques”; and (b) they are seen as the result of “scientific and technological” – that is to say, “politically neutral” - research and development or “discovery” independently of capitalist domination over living activity!

As a result, “science and technology” are seen not as specific capitalist strategies that contain antagonism but rather as “autonomous” and “separate” – indeed, “scientific and technical”! – entities that are in themselves “politically neutral”! Yet just as there is no such thing as “science” or “technology” but only human productive activities mediated by tools, so there is and there can be no “neutrality” in the tools employed by humans for their activities! “Science and technology” are not neutral because they are always activities in which human beings engage with a purpose in mind, even when that purpose is “multiple”: hence, tools are not distinguishable from human activities because they are extensions of the human body! (Cf. H. Arendt’s Prologue to The Human Condition in which the automobile is seen as an “extension” of or appurtenance to the human body.) It is not the case that a tool can be used for good or for bad purposes - because the tool and the purpose cannot ever be distinguished – they are part of the one human “activity”; they go “hand-in-hand”, as it were!

The political danger in the hypostatization of “science and technology” lies in the epochal transformation of their socio-political role from the Renaissance, when societies were still emerging from feudalism and Absolutist rule, to the Industrial Revolution when the capitalist bourgeoisie had finally erected its liberal nation-State regimes and begun to subsume the entire reproduction of human societies under the rule of capitalist production. Effectively, capital has succeeded in presenting both the State – the Political – and civil society – the Economy – as “techno-scientific mechanisms” that are politically neutral – securing thereby the apparent depoliticization of capitalist production.

This danger was first exposed with exceptional acuity by Carl Schmitt (in the related essay cited above) by confuting the neutrality of “technology” from two opposing sides, as the respective quotations below evince. From the side of “technology” intended as “tools”, as objects, Schmitt rightly points out in the first quotation that tools are “tools” to the extent that they are util-ized by human beings: but in that case they can never be “neutral” for the exact reason that human actions, by definition, cannot be “neutral” and are always “motivated” instead. In the second quotation, which approaches the reified concept of “technology” (and “science”) from the side of human motives, Schmitt shows that these motives are never obliterated or neutralized by the “tools”, even when human agents believe that they are simply applying a “neutral technology”!

Technology appeared to be a domain of peace, understanding, and reconciliation. The otherwise inexplicable link between pacifist and technical belief is explained by this turn toward neutralization which the European mind took in the seventeenth century and which, as if by fate, has been pursued into the twentieth century. But the neutrality of technology is something other than the neutrality of all former domains. Technology is always only an instrument and weapon; precisely because it serves all, it is not neutral. No single decision can be derived from the immanence of technology, least of all for neutrality. Every type of culture, every people and religion, every war and peace can use technology as a weapon. Given that instruments and weapons become ever more useful, the probability of their being used becomes that much greater. Technical progress need not be either metaphysical or moral and not particularly economic to be progress. If humanitarian-moral progress is still expected by many today from the [92] perfection of technology, it is because technology is magically linked to morality on the somewhat naive assumption that the splendid array of contemporary technology will be used only as intended, i.e., sociologically, and that they themselves will control these frightful weapons and wield this monstrous power. But technology itself remains culturally blind. Consequently, no conclusions which usually can be drawn from the central domains of spiritual life can be derived from pure technology as nothing but technology - neither a concept of cultural progress, nor a type of clerc or spiritual leader, nor a specific political system. (Schmitt, CoP, pp.91-2)

 [94] The spirit of technicity, which has led to the mass belief in an anti-religious activism, is still spirit; perhaps an evil and demonic spirit, but not one which can be dismissed as mechanistic and attributed to technology. It is perhaps something gruesome, but not itself technical and mechanical. It is the belief in an activistic metaphysics - the belief in unlimited power and the domination of man over nature, even over human nature; the belief in the unlimited "receding of natural boundaries," in the unlimited possibilities for change and prosperity. Such a belief can be called fantastic and satanic, but not simply dead, spiritless, or mechanized soullessness.

Again, taken jointly, Schmitt’s objections to the reification of “science and technology” as a thing, show clearly that in reality they are nothing more than human pro-ductive activity or praxis. Yet, although Schmitt’s approach quite correctly leaves this reified concept of “science and technology” with no “separate existence”, with no “neutrality” whatsoever, and therefore correctly stresses its relation to human action and interests, still he refers to “technology” as if such a thing really existed independently of human action.  Of course, the validity of Schmitt’s critique becomes pellucid once we replace the reified phrase “science and technology” with its true equivalent of “techniques” because – as the term itself obviously implies – a “technique” is an actual human activity or skill whereas “science and technology” are quite easily mistaken for and hypostatized as the “methodology” and “tools” (the laboratories, the institutions, the objects, the machines, the equipment, the instruments) that constitute their social embodiment. (This last insight is in Heidegger’s essay on Aristotle’s Physis cited above. This crucial fallacy of treating “science and technology” as “independent realities” – as objects, really - can be found even in the most insightful reviews of the social role of “science and technology” such as Habermas’s review of Marcuse [“Science and Technology as ‘Ideology’” in Toward A Rational Society, which we shall review later] or Arendt’s notion of “human action” in The Human Condition.)

