April 28, 2012

Pitirim Sorokin

“Eat bread and salt and speak the truth.”—old Russian proverb

I suddenly remembered, the other day, that it had been ages since I dipped into the work of Pitirim Sorokin, the Russian sociologist who immigrated to the United States and founded the Department of Sociology at Harvard, where he taught for nearly thirty years. His four-volume Social and Cultural Dynamics was written over 1937-41, and rereading it at this late date, one has to marvel at the prescience of the man. Much of what he predicted regarding the cycles of civilization is coming true in our time.

Sorokin distinguished between what he called Ideational cultures and Sensate cultures. The former, he wrote, are spiritual in nature, focusing on the inner life of human beings. The latter, on the other hand—of which the West for the last five hundred years is a classic example—are preoccupied with the material modification of the external world by means of science and technology, and are the opposite of the Ideational ones.  The Sensate culture of the last five centuries, he claimed, is now in crisis; in its dying phase.

(Sorokin also posited the existence of an intermediary-type culture between the Sensate and the Ideational, which he called Idealistic, and which is a compromise between faith and pure empiricism. What we find here is a harmonious synthesis among reason, faith, and the senses as sources of knowing. Sad to say, the West has seen only two such periods in its long history, ones that might well be termed golden ages: Greece in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., and Europe during A.D. 1200-1350.  Knowledge was not narrowed to one vista, he said, nor reduced to one source. Think Aeschylus, Thomas Aquinas.)

So Sorokin believed that present-day Sensate/scientific culture was in a state of fatigue; that it had run its course. When you have the excessive domination of a single system, he wrote, eventually it begins to exhibit signs of self-destruction.  The pendulum starts to swing in the other direction because each type of culture contains only part of the truth, and is thus an untruth.  But this partial truth is mistaken for the whole truth, and becomes the basis for culture and social life—which is the untruth of the situation. The false part of the culture tends to grow, and eventually, the whole thing goes out of kilter. In other words, the untruth evokes a strong reaction, creating a dynamic of change and disintegration. (Cf. Hegel, or even Aristotle: any reality contains its own negation within itself, producing its antithesis over time.) Cultures dominated by one-sided mentalities, said Sorokin, fall victim to their own narrow-mindedness.  He goes on:

“The great crisis of Sensate culture is here in all its stark reality. Before our very eyes this culture is committing suicide. If it does not die in our lifetime, it can hardly recover from the exhaustion of its creative forces and from the wounds of self-destruction. Half-alive and half-dead, it may linger in its agony for decades; but its spring and summer are definitely over….I hear distinctly the requiem that the symphony of history is playing in its memory.”

Sorokin’s predictions for this end-game scenario (remember, he’s writing this nearly seventy-five years ago) were as follows:

1. The boundary between true and false, and beautiful and ugly, will erode.  Conscience will disappear in favor of special interest groups. Force and fraud will become the norm; might will become right, and brutality rampant. It will be a bellum omnium contra omnes, and the family will disintegrate as well. “The home will become a mere overnight parking place.”

2. Sensate values “will be progressively destructive rather than constructive, representing in their totality a museum of sociocultural pathology….The Sensate mentality will increasingly interpret man and all values ‘physicochemically,’ ‘biologically,’ ‘reflexologically,’ ‘endocrinologically,’ ‘behavioristically,’ ‘economically’…[etc.].”

3. Real creativity will die out. Instead, we shall get a multitude of mediocre pseudo-thinkers and vulgar groups and organizations. Our belief systems will turn into a strange chaotic stew of science, philosophy, and magical beliefs.  “Quantitative colossalism will substitute for qualitative refinement.” What is biggest will be regarded as best. Instead of classics, we shall have best-sellers. Instead of genius, technique. Instead of real thought, Information. Instead of inner value, glittering externality.  Instead of sages, smart alecs. The great cultural values of the past will be degraded; “Michelangelos and Rembrandts will be decorating soap and razor blades, washing machines and whiskey bottles.”

4. Freedom will become a myth. “Inalienable rights will be alienated; Declarations of Rights either abolished or used only as beautiful screens for an unadulterated coercion. Governments will become more and more hoary, fraudulent, and tyrannical, giving bombs instead of bread; death instead of freedom; violence instead of law.” Security will fade; the population will become weary and scared.  “Suicide, mental disease, and crime will grow.”

5. The dies irae of transition will not be fun to live through, but the only way out of this mess, he wrote, is precisely through it. Under the conditions outlined above, the “population will not be able to help opening its eyes [this will be a very delayed phase in the U.S., I’m guessing] to the hollowness of the declining Sensate culture…. As a result, it will increasingly forsake it and shift its allegiance to either Ideational or Idealistic values.” Finally, we shall see the release of new creative forces, which “will usher in a culture and a noble society built not upon the withered Sensate root but upon a healthier and more vigorous root of integralistic principle.” In other words, we can expect “the emergence and slow growth of the first components of a new sociocultural order.”

Hey, one can only hope.


Blogger Pete Soderman said...

He certainly nailed points 1 - 4 spot-on didn't he? There's a problem with point 5, in my opinion, though: he had no way of predicting climate change, and that's the hooker. In my view, there simply isn't enough time for the "great awakening," especially in the United States, before it's too late to mitigate what is possibly a species-ending event - for our species.

Corporate media is doing everything they can to maintain the hologram Americans live within, and as long as they keep doing that, and Americans keep falling for it, the eyes will remain the wool. (now where did I read that?)


11:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Obviously correct, and (being ensconced at Harvard 1930-59, and managing to die in 1968) he also was not able to predict the nationwide epidemic of Cranial-Rectal Embedment (CRE) that wd eventually sweep the nation; which is why I put that remark I did in brackets in pt. 5. If there is one population on this earth that is not going to wake up, or open its eyes, it's the American one.

Still, I thought it might be nice to break the mold and end the essay on a cheery note for a change, inasmuch as Sorokin was more or less optimistic himself. I suppose, if he were alive today, he'd hafta rethink that position, and dedicate himself to working on a 4-vol. opus called "Cornerstones of American Stupidity." Well, 8-vol., more likely.


12:37 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

"giving bombs instead of bread" is all to prescient. The Bangkok Post reported that the Thai prime minister just returned from China with agreements on alternative energy, high speed rail and water purification. Prime ministers come to the US and get pressured into weapon sales.

4:39 AM  
Blogger steven andresen said...

you quoted or summarized this,

"... The dies irae of transition will not be fun to live through, but the only way out of this mess, he wrote, is precisely through it...."

I have to say I think we do a dis-service to people if we end or summarize the take-away message in "hopeful" terms. Do you have any reason to be "hopeful?"

I tend to think the problem is not whether we are inner directed or outer directed, but that we are saddled with this dichotomy in our understanding in the first place.

I say the distinction itself is the problem because neither of the two alternatives that it leaves us with, focusing on our inner messages, or on our outer sensations, allows us to pay attention to reason, i.e., the arguments at hand. I submit neither our sensations nor our inner feelings or passions will get us there.

And so, lost in the endless argument brought on by this distinction, I insist the end will be violent, fearsome, and final.

Do you have any reason to think that as we are saddled with this distinction, we will have the ability or resources to get beyond these self-destructive battles?

I don't think you do.

6:37 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I do apologize for this momentary lapse in my normal pessimism, but I was just trying to follow Sorokin's lead. Don' worry, it won't happen again. But it's not inconceivable (I love double negatives, myself) that we might emerge in a very different place 30 or 40 yrs from now, on the pattern I discuss in the post "La longue duree." One can never be sure; although World Systems Analysis sees much more hope for the periphery than the core. Historically speaking, the core's job is to collapse, this is true. But I'm thinking locally here...given the real possibility of secessionist movements down the line (VT is very active in this regard), severe decentralization could open the door to much improved sociopolitical arrangements. Not for the entire country, of course, but for certain parts of it that have broken away, rejected the dominant way of 'life'.

But like u, I don't rule out ekpyrosis. I even like saying the word, and try to do so several times a day. I find it clears the nasal passages.

However, you misunderstand me, and Sorokin, regarding the role of reason. It is seriously weakened or eclipsed in Ideational cultures, but does flourish in Sensate ones. Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, for example; the Scientific Revolution was hardly devoid of reason. It's just that as time goes on, and Sensate culture gets increasingly debilitated, its reasoning abilities get increasingly hollowed out. It turns into the opposite of what it is supposed to be, as Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School carefully demonstrated. Unfortunately, Sorokin didn't devote very much of his work to David Brooks and Thos Friedman, but here we have perfect examples of what he was talking about for late-Sensate culture: two utter buffoons who write complete nonsense being celebrated by the 'intelligentsia' of that culture as cutting-edge thinkers. I remember attending a lecture yrs ago by some guy from the Brookings Institution, and his talk was literally insane (America only recently became an empire, he argued; only recently became aggressive). And I thought: Here's a guy who doesn't know shit abt American history working for Brookings, while I cdn't get a job as a janitor there. (He was subsequently appointed ambassador to Belgium or the EU or some such thing.) I've literally watched complete idiots get standing ovations for saying things like, "In the sixties, not much was happening in the US"--I kid u not (can't remember speaker's name, but this was at the USDA in Philly, ca. 2002).

