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Sheldon Wolin and Inverted Totalitarianism

Sheldon Wolin and Inverted Totalitarianism

Chris Hedges

Sheldon Wolin, our most important contemporary political theorist, died Oct. 21 at the age of 93.


Brilliant, Mr. (Dr.?) Hedges, simply brilliant.


“A corporate monstrosity rules us.” The new world order of global capitalism is destroying ALL nation states with global trade agreements and debt slavery to the International Monetary Fund and The World Bank. The U.S.A. and the other wealthy nations will continue a downward slide into poverty under the plan of globalizing poverty. The long term aim is to have all the people of the world equally poor and exploited. The U.S. Empire is being dismantled and replaced by by a global capitalist imperium robbing all for the sake of the world’s 1%. Although U.S. capitalists still control most of the global corporate imperium they hold no allegiance to anyone or anything but profit. As the American capitalist holdings become more diversified globally they control governments and police the world with the U.S. military that taxpayers have no choice but to support and fund, as the U.S. military industrial complex is now a main source of industry and employment in the U.S. To keep the people of the now largely defunct nation states in line there are also increasingly militarized police and technologically sophisticated surveillance operations.

All would seem to be lost to a future of corporate feudalism where wealthy high tech areas will have high level social institutions to produce needed high skilled professionals and technicians. They and a thin managerial class surrounding them and the new corporate aristocrats will live in comfort and luxury while the surrounding 90%+ live in Dickensonian conditions promoting a high death rate or genocides to keep their number manageable.

To play the devils advocate there is nothing else that capitalists can do as capitalism has reached a dead end and the present consumerism can only be sustained through ecological destruction. The coming big collapse that everyone is anticipating might be planned to end consumer capitalism and replace it with, what the corporate monster hopes, will be a sustainable low wage capitalism where the lucky employed will have just enough to sustain them to work another day.

Brutality and force is inflicted on everyone from birth to varying degrees according to race and the social rank one is born into. All studies have shown that only a very few rise above what they are born into. Fear keeps most from questioning and prison awaits anyone who should become a real threat to the status quo or whose poverty or race makes them vulnerable. Yet all is not lost. The globalists have been defeated and are facing rising opposition as more and more people see their true intentions. Terrorists are freedom fighters to some particularly those who feel their culture, ethnicity and religion threatened by the global corporate imperium.

Change will not come without sacrifice but one can start by contributing in small ways. Most people in the U.S. don’t vote, join them. “Boycotting elections alone will not oust the oligarchy, but it is the only proven non-violent way to delegitimize a government.” http://fubarandgrill.org/node/1172 One must start to fight corporate power within oneself. Start boycotting capitalism itself. Live simpler with less possessions and less worry. Start boycotting the most abusive corporations such as McDonalds, Walmart and Monsanto. Boycott/protest the big energy, big weapons companies and the whole rotten war economy that eats up over half the budget and protects only the freedom of the global capitalists to viciously and murderously exploit the world. Self help is rampant in our society of individualism. Self help is also a very profitable industry of group placebo power. If one has not de-programed oneself and knows one’s self than it’s just more herd think. Real self help is to ridicule and mock one’s abusers and to subvert them in any way possible while joining with others to help others break the corporate chains on the road to revolution. “Become the change you want.”

Historically ruling elites have destroyed themselves by eventually persecuting the mass into revolution. It only takes though a committed minority of 3.5% to effect a revolution once the mass of people are oppressed enough into subversion. Boycott the system by not voting or voting third party and work for it as little as possible, even subverting it by working grudgingly and inefficiently. Treat employers as enemies and their workplaces as prisons. Treat the nation state as evil and have allegiance only to humanity itself. Consume as little as possible and produce as much as you can for yourself and your comrades.

“Socialism is organized on the basis of human co-operation for the common benefit of all humankind where things will be produced solely to meet human needs. …Socialism is not a Dream. It can be a Reality. It’s up to You…

Get in touch to help bring an end to the capitalist system.”


Sheldon Wolin, like his great teachers, the Greek & Roman classics, the founding fathers, the modern classics like Alexis de Tocqueville as well as Marx and Henry Adams and a host of other excellent American writers, is not for readers merely looking “for a good read.” No cliche’ in his work. No childishness or foolishness at all. It is the very best political theory the US has produced since the period before the Great Depression. Hedges does treat Wolin fairly in the article. And no article is substitute for reading Wolin’s books: “Politics and Vision,” and “Democracy Incorporated.” Because the vision now inarticulate but ruling the USA is ungoverned corporatism sponsored by the Democrats and the Republicans. Unfortunately, in the last few paragraphs, Hedges confuses Weber, who wrote, “Science as a Vocation,” with Wolin, who wrote “Politics as a Vocation.” Both of those articles are far too brilliant to be ignored and it is a shame they are here so confused with one another.


