Power and culture: Andrew Breitbart and Neema Parvini refuted
Andrew Breitbart had an idea that “power is downstream from culture”—he would think that, being born in Hollywood; of course the culture industry must run everything—so create a conservative culture and power will become conservative. Recently, the formula has been reversed—as must happen inevitability with these things—and Neema Parvini (aka Academic Agent) has put forward the view that “culture is downstream from power”; hence “wokeness” originates with the Civil Rights Act and culture catches up to law on time lag, a view also put forward by Richard Hanania and Christopher Caldwell—and it owes something to Yarvin, Mosca, and “elite theorists” as well.
Breitbart and Parvini are both wrong—and both right. Power and culture are interconnected and interpenetrate—both operate as with the Yin-Yang symbol, or with a cybernetic cycle. As with death—a process that has no objective completion point—we can draw a line and say “power” begins here and “culture” begins there; and in the same way there are medical regulations that state when a person can be considered “dead” and legal definitions too—and even a personal idea, perhaps an individual lives so long as their family and friends remember them.
Yet these are arbitrary distinctions that might be useful—essential to run a society—even though we cannot really say when “death” occurs. Your nails continue to grow after your legal death occurs, there may even be residual brain activity—as with the question as to what “life” itself is, it is not self-evident that a cadaver is dead.
If you decide “culture flows from power” or “power flows from culture” you will never operate in an effective manner in the political realm. You will create an elaborate theory based on that premise and then, at a crucial fault line, it will be wrong—its explanatory power will be exhausted in a significant way. So it’s refuted? Not quite—since it is true in a sense.
It would be as if I said, “I never look at a person’s body or body language—I only listen to what they say. This is the only way to really understand what a person wants.” Another person could form the view: “I never listen to what people say—people lie all the time—I just watch their body language and their actions. This is the only way to truly understand people.” The approach owes a little to science, in that it cuts out certain “metaphysical” or “qualitative” concerns to concentrate on one facet of reality; and if you lived in either way you would probably discover novel things about how people behave and what they want—things that are either obscured by language or by our physicality.
Yet to say you “understand people and their true motivations” if you were grounded in either method would be demonstrably false. A person is holistic; it’s hackneyed to say it (“We always treat the whole person,” intone NHS para-medical staff—like robots) and yet if you don’t understand the person as a whole, physicality and language taken together, you don’t really understand them at all.
This is why these distinctions are not helpful. The left used to face a similar dilemma when it would complain that Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids dominated the working-class mind. That is old hat now, although I still see leftists in full flow against “the Murdoch press” as if Facebook, Twitter, and Google have not been where it’s at for almost twenty years.
Nevertheless, the same dilemma existed: “The working class have received false consciousness from the Murdoch press; and yet they voluntarily consume it—indoctrinate themselves into false consciousness. Nobody makes them buy a paper that is against their interests, yet they do so. Murdoch says he just meets a demand for boobies on page 3, football results, and witty banter about celebs and politicians—yet we say he creates this demand, even as he serves it.”
Marxists, steeped in dialectical thought, should not have fallen for this trap—yet they did because they separated out the “working class” as an entity with distinct interests from “the Murdoch press”; and they treated it as an object separate from the process. In actuality, The Sun reader was symbiotic with Murdoch—he shaped the paper as it shaped him. The paper worked because the two parties got what they wanted from each other—as you would expect in a situation where nobody compels you to buy The Sun.
The situation was unlike, e.g., the USSR where you *had to* read Pravda—the class analysis actually worked in the USSR because the USSR was run by a parasitic elite that ruled through the promotion of false consciousness (lies). The system Marx claimed to critique was a projection of his own desire—to form a totally cohesive and ruthless exploitative elite that ruled by lies.
Even Enoch Powell fell into this dichotomy error: he claimed mass immigration occurred because there had been an “oversight” in the 1948 British Nationality Act—he used to say, in full autist mode, *everything* flowed from there; and it was, in essence, down to badly constructed language and poor legislation—no malevolent intent at all (if only we hadn’t passed that silly law—just like the way Hanania and Caldwell critique the Civil Rights Act).
I don’t know if Powell really believed this was so or if he just thought it made for good rhetoric—it made him look very reasonable, appealed to “detail-orientated” conservatives, and didn’t look like he demonised anyone. However, if you consider the fact that Powell very early on—before if was a major issue—was sent falsified statistics about immigration and if you look at the wider cultural campaigns around the issue, you realise Powell’s *multiracialism flows from legislation* was inadequate as an explanation. There were wider forces involved—and possibly that was too frightening for Powell to admit to himself.
Ultimate illusion: *we* will *take power*, as if *we* are process external—power is.