But during the Sensate golden age, we get Voltaire, and many more besides. So it's hardly the case that reason and critical thinking are not part of the equation.

Think about it.


7:37 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

On another note, I've been thinking a lot lately about coming out w/a line of T-shirts. Of course, I can't market this from Mexico, and I don't have time to do it anyway; but maybe one of you WAFers might be interested. Some yrs ago, while living in Seattle--true story, folks--some woman showed up at my front door w/a T-shirt that said: "Maybe Morris Berman Was Right!" (I can't remember if we slept together as a result, but let's not get distracted here. Actually, I'm pretty sure we didn't. I know, I'm an idiot.) What I'm thinking of now, however, is a series of T-shirts that say:

O&D! (Onwards and Downwards!)
CRE (Cranial-Rectal Embedment)
HRIR (Heads Rammed in Rumps)

and of course:

WAFers Unite!

Any takers? We cd make a killing, then plow the $ into an Institute for the Promotion of CRE.


7:50 AM  
Anonymous Julian said...

But I bet Sorokin didn't foresee this:


8:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


There is, for some odd reason, no ref to Kim in Sorokin's work. (I checked the index under buttocks, implants, psoriasis, marriage, and divorce.) However, he knew the type. After all, he said that the boundary between the beautiful and the ugly wd erode, and that instead of inner value we wd get glittering externality. Also, despite the fact that millions of American men wd love to get their hands on her rear end, I can't help wondering if the woman is, objectively speaking, actually grotesque. And thus, the perfect mayor of Glendale CA, and the appropriate sort of person to be invited to the White House--by a president whose shoes ache for barf.



8:12 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Back to the T-shirt thing: We also need one that says, quite simply, Rom Mittney.

Rom is not likely to defeat Mr. O; all the polls have the latter ahead of the game, so we are probably going to have four more yrs of Millard Fillmore. Rom will, by mid-November, be no more a public figure than is John Kerry (remember him?). Hence, there is a very narrow window in which to discuss his philosophy, aka Mittnism. I confess, I have scoured his cutting-edge books, and have not been able to extract the 7 key principles of Mittnism. Hence, I'm wondering if WAFers cd put their collective heads together and, in the time we have left, generate a discussion of the basics of this important new philosophy. Let's show the world that Rom is more than just a walking haircut!


8:23 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Good to see a post again since you've been busy with WAF. Hopefully this link will come through b/c it perfectly illustrates several points you made in the post and comments.


Prominent networks covering the "news"--ducks crossing the highway--have completely surrendered all responsibility to critical thinking, unbiased reporting or actual information that could even remotely help anyone understand the mess we're in.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Julian said...


I think all this Sunday morning brainstorming is shaping into something truly revolutionary. I see two (2) major themes converging into what is likely to be a very successful T-shirt operation. Please let me explain:

Theme 1: CRE (Cranial-Rectal Embedment).

Theme 2: Kim Kardasian’s oversized ass.

Convergence: T-shirt with a picture of 300+ million Americans having their heads up Kim’s gigantic ass.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Along with killing millions and millions in novel ways, the first half of the Western twentieth century produced an interesting late flowering - Spengler, Toynbee, Sorokin, etc. of civilizational criticism. The two seem to be linked. The second half of the century seems by comparison to be somewhat less wantonly murderous as well as critically far less daring.

Perhaps the violence and apocalyptism of the coming ekpyrosis exists in direct proportion to the health of the successor culture - i.e. if we want a chastened, life-affirming world for our great-great grandchildren we need to accept that the intervening decades/centuries be as awful as possible without actually killing us off or irreparably damaging our capacity to reproduce culture.

And by the way, Sorokin's prediction about Rembrandt appearing on banal consumer products was spot on - except his name appeared on canker sore treatment toothpaste, not durable consumer goods.


9:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Metaphorically spkg, those heads are rammed up her ass already. After all, her political aspirations are not going to be limited to some suburb of LA. I suggest a billboard for her campaign, showing her ass, with the slogan: "She's All You've Got (And It's A Lot!)" This wd work for T-shirts as well.


10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Rationality and Civilization/Culture

It's interesting how different people cover the same ground in different ways. Your account of Sorokin's description of Sensate cultures reminds me of Max Weber's concept of rationalization, which he specifically linked to both Capitalism and "the Protestant Work Ethic" (apparently his original coinage was simply "Protestant ethic" and it has been elaborated slightly for clarity in popular usage). The drive to get rational control of every aspect of life in order to exploit it economically ends up flattening everything into repetitive, meaningless abstractions. The sense of being alive is stifled and finally it seems (in many modern "advanced" societies), destroyed. People become automatons unable to deal with anything they haven't been programmed for. Both of the most famous dystopian novels, Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four seem to be profoundly influenced by this concept even if they take different tacks on the mechanism used by the state to achieve rational control. What we have today seems to be a weird melding of the two dystopias. A very good explanation of rationalization in the sociological sense, and also a very good illustration of many specific cases, is George Ritzers The McDonaldization of Society... you could post pages and pages of examples from that into this blog and it would fit perfectly. In another wierd irony, though, he keeps pumping out a new edition every few years. Apparently it's used as a text at many colleges and he can make money by constantly updating it. I wonder if he has noticed that he is affected by McDonaldization, too?

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Notthat it really matters given that both parties are committed to Empire and serve the interests of the 1%, but I think Romney will win and win decisively. I feel the election of Obama was a way for white people to assuage their guilt.Having done so whites will have little reason to vote for him a second time ( also the fact that he has accomplished near nothing doesn't help his chances much either). He also got destroyed in the 2010 mid-terms essentially because the Democratic base stayed home. So what meaningful thing has happened in the past 2 years to inspire them to come out in November? He'll milk the Bin Laden killing feverously but the economy will ultimately sink him. Hell, as repulsive as Romney is, Obama deserves nevertheless to lose.He destroyed the Constitution, keeps 155 innocent men prisoners in Gitmo, continues renditions, did nothing for homeowners, and supported the crackdowns on OWS. Let him go home at 52 and perhaps there he may discover that he was little more than a foot soldier for the national security state.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


He'll never figure that out; he's as dumb as the rest of the population. I hope yr rt, and that he loses: 4 more yrs of a vapid douche bag mouthing empty platitudes will be too much to bear. But I fear he'll squeak it out: Rom is so tedious that I doubt the majority will vote for him, and the current polls suggest I'm right.

As for myself, there are two major reasons why I want to see a Mittney victory:

1. We shall all get a chance to learn the philosophical principles of Mittnism. Aristotle, move over. I may even apply for the Mittney Chair of Mittnism at Bob Jones University.

2. I'll have more of a chance of getting closer to our turkey of an ex-pres, and projectile vomit on his Guccis:


"A bit out of taste"--Nancy Pelosi
"Best place to launch a hot meal, in my opinion"--Ralph Nader
"It actually *is* kinda funny, when you think about it"--Tina Fey
"Berman's my kinda guy"--Stanley Fish
"Damn! Those shoes cost a cool G"--Michelle Obama



2:12 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Tell the truth and run."--Yugoslav proverb

Sorokin needs to be replaced with Aldous Huxley: before any optimism arises, remember that the world has to go through the coming race war scrambling for diminishing resources. There will be a white bloc, a yellow bloc, and an African and South American bloc.
Think of the world before the lunacy of WWI began, wherein it was a rush for empires. More people chasing fewer goods is a great setting for the war of all against all to begin.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Trivia is just the other side of powerlessness. What’s the point of thinking about serious matters when the system has already decided you will have no say in them? Americans are just performing the role our oligarchs think they deserve, the role of children who are sent out to play while the adults discuss serious matters (now mostly in secret). Always remember, politics is where citizens in a civil society decide what kind of society they want to have. Politics in its essence is the the most important thing, the very opposite of trivia, serious people like the Ancient Greeks knew this. Yet in America, even the most intelligent have accepted that politics is supposed to be 99% trivia horse race and 1% issues. It would take some very serious questioning and action that is nowhere on the horizon to even begin to change things. So the controls are locked, as are the doors, and there aren’t any parachutes anyway, so it all comes down to a guessing game where we try figure out how hard they decide to press the throttle as the plane heads into the looming mountain.