The final part of Schmitt’s second quotation above is a mordant and trenchant riposte to the various late-romantic ideologies denouncing the “reification” and “dis-enchantment” that capitalist “rationalization” imposes on living labour which is now seen as reducing human interests to the mere materialistic pursuit of “prosperity” or “economic value” (whether as utility or as labour-value) or “profits” or “consumerism” – with the consequent loss of “meaning” and of “totality” in this “science and technology” which no longer seek “reason” or “freedom” but serve only to chain humanity to the Promethean wheel of production for its own sake, profit for its own sake, quantity against quality, having against being – the Weberian and Lukacsian Rationalisierung. The locus classicus of this critique of “the crisis of European sciences” is to be found in Husserl’s famous address with the same title:

The exclusiveness with which [6] the total world-view of modern man, in the second half of the nineteenth century, let itself be determined by the positive sciences and be blinded by the "prosperity"2 they produced, meant an indifferent turning-away from the questions which are decisive for a genuine humanity.3 Merely fact-minded sciences make merely fact-minded people. The change in public evaluation was unavoidable, especially after the war, and we know that it has gradually become a feeling of hostility among the younger generation. In our vital need—so we are told—this science has nothing to say to us. It excludes in principle precisely the questions which man, given over in our unhappy times to the most portentous upheavals, finds the most burning: questions of the meaning or meaninglessness of the whole of this human existence. (E. Husserl’s The Crisis of European Sciences, pp.5-6).

This pining for the loss of “totality” [Totalitat] (a central concept in Lukacs) and the consequent alienation of human beings from their living activity (Marx) through the fragmentation and reification of social reality (Lukacs, Heidegger) or “dis-enchantment” (Weber’s Entzauberung) engendered by the instrumental and positivist abuse of “science and technology” is a constant theme running through all social theory – bourgeois, socialist and Marxist - from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present day. Despite the obvious pertinence of many of the critical analyses of Technik and the Rationalisierung central to the German phenomenological tradition from Nietzsche to Weber and Heidegger (which includes figures such as Husserl, Arendt, Lukacs and the Frankfurt School), their incisiveness stops right at the point at which human conflict and the techno-scientific practices that it pro-duces – the Rationalisierung - are misconstrued as ontological or epistemological or ontogenetic categories that are quite independent of social relations of production, and therefore as ineluctable or immutable categories of human activity. Indeed, once more, they are foisted upon us as the evil by-products of “science and technology”(!), which reintroduces by the back door the very reification and hypostasis that the critique of “science and technology” was meant to expose!

Some Marxist intellectuals have criticised these notions as a rear-guard attempt by the German workers’ movement to preserve the “artisanal” work practices of skilled workers (die Gelernte) against the massification of labour introduced by Taylorist and Fordist industrial processes (cf. M. Cacciari, Pensiero Negativo e Razionalizzazione and the studies by G. Marramao on the German workers’ movement.)

All the critics of “the technocratic society” (even down to our days - Jacques Ellul, Alvin Toffler, or Theodore Roszak) and “one-dimensional man” (Marcuse) forget that the ideological use of this reified concept - “science and technology” -, far from actually embodying the political antagonism of the society of capital, and farther still from being able to disguise it, and much farther still from being able to resolve it (!), is instead the actual direct product and manifestation of this antagonism - and not a mere “ideology” (Marcuse) or a “necessary illusion” (Lukacs), or an “objective appearance” (Marx) -, an antagonism that increasingly calls into question the sustainability of the capitalist economic system based on domination over living activity, and indeed also poses ever-growing systemic risks to the very survival of “the society” on which capitalist social relations of production must be founded. Thus, far from hiding or disguising or “reifying” it, these techno-scientific practices actually embody and reveal – they exhibit - the utter incompatibility of human needs with the capitalist command of living labour based on the wage relation.

Habermas, in S&T as “Ideology”, whilst agreeing with Marcuse that perhaps a New Science and New Technology can come to view humanity as “the Other”, rather than humans regarding “nature” as “the Other” (a pious suggestion at best), concedes the possibility of human pacification, yet insists on this notion of “Science and Technology” and goes along with Arnold Gehlen’s wild generalizations about the “universality” of “technological progress” (from mechanical functions involving limbs to cerebral functions)! Once again, Habermas and Gehlen conveniently forget that human “mechanical” functions are indeed as “intellectual” or “cerebral” as any other functions, as Gramsci amply and ably showed in the Prison Notebooks (sections on “Intellectuals”). The reason for this misapprehension is that Habermas falls into the same old habit of seeking to draw an invalid dichotomy between “labour” (mechanical activity) and “interaction” (symbolic communication) – a pathetic humanist and late-romantic distinction that we have criticized in our “Habermas’s Meta-Critique of Marx” and in our critical review of Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s Intellectual and Manual Labor (both on Apart from this, Habermas validly challenges Marx’s facile distinction between “forces” and “relations” of production as well as Marcuse’s even more questionable reduction of “Science and Technology” – an abstraction – to “ideology”, contra Weber, which only tends to reaffirm Weber’s hypostatization of “rationality” as synonymous with capitalism whether in reality or as “ideology”.

