Systemic-Conspiracy as Social Pathology
Military-Industrial Complexity Theory and the Abstraction of War
Systemic-conspiracy is one of six research streams at The Abs-Tract Organization, and this is the first of a series of blog posts on it. This stream is a companion to Evolutionary Globalization. For a draft research essay providing more background depth, see Towards a Theory of Conspiracy: Analyzing Hidden Power in Globalization Processes.
You can’t talk about conspiracy (theory) without understanding “systemic-conspiracy.” Yet most of the commentary on conspiracy theory skips over depth and reduces it to pointing out absurd speculation and ignoring the actual complexity. Late 2016, the NY Times lamented “The Paranoid Style in American Politics Is Back.” Wired magazine mocks, “To Make Your Conspiracy Theory Legit, Just Find an ‘Expert’.” Most recently, Conspiracy Theorists Have a Fundamental Cognitive Problem, Say Scientists.
A better mode of analysis is more relevant than ever, as The Guardian reports that we may be “entering a golden age of the conspiracy theory” because of the ‘post-truth’ era of Trump. The paradoxical and unprovable nature of these issues forces people to default to one side — paranoid or skeptic — without any real resolution. But debasing conspiracy theory to its most cartoonish form is a disservice to critical inquiry into systemic-conspiracy.
The typical critique goes that conspiracy theory is a delusion, a result of apophenia, the tendency to see connections in random patterns (think constellations or Rorschach tests). This is part of it, but to reduce it to simply debunking is a disservice to the truth that conspiracy theory attempts to represent. For a well-cited overview and discussion of conspiracy theory (and some ontology of real conspiracy), see Daniël Verhoeven’s “Conspiracy theories… a long history and a new trend.”
In academia, the study of the conspiracy-tinted view of globalization even has its own subfield of ‘popular geopolitics.’ But neither pundits or tin-foil hat theorists are readily armed with the proper sociological theory, so I hope to inform about that here. Those closest to breaking the dark and inconvenient truths about our political world work at outlets like The Intercept or TruthDig. They cover the daily beat of what I call systemic-conspiracy. And it is with those audiences that I would think this concept will resonate the most deeply.
I must stress here that my purpose is not to prove conspiracy theories, or even indulge them necessarily, but to examine how “systemic-conspiracy” is the inherent ‘evil’ omnipresent in the system, manifesting intentional and systemic conspiracies, which we are all both victims and enablers of. This is relevant and convergent with Jordan Peterson’s oft-repeated warning that we all have the potential for totalitarian fascism in us; to participate in systems of violence. Systemic-conspiracy is sociologically latent, which is arguably the major lesson of the 20th century.
The term “systemic-conspiracy” is needed to function as a counterpoint to “conspiracy theory.” Rather than conspiracies being just anomalous events orchestrated by particular people, I wish to invert to way people think about them, to understand that history/society itself is a sort of conspiracy, depending on your perspective (ie. slave vs. master). My fundamental contention is that understanding the world through the lens of actual conspiracy and systems theory can be more true than false.
Time and whistleblowing has moved watershed cases out of the realm of conspiracy theory into historical fact (and political contest). When this happens the ‘truth conditions’ immediate change and consequently it breaks into public consciousness so people can process it openly. Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations represent a clear example, on a number of levels. Similarly, the JASTA legal initiative brings the complexity of terrorism and the fraudulence of the 9/11 Commission Report into clear focus. Andrew Cockburn wrote recently “Will the 9/11 case finally go to trial?” And the bulk of evidence, including documents released 75 years after the event, confirm that the Reichstag fire was most likely a false flag.
As if we need to go into specific cases though, especially to prove the existence of systemic-conspiracy, which is inherent in the system. The extensions of US foreign policy and operations of intelligence agencies are by definition institutional conspiracies, often directly contradicting the ‘official story’, international law, and the prerogatives of free and open democracy. But ironically, all of that is in the name of open society, so we have a deeper problem, and now it has a name: systemic-conspiracy.
What I call “systemic-conspiracy” refers to “the system” and the structural conditions that create incentives and pressures to participate — knowingly or unknowingly — in systems of power that have definite malicious intent, negative externalities, objectionable consequences, often illegal methods, and not to mention conspiratorial aspects and appearances. Our concern is with the path-dependence and social complexity that make war inevitable — or at least make it seem inevitable and justifiable, when it is actually an economic inperative (a business decision) for some people.