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Julian said...

Go Mitney! Or Romney! Or whatever his name is. We need somebody that can truly expedite this empire collapse thing. Hope and change only took us so far. We need real action here, dammit. More wars, more bailouts, more taxcuts. Gotta kick some Ay-ranian ass, too! Gotta get more frackin’ goin’. Mitney can deliver, dammit! Yes, he can!

I personally wanna vote for the guy, so can somebody tell me how you spell his name? Thank you very much—I appreciate your time.

7:54 PM  
Anonymous White Indian said...

@unknown, 4:20 PM
I agree, brutal wars for dwindling resources are definitely in our future. And there's no way they won't be nuclear and biological, which could be an extinction level event for our species and even more animals. Perhaps a few humans will survive in fallout shelters or in the southern hemisphere.

After reading John Gray's Straw Dogs this weekend, my outlook is as bleak as ever.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Shall we call u Dances With Wolves? I really enjoyed that film.


I'm sorry, but this scattershot approach is not acceptable. What we need to do on this blog is lay out, very specifically, the Principles of Mittnism, which will be the New World Philosophy. Pls give me some bullet points, at the very least.


10:09 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Yes, it is likely will enter the Willardness, if only for reasons of sheer boredom. Here are some things to bank on.
1. Secretary of War Newt Gingrich (his reward for staying the race long enough wreck it for Santorum.) Though, sadly, no war with Iran, I remain convinced our oligarchs are too cowardly to risk this. Now that the Arctic is ice free, I predict a war on Eskimos, it’s winnable.
2. At least a couple more Supreme Court appointees with concentration camp guard ethics in the Scalia mold will finally puts an end to reproductive rights for women. (stock up on birth control now while you still can)
3. Massive tax cuts for the wealthy on a scale that will bring Caligula’s corpse back to life. In fact we could see some kind of welfare in reverse where the government gives each billionaire a check for a billion dollars.
4. We will learn all about Mormonism, children in school will be taught the story of Mitt’s valiant effort to convert France into Utah on the Seine. (I wonder if he had succeeded, would they have pulled up all the grape vines?)
5. Neo-prohibition. Dana Carvey’s Church Lady will be in charge of this war against what was once known as “wine, women, and song.”

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

There was a survey on yahoo today (sponsored by Tide, btw) "Is it important to teach your kids about patriotism?" over 80% of respondents said "yes", and saying "no" had the qualifier "they will learn about it in history class". So in essence, there was no "no". CRE tidbit of the day, I guess.

Great post, Dr. B. Amazing how precisely Sorokin described the late stage. I didn't sense as much of the optimism per se, unless one can be optimisitic that a flower will eventually grow on the ground over which one is buried.

11:50 PM  
Anonymous White Indian said...


Dances was a good film!

"White Indian" comes from chapter 13 of James Axtell's book, The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America (Oxford University Press,) which is also a journal article The White Indians of Colonial America http://www.shsu.edu/~jll004/colonial_summer09/whiteindians.pdf

And if you're going to go to Bob Jones, remember this song:

Down Carolina way.
Lived a man name o' Big B.J.
B.J. went and got a school.
Founded on caucasian rule.
Bumper sticker on his Ford
Says "Honkies If You Love the Lord!"

~Steve Taylor
We Don't Need No Colour Code

12:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


All of that seems very gd. Except that we need to nuke Toronto and Paris, and then send troops into Monaco and Luxembourg. As for the Eskimos: Let 'em eat whale blubber.
On the home front, required studies of Mittnism from kindergarten up, including memorization of the Seven Key Points of the Mittnaic Creed.


2:14 AM  
Blogger Russ said...

There's certainly much that's appealing about Sorokin's work, but I'm put off by the dualistic categories of spiritual vs. material, inner vs. outer. They're not all wrong, but the categories used to frame his diagnosis seem to be themselves part of the problem the west faces.

4:02 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, I guess these are "Ideal Types," so to speak. Which is probably why he had that intermediate category of Ideational.


6:13 AM  
Anonymous brian said...

1. Never say anything you won't repudiate later.
2. Always follow your "conscience" and never waiver from that (see 1)
3.If shit is running down the back of your window, skip reflecting on the atrocities you are creating.
4. If you do look back on the shit you have created for other beings be sure to laugh
That is as far as I wish to go down the Mittney rabbit hole.

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Julian said...


After thorough research and serious analysis, I have finally identified the 7 Principles of Mittnism (which will soon be the New World Philosophy):

1. Let them eat cake,
2. “Corporations are people, my friend”,
3. Christianity good, Islam bad,
4. Christianity good, Mormonism better,
5. Obamacare bad, Mittnicare not my fault,
6. Austerity good, job creator bailouts great,
7. Job creators good, vulture capitalists better.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

"Seven Key Points of the Mittnaic Creed"

Now downloadable for $149.99. You will learn:

* That we're number one
* That the earth and everyone else is number two
* That we must step in and on number two

Isn't Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (1953) looking less like fiction and more like prophecy? O&D

11:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I think we are getting somewhere. Perhaps we can publish an online summary, "Mittnism for Dummies," along with "Dummies for Mittnism"; which is a tad redundant, I know.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oner reads Jared Diamond's COLLAPSE (how do you underscore?) and suspects that the world's bosses have also read it. With the days of cheap goodies gone, they realize that the getting will become more and more difficult. Couple their interests to an obedient power state (US, China, India, it makes to matter) and have the population believe that their interests and the bosses' are the same. All power blocs will be dependent on technology; one can easily imagine that the exclusively technical efforts will result in the unintended consequence of Total World System Collapse. I think the bosses sense this and want to enjoy themselves as much as possible before this happens.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Better than TV is vids of Richard WOLFF http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZU3wfjtIJY Many more on YouTube.
One can also go to YouTube to catch George Carlin's final thoughts on America=NOT pretty or jolly.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Quebec, the students are staging a three month long epic protest against the last bastion of social democracy going the Anglo way as in the rest of North America.

May Day up here will be interesting. At least it will be a demonstration of the minority dissident ideational current and a way for more to find each other.

On a side note, Chris Hedges was echoing some of your thinking in his latest column, "Welcome to the Asylum."

2:35 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

There are probably some people here who are dog lovers. But for the life of me, I do not understand the American fascination with dogs and other pets. They treat these house pets with more care and love than they treat human other beings who are homeless or poor.

How parents can mix a small baby with a dangerous animal like this is beyond me. Read and cry (I did not watch the video because I do not have the guts/stomach to see things like this):

Baby Killed By Dog In Henderson, Nevada On His First Birthday (VIDEO)
Posted: 04/29/2012 4:28 pm Updated: 04/29/2012 4:34 pm


4:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, that was a very Bermanesque essay, I hafta say. Pretty much the sorta stuff I've been writing, off and on, since 1981..


For a lot of people, pets are like Prozac: they fill a void in the soul.


6:15 PM  
Blogger J. P. CAZADOR said...

Tony U,

While their is nothing wrong with pets and they can make great companions, Americans take them to extremes, just like they do with everything else. We've all seen cases in America where an injured animal evokes far more sympathy from the general public than an injured person or even an injured child does. This is quite interesting because it shows how Americans subconciously find themselves as repugnant and detestable as does everyone does, and it manifests itself in this way. I would sincerely much rather have a well behaved dog or cat as company than to have to associate with most Americans. As a person I am quite gregarious, but I must admit I was like a hermit during the last few years I lived in the U.S. and had I not been travelling abroad so much during that time I may have even owned a pet. Now that I live in the Dominican Republic and am settled down, I could have a pet, but see no need for one since I am finally surrounded with decent, full fledged human beings to interact with on a daily basis.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Besides, consider what Rom Mittney did to his dog. This alone cd sink his election chances. Myself, I'd much rather talk to his dog than to him; although the prospect of Harvard setting up a Department of Mittnaic Studies, tied to an interdisciplinary program on Kim Kardashian as a political force, does suggest that the US is entering a new, and very creative, phase. I'll certainly be disappointed if Rom doesn't pick Kim as his running mate:



9:23 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Your choice of Kim for VP would probably do Mitt less harm than Sarah Palin’s recommendation that he pick crackpot congressman Allen West. It’s just like Sarah to come up with such a self serving choice, as West would be the only pick who could possibly eclipse her as worst ever choice for VP. Unfortunately for those of us who hope for some entertainment on our road trip to doomsday, Romney is expected to go very safe and boring on his choice for VP.




11:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morris - you mentioned the phenomenon of "knowledge being reduced to one source" - particularly Aquinas.

This is exactly what right-wing "catholics" are doing in their misguided adulation of the current pope as the most important vector/inspiration for the "return" of Western culture to its presumed "spiritual" roots.