A further hypostasis is pointed out by Heidegger, “On the Content and Essence of ‘Physis’ in Aristotle”, in Pathmarks, at p.211. Heidegger insists repeatedly on the absurdity of the attempt in Western civilisation to define physis, the coming-into-being of our surrounding world (Um-welt), as techne, a pre-conceived human project [see especially p.197], and revives instead the notion of “pro-duction” as metabole [especially at p.221]. His vice, as always in these matters, is to identify this fallacious praxis philosophisch, as if it were merely an ontological confusion rather than the historical product of existing political antagonism over the satisfaction and creation of human needs. Heidegger centres this notion of physis and metabole on the contingency or being-toward-death of human Dasein [being there], on its “thrown-ness” or “freedom-unto-death”, and therefore on its mortality. Perhaps the best, albeit abstruse, critique of this “ontologism” is in T. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, esp. Part One on “The Ontological Need”, and the shorter Lectures on Negative Dialectics, esp. Lecture 2, pp.13ff. See also A.Gramsci, Il Materialismo Storico, cited by Bobbio in Gramsci for a critique of the undialectical notion of “evolution” in social theory. Much preferable and more uplifting is Hannah Arendt’s reinterpretation– in The Human Condition - of physis and metabole as “birth” (genesis) and therefore as the inescapable condition of human beings to initiate action as political beings – as beings whose very “being alive” is “to be alive among other human beings” (inter homines esse – whence the notion of “human inter-est”).

Sunday, 14 October 2018


Not a day, not a minute, not an instant goes past now that a new story goes round the world exposing the craven criminality, corruption and genocidal turpitude of the assassins in Beijing - chief among them of course is the Rat in Chief - the toothless disgusting Fascist Beast that goes by the name of Xi Jin Ping. A story in today's New York Times is the latest to evidence how this murderous worm ordered the genocidal policies that his Chinese Dictatorship are implementing in Xinjiang at the expense of its Muslim population and in favour of the Han race. Now the US Congress will soon use the Magnitzsky Act to bring his fellow assassins to justice IF THEY EVER SET FOOT OUTSIDE OF RATLAND!!!! Here is the piece:

The Leaders Who Unleashed China’s Mass Detention of Muslims

BEIJING — Rukiya Maimaiti, a local propaganda official in China’s far west, warned her colleagues to steel themselves for a wrenching task: detaining large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.
The Chinese government wanted to purge the Xinjiang region of “extremist” ideas, she told her co-workers, and secular Uighurs like themselves had to support the campaign for the good of their people.
“Fully understand that this task is in order to save your relatives and your families,” wrote Ms. Maimaiti, a Communist Party functionary who works on the western edge of Xinjiang, in a message that was preserved online. “This is a special kind of education for a special time.”
Her warning is one piece of a trail of evidence, often found on obscure government websites, that unmasks the origin of China’s most sweeping internment drive since the Mao era — and establishes how President Xi Jinping and other senior leaders played a decisive role in its rapid expansion.
In a campaign that has drawn condemnation around the world, hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been held in “transformation” camps across Xinjiang for weeks, months or years at a time, according to former inmates and their relatives.
Beijing says the facilities provide job training and legal education for Uighurs and has denied carrying out mass detentions.
But speeches, reports and other documents online offer a clearer account than previously reported of how China’s top leaders set in motion and escalated the indoctrination campaign, which aims to eradicate all but the mildest expressions of Islamic faith and any yearning for an independent Uighur homeland.

In a campaign that has drawn condemnation around the world, hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been held in “transformation” camps across Xinjiang for weeks, months or years at a time, according to former inmates and their relatives.
Beijing says the facilities provide job training and legal education for Uighurs and has denied carrying out mass detentions.
But speeches, reports and other documents online offer a clearer account than previously reported of how China’s top leaders set in motion and escalated the indoctrination campaign, which aims to eradicate all but the mildest expressions of Islamic faith and any yearning for an independent Uighur homeland.

Mr. Xi has not publicly endorsed or commented on the camps, but he ordered a major shift in policy soon after visiting Xinjiang in 2014 to weaken Uighurs’ separate identity and assimilate them into a society dominated by the Han majority, according to the documents.
Later, amid official reports warning the results were insufficient, Mr. Xi reassigned Chen Quanguo, 62, the hard-line party chief in neighboring Tibet, to act as the chief enforcer of the crackdown in Xinjiang. Mr. Chen was also promoted to the 25-member Politburo, the party leadership council that governs China.
“What is happening in Xinjiang is the leading edge of a new, more coercive ethnic policy under Xi Jinping’s ‘new era’ of Chinese power,” said James Leibold, an expert on Xinjiang at La Trobe University in Australia who has monitored the campaign.
The Trump administration is weighing sanctions against Chinese officials and companies involved in the indoctrination camps, a move that would extend the friction between Washington and Beijing over trade and military disputes to human rights. A bipartisan commission has singled out Mr. Chen and six other officials as potential targets.
Last week, apparently stung by the international criticism, the Xinjiang government issued revised rules on “deradicalization” that for the first time clearly authorized the indoctrination camps.
Worried about Muslim extremism and ethnic nationalism, Beijing has long maintained tight control of Xinjiang, where nearly half the population of 24 million are Uighurs. In the decade up to 2014, the security forces struggled with a series of violent antigovernment attacks for which they blamed Uighur separatists.
Mr. Xi made his first and only visit as national leader to Xinjiang in April 2014. Hours after his four-day visit ended, assailants used bombs and knives to kill three people and wound nearly 80 others near a train station in Urumqi, the regional capital. The attack was seen as a rebuff to Mr. Xi, who had just left the city and vowed to wield an “iron fist” against Uighurs who oppose Chinese rule.

