Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Short View of "A Short View". (and iv)

(From part iii)

Writing in a liberal democracy, presumably for the bourgeois reader, Keynes expressed with relative “political correctness” what others in different circumstances were at liberty to express with much blunter honesty:
Slavery is of the essence of culture, a truth of course, which leaves no doubt as to the absolute value of existence. This truth is the vulture that gnaws at the liver of the Promethean promoter of culture. The misery of toiling men must still increase in order to make the production of the world of art possible to a small number of Olympian men. Here is to be found the source of that secret wrath nourished by Communists and Socialists of all times, and also by their feebler descendants, the white race of the 'Liberals', not only against the arts, but also against classical antiquity.” (Nietzsche, "The Greek State")
It’s not known whether Keynes, Clive Bell (or any of the Bloomsberries) ever read Nietzsche, but there is a clear parallel between their views (in Skidelsky’s account) and Nietzsche’s, slightly blunter ones.

Indeed, a couple of years ago, Corey Robin (associate professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College), published "Nietzsche's Marginal Children: On Friedrich Hayek" (here). Using the notion of "elective affinity" (roughly, my own "shared worldviews") Robin explains how many of Nietzsche's elitist and anti-democratic ideas, through Hayek and the Austrian school, shaped our economic reality:
"[N]o one understood better than Nietzsche the social and cultural forces that would shape the Austrians: the demise of an ancient ruling class; the raising of the labor question by trade unions and socialist parties; the inability of an ascendant bourgeoisie to crush or contain democracy in the streets; the need for a new ruling class in an age of mass politics."
Focusing on Hayek and the marginalist/subjectivist Jevons, Walras and Menger, Robin did not mention Keynes. He should have (and this is a friendly critique to his otherwise excellent essay):
"From a distance it is easy to see how many presuppositions they [Keynes and Hayek] shared. (…) Both emphasised the importance of subjectivism in economic thinking. (…) Both were inegalitarians, believing in the beneficial spillovers from pockets of wealth. Neither was an ardent democrat." (Robert Skidelsky, "Hayek versus Keynes: The Road to Reconciliation")
Coming from a similar millieu, Keynes and the Austrians had to share worldviews: they and their peers carry the world on their shoulder. Beware the day they decided to shrug. The same reasoning Robin masterfully displays in relation to the Austrians, applies to Keynes: he belongs with them.

Atlas. [A]

Just like Keynes, or the Austrians could not claim originality in their views, as Nietzsche held similar ideas before them, neither could Nietzsche himself make that claim.

Whether he knew it or not, one can see the shade of an older author on Nietzsche's pompous ramblings:
"It would be well for those interested to reflect whether there now exists, or ever has existed, a wealthy and civilized community in which one portion did not live on the labor of another; and whether the form in which slavery exists in the South is not but one modification of this universal condition … Let those who are interested remember that labor is the only source of wealth, and how small a portion of it, in all old and civilized countries, even the best governed, is left to those by whose labor wealth is created." (John C. Calhoun, 1836 and here)
There is a terrible lucidity in Calhoun, a kind of dark nobility in refusing to hide behind hypocritical faux humanism or undergraduate philosophising. Sometimes, it seems, there is more honour and dignity in the exploiters than in their lackeys and attack poodles.

It's not the exploiters, and least of all Keynes, the Austrians and their race of arrogant parasites to the parasites. who are "are the quality in life and surely carry the seeds of all human advancement": it's the humble workers who carry them in their backs.

Survival of the fattest. [B]
Perhaps Calhoun's contempt for liberals (shared by Nietzsche) isn’t so hard to understand, after all.


Just one question is left unanswered. Why has “A Short View of Russia” remained largely forgotten -- as if it were a shameful family secret -- by contemporary liberal economists?

Given Keynes' intense interest for religion, it seems appropriate to answer that question thus:
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness(Genesis, 22-23, KJV).

Image Credits:
[A] Atlas at the Rockefeller Center. This work is in the public domain. Wikipedia.
[B] "Survival of the Fattest", by Jens Galschiøt, and Lars Calmar. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. My usage of the file does not suggest their author endorses me or my use of it. Source: Wikipedia.

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