I coin the term “systemic-conspiracy” to describe the abstract and (ir-)rational nature of war, whether overt or covert, abstract or concrete, wherever it is present. Not only war, but the pathological tendencies of capitalism and markets to sponsor conflict and invest in social control, and then to hide and obscure the process. It is in part a function of the rules of the system and of human nature. The former we can and must change; the latter we must evolve.
Systemic-conspiracy can be viewed as a high-level abstraction based on a large set of devastating practices that ‘over-determine’ the problem, and institutionalize conspiracy. These concepts include tacit collusion, moral hazard, politicized issue, politicization of science, spin (propaganda), doublespeak, media manipulation, disinformation, manufactured controversy, manufacturing consent, noble lie, post-truth politics, electoral fraud, full-spectrum dominance, externality, war profiteering, militarism, white-collar crime, whitewashing, price fixing, perverse incentives, rent-seeking, dirty hands, cronyism, the iron law of oligarchy, covert operation, cover-up, and of course false flag, to name just a few.
The sum-total of these practices guarantee that not only will there be profit made off undesirable consequences but that the crimes will be covered and protected by effective corporate self-defense strategies. Systemic-conspiracy produces conspiratorial outcomes and sows the rational distrust of elites and institutions. But it is hard to see clearly, because we are not typically exposed directly to these confusing and terrifying anti-social practices, or the obscure concepts that explain them. Systemic-conspiracy is thus an abstract synthesis, compression, and simplification of these complex phenomena.
The war-on-drugs and the war-on-terror are blatant Orwellian manifestations of systemic-conspiracy, but also paradoxical because they purport to defend the peace and freedom that we enjoy. In truth the military and law enforcement serve vital functions, but under systemic-conspiracy they create more problems than they solve, and a minority profit from it. And yet, the system also employs the obedience of many decent well-intentioned people, so it is difficult to attribute malice and agency to the horrific effects.
Integral to this theory is Hannah Arendt’s concept of the ‘banality of evil’; the idea that ordinary people, following orders, can collectively commit the most atrocious acts. We do jobs for money, and it makes a lot of people do things they don’t want to. Employees are inclined to follow policies and not question them, and for the most part they are trusting the reasons for why things the way they are, but this is a large grey area where systemic-conspiracy precipitates.
Let’s look at the most obvious and indisputable object of conspiracy theory, and the best example of its systemic nature: the military–industrial-(etc.) complex. I add the ‘etc.’ placeholder because over the 50 some odd years since being named, it has grown to include the mainstream media, academia, congress, sports, entertainment, pharma, oil, law, and prisons, among other sectors of the economy. So, let’s not pretend for a second this isn’t a thing and hasn't been studied thoroughly.
Over-stretching the metaphor has even been criticized by one of the initial critics (Parenti), in that prisons don’t remotely match the military budget, nor will they produce any related “technological and industrial spin-off,” but he is missing the point of their complicity, which is why I want to re-define it. The original concept ‘military-industrial complex’ refers to monetary relationships between the government, the military, and the defense industrial base. It is a type of “iron triangle,” defined as;
“the closed, mutually supportive relationships that often prevail in the United States between the government agencies, the special interest lobbying organizations, and the legislative committees or subcommittees with jurisdiction over a particular functional area of government policy.” — A Glossary of Political Economy Terms
This arrangement is inherently prone to moral hazards and rent seeking, as shown by recurrent scandals and abuses of power. My moderately deep literature review shows that the ‘complex’ extends far beyond the initial ‘military-industrial’ identity which Eisenhower warned against at the end of his presidency. Like the octopus metaphor that conspiracy theory invokes, it’s tentacles have reached into academia, media, congress, pharma, entertainment, and more. It is very important to note that that this growth has happened despite a public warning by a former president of the United States; it is a testament to the power of denial, and of systemic-conspiracy.
Systemic-conspiracy should be considered not just ‘systemic’ but also ‘systematic’ in that can be methodically or done according to a plan. The modern military-industrial complex is the bastard child of the global rape that was World War 2, and it came of age during “The Cold War” which oversaw proxy wars all over the globe and the prospect of nuclear annihilation.
Although it was ‘systematic,’ WW2 is not considered a ‘conspiracy’ in any conventional sense, and nor was the Cold War, although WW2 was a conspiracy in the sense of Germany having a more-or-less secret plan to take over the world. More accurately, it was a systemic-conspiracy par excellence in that all of the resources of the system were organized around pathological beliefs and dedicated the literal ‘dead end’ of genocide and world war. It required the support and participation of its own mass society. The Cold War increased the systematization of war, while decreasing the body count.
As you can see from this relatively cursory overview, conspiracy, the ridiculed subject of conspiracy theory, is in fact very real as a systemic pathology. And in fact, almost everyone plays some unwitting role in it.