“That seems to have been taken by Xi Jinping as an affront,” said Michael Clarke, a scholar at the Australian National University who studies Xinjiang.

A month later, Mr. Xi called for a vigorous push to make Uighurs loyal members of the Chinese nation through Chinese-language instruction, economic incentives and state-organized ethnic intermingling. The leadership also approved a directive on establishing tighter control of Xinjiang that has not been made public.
“Strengthen public identification of every ethnic group with the great motherland, with Chinese nationhood and with Chinese culture,” Mr. Xi said at a meeting on Xinjiang at the time. “There must be more ethnic contact, exchange and blending.”
In the year after Mr. Xi’s visit to Xinjiang, the documents show, the party began building “transformation through education” camps to warn Muslim minorities of the evils of religious zealotry and ethnic separatism.
The camps were relatively small back then; many detainees were held for just a few days or weeks, official speeches and reports show. But there were no public guidelines for how they should operate.
By taking a harder line in Xinjiang, Mr. Xi effectively endorsed a group of Chinese scholars and officials advocating an overhaul of the party’s longstanding policies toward ethnic minorities.
For decades, the party kept Uighurs, Tibetans and other groups under tight political control while allowing some room for preserving each nationality’s language, culture and religion. The mosaic approach was copied from the Soviet Union and made Xinjiang an “autonomous region,” where, in theory, Uighurs enjoyed greater rights and representation.

 But in the 1990s, Chinese academics advising the government began arguing that these policies had contributed to the breakup of the Soviet Union by encouraging ethnic separatism. To avoid similar troubles, they argued, China should adopt measures aimed unapologetically at merging ethnic minorities into a broader national identity.
“So-called ‘ethnic elites’ must never be given an opportunity to become the leaders of the pack in splitting the country,” said Hu Lianhe, a researcher in this group, in a paper he co-wrote in 2010.

Mr. Hu is now a powerful voice setting policy for Xinjiang as a senior official in the United Front Work Department, a Communist Party agency that has claimed a growing say over the region.
He has been identified as a potential target of American sanctions. In August, he categorically denied reports of abuses in Xinjiang during a United Nations hearing. “There is no ‘de-Islamization,’” he said.
By 2016, the Communist Party’s main newspaper declared that the “deradicalization” campaign was succeeding; no serious acts of antigovernment violence had been reported since Mr. Xi’s visit to Xinjiang.
But officials gave grimmer assessments in less prominent forums. Some said that young Uighurs were more alienated from China than their elders; others warned that Uighurs who had traveled to the Middle East, sometimes to fight in Syria, were bringing back extremist ideas and fighting experience.

Such warnings appeared to persuade Mr. Xi and other leaders to back tougher measures. In August 2016, they brought in Mr. Chen from Tibet to run Xinjiang. He became the first party official to have served as the leader of both territories.
In Tibet, another frontier region experiencing ethnic strife, Mr. Chen had expanded the security forces, sent party officials to live in villages and tightened control of Buddhist monasteries and temples.
Less than three weeks after his arrival in Xinjiang, he announced a “remobilization” plan to ramp up security, citing orders from Mr. Xi.
Officials in Xinjiang were told to prepare for a multiyear offensive, according to one official report.
In March 2017, the regional government issued “deradicalization” rules that gave a vague green light to expanding the internment camps, but the national parliament never enacted a law authorizing the detentions as would be required by the Chinese constitution. . Local officials soon began reporting growing numbers of Uighurs arrested or detained for indoctrination.
“Since the strike-hard began in 2017, there have been many detainees, including many ultimately convicted,” an official assigned to Hotan, an area in southern Xinjiang, wrote last year. “The numbers sent to transformation-through-education centers are also quite high.”

As the camps and surveillance efforts expanded, Beijing directed new funds to Xinjiang, where spending on security nearly doubled in 2017 from the year before, to $8.4 billion, according to data released early this year.
“The central level ultimately pays for all of it, so some kind of consent was certainly given,” said Adrian Zenz, a scholar at the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany who has studied the camps.
The scale of detentions across Xinjiang may have gone further than initially expected. “They were having to use train stations and other random places to hold people because they weren’t expecting to have so many,” said Jessica Batke, a former State Department analyst.
A broad definition of “religious extremism” — which included behavior as simple as trying to persuade people to quit alcohol and smoking, as well as more serious transgressions — gave the authorities wide leeway to punish even mildly pious Muslims.
Local officials like Ms. Maimaiti had little incentive to hold back; those found dragging their feet in the crackdown have been named and punished.
The public has been told to prepare for a long offensive, which one local official last week called a “campaign of intellectual emancipation.” The Xinjiang government decreed late last year that the security drive would last five years before achieving “total stability.”


Wednesday, 10 October 2018


Rather than listen to that demonstrably and now detestable traitor called Martin Wolf at the Financial Times - but who reads him anymore, anyhow? -, here are our friends at the FT Alphaville: this is must reading for all patriots pursuing the relentless fight against the Chinese Dictatorship. Enjoy, friends!