Simultaneously many/most of his supporters are very keen on Aquinas as the penultimate philosophical/theological "authority" on things to do with religion.

The image on the cover of your book Coming To Our Senses pictures in very stark terms the nature of the problem we face.

Namely armed to the teeth patriarchal "culture" defending itself against, and at war with the feminine principle - the Goddess or Shakti. At war with the very possibility of Coming To Our Senses.

Ratzinger was of course responsible for engineering the takeover of the church by the ultra patriarchal opus dei and similar "traditionalist" outfits. Their categorical and completely irrational denial of the possibility of women becoming priests sums up their ideology.

Why any sensitive woman would want to be a priest in such an inherently misogynist organization is completely beyond me.

The procees involved, and the cultural consequences of this takeover are described in the recent book by Matthew Fox titled The Popes War Against the Church.

11:35 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

On the pet issue. A lot of Americans like to weaponize their pets to compensate for their lack of power over their lives. I knew a person who loved to talk about how her pit bull would take off like a missile after anything that moved.
I noticed right wing hate talker Michael Savage has started bringing his dog into the studio. He likes to refer to Democrats as “demon rats” and liberals as “vermin”. Nice to hear this from a Jew with a PhD who has to know that Hitler used that term. But I guess that’s how you get a show heard on more than 200 radio stations every day in the good ‘ol USA. While we’re on the subject, Hitler also loved dogs. At the end, in the bunker, he was even thoughtful enough to poison his favorite German Shepherd so it wouldn’t be captured by the Russians.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I think u misunderstood me, and Sorokin as well. He was saying that knowledge during these Idealistic periods was *not* reduced to one source. When I referred to Aeschylus and Aquinas, I meant only that they were great examples, thinkers among thinkers; not the only thinker. These periods--5th and 4th C's BC, or AD 1200-1350, had many great writers and scholars. Of course, I don't have any control over what rt-wing Catholics are doing w/Aquinas, except to say that the word catholic with a small c means broad-minded, inclusive--the opposite of what has happened to Catholicism with a large C.

Also be apprised of the fact that in Italy, the press refers to the Pope as Papa Ratzi. Breath of fresh air, that.


12:18 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Tony U,

How many babies are killed by dogs? How many babies are killed by humans?

Madelyn Albright said that half a million dead Iraqi children were a price worth paying. That remark will be mentioned in her obituary in the NYT, and a clip of her saying it will be shown on TV.

I am sure she regrets having said it, but does she regret having done it?

And “we” are still doing it.

The longer I’m stuck here in God’s own country, the more I love my cats. They don’t pretend to be anything except what they are – and that’s a lot, without material possessions.

Paul Ehrlich says that the optimal population of Earth will be between 1.5 and 2 billion, “if ‘we’ act wisely” – but ‘we’ won’t. By the end of the end of the next 100 or 150 years the human population of our ravaged planet will probably have crashed to as little as a quarter of a billion, and that won’t be the fault of dogs or cats.

David Rosen

1:26 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

On the home front, required studies of Mittnism from kindergarten up, including memorization of the Seven Key Points of the Mittnaic Creed.

So, by extension...
if Romney pens a chapbook of poetry...
can we call it The Mittanic Verses ?

3:18 AM  
Blogger Jerome Langguth said...

Dear Dr, Berman,

Please accept the following attempt to poetically express the heart of Mittnism and what it means for America's future. All of the words were taken from the website of Mittney himself.

Rom Mittney’s Plan


It’s a moral imperative
Rom Mittney believes in America
Rescued from its present precipice.


Mittnism provides the roadmap
The looming long-term threat
The Values inherited from our Founders


Liberty, opportunity, and free enterprise
Prosperity and strength
A point of no return may well be approaching

6:19 AM  
Anonymous shep said...


Animals ain't the problem.

It's us.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


That's a gd start. It's really a pity the Walking Haircut (W.H.) won't wind up in the W.H., and that we are condemned to 4 more yrs of Millard Fillmore. Rom could revolutionize our lives, give us a whole new fresh start, breathe life into late-stage cancer-capitalism. He's like Bush--utterly vapid--only he can speak English. Mittnism is what this country needs. I weep to think that by the end of the yr, the guy will be as relevant as John Kerry.


That's a gd one. The thing is, Rom, in himself, is a work of poetry. When I see his brave, bold look, I can't help thinking of Keats, or even Shakespeare. Really, only Mittnism can save us now.


7:52 AM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB, Anon et al:

On Aeschylus Aquinas, etc.

Bertrand Russell, wit and rationalist enfant terrible, debated Frederick Copleston, Jesuit scholar and historian of philsophy on BBC radio I think back in the Forties or Fifties. Viewed from either side, it was an irresistable force meeting an immovable object. Yet the contest was fairly conducted with coherence and grace breig attributes of both parties. Could hardly think of that occuring in our fractional, idealogical climate of opinion.

Also, in his "History of Western Philosophy," when covering Aquinas whose Aristoteleanism Russell certainly did not follow, Russell remarks that one of the greatest virtues of the "school man" is that he presented his opponents' views fairly before attempting to refute them. Most secular philosophers today could hardly be so gracious in their scholarly diplomacy.

--Mark N.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Dr. Berman:

I may have to join this (http://millardfillmoresociety.org/) to compliment my John Tyler fanclub membership and Rom Mittney bobble head collection.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

You guys make me laugh sometimes. So I take it that folks like me with pets must be devoid of spirituality. I find pets to be away of connecting back to nature. The human ego/id(whatever) has estranged man from the rest of the species on the planet; which I believe is partly responsible for the impending collapse. This mantra that man has some exalted position over the the rest of the species on the planet just because he is self aware (although I don't think many americans are so) and was given rule by some diety has irritated me my whole life. I'am a firm believer that human relations are important to a healthy cultural and social existence but I cannot agree with the preceeding thread. The interaction with other species (nature)can be rewarding and healthy. I know from reading this site every day that you folks are quite intelligent and perceptive, more so than me, but perhaps you are getting to pedantic and need to take a step back and look at the whole picture.
OH! and by the way, I have goats horses, chickens, cats, a dog and birds on my small farm.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I jus' wanna say that I live on a street where bulls and burros wander occasionally, and I love it. I find it very reassuring. BTW, you might wanna check out ch. 2 of "Coming to Our Senses," see what u think.


10:36 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

David M:

Thank you.

Some have Descarte before the horse.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Lance M. Foster said...

Interesting times. Everyplace is getting militarized. The cops in this town are getting a half-million dollar assault vehicle, while our post office is getting shut down. And this is the capital of Montana

12:09 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...


Sir Ken Robinson once said that if you are not prepared to be wrong then you will never come up with anything original and creative.

That you mentioned two phrases in one sentence – “God’s own country” and “without material possessions” – shows where your originality and creativity lies.

I will rather place my full faith and trust on the intelligence of human toddlers than to waste my time trusting adults who live according to God’s pronouncements and copied/superstitious intelligence.

At the end of the day, we both agree that human toddlers (whether in Iraq or in God’s own country) are raised by adults who hold lots of beliefs about lots of things. If we look inwards as adults, maybe we will discover how OUR thoughts, actions, and behaviors are based on uncreative/unoriginal beliefs.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


One of the sayings on this blog is "Bad Is Good" (another T-shirt, perhaps). In other words, given the fact that we are going down the tubes, we might as well get it over with. If some event helps that process move forward, it's by definition a gd thing. I propose razing every library in the country (not being used very much anyway), including the NYPL at 5th Ave and 42nd St., paving the space over, and putting a half-million dollar assault vehicle there. Frankly, we cannot have too many assault vehicles. I also feel that every American citizen, including Rick Santorum's 3-yr-old daughter (and a member of the NRA), shd be required to carry an AK-47. Finally, we need a national referendum on which to bomb 1st, Toronto or Paris.


3:19 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Dear Maury,

Excellent reminder, this post is. Thanks.

You know, reflecting on what you're pointed out re Sorokin, I have to say that I am hard pressed to come up with good candidates from today's pool of thinkers.

In the 'golden' ages, what distinguishes the great thinkers is that knowledge is highly concentrated in them; Sorokin says they work constructively, that is, they attempt synthesis. Even during the mid-Sensate period (17-18 C's) we had integral/synthetic thinkers. But the late 18th century was really telling, like a great turning point. You see it in Kant, and then Hegel: in order to construct an integral world picture, the only resources that seemed to be left were (for Kant) the "transcendental unity of apperception"(ego), and (for Hegel) "Geist" (Spirit or Mind). This is the embryo of the Ideational culture again, I think.

