Political Lexicon: How Astute is Yours?


Metamodern Politics. Metamodern Political Lexicon.

“First they steal the words, then they steal the meaning.” – George Orwell


By EJ Wickes

Our Political Lexicon is ever changing. Over the years word definitions and their usage have undergone drastic manipulations in context and interpretation. For example, the word “awful” is a word we use to denote something bad or objectionable. It literally means full of awe, as in “awesome”. But over time we have taken awful to mean a negative and awesome to mean a positive; even though both words are synonymous in their origins.

There are many words in our political lexicon that have undergone similar reconstructions. Some of the best work done has been at the expense of our own understanding of the nature of politics. The majority of Americans consistently display an uncanny level of ignorance with metamodern politics. We are and always have been a Republic, not a Democracy. That confusion eliminates about a third of the population’s understanding of our own political structure right off the bat. Over time the word democracy has replaced republic in much of our political discourse.

The terms ‘republic’, ‘democracy’, and other names for government forms are used interchangeably around the world for all sorts of things. In the American lexicon, a Republic is a ‘Constitutional Democracy’ – a democracy limited by a constitution.

It should be noted that this definition is not used outside of the US – for example, the United Soviet Socialist Republics considered themselves republics, but were neither democratic nor limited by a constitution. (Source)

Much debate is occurring within the forum of metamodern politics this election season about Socialism. The fact that any candidate would run on either a Libertarian or Socialist leaning platform, strikes fear in the hearts of Republicans and Democrats everywhere. Years of revisionist misrepresentation and propagandized terminology have demonized otherwise fairly harmless political philosophies with very human ideals.

“Framing” is a textbook technique of propaganda. Framing is the construction of a social phenomenon often by mass media sources, political or social movements, political leaders, or other actors and organizations. It is an inevitable process of selective influence over the individual’s perception of the meanings attributed to words or phrases.

This is important to understand the political lexicon as we continue to define fringe political philosophies, or philosophies outside of the Republican and Democratic status quos. Admittedly, these definitions are taken straight off the web, but to save time and over intellectualization Wikipedia provides basic descriptions to the core values of each political philosophy.

Within each political movement or philosophy there can exist a series of conflicting paradigms. And between different movements or philosophies there can exist strong similarities. It does the average American a serious disservice that they have to study this on their own instead of having been taught all of these things in school. And that’s part of the problem.

Our form of government combines a two fold political lexicon of Liberty and Equality. The struggle is in finding the proper balance of each that best sustains the economic and social welfare of the whole. Republicans lean more toward liberty and less toward equality. Democrats lean more toward equality and less toward liberty; equality of opportunity or outcome vs equality of conditions. (Alexis De Tocqueville).

Metamodern Politics. Metamodern Lexicon of Politics, by EJ Wickes.
Washington Crossing the Delaware – Emanuel Leutze, 1851

In other words left-leaners, as they’re customarily defined, support a forceful push toward equality of conditions (e.g., redistribution of wealth), whereas (pure, honest) right-leaners/constitutional libertarians, as they’re customarily defined, favor equality of opportunity and creation of wealth by the bootstraps.

Republicanism: The guiding political philosophy of the United States. It has been a major part of American civic thought since its founding. It stresses liberty and “unalienable” rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, rejects aristocracy and inherited political power, expects citizens to be independent in their performance of civic duties, and vilifies corruption.

American republicanism was founded and first practiced by the Founding Fathers in the 18th century. For them, according to one team of historians, “republicanism represented more than a particular form of government. It was a way of life, a core ideology, an uncompromising commitment to liberty, and a total rejection of aristocracy.”

Republican Party: The party’s platform is generally based on American conservatism, in contrast to the contemporary American liberalism of the rival Democratic Party. The Republican Party’s conservatism involves supporting free market capitalism, strong national defense, opposing regulation and labor unions, and supporting socially conservative policies. The party is generally split on the issue of how to deal with illegal immigration.

There are Libertarian offshoots working within the party, only because of the fact that America refuses to accept anything more than a two party system; another detrimental effect of social manipulation and propaganda.

Metamodern Politics. Metamodern Lexicon of Politics, by EJ Wickes.
In 1934, Rivera completed his Rockefeller Mural in the Palacio de Bella Artes, Mexico City. He entitled it, “Man, Controller of the Universe,” and not only kept the portrait of Lenin, but added a portrait of Trotsky, and a portrait Nelson Rockefeller himself, enjoying a drink in the nightclub scene below the hovering syphilis cells.

Democratic Party: Since the 1930s, the party has promoted a center-left, social liberal platform, supporting a mixed economy and social justice. The party’s philosophy of modern American liberalism advocates social and economic equality, along with the welfare state. It pursues a mixed economy by providing government intervention and regulation in the economy. These interventions, such as universal health care, labor unions, social programs, equal opportunity, consumer protection, and environmental protection, form the party’s economic policy basis. The Democratic Party is essentially the exact opposite of the Republican Party in theory.

Socialism: A common misinterpretation is that socialism is a form of government. It is in essence an economic principle. Socialism is nothing more than the workers’ ownership of the means of production. In the United States, socialism is frequently misdefined. Misdefinitions of these terms are often even taught in high schools; with socialism always being associated with more government and free services, and capitalism with less government and less free services.