Overheard in the Long Room: corporate China

It's been a breathless year for China-watchers.
If the news flow from Trump's ongoing trade war with the People's Republic wasn't enough to wrap your head around, there are also re-emerging concerns over slowing growth, a bubbly real estate sector and a depreciating currency. Oh, and some stuff in Hong Kong.
But away from the noise, how are Chinese corporates faring?
A discussion in the Long Room drew our attention to GavekalDragonomics annual “China Inc” report — a chartbook “based on two major data sources: the nationwide survey of 374,000 industrial firms, and the financial reports of 3,230 listed non-financial firms”.
Below is a compressed glimpse of a few of the charts, which perhaps tie in with some of the concerns listed above. (Right-click charts to embiggen.)
Sales growth is rolling off . . .

So sales by consumer-facing firms -- car companies, food-producers and the like -- have begun to slow, while IT and healthcare firms, bar semiconductor-manufacturers, have at least maintained growth.
The southbound lines in the left-hand chart speak to an ongoing struggle in China: its tanker-like pivot to becoming a consumption, rather than investment, driven economy. As flagged by our colleague James Kynge, and ex-Alphavillain Matt Klein, China's consumptive spurt since 2007 has been fuelled by debt, rather than income:

More recently, Allianz found that in 2017, household debt hit a record 49.1 per cent of GDP, 19.2 percentage points higher than 2012's figure.
News over the summer of a wave of defaults in China's $190bn peer-to-peer lending industry — shadow-banking platforms which divert short-term savings to households — perhaps signals the brakes slamming on this trend. But, as Matt argued, with workers earning a much smaller share of non-financial corporate value than other countries, circa 40 per cent versus two-thirds elsewhere, consumers now have few other means to grow their spending power. Coupled with trade fears, one wouldn't be surprised to see this trend continue.
Debt servicing is on the up, well for corporates anyway

Two diverging trends here. China, on a national level, is requiring more and more cash to service its debts. Not good news for those concerned about the Republic's burgeoning debt burden, estimated to be anywhere between 300 to 350 per cent of GDP, depending on who you ask and what mood they're in.
This hasn't deterred bond buyers however, as the IMF recorded a circa $40bn flow into yuan-denominated bonds over the second quarter of this year, according to Brad Setser at the CFR:

But on a corporate level, China has become better at meeting its interest payments, maintaining a coverage ratio of 4, up from below 3 in 2015. On a sector basis however, concerns still persist about corporate debt. For instance in real estate, despite core profit margins expanding 12.3 per cent in the first half of the year, the ratio of developers' cash to short-term debt declined from 2.4 to 1.8 times, according to research by China Merchant Securities.
These forking trends — total interest coverage declining, but on a corporate basis improving — suggests debt simply shifting across economic sectors, rather than improving on a net basis.
China's exporting corporates require a lot of labour

This chart shows revenue per worker versus a percentage of sales from exports in China's corporate sectors.
One clear takeaway from this chart is electric machinery and equipment (and, to a lesser extent, straightforward machinery) is going to be the sector-to-watch as the trade war deepens. Of course, protecting America's machinery sector has been a key objective of the Trump administration because a) there are still around 1.6m workers making machines and tools in the US and b) the sector has resumed growth under Trump. Just check out this chart from Brendan's post a few weeks back:

If Trump's tariffs begin to bite, we could therefore see a disproportionately negative effect on employment in these sectors, which, coupled with tightening credit conditions, would not be good news for household incomes.
So consumption looks set to remain repressed. How is China going to maintain growth then? More debt of course! Just last week the People's Bank of China cut reserve requirements for commercial banks, in effect sanctioning a further $109bn of credit creation. We've seen this playbook before; whether it is consistently repeatable, is another matter:

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Madness in the Method - Prelude to Bacon and Hobbes

“There is method in the madness”. This widely used expression is meant to highlight the incongruity between methodical action and madness – almost to the point of stating that the two are mutually exclusive. The reason behind this popular saying is the belief is that true madness is incapable of methodical action almost by definition: people who are able to pursue activity methodically must exhibit a degree of rationality – the method itself – without which they could not be said to be acting methodically. Even Max Weber argued that the mark of a free decision is the fact that it is made rationally, and therefore methodically, so that the means adopted are adequate to the proposed ends. Weber’s notion of freedom is thus opposed to that of madness in the sense that mad actions do not adopt adequate means for stated ends, so that they are neither rational nor free. Weber does not entertain the possibility that proposed ends may be mad, and therefore so can the methodical rational means, because his definition of rationality was always technical-scientific or, as he styled it, “value-free” (wert-frei), couched in terms of the effectiveness of human action.

It should be obvious already that Weber was wrong because if a stated end or pursuit is mad, then the means adopted cannot possibly be said to be sane, or free for that matter. But can they be rational? In other words, how is it possible for madness to be pursued methodically – rationally? Is it possible that our very definition of rationality is imbued with madness, in the sense that a methodology can be formally rational – that is to say, predictable and effective – and yet at the same time be the product of madness? How can insanity be institutionalised and perfected so that it saturates the methodology adopted in its pursuit? Or rather, how is it at all possible to pursue insane ends by methodical – rational and reasonable – means? Can madness have effectuality – the “irresistibility” (Hannah Arendt in The Life of the Mind) of logico-mathematical thought? The phrase “there is madness in the method” again seems incongruous – for how can a method be methodical and yet be insane? What, we ask finally, is “methodicity”?