As Kant/Hegel works itself out (so to speak) in the culture at large, you get an extreme philosophy of criticism or hermeneutics, which is most European philosophy (and postmodernism as a branch), pitted against the champions of Sensate culture (neo-empiricism, neo-Enlightenment Anglo-Saxon philosophy). Politically/economically, this is (roughly) Marxism vs. libertarian- or liberal/democratic-utilitarianism.

It might be instructive to compare and contrast Zizek and Peter Singer here ... the former a jazz-master of socio-cultural and philosophic references, the latter a patient, careful rationalist. But both thinkers are very symptomatic, I think, of Sensate culture.

Do you have any thoughts here, esp. re Zizek? Something really bothers me about his thinking, but I can't quite pin it down. He writes mounds of stuff, but it's just a massive critique or reconsideration of this or that -- I walk away head spinning. With the neo-Enlightenment crowd, it all seems to amount to "does X have a deductively valid argument for Y?" and so on. OK, with Aquinas you had a form of that (he was a scholastic after all), but still, Aquinas said Mass, had a divine vision, etc. etc. Peter Singer gives to charity ...

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Julian said...

Greetings, Comrades!

Happy May Day to you all, from the country formerly known as Socialist Republic of Romania, where even after 21 years of corrupt Washington Consensus-engineered neoliberal policies, we still have socialized medicine and state subsidized education, and we like it that way. Not to mention that May Day is still an official holiday here, celebrated with cookouts and family outings.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say that I have a dog, a cat, and a small water turtle. None of my pets have been weaponized, nor have they murdered anybody that I know of. The cat has been known to bring in dead mice and drop them on the front steps, but I have no proof that she carried out the killings. Judging by how gentle this cat is with my daughter, I suspect those mice committed suicide...

Farewell, Comrades! And don’t forget: Bloggers of the World, Unite!

6:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank u for this disclosure. Personally, I am very partial to small water turtles.


I haven't read boatloads of Zizek, I must admit. But I hafta tell u, his little bk on Lacan, who is also impenetrable, is just abt the best thing I ever read on the subject.


9:19 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I once got dumped (actually I've been dumped many times) because the girl thought her dog, Judy, didn't like me. I mean why continue the relationship if it only leads to a dysfunctional household, right?
As for militarization, I happened to arrive in Thailand during Songkran, a holiday in which traditionally Thais sprinkle a little water on each other as a symbol of purification of the soul. Oh, but that's not enough for the foreign tourists. Now Songkran is replete with high speed water guns which they shoot in the eyes of people riding motorcycles sometimes with children aboard. But that's not enough either. The water is not room temperature. It's ice water. So days after Songkran everyone is walking around with colds and ear infections. Cambodia has a similar holiday with none of the agressiveness by the way.
I do recall an article by Hedges in which he makes the point that the US has either been at war or is on a constant war footing that none of the more feminine human qualities such as kindness, compassion, understanding are ever allowed to flourish. It even extends to the elementary school level where there is this obsession with total quiet and straight lines, uniforms and of course zero tolerance.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous JWO said...

MB: the CRE gets deeper...


Mike: Ow, my brain! Though Zizek can get obscure, at least he comments on the here and now. His book "Living in the End Times" my be the most interesting to people here.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Dan, what's bad about total quiet and straight lines?

9:57 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Enough about my miserable country! Found a really good article of what can be in this world. If I was younger, and had a little more intelligence, I would join Castro's island Monastery. Here is an opening quote from the article and the link, if anyone is interested.


"In his book, In Cuba, Father Ernesto Cardenal -- the famous Nicaraguan priest, revolutionary and poet who is known to don a black beret a la Che Guevara -- described Cuba as a giant monastery, with the residents living austere but meaningful lives in service to others. While this is a romantic portrait, of course, and Father Cardenal said as much, there is still much truth to it.

1:16 PM  
Anonymous EM said...

"It even extends to the elementary school level where there is this obsession with total quiet and straight lines, uniforms and of course zero tolerance."

My memory of elementary school (and all of the rest of my schooling, actually) was of a place obsessed primarily with competition and individual "achievement" of a narrow and proscribed nature. One was encouraged to be an "individual", in the sense of "compete individually - cooperation is cheating!". We were urged to discover the rewards of "hard work" and "achievement", where said “work” fell into a narrow range of generally meaningless memorization, attention to pointless detail, and useless “production” of so-called “original” material in the service of grade-grubbing (excuse me “achievement”!), with an eye towards eventually transferring those same mercenary skills to the service of money-grubbing (I mean, “achievement!”). Process might be cleverly questioned, but never purpose - the purpose was “achievement” - a.k.a, beat out the “competition” for the carefully doled-out “rewards”. I also remember being encouraged to "develop one's talents", by which was meant “find the best way you can be of use to the capitalist system.”

But then, I went to private schools, where we were presumably being trained to be technocratic flunkies rather than mere service drones. The training of the professional-class flunkies - who are required to actually buy into the belief system to be useful - is slightly different than the drone-training of the masses. Seriously, the experience of being trained in those places was quite interesting, I learned SO much about how things work....

I think I’ve wandered a little off-topic, but oh well...it probably ties back somehow.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sanctuary, what's "bad" about quiet and straight lines isn't the lines, it's the arbitrariness of it all. It is not reasonable to not give reasons or ask for reasons for doing things. Americans are too mindless as it IS.

It's basically, "you must believe or do this, WITHOUT A REASON."

That can easily translate to "You must believe Bill Nye is a heretic against God if he says the light comes from the sun instead of the moon, WITHOUT A REASON."

Or it could translate into, "You must support our wars, WITHOUT A REASON."

You see how this can escalate.

It's not about the lines. It's about arranging everything according to your preferences, regardless of the mental consequences.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous phil blank said...

We've discussed this before and you weren't too keen on my analysis, but, I think we are an incredibly spiritually obsessed culture (as your wandering god never-ending new! paradigm shift explanation details) as a direct side effect of our materialistic basis. The two seem linked together tightly. What we need is less spirituality and less materialism and more soulfulness (acceptance of paradox as in WG), a distinction the Greeks you point to would have recognized.

Anyway, don't mean to pester you with this, but your own work has opened my eyes to these distinctions so I thought I'd throw it in there. Thanks as always for your work and example.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

God is under control in "God's own country". Of course, some people love dogs and money as they love God and as they love other human beings - as a means to an end, and the end is self, self-love, self-interest, egotism, egoism, and not about God or Dog (what is "dog" or "god" when you write it backwards?):

Eric Antunes Accused Of Having Sex With Girlfriend's Dog
05/ 2/2012 2:47 pm


CEO Pay Grew 127 Times Faster Than Worker Pay Over Last 30 Years: Study
05/ 2/2012 5:16 pm Updated: 05/ 2/2012 5:40 pm


Former exec gets 22 years in prison for $30-million fraud
04/30/12 06:21 PM ET

Prosecutors produced receipts, credit card records and other evidence at the trial that showed Cohen spent $6 million on private jets, $1.4 million on a diamond ring, $372,000 on a Rolls Royce and $260,000 on an Aston Martin.



6:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Possible future titles from the DAA Press:

1. Obama: The Audacity of Utter and Total Bullshit

2. Obama to Americans: "I Didn't Sell Out, You Stupid Shmucks; *You* Did!"

3. Mittney: The Agony and the Ecstasy

4. Mittney: The Sorrow and the Pity

5. From Rom to Eternity

6. Cornerstones of the Mittnaic Faith

7. Mittnism for Dummies

8. Dummies for Mittnism

9. Berman: The Guantanamo Years

10. Etc.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Lance M. Foster said...

‎"Those who held on to pre-modern beliefs, such as Native Americans, who structured themselves around a communal life and self-sacrifice rather than hoarding and wage exploitation, could not be accommodated within the ethic of capitalist exploitation, the cult of the self and the lust for imperial expansion. The prosaic was pitted against the allegorical. And as we race toward the collapse of the planet’s ecosystem we must restore this older vision of life if we are to survive.

The war on the Native Americans, like the wars waged by colonialists around the globe, was waged to eradicate not only a people but a competing ethic. The older form of human community was antithetical and hostile to capitalism, the primacy of the technological state and the demands of empire. ...Rebuilding this older vision of community, one based on cooperation rather than exploitation, will be as important to our survival as changing our patterns of consumption, growing food locally and ending our dependence on fossil fuels. "

Chris Hedges: Welcome to the Asylum - Truthdig
The World Health Organization calculates that one in four people in the United States suffers from chronic anxiety, a mood disorder or depression—which seems to me to be a normal reaction to our march toward collective suicide. - 2012/04/30

11:00 PM  
Blogger Lance M. Foster said...