This is quite wrong, as many forms of socialism would mean less government, such as anarchism and market socialism. (Even Marxism, which has historically led to massive bureaucracies and the exponential enlarging of the state apparatus, holds the abolition of the state as its ultimate goal.) On the same note, there are forms of capitalism necessitating larger government, such as fascism and Francoism.” (Source)

Libertarianism: A political philosophy that upholds liberty as its principal objective. Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and freedom of choice, emphasizing political freedom, voluntary association and the primacy of individual judgment.

Some libertarians advocate laissez-faire capitalism and strong private property rights, such as in land, infrastructure and natural resources. Others, notably libertarian socialists, seek to abolish capitalism and private ownership of the means of production in favor of their common or cooperative ownership and management. An additional line of division is between minarchists and anarchists. Minarchists think that a minimal centralized government is necessary; anarchists propose to completely eliminate the state.

Metamodern Politics. Metamodern Lexicon of Politics, by EJ Wickes.
“American Pie”, painting by Michael D’Antuono

Libertarian Socialism: (sometimes called social anarchism, left-libertarianism and socialist libertarianism) is a group of political philosophies within the socialist movement that reject the view of socialism as state ownership or command of the means of production within a more general criticism of the state form itself as well as of wage labor relationships within the workplace.

Instead it emphasizes workers’ self-management of the workplace and decentralized structures of political government asserting that a society based on freedom and equality can be achieved through abolishing authoritarian institutions that control certain means of production and subordinate the majority to an owning class or political and economic elite.

Libertarian socialists, within their metamodern lexicons, generally place their hopes in decentralized means of direct democracy and federal or confederal associations such as libertarian municipalism, citizens’ assemblies, trade unions, and workers’ councils. All of this is generally done within a general call for libertarian and voluntary human relationships through the identification, criticism, and practical dismantling of illegitimate authority in all aspects of human life.

On closer analysis within political lexicon, there are quite a bit of similarities between ideologies. But let’s start with the Democrats. Out of all the philosophies listed above the Democratic Party is the only self-admitted proponent of the welfare state and unionized labor. The Libertarian/Socialists also consider workers unions as a means of establishing order and solidarity as well.

If one wanted to bring the big government issue up for discussion, most would consider the Democratic Party as most fitting the bill, since Libertarian Socialism’s goal is the removal of the Oligarchy or the ruling class’s concentration of power, wealth and authority while preserving the freedom of movement and personal accountability of the individual.

Metamodern Politics. Metamodern Lexicon of Politics.
“Made in Britain” features the work of Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, Gillian Wearing and Mark Willinger in an eclectic mix of formats. On a conceptual level, some not so subtle political themes are integrated into the foundation of some pieces.

The Republican Party decries the big government. But some Libertarians and Socialists decry any government at all. Libertarians and Socialists often Anarchist in principle, believe in some form of cooperation without the need for intervention by state institutions. Both are considered polar opposites within the new lexicon. But more often the extreme right and extreme left tend to have more in common than meets the soundbite.

It is unreasonable when an individual takes a pro-labor stance, only to be demonized as a socialist. Stop right there – Here is a prime example of the revisionist lexicon. Socialism is already assumed to mean big government control and totalitarianism, but as we saw defined above, that could not be farther from the truth. I am very pro-labor, but by the same token, I am not pro-union. I understand the importance of labor standards and protections, but again, I am wary of the institution. Examples of corruption within the unions were widespread, along with extorting exorbitant wages well above inflationary standards; led to the ultimate reason for their demise; death by NAFTA. Unfortunately non-union workers and millions of manufacturing jobs went down with the ship along with them.

It is also unreasonable when an individual takes a pro-business stance, only to be demonized as a faux-Libertarian, Right Winger or a pro-business Fascist; more revisionism with the lexicon of metamodern politics. I believe in free and open markets. This is defined as Capitalism. However what we are experiencing in practice is nothing remotely similar to Capitalism. It is Corporatism.

Corporatism: The sociopolitical organization of a society by major interest groups, or corporate groups, such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labor, military, patronage, or scientific affiliations, on the basis of common interests. It is theoretically based on the community as an organic body; Latin root word “corpus” (plural – “corpora”) meaning “body”. Christian corporatism is traced to the New Testament of the Bible in I Corinthians 12:12-31 where Paul of Tarsus discusses an organic form of politics and society where all people are united functionally, like the human body.

“Organization of a society by major interest groups.”  Is this big government and totalitarianism, one more authoritarian hierarchy to conform to, or the willingness of the individual to cooperate with others in a collective process? In the metamodern political lexicon, the economics of Corporatism is the “new” Capitalism. It allows neither freedom of markets nor the liberty of self-determination. This is why the battle against corporate and religious influence in government has been raging for over two hundred years, with many unacceptable casualties dealt to both liberty and equality.

Nothing excites me more than a good discussion about politics and the meaning of life, but anymore I feel like I’m speaking a foreign language. Our conflicting political lexicon does nothing but add more confusion and divisiveness to the political process. It ensures our ignorance in our ability to make informed political decisions and disrupts attempts at finding any truth in the conversations that are most important to the societal and economic sustainability of our nation.

“Elected magistrates do not make the American democracy (democratic republic) flourish; it flourishes because the magistrates are elective.” – Alexis De Tocqueville

Installation (Top) by Babak Golkar. Born in the United States, raised in Tehran and having lived between Canada and the Middle East since 1996, Babak Golkar has developed bodies of work, which navigate and negotiate the space between cultural and socio-economical registers within the political lexicon. His research-based art practice is centered on seemingly contradictory forms, shapes and material.

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