How can mad pursuits be carried out methodically? The question concerns the perennial antinomy between form and substance (perennial because it is the kernel of the philosophia perennis from Anaxagoras to Zeno). The method is the rational form and the substance is the irrational goal. Evidently, here it is the notion of rationality that is called into question. Can formally rational action be substantively mad? The implicit identification of rational with reasonable is due to the common etymology of the two words – derived from the Latin ratio. Hegel went even so far as to identify the rational, not just with the reasonable, but with reality itself! For him, indeed, “whatever is rational is real and whatever is real is rational”: in other words, history is the extrinsication, the unfolding of Reason in space and time; history is this unfolding of the Idea, of Reason, through the stages of Spirit in the world – the manifestation of the Spirit’s “world-wisdom” (Welt-weisheit).

But what if there is madness or irrationality in the purportedly rational Form itself? What if the Form, the possibility of thinking the Form, of equating and homologating life and the world as if they were numbers and quantities – what if this very human capacity to abstract from experience and to impose an inflexible measure on it (a Procrustean bed) is itself a form of madness, of irrationality? Here it is not merely the scientific method that is called into question – for we have seen in our critique of Descartes that there is no such thing. What is challenged is the very content and validity of logic and mathematics – in other words, what is questioned is the calculability of the world, which depends, first, on the formal validity of logico-mathematics, and, second, on their ability to contain, to carry validly – rationally - the “things”, the “contents”, the “sub-stances” that they claim to re-present, to which they pretend to refer. Neither of these functions are valid or true for logico-mathematics because we have shown it to be internally contradictory and externally antinomic: the very “purity” of logico-mathematics – already internally contradictory - makes its Form conceptually incompatible with the Substance of the life-world.

The madness of the method lies precisely in this: - to wit, in the drive we have as humans – wherein lies our insanity - to rationalise the life-world, to make it quantifiable and calculable – not at all because the life-world is quantifiable and calculable, but only and solely because we will it thus (!), because we construct our life-world in a manner that makes it artificially amenable to calculability! And this drive is obviously exacerbated under specific historical modes of production. This human ability to conjure up a calculable life-world springs solely from the confusion, heightened to the point of neurosis in capitalist society, of truth with certainty – the reduction of the substantive life-world to form (reification of reality into quantities) and of our experience to predictability and infinite reproducibility. All in the interests of “productivity ”, which in capitalism means “profitability”, which means control of living activity by means of its “exchange” with dead objectified labour – an exchange made possible only by violent means.

As we have argued on earlier occasions, the limit to the madness of capitalism is the destruction of the ecosphere through overpopulation. And overpopulation is an existential must for capital because the real meaning of capitalist accumulation is – precisely, the accumulation of exploitable living labour as surplus labour. Thus, “there is madness in the method” of capitalist society because its reproduction is dependent entirely on its ability to force – by violent means – the impossible “exchange” of living labour with dead objectified labour. Capitalist accumulation – “profitability” as the economic measure of “growth and development” and of “social progress” – is the mathematical method behind the madness of capitalism. But here the madness is the method itself! Marx saw the exploitation behind this method- an exploitation that still had some “rationality” behind it in a Hegelian sense. It took Max Weber to expose the pure “formality” of this rationality – and therefore its substantive madness! In Marx, the almost eschatological inevitability of the advent of communism is the ultimate justification of capitalism. But in Weber no such teleology is possible: capitalism is the method of its own madness – it is its own “tale of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. (In this sense, Weber’s analysis of capitalism is the apotheosis of Nietzschean nihilism.)

Our upcoming study of the transformation of Cartesian rationalism into the empiricist methodology of Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes will seek to unravel the process whereby the capitalist “great transformation” of human societies has led us to the catastrophic denouement of a well-nigh totalitarian social order run by capitalist algorithms – the ultimate cataclysmic triumph of capitalist insane methodology and methodical madness.

Friday, 21 September 2018

The Close of the Chinese Dictatorship

News of the degradation of Chinese society and the imminent collapse of its economy, all at the hands and under the totalitarian control of the Chinese Dictatorship - the rats of Beijing led by the Rat in Chief, Xi Jin Ping, this most odious of criminals and murderers - comes now so thick and fast that it is impossible to keep up. The reason why we are focusing so much of our attention on the catastrophic denouement of this most abhorrent of regimes is simple: it is because the Chinese Dictatorship represents and embodies the epitome of millennia of human evil - it incarnates, as it were, the latest and most gruesome exacerbation of the ability of a political State to enslave and obliterate every human aspiration to freedom.
We are engaging in this campaign as a political illustration - so real and full of infamy - of how humans can turn oppression and atrocity into a science and a technique. It is something to which we are about to turn theoretically in our forthcoming study on Descartes, Bacon and Hobbes. Cheers.

China to weed out foreign content from schoolbooks Inspections coincide with draft law to restrict international TV programmes Textbooks targeted: China has ordered inspections of school books to remove foreign content.