Good that Wolin saw all that stuff, but this “the novel fusions of economic with political power that he took to be poisoning democracy at its root” is …I don’t even know how to characterise it. “Silly” would trivialise it, and it’s not trivial. It’s just plain ahistorical.

It’s not “novel”, it’s the current instantiation of feudalism. Feudalism goes back to hereditary chiefdoms, 15-25K years ago or so. The tribal chiefs were “micro-kings”, who exercised political power and, first as redistributors and soon as the arrogated owners of the common wealth, economic power.

They didn’t, and don’t, “poison democracy”. Democracy was already gone before any of us were born. We have no democracy, nor did we ever. There were some flickers just after the Revolution, but they were soon snuffed out.

Wherever hereditary chiefs came into being, after the “Big Man” stage, democracy was already gone. They were probably the first successful psychopaths, who gained power by being willing to kill all those who resisted them.

Our political lives for thousands of years have been spent trying to escape the hegemony of the psychopaths. Sometimes we kill some of them, more often they kill a lot of us, and here we are, still in thrall. We cringe at the prospect of being injured or killed, because we’re human. They don’t, because they’re not. Their fear of injury or death is cognitive, and that’s a huge advantage for them.

If we ever hope to get free of them before they complete the conditions for pan-extinction, we’re going to have to stop believing their lies and see them for what they are.


It’s not possible to delegitimise something that’s already illegitimate.

Anyone who urges that we not vote has either not thought it through or has been listening to the wrong sources. The ruling class would be perfectly happy to be able to completely allocate political power as they wish without any worry about whether we’ll get enough of us together to pitch a pipe wrench into the gears.


First right-to-the-roots-of-the-problem analysis I have seen. While I am certain these individuals are perfectly cognizant of the foundations of democratic thought and its manifestations globally, there seems to be an odd reluctance to look at European barbarian heritage and the way in which it continuously manifests in our society. Yeah, the Enlightenment blah blah. let’s go back a bit and look at how Germanic tribal society functioned–the parallels with today’s are startling to say the least. Democracy doesn’t exist in business anyhow–we preach it (the rhetorical we, if you please) in government but rarely do you see a democratic business model. They’re pretty much all totalitarian and that is considered normal and even the only right way to conduct business.


This is what I mean when I speak about disproportionate power relations when C.D. regulars push the idea that voters are responsible for the mess that this nation (and many others) is in:

“Our inverted totalitarianism pays outward fealty to the facade of electoral politics, the Constitution, civil liberties, freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary, and the iconography, traditions and language of American patriotism, but it has effectively seized all of the mechanisms of power to render the citizen impotent.”

National solutions are apt to prove impotent when the “foe” is global in scope, and takes the form of corporate super-powers… the same ones that fund the politicians in office to arguably protect the interests of The People. It’s a dangerous Catch-22 quagmire, and a very different challenge than that faced by citizens in earlier ages when it was ONE largely localized tyrant to tame or take down.

This paragraph is a PERFECT depiction of Mars Rules and its logistics:

“Wolin saw the militarists and the corporatists, who formed an unholy coalition to orchestrate the rise of a global American empire after the war, as the forces that extinguished American democracy. He called inverted totalitarianism “the true face of Superpower.” These war profiteers and militarists, advocating the doctrine of total war during the Cold War, bled the country of resources. They also worked in tandem to dismantle popular institutions and organizations such as labor unions to politically disempower and impoverish workers. They “normalized” war. And Wolin warns that, as in all empires, they eventually will be “eviscerated by their own expansionism.” There will never be a return to democracy, he cautions, until the unchecked power of the militarists and corporatists is dramatically curtailed. A war state cannot be a democratic state.”


Perhaps when this insight comes from Mr. Hedges or Sheldon Wolin, those who prey on my challenging the WE-frame might understand the virtue of such a stance:

"When a constitutionally limited government utilizes weapons of horrendous destructive power, subsidizes their development, and becomes the world’s largest arms dealer,” Wolin writes, “the Constitution is conscripted to serve as power’s apprentice rather than its conscience.”

"He goes on:

“That the patriotic citizen unswervingly supports the military and its huge budget means that conservatives have succeeded in persuading the public that the military is distinct from government.”

The military is distinct from government. That’s why using the frame WE–as indicative of We, the citizenry–to define military campaigns is so slippery.

I still maintain that this response is far more natural in white male workers who feel displaced (and at a loss of power) by what they take for women, Blacks, and Latinos taking “their” jobs:

“Identification with militarism and patriotism, along with the images of American might projected by the media, serves to make the individual citizen feel stronger, thereby compensating for the feelings of weakness visited by the economy upon an overworked, exhausted, and insecure labor force.”

Throughout South America and nations colonized and controlled by European nobility (and the Catholic Church), a similar loss of power is compensated by a particular brand of machismo that has males lording power over females. The church (as inception of patriarchal values) supports this behavior because, as friend to elites, it recognizes that so long as males have females to subjugate, they will have an outlet for their rage and feelings of powerlessness.