Systemic-conspiracy can be actualized in various forms, such as organized crime and corruption, institutional racism (via vicious abstraction) and mass incarceration, exploitation and extortion (which deepens economic inequality), the dumbing down of democracy (anti-intellectualism), and co-option of governance by corporations (regulatory capture). Even simple alienation could be considered an expression of the oppressive weight of systemic-conspiracy.
It is a way to describe the built-in features of our social, economic, religious, and political systems that force to live and act in a system that has hidden effects of exploitation and oppression. This is different from a naturally emergent hierarchy and class structure, which systemic-conspiracy manipulates and exacerbates to its pathological limits.
More prime examples are easy to identify: slavery is a systemic-conspiracy, as it becomes normalized and openly practiced, while the grotesque truth of it is hidden. Rather than being the evil brainchild of a couple of whispering individuals, slavery was an institution which an individual could scarcely challenge. It was all based on vicious lies, yet it became a prevailing dogma of a Western civilization. It’s easy for us to look back in retrospect and condemn it, but more difficult to understand how it was happening in the moment.
The concept of systemic-conspiracy holds that at any given time in history there are systemic injustices that are taken for granted, and may not be salient to the population being abused at that time. Slaves didn’t sign-up for slavery, but they were denied the very knowledge to articulate the crisis they were in. Even in retrospect, it may not be fully understandable. But the more we study it, the more we reveal how abstract and complex the problem is.
We cannot atone for slavery until the modern war-on-drugs is understood as an extension of it. The preconditions for revolution are that the oppressed group develops a “class consciousness” and becomes aware of their collective exploitation. But this is only part of it, as most black people already know exactly what I’m talking about, yet the oppression continues; the system blocks. This is why knowledge interventions are so critical as a matter of policy. Think tanks that do not extol this fact are guilty by association with systemic-conspiracy.
The Third-Wave of Conspiracy Research
The way in which I analyze conspiracy reflects a third “turn” in the scholarship on conspiracy theory. The first paradigm is based on the groundbreaking work of Richard Hofstader in The Paranoid Style in American Politics (an essay and then book, circa 1964). This approach is psychopathological, which describes the paranoid mentality as a form of cognitive fundamentalism. The second turn is socioethnographical, which highlights the validity of “social facts” from the perspective of the believer/ conspiracist.
The third wave of conspiracy scholarship describes what I call systemic-conspiracy, which acknowledges that the social structure and ‘system’ itself is pathological, in ways that obstruct consensus and social justice, producing both intentional and unintentional negative consequences. Rather than just ‘shit happening’ (as Pete Mandik would have it, in his article “Shit Happens” 2007), the actions and protocols in systemic-conspiracy very much correspond to what the conspiracy theory is speculating about, although often not directly.
The term systemic-conspiracy has been used before, but only in the context of describing conspiracy theories. Barkun classifies a systemic type of conspiracy theory, but is not theorizing systemic-conspiracy itself. For example, the Catholic church is cited as coveting global ambitions (which many organizations do benignly). But I would say a better example of systemic-conspiracy within the Catholic church is the systematic cover-up of pedophilia. For decades it was maintained in the realm of conspiracy theory, hiding the sick truth, but now we know unequivocally the deep dark extent.
Similarly, systemic-conspiracy theories about Jews, Freemasons, and Communists project a sinister agency on to their agendas which engenders xenophobia, but it is not at all fair to charge the entire organization with conspiracy. It is certainly not true that “Jews” rule the world, or even the media, but Israel’s forceful occupation of Palestine and the corresponding ‘regime of truth’ that justifies it is another prime example of systemic-conspiracy.
One conspiracy researcher describes how “conspiracy” no longer refers to a secret plot led by a handful of insiders, but rather a “broad array of social controls” institutionalized in a “large organization, technology, or system — a powerful and obscure entity so dispersed that it is the antithesis of the traditional conspiracy” (Melley, 2000). Another agrees in that conspiracy theory makes more sense in terms of informational networks of power where potentialities for agency and secrecy dynamically meet (Dean, 2000, paragraph 10).
This new discourse of systemic-conspiracy also gives way to new subfields, such as the study of “state crimes against democracy” (SCAD), which is an empirical alternative to conspiracy theorizing (deHaven-Smith 2010, 797). SCADs occur where the interests of national security intersect with domestic presidential politics (806). SCADs are a unique form of political corruption in that they employ “political, military, and/or economic elites at the very highest levels of the social and political order” (795).