China is mandating inspections of all textbooks used in elementary and middle schools across the country to remove foreign content, as education increasingly becomes a target of the Communist party’s ideological controls.  The country’s ministry of education has asked its provincial offices to investigate teaching materials for first-grade to ninth-grade pupils before October 15, in many cases requesting that teachers turn over physical copies of their textbooks to local officials, according to staff at international schools in Shanghai and Beijing.  “Some publishing houses are altering teaching materials without authorisation and certain schools are using their own textbooks,” the ministry said in a notice published this week aimed at removing “foreign teaching materials that have replaced national curricula”. While internal textbook review processes have become more common at public schools and universities in the past two years, private schools have historically had more leeway in the design of their curriculums. However, the current inspections now apply to international schools as well, which enrol only students holding foreign passports.  Teachers must justify their use of textbooks that are found to be noncompliant, and those who provide untrue explanations or do not report to the education ministry at all will be “severely dealt with”.  “The government is really clamping down on curricular content,” said Jiang Xueqin, an education consultant. “Inspection of textbooks is really meant to target private schools that offer bicultural and bilingual curriculums. These schools are a fast-growing trend in China and are particularly popular among the urban educated elite.”

Since taking leadership of the Communist party in 2012, President Xi Jinping has presided over a political tightening that has affected all levels of civil society, with a particular focus on weeding out foreign content from both the country’s airwaves and schools.  Recommended Technology sector China’s Tencent plans ID system to limit minors’ video game usage The country’s newly reorganised media watchdog for radio and television unveiled draft legislation this week that, if passed, would limit the amount of foreign programmes that could be broadcast. Last year, China declared home schooling illegal while a newly implemented private education law imposed stricter curriculum requirements on private schools and requires them to have Communist party cells.  Joint-venture universities, created by foreign and Chinese education groups, have not been exempt from ideological oversight either. Last November, the Financial Times reported that such joint ventures must now appoint a party secretary who holds veto power on the board of directors, while all prospective joint-venture programmes must include language allowing party committees in their charters. Imports of textbooks have long been subject to Chinese customs controls, a process that often takes more than three months.

Foreign professors and international teachers say that means that books sometimes arrive well after term has begun. “It became clear that they were targeting foreign textbooks and anything that might remotely be considered political two to three years ago,” said Christopher Balding, an academic who says his teaching contract with Peking University’s HSBC Business School in Shenzhen was not renewed this spring due to his outspoken political views. “When I first got [to China], during the first five years, I could have used comic books and no one would have said anything.”

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The Chinese Empire Up In Smoke!

Not a minute goes by without a fresh and devastating account or news of how the God-forsaken Chinese Dictatorship, this malevolent scourge of humanity, this most execrable imperialist inheritor of that sorry tale of slavery and human rot that was formerly known as the Celestial Kingdom - of how this suppurating pile of infamy is being torn apart by its its own internal tensions, and crushed by the external avalanche of revulsion and disgust that it has heaped upon itself! Here is the latest instalment from the Australian’s Dr. John Lee. Enjoy and rejoice!

China takes the long view and is assiduously planning its Great Rejuvenation while democratic governments think only as far as the next election. Chinese leader Xi Jinping is a master strategist who has consolidated his power beyond the traditional two-term limit while President Donald Trump — who yesterday slapped tariffs on about $278 billion of Chinese imports to take effect next Monday — is raging even as the US retreats as leader of the free world.
A narrative straight out of Beijing’s public affairs bureau, it is the perspective shared by some of our living former prime ministers, retired foreign affairs officials and China watchers. But if you separate propaganda from the facts, that view is simplistically premature. Most likely, it is wrong.
Let’s put China’s best card on the table: the expectation it will become the dominant economic superpower in the region and world. Beijing has two related masterplans to that end: the Made in China 2025 blueprint, and the Belt and Road Initiative.