A comment on one of Orlov's posts is instructive:

"I agree with you that political change is impossible through the sort of gesturing that typifies slacktivism and the ritual of the peaceful demonstration. However, I believe that there is likewise considerable danger in sitting back and withdrawing from all activities of dissent.
The danger here lies in learned helplessness. One can argue quite reasonably, as you have done in such an engaging manner, that efforts to challenge social structure should be reserved for a more opportune time. Unfortunately, the actual practice of non-involvement in one's surroundings leads to a state of inertia that remains unchanged even when the opportunity to act meaningfully presents itself. Like a caged lion that loses the spark in its eyes as the years of captivity drag on, our seated Buddha becomes rooted in place if he does not periodically get up to use his legs!

This dilemma begs a solution: how does one keep the ability to disobey authority alive in oneself while staying out of battles that cannot be won? The internal dialogue of the obstinate captive is one approach: "Just N more years. I shall will myself to wait it out, and I will come out the other side intact." However, this solution is doomed to failure if undertaken in isolation. Positive affirmation alone is not sufficient to preserve a fighting spirit in the face of forced stasis.

My proposal for a solution harkens back to that ancient and venerable Russian art of 'pofigism', or not giving a flying fuck. Contrary to what one may think on approaching the concept initially, not giving a fuck is a very active process! It takes conscious effort and no small battle against personal anxieties to start ignoring social mores that are past their expiration date and to contravene rules that can no longer be enforced. Engaging in carefully thought out activities of asset reclamation, self-care and general indifference can not only bring about positive material and health benefits, but will also keep the mind acclimatized to dissent.

So, pick up some tricks from parkour to help you get from point A to point B. See if you can take a day off work without consequence. Pick up a piece of furniture that is in the process of getting discarded. Use the time you save for yourself, and do remember to take some deep breaths! Explore the boundaries of the system and find out just how much you can get away with. Doing some or all of these things will initially provoke anxiety in rule-abiding individuals. This anxiety will decrease with time, leaving you better prepared to fend for yourself when the time comes, and generally better off regardless.

People overestimate the change they are capable of producing in the geopolitical sphere, but consistently underestimate the change they can produce in themselves and their immediate social surroundings. We serve the greatest insult to the system enslaving us by simply refusing its claim of ownership on our concept of our surroundings. Those close to you take notice of how you live your life, and will begin flipping it the same bird in good time. Working ideas have a way of spreading."

11:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks again for writing in. In the future, however, pls limit yr posts to no more than 1 a day (and a limit of half a page), as I try to make sure that no one person dominates the airwaves, so to speak. Thank you.

Meanwhile, let's take a look at the HRIR Dept. What I am abt to relate is the US in microcosm, I think.

I was on the fone with cheaptickets.com, trying to arrange a flight to Worcester, Mass. The girl on the other end sounded like she was about 20; she kept saying "wor-ses-ter." It took a long time to work it out, and in the end, it actually wasn't possible to arrange. When we finished, I said to her: "Just so you know, the city is pronounced 'wooster'."

Long silence; maybe, 20 full seconds. Finally she said in a cold voice: "Will there be anything else?"

NOT, "I never knew that; thanks for telling me." God forbid.

I said, "No, but you are in the travel business; you need to know things like that, right?"

Reply: "Will there be anything else?"

Me: "You go back to school?" No, I didn't say that, of course, I just gave up.

So there you have America, in a nutshell: not just a moron, but a moron who wants to remain a moron.


12:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Futile as it is, resistance to the imperial implosion does continue.

Vermont Lawmakers Vote For Constitutional Amendment To Declare That Corporations Are Not People

In January 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee that it was unconstitutional to limit political campaign spending by corporations, thus helping to usher in the current era of the "super PAC." Today, Vermont's state legislature became the latest to call for an amendment to the Constitution that would overturn the controversial court ruling and declare that "money is not speech and corporations are not persons under the U.S. Constitution."

"This resolution is a reaffirmation of the belief, shared by many Vermont communities, that corporations should not be allowed to engage in unlimited spending to unduly influence elections," said Shap Smith, Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives, which passed the measure by a 92-40 vote. The state senate had already passed the measure last week by a vote of 26 to 3.

With today's announcement, Vermont joins Hawaii and New Mexico in the growing grassroots movement to upend the 2010 decision. Similar measures are have made it through at least one legislative chamber in California, Alaska and Iowa.


2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One important feature of our spiritual death, which Sorokin was perhaps too early to see, is the reign of the ephemeral. TV has conditioned contemporary minds to consider only the newest, the latest, as having interest, value, or even reality. How can any movement for change succeed, if it takes more than 6 months?

9:11 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr. Berman
Couple anecdotes: My wife and I dine at an Italian Restaurant here called the olive garden. Gnocchis are on the menu. Numerous times (being as polite as one can) I have informed the waiters and waitresses that it's pronounced nyokke with the e long and the o somewhere in between short and long, not ga-nochy with a long o. I always get the same dumb look. I guess its an american resturaunt.
Steve Allen (one of my favorites) had asked a waitress what the soup of the day was, she went to check and came back to tell him it was soupe du jour.

Anon: you give them too much credit its 3 months or based on when corporation announce quarterly profits.
And it won't be long before federal troops are patrolling the Streets of Montpelier

8:13 AM  
Anonymous KS said...

I realize it's bad form to post anything here that might disrupt the happy group-think of all you self-proclaimed iconoclasts, but you might want to have a look at a recent article on by Eric Klinenberg, here:


The conclusion (and a convincing one it is): "For all our talk of self-reliance and rugged individualism, Americans are actually far less likely to live alone and enjoy key forms of personal autonomy than people in other countries."

9:09 AM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

A nation of fake economy, fake news, fake people, fake a'ss, fake b'oobs, fake love, fake God, fake patriotism, fake leaders, fake money, fake beliefs, fake humans, etc, etc. The only real thing is GRRED:

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson's Resume Is Faked, Third Point Alleges

Lilia Luciano Fired By NBC News Over Botched George Zimmerman Edit

Jeff Burnside, NBC Miami WTVJ Reporter, Fired Over Edited George Zimmerman 911 Call

11:20 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


In future, if u want to post here, u.r. going to hafta stick to the facts and lose the attitude. Up 2u.

As for aloneness, it depends on which article on Klinenberg you read. Discussing the latter in his recent (April 16) New Yorker article, Nathan Heller notes that in 1950, 4 million Americans lived alone, whereas today 31 million do. More than 50% of all US residents are single, nearly 1/3 of all households have just one resident, and 5 million adults younger than 35 live alone. In the yr 2000, 62% of the widowed elderly were living by themselves. Comparative stats with other countries, in literally every article I've read on the subject, don't even come close to this level of human isolation.

Heller goes on to say that "aloneness may come at a cost to the community," and that "it frees the solitary from the sorts of daily interaction that help craft a sense of shared responsibility." He goes on to discuss Robt Putnam's classic work, "Bowling Alone," on how networks of support and reciprocity largely collapsed in the US between 1965 and 1995; and to quote Richard Sennett: "A distinctive character type is emerging in modern society, the person who can't manage demanding, complex forms of social engagement, and so withdraws."

Not a pretty picture, as far as I can make out. The stats are pretty damning, but even beyond that is the *feel* of the country, which is angry and depressed in a way that simply wasn't there when I was a kid.


3:04 PM  
Anonymous Julian said...

Regarding loneliness, this is an excellent new book on this topic, as it relates to technology and American culture in general:

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle

The author is a licensed clinical psychologist and MIT professor, who has been around technology for a long time. Her observations should be take very seriously.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, I read it; a very gd bk, and also mentioned in Heller's New Yorker article. To get a larger picture of how grim the loneliness of Americans is, how comprehensive and devastating, check out "The Lonely American" by Olds and Schwartz. I think it may be time to replace "In God We Trust" on our legal tender with "Lives of Quiet Desperation."


7:49 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Culture of self sends intelligence southwards. It is a crude form of egoism that destroys self and anybody associated with self:

1) The Columbia prostitute involved in the US Secret Service scandal says the US agents were acting like idiots:

"The man slept all night," said the woman

"If I had wanted to, I could have gone through all his documents, his wallet, his suitcase."

"When I said, ‘I'm going to call the police so they pay me my money,' and it didn't bother them, didn't they see the magnitude of the problem?" she said.


2) WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A teenager accused of bludgeoning his parents with a hammer before hosting a party at their home signs jailhouse autographs exclaiming "It's hammer time," calls himself "hammer boy,"

why he allegedly committed the crimes

because he wanted to have a party and knew his parents wouldn't let him.


9:17 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Maybe Hammer Boy can get himself a reality show, book contract, and pasta sauce range. This *is* America, after all!