You are correct to see that feudal tendency in today’s corporatist-capitalist-bureaucratist social order. It is also important to see the acidic corrosion in today’s order; and this corrosion comes from within it. It is driven by the major investors, who see profiteering as the ultimate religion. Think Murdoch, Gates, Dimon, the Waltons, Buffett, et al. The responses and reactions to today’s order are also driven by those very same corruptions, as well as by the cancerous banality of the bureaucratic order itself. Compared to what we have today, Feudalism was manageable. Where their world was ruled by one lord, one could, at least conceivably, find a way around him, even if only by killing him. Joan of Arc was exemplary for destroying that world order. That is no longer an option, and the current order’s vicious assault on Blacks is precisely because of fear of that tendency to off the tyrants which has been around since early tribalism. Indeed, some writers indicate that tendency to off the lord as the very thing that killed matriarchy and replaced it with patriarchy in religions and politics. To say that our political lives have been dominated for centuries by trying to escape psychopaths ignores the grand achievements of ancient tribal cultures, especially pre-patriarchal ones, and even the accomplishments of patriarchal democracy. We mustn’t let our ignorance rule us, or we will never get ourselves out of this bureaucratism and capitalism and corruption’s cancers and the Sixth Great Extinction!


Watch Hillary prove you are wrong, as Obama proved we were wrong in 2008 & again in 2012, and as GWB proved the GOP was wrong twice. The order still has upwards of 90% of the populace loyal to it. If that is not legitimate, what is, your petty idiosyncratic anarchy?

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There is no ruling class in America; there are only those who work hard and those who do not. You should know that by now. I’ve said it before on this site!

What if one half of “the people” hates the other half of “the people,” and they all vote? Can “we” elect a new people?

Most of my fellow tribalists support the UMIC quite strongly. So there! nah, nah, nah, na-na-na!

If the majority sees them as legitimate, why do they lie to us constantly? Why do they take such good care to make sure that any non-trivial opponents lack access to broadcast communication? Why can votes only be cast for about 12 hours and only on a single working day in the winter, when travel is difficult and skipping work is expensive? Why do they limit access to the ballot in majority-poor neighborhoods?

That they have to lie to us, vanish all real opposition, and maintain a process that minimises the number of us who can vote tells us --or should tell us-- that they know they have no legitimacy.


What “grand achievements”?


A great article all around but this my biggest take away.

“Instead of participating in power,” he writes, “the virtual citizen is invited to have ‘opinions’: measurable responses to questions predesigned to elicit them.”

The problem of course is that these “opinions” are confused with Freedom.


One of the most perspicacious and sagacious articles that I have ever read about the raison d’ etre of the Amerikan Empire.
Inverted totalitarianism. Mr. Wolin nails it! The Third Reich was fascist totalitarian; the Fourth Reich is fascist inverted totalitarian.

" The result is a nation dedicated almost exclusively to waging war."

And the good news: " they normalized war as in all Empires they will be eviscerated by their own expansionism ."


“The citizen is irrelevant. He or she is nothing more than a spectator, allowed to vote and then forgotten once the carnival of elections ends and corporations and their lobbyists get back to the business of ruling.”

Lobbyists write our bills, and the puppets aka congress pass the bills to the president who signs them into laws. Corporate propaganda dished out by the news media owned by a half dozen media conglomerates make sure the proletariat concurs. This same propaganda assures that the 80% of the population who would most benefit from democratic socialism are convinced that socialism is evil, socialism is a dirty word, and “By God, I’ll never vote for some damn socialist.”


Thank you for sharing the above link. It is the simplest, most concise narrative advocating socialism I’ve ever read.

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In any other context I’d say your criticism would be well taken, and might even be a sin acknowledged by Chris himself – he impresses me greatly with his honesty and self-introspection. As much as I enjoy listening and participating in progressive/liberal/lefty/radical discussion, one reaches a point where he/she wants to say “enough talk already”, let’s get on with it – whatever “it” is – even (or especially) if “it” is the revolution that “Feel the Bern” Bernie is courageous enough to encourage.

That said, I think Chris was here rendering a requiem for a rare, true prescient genius – Sheldon Wolin. If you want to gain an understanding of what is really happening here in the U.S.A (vice a cognitive-dissonance-induced stupor), then Wolin’s “Democracy Incorporated” is a book that you will want to beg, borrow, steal, or – if necessary – buy … It’s near the top of the “must read” read list for literate progressives, along with some of the works of Chris Hedges …


When Progressives ‘Hold Their Nose and Vote for the Lesser Evil’, such as Hillary or Sanders (who will NOT curtail or end any of Obama’s wars, and will likely expand them), they become invested in the candidate. That’s why you have old time liberals who used to hate war now arguing in favor of Obama’s wars. It’s almost magic, the way you contaminate yourself by voting for imperialist Democrats.

Voting of a Republican or Dem is worse than useless. Like praying to an imaginary bronze age war god, it’s a form of self-brainwashing.