MIC 2025 is Beijing’s plan to transform the country into a hi-tech superpower by dominating advanced industries such as robotics, next-generation information technology, aviation, advanced materials and green energy. The plan is not just to join the ranks of advanced economies such as the US, Europe and Japan but to leave them in China’s wake.
MIC 2025 is based on the twin pillars of Chinese “self-sufficiency” and Chinese domination of global exports in these sectors. Beijing has set a target of achieving 70 per cent self-sufficiency in core components and basic materials essential for these advance sectors — which, by the way, is against World Trade Organisation rules.
China has yet to adequately confront or overcome limitations intrinsic to its state-led political economy. It needs more robust intellectual property rights, which would reward innovation and risk. Its economy must allow creative destruction, which would see the best firms thrive and less deserving ones fail. Lending and investment decisions must be based on commercial reasoning rather than the purpose of meeting political objectives.
Reform would strike at the heart of the Communist Party’s role in Chinese the economy and society and necessitate a fundamental restructuring of the country’s political economy.
Unable to go it alone, MIC 2025 works only if international collaboration offers Chinese firms the lion’s share of benefits and advanced economies agree to further lower barriers even as China raises more of its own. It needs other global economic powers to remain compliant suckers.
They won’t. American threats of escalating tariffs against Chinese goods is really about demanding reciprocity and payback for IP theft. Detested by Democrats for almost everything else, there is bipartisan political and popular support in Washington for Trump taking on China. While Trump’s needless salvos against other trading partners is hardly conducive to getting similarly aggrieved nations on side, advanced economies in Europe and northeast Asia are as resentful with respect to Chinese mercantilist policies even if they remain on the sidelines of the US-China fray for the moment.
What is becoming clear is that global pushback against China is only beginning. A similar dynamic is playing out with respect to the BRI. Promoted as a vast infrastructure investment scheme to increase prosperity throughout Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific, nations are catching on that the promises of trillions of dollars are inflated. Worse, the BRI increasingly is being blamed for burdening smaller nations with unsus­tainable debt, entrenching rather than lessening corruption, delivering disproportionate benefits to Chinese companies, and negative social and environmental impacts.
The “Chinese port” of Hambantota in Sri Lanka has become exhibit A in terms of suspicion that the BRI is a platform through which indebted nations mortgage their sovereignty to China. Malaysia was once an enthusiastic recipient of Chinese largesse, but Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad calls it “a new version of colonialism”. The EU sees the BRI as a scheme to divide Europe and advance Chinese strategic and commercial objectives rather than as an act of economic benevolence. European co-operation is needed if China is to redefine Eurasian markets, rules and standards as Beijing hopes to do.
Finally, China’s strategic grand plan of easing the US out of the region by weakening its alliances and partnerships has gone even worse than the economic masterplans. In the last decade of the previous century, a wiser and more cautious China concluded relatively generous treaties with Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to resolve border disputes and improve ties. With relations smoothed over, China’s economic weight eventually allowed it to replace Russia as the most significant player in Central Asia. Under Xi, China has been reigniting age-old territorial disputes or doubling down on selective and even fabricated history to justify extended claims. In doing so, Beijing has managed to alienate every significant naval power in the Indo-Pacific, which all happen to be US allies or security partners. Although Chinese strategists long have feared the formation of a hostile maritime coalition of great powers, Beijing’s hubris is pushing these countries in that direction.
The Trump administration has made needless errors such as withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but these and other mistakes can be rectified by this administration or the next.
China’s mistakes are far more serious and consequential because they cause countries to balance against rather than welcome its Great Rejuvenation. Even Chinese commentators are now openly accusing Xi of overreach.
Who said autocrats have decisive strategic advantages over the muddling democracies?
John Lee is a fellow at the US Studies Centre and the Hudson Institute, Washington. From 2016 to this year he was a senior adviser to the Australian foreign minister.

RATS FEELING THE HEAT - It’s only the beginning

China's companies gagged from talking up tariff fears

Trump slaps $200b more tariffs on China
"We can't complain because we are not allowed to complain," a taxi driver in Shanghai told me this week when I asked him if he was worried about the impact of a trade war with the United States on China's economy.
The same is true for Chinese companies exporting goods to the US. In a country where state-run media and businesses are discouraged from making negative comments about the impact of Donald Trump's trade tariffs, it is hard to gauge sentiment on the ground.
Dozens of trading companies, logistics firms and manufacturers contacted by The Australian Financial Review over the past week refused to talk about the potential impact of Trump's trade tariffs on their operations. Many of the companies who have spoken freely to foreign journalists in the past said they were worried about attracting trouble from government officials if they spoke candidly.
However, there are clear signals that manufacturers in China are worried. Logistics companies in Shanghai say freight costs to the US are soaring and it is hard for exporters to book a container until October because they are sending as many goods as possible to the US before the tariffs kick in. While the trade war rarely gets a headline in the state-run media, there are other signs of nervousness. China's biggest stockmarket index, the Shanghai Composite, is down more than 20 per cent so far this year and the local currency, the yuan, has lost more than 7 per cent of its value against the US dollar since June.

China's biggest stock market index, the Shanghai Composite, is down more than 20 per cent so far this year as investors ...
Washington's aggressive stance on trade is not exactly a dinner party conversation for many ordinary Chinese though. Other issues such as the disappearance of a local movie star embroiled in a tax evasion scandal are hotter topics on social media platforms.

Erratic and unpredictable

Behind-the-scenes at senior levels in Beijing, it is a different story. Like many, China's leaders have been caught off guard by the erratic and unpredictable US President. Privately they never believed Washington would follow through on its threats to escalate a trade war that will also hurt American consumers. Beijing's past strategy of getting Wall Street powerbrokers to talk sense into a sitting US president no longer looks like it will work.
Linda Jakobson, an Australian who is well-connected in Beijing and met with senior decision-makers and economists in the capital this month, says there are "deep concerns" in the Chinese leadership about the potential impact of a US trade war on China's economy and efforts at reform. She was surprised at the candid admission from some that China is running out of options to respond to Trump. Many in Beijing will be hoping that US domestic political hurdles, or at best impeachment, solve the Trump problem for them although that looks unlikely.
How will China respond? In the short-term, it is likely to put tariffs on another $US60 billion ($83 billion) in American imports. It cannot match the US$200 billion in tariffs because it does not import that amount of US goods into China. China has other options such as more tightening, managing the exchange rate and stimulating the domestic economy but these are not preferred options. Beijing has made it clear it is willing to return to the negotiating table but this looks unlikely. President Xi Jinping does not want to provoke Trump any further but he will not want to be seen kowtowing to him either.