12:05 PM  
Blogger Sanguillen39 said...

Even though the following link does not pertain with this particular post, it does have relavancy with the blog at large. Also, check out the commentary after the article by Yahoo guests.


12:17 PM  
Anonymous Mike Alan said...

Thanks for posting this piece about Pitrim Sorokin’s predictions. I have not heard of him or his work before now. For those with their eyes open (a small minority in America), Sorokin appears prophetic at this point in time.

The one place Sorokin, and many others including myself, miss the mark is our inability to understand mainstream America’s high level of tolerance for crap, mediocrity, brutality, violence and ignorance. Hence the reason this culture just keeps degrading further and further instead of reforming. This collapse is taking forever! Perhaps we reached such heights of vulgarity that it’s a long way to the bottom where a new emergence can begin.

Also, since Sorokin’s day they have done a good job of containing most of the brutality and violence to the lower and underclass. To most American’s such acts are just part of the way things are as long as they are contained to the perceived “dregs” of society who deserve what they get. This attitude changes when that brutality and violence moves up the hierarchy as Derrick Jensen notes. Then it’s all over the news. However, since the Bush administration and 2008’s money meltdown, brutality and violence are leaking out into other segments that were formerly unscathed and that is causing thoughts to stir in formerly apathetic minds.

Libertarians were the first thought that came to my mind upon reading this sentence:
“But this partial truth is mistaken for the whole truth, and becomes the basis for culture and social life—which is the untruth of the situation.” Vast quantities of internet message boards are overloaded with self-proclaimed Libertarians who believe we will reach Nirvana once every aspect of life is boiled down to a business transaction. On such boards my questions of how there can be much freedom in a society in which EVERYTHING is private property, or how we can have perpetual economic growth on a finite planet are usually met with ridicule and insults instead of solid answers. Much like any good religion or mythology, Libertarianism relies heavily on faith instead of reality.

Anyway, thanks for hosting this blog. It’s always nice to read what the other posters have to say as well as your responses. Keep hammering!

1:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Check out my essay "conspiracy vs. Conspiracy in American History" in "A Question of Values." Libertarians are like marionettes on strings, dancing to the tune of old, destructive ideologies. However, by pursuing these things unconsciously, they (like most Americans) are accelerating our race off the cliff, and so deserve our admiration. Sometimes, history calls for large #s of lemmings, and we have roughly 311 million of them in the US. As Gore Vidal once observed, "Stupidity excites me."

moi aussi-


2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paging Dr. Darwin...
Parents giggling as lion tries to eat baby. "Safety" glass is the only thing preventing appropriate implementation of natural selection.

Youtube: At the Portland Zoo

(If nothing else this is animal cruelty for teasing the lion.)

3:51 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Thanks for the Gore Vidal quote. I think I saw him say that on a Youtube clip a couple of months ago. Vidal is like the older, more seasoned version of depravity in comparison to the young girl in the "God Bless America" trailers, who still has the best expression of naive depravity I have seen yet.

So, if Hammer Boy parlays the income from his reality show & book deal & Craftsman tool endorsement spots and starts up a chain of Florida coffeehouses, should he call his new enterprise....Stand Your Grounds ?

5:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Perhaps also a T-shirt line with slogans like "Lizzie Borden Was Right!" and "Hammer Your Troubles Away".


5:33 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


Those who frequent this wonderful blog tend to be down on techno-dreck, i.e. most modern digital technology. Well, we are in good company. Google “Orthodox Plan Rally Against Dangers of Internet” and see an article in the April 28, 2012 ‘Jewish Daily Forward’.

It says in part:

“Haredi Orthodox leaders are planning what they say will be a massive rally in New York City to call attention to the dangers of modern digital technology.”

“Tens of thousands are expected to gather for a May 20 rally at Citi Field, the Mets’ baseball stadium in Queens. The Hebrew-language Jewish Daily News reported that $1.5 million has been raised so far from donors to pay for the event.”

“‘This will be a mass rally never before seen in the history of Orthodox Jewry in the U.S.,’ one of the organizers said, according to Jewish Daily News, as translated by The Jewish Press. ‘It will be a gathering of unity of all the Jews living in the U.S., a gathering to disseminate information and a prayer rally for the success of Klal Israel’s war on the technology which threatens the sanctity of the homes of Israel.’”

By the way, ‘Israel’ as used above does not mean the modern state of Israel. To many of these people, Zionism is the idolatrous pursuit of a false messiah – as it was to many of my own ancestors.

Is this a New Monastic Option, or an old one? If we are not prepared to go to these lengths, I suggest we listen to Morris Berman when he says, “It’s time to go elsewhere!”

David Rosen

6:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Truly inspirational, really; but if these Jews are not prepared to throw handfuls of wet chopped liver at Google offices (or Nextel, or whatever), I don't think the protest can get very far. Words are one thing; actual chopped liver, another.


8:08 PM  
Anonymous Vince said...


Thank you for the Sorokin piece. It reminded me of Chris Hedges book "Empire of Illusion". Chris wrote about our "electronic hallucinations". This is equivalent to you writing and speaking about how we spend too much time staring into screens.

I am up against this at work on a daily basis. Too many managers spend their time looking into screens. Whereas my fellow coworkers and I must deal with the realities on how to accomplish tasks that are far removed from data sets, graphs, and charts on screens.

The Zeitgeist Movement has based their operating philosophy on an emergent way of life / societal philosophy. Although I am not part of the movement I keep up with some of what they have to say.

I think the mention of cranial baby diarrhea fits perfectly with George Carlin's mention of verbal diarrhea when encountering people who have nothing intelligent to say but somehow lack the capacity to shut the f**k up.

I may just learn how to speak French and move to Quebec. At least when it is cold I would get some peace and quiet, and perhaps I would encounter some people who actually are capable of engaging in meaningful conversation. God forbid that I would encounter such a thing here at home.

I am often reminded of an old movie line when it comes to thinking of moving.

"There is NO Sanctuary."


8:26 PM  
Anonymous Paul Emmons said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I love the T-shirt idea, but (unless I'm hopelessly out of it), the acronyms are too obscure.

Googling for "O&D" for instance, shows that the most-familiar meaning is "Origin and Destination", familiar in the airline and travel industries but not most benighted citizens.

But everyone has heard of "R&D"

So maybe: "R&D! Rearward and Downward"?

Just a thought...

10:43 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Obscure may be gd, from the pt of conversation starters. E.g., yr in an airport and wearing a T-shirt that says CRE on it. A beautiful woman comes up 2u and asks u what it stands for. You explain to her abt Cranial-Rectal Embedment, and how 99.6% of the American population has its head firmly rammed up its ass. "I've frequently thought the same thing," she says. The two of you repair to the airport restaurant for cocktails and further discussion; intense sexual activity (not in the airport), engagement, and marriage inevitably follow. And all this from a T-shirt, which is my personal way of spreading light and love throughout our tragic and demented country. Today LaGuardia, tomorrow the world.


12:02 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

A T-shirt is already available that might get you some airport action.

It's based on a comedy routine of my friend, Ron Shock.

Here are front & back pix of the shirt.



Here's a clip of him performing back in the early days.


Here is a clip that gives us two perspectives on the quintessential American activity...hustling.


11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No mention in a long time of the DAA55, whose numbers appear to have bloomed. I appreciate the gallows humor re Mittnism, T-shirt designs, book titles, and O&D, but frankly I can't bring myself to hope for the worst. That's just me, I suppose.

Phil Blank's message at 5:21 (I wish dates were displayed, too) deserves consideration. There is some truth in binary categories being required for negative identity, though often as not one extreme vanquishes (objectivity/subjectivity) or merges with (Reps./Dems.) its opposite, creating a new sort of distortion. Neither does equilibrium, balance, or synthesis necessarily offer a third-way solution. So long as we think categorically, as the brain is wire to do (in the left hemisphere, anyway), I expect we're doomed to repeat and perpetuate these ideational charades leading nowhere. And if soulfulness is really different from spirituality, perhaps ancient texts that describe states of "no mind" or mindlessness and deliverance from desire, in addition to tolerance of paradox, ought to be brought back into focus. Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Julian said...

Another good new book about the harmful effects of technology is “Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality,” by Elias Aboujaoude. The author is a Silicon Valley area psychiatrist that has treated many people suffering from OCD-like symptoms, delusional and narcissistic problems, impulse control issues, Internet addiction, etc., all directly induced by their excessive online activity. It’s an easy to read book, discussing lots of case studies and interesting research.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Vidal is an ally, I should have thought. He showed in his novels that America is a hopelessly sick empire (and that it was immensely corrupt from the beginning). Heard some recent news about him. Peter Bogdanovich was discussing movies with Vidal, who said he saw "Avatar" and thought it was dreadful: "America has no culture. It is the only country in the history of the world that went from no culture to decadence without anything in between!"

3:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The line is actually from Georges Clemenceau: "America is the only nation that went from barbarism to decadence without going through the intervening stage of civilization."


6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the origin of the "barbarism to decadence" line is not clearly linked to any named source. It's one of those things that just sprang up from the popular mind. It first appears in a French newspaper in 1932. A number of famous people did repeat it in some form, after this initial appearance. Some anonymous French editor might be the original source, or he might have repeated something he heard or read from someone else. Since the entire staff from the era must be dead, there is probably no way to settle the real origin now.

Quote Investigator: America Is the Only Country That Went from Barbarism to Decadence Without Civilization In Between

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apologies if this has been linked to recently but it's definitely worth looking at. No need to post this if it's redundant.

Violence, USA: The warfare state and the brutalizing of everyday life.


This is by Henry Giroux. I won't attempt to summarize it here but it's an interesting look at the normalization of violence in American culture etc...

El Juero

5:18 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

This I Believe (today)
By Rom Mitney
1. No one is unemployed in the US. Everyone is a private contractor, with some taking a break between jobs.
2. I will defend Israel's national interests. In fact, I plan to stay up nights since it's daytime in Israel.
3. Not everyone needs a roof over their heads. What, 4 walls isn't enough for you?
4. My economic plan can be summed up in 6 simple words: Would you like to supersize that?

5:48 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

There's nothing wrong about total quiet and straight lines...if you're in the military. But to insist that elementary school children cannot walk in the hall go to lunch until there is complete quiet is lunacy and wastes a lot of valuable time. By the way, Henry Giroux did a study of this very topic and investigated an inner-city mostly economically disadvantaged school, a middle class school and an upper middle class school and discovered that only in the inner-city school was there this obsession with complete quiet and straight lines, concluding that teachers and administrators assume that children from low economic backgrouds are in need of such discipline; that is,poor children (minority) have a predilection to get out of control. Thus the obsession with total quiet and straight lines is essentially racism in disguise.

6:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, Morris Berman, there's something you might find interesting:

You've expressed common ground with John Michael Greer, the Archdruid, in a previous post, since you both shake your heads in dismay at Americans' fascination with technology and progress, and you both are willing to call America the "empire" that it is.

However, you and Greer might not have as much in common as it might appear. Here's his most recent post, see what you think:


9:58 AM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Imagine the kind of moral lessons this mother of 8 will teach to her children? When the secret service agents practiced what their culture’s norms and values taught them, people cried foul. Parents who do sex for money have children who do sex for money. A culture that glorifies sexual objectification of women produces citizens who rank sexual gratification above professional responsibilities. Such a culture produces men who see nothing immoral about refusing to pay women after luring them into sexual acts! Once the condition exists, the consequences are inevitable and natural!

Nadya Suleman was more than a little nervous when she arrived on the set of her first adult-film shoot last week. But after chatting with a seasoned porn star and getting comfortable with the location and crew, Octomom performed like a pro.

I owe a lot to Wicked Pictures contract star Jessica Drake; she opened my eyes to a whole different world of self-pleasure that I could have never imagined. They made me look so glamorous, and for the first time in my life, I felt beautiful and sexy. I'm very excited for it to come out!


10:58 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Late Capitalism? See the world of ants for the inside scoop.



1:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I not only never referred to Greer; I've never even heard of him!

On a more interesting topic, I wanted to alert everyone to the recent death of Chick Callenbach, whom I knew briefly in San Francisco in the 1970s. He was the author of the famous best-seller, "Ecotopia". Turns out, he left a final manifesto on his computer, which I guess his agent discovered after his death. As follows:


1:43 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Check this out as well:


3:24 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

Ain't Amurrica Great: This from an article by Retired Col. Ann Wright.

The Navy and Marine Corps give a substantial number of waivers to potential recruits who have criminal records, including felony convictions. A 2007 study found that in 2006 the Marines gave 20,750 recruits (54.3 percent of all those recruited that year) waivers for criminal convictions. In 2005, 20,426 recruits (53.5 percent) were given them.

In 2006, the Navy gave 3,502 recruits, or 9.7 percent of those recruited, waivers for criminal conduct. In 2005, it gave them to 3,467 recruits, or 9.2 percent.

According to a 2009 study, 13 percent of men enlisting in the Navy admitted that they had raped someone. Of those men, 71 percent admitted to serial rapes. The perpetrators said that they targeted people they knew rather than strangers and generally used drugs or alcohol rather than brute force to incapacitate their victims.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Thanks, Vidal prob did get it from Clemenceau. Bogdanovich spoke as if he (Bog) never heard such a "harsh" thing before.

Thank you for the Callenbach manifesto. Genuinely moving.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


While I don't find these data surprising, I do find them inspiring, in an inverted kinda way.



5:54 PM  
Anonymous Julian said...

In medical news, here is a popular state-of-the-art treatment widely available to schizophrenia patients across the United States. The real “therapy” begins at minute 15 in the video.

Please note how these highly trained mental health professionals were able to quickly diagnose complex conditions such as HSD (He’s on Something, Dude!), and immediately deliver their high quality medical services. As illustrated in the video, such services included (but may not be limited to) procedures such as: RTAHA, MBFB, MCR, FMCT, and last but not least, COMA.


Medical Terminology Legend:
RTAH = Repeated Tasering Around the Heart Area,
MBFB = Multiple Broken Facial Bones,
MCR = Multiple Cracked Ribs,
FMCT = Fatal Mechanical Compression of the Thorax,
COMA = Coma.

8:13 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

The arrogance of the people in the Western world often leaves me thinking whether or not some of these people are humans. Watch the video featuring Tony Blair and Liberian president. They want to equate homosexuality to human right, but human right got nothing to do with universal healthcare, education, and government without corruption and wars. They are always pushing the trash of their culture on other cultures. Ethical subjectivism and cultural relativism are sound, practical, universal theories when they say so. If they have gay problem, then the problem must be exported to other cultures – probably because they feel they are superior and therefore whatever ills befall them must also be good for other people in other cultures. Thus, if they start eating their children tomorrow or if they start having sex with their mothers, then other cultures must do and adopt the same.

Liberia's president and Tony Blair discuss anti-gay law

North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday defining marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman.

Support For War In Afghanistan Falls To New Low, Poll Shows

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TonyU, for someone who's calling the West "arrogant," you're currently thinking like a Westerner:


That kind of mentality (which is no different than wanting to kill the Ay-rabs because they're all terrorists) that dehumanizes anyone who isn't like you is what Morris Berman is trying to condemn, not encourage.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


2 things:

1. Better to send messages to most recent post; no one reads the older ones.

2. Give yrself a handle, like "Stage Delicatessen" or whatever. We have too many Anons, and it's confusing.



10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I more positive. I think the world has become much more civilized in the past 50 years.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Steve Vanden-Eykel said...

This is utter hogwash. These aren't predictions; they're observations. This should be read as Sorokin's complaints about what he saw as wrong with the society he belonged to. It's interesting only in the "hey, even Socrates thought kids today were out of control" sense. So, big surprise, the problems Sorokin saw in society in the fifties are still here today. Meanwhile, if he really thinks that faith is just another way of knowing, that science needs to compromise with, then I have no use for him.

9:58 PM  
Blogger bricewgilbert said...

He seemingly thinks that being entirely rational and thinking scientifically leads to the problems we have when I think we can demonstrate quite conclusively that it's the exact opposite.

1:52 AM  
Anonymous dayglocrazie said...

That.s interesting stuff. Especially if you think of the opportunity this provides to those who are pushing change. Advantage!

3:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phrase of the day - Cranial-Rectal Embedment - classic......LOL!

3:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for an excellent post and another thinker to add to my reading list. Another, albeit less academically heavy, thinker I am fond of re-re-reading is Hunter Thompson. Swap the name "Bush" for "Nixon" throughout 'Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail' and by the end you have a pretty good idea why HST put a gun to his head when he did.
On a rather cheerier (?) note, harking further back to John Ruskin demonstrates that the tension between humanism and industrialism is at least as old as industry itself.
There is a way out, I think, but it requires work...

4:47 AM  
Anonymous medo said...

Too much paranoia in finding old prophecies. No matters how a society kills herself: every society switches to suicide-like decisions at one time, it's like viruses or bacteria overwhelmed by other forces or self-regulating by the unconscient "death" tool. Life goes on even in a mega polluted post-nuclear world. I am not saying this is cool and fine, but always we will have a possibility of love and humanity, even after industrial ages.

6:00 AM  

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