Along these lines, Noam Chomsky divides terrorism into “retail,” as practiced by non-state actors, and “wholesale,” as carried out by states, the latter of which being the dominant form. I would describe most of Chomsky’s work as exposing systemic-conspiracy, which is ironic because he eschews conspiracy theory. Chomsky considers conspiracy theory antithetical to ‘institutional analysis’, which emphasizes institutional factors and downplays individual agency.
The institutional approach relies on scholarship and mainstream media reports to track the behaviour of publicly known institutions. This is why academics might rightly consider a number of conspiratorial allegations unsubstantiated by the media as illogical or irrational, or quite simply, impossible. Chomsky rejects that these alleged conspiracies are possible in an institutional setting, and that it is the structure that would ensure “propagandists” emerge to “conceal the actual workings of power.”
This approach is in contrast to the “French School” of institutional analysis which centres on exposing the unseen forms of power that prescribe behaviour and organizational protocols, of which Michel Foucault was affiliated. With respect to 9/11, this deconstructive approach is continued in Baudrillard’s The Spirit of Terrorism and Ward Churchill’s On the Justice of Roosting Chickens. The latter essay (in)famously attributed some systemic guilt to the victims in the WTC:
“As for those in the World Trade Center… Well, really, let’s get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire — the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved — and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to “ignorance” — a derivative, after all, of the word “ignore” — counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in — and in many cases excelling at — it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.”
The United States is the largest purveyor of state terror in the world, and this fact gives rise to the allegations that 9/11 is, as David Macgregor describes, “Machiavellian state terror.” This refers to terror initiated by actors other than those suspected (potentially within the state) in order to advance the ruling agenda. And this is not even considering the odious money flows to non-state terrorists, bravely discussed by Loretta Napoleoni in The Intricate Economics of Terrorism.
In The Ghosts of State Terror, Richard Jackson analyzes the reasons for a conspiracy of silence around state terror. Jackson’s first order critique of the study of terrorism is that the actor based definition of terrorism excludes state culpability, the research focus has a political bias, and the discourse rejects the weight of empirical evidence of state terrorism. His second critique is that ignorance of state terrorism in academic discourse serves to facilitate state hegemony, legitimize foreign and domestic policy discourse to the public, and defer awareness of the terroristic tendencies of states.
Jackson’s most pressing insight is how deconstructing the dominant narrative gives rise to “alternative and potentially emancipatory forms of knowledge and practice.” The emergence of new discourses that analyze narratives of state terror and conspiracy can help to rehabilitate the governmentality of the state. But as Jeffrey Sluka explains in Death Squad: The Anthropology of State Terror, it is dangerous for the anthropologist to study state terror in his country of origin. Given that the United States is arguably the global leader and hegemon, this poses unprecedented challenges for exposing systemic-conspiracy within.
“We were set up to fail” write the 9/11 Commission co-chairs Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton (video), through inadequate funding and an unrealistic mandate, among other obstructions. This quote fully fuels conspiracy theories but does not seem to vindicate academic inquiries. But the attraction of alternate explanations has persisted in non-paranoid minds. Top counter-terrorism advisor to the Bush and Clinton administrations, Richard Clarke, continues to assert that the CIA covered its duplicitous relationship with some of the hijackers.
And we now know from the “28 pages” withheld from the Commission report, Saudi officials were involved. Moreover, WikiLeaks disclosures (of Stratfor emails) revealed that Bin Laden’s corpse was not dumped at sea, as officially reported, but rather was taken back to the US. So, it would seem that the truth must be somewhere in between the conspiracy theory and the “official narrative.”
The critical discourse of systemic-conspiracy is about challenging the status-quo which tends to foreclose awareness of certain illegal state and corporate practices. We must update our language and discourse to “systemic-conspiracy” if possible. The term military-industrial complex now seems a bit anachronistic, to say the least. But more important is to understand and reverse the tumorous growth of the leviathan and our complicity in it.
In principle, pragmatic ‘conspiracy theory’ attempts to make this dark reality salient, but the discourse itself has in part been co-opted and neutralized by systemic-conspiracy. As the news article links at the top are indicative of, public intellectuals are quick to weigh in and flex their critique against a crazy strawperson versions of conspiracy theory.
It doesn’t help that the performative right-wing-nut Alex Jones, who occasionally raises legitimate concepts such as the ‘police state’ — or the very name of his platform; ‘information warfare’ — is a very polarizing and partisan conspiracist. He is not just a conspiracy theorist, but now a minion of Trump and a wildly rich business man in his own right. Instead of draining the swamp Trump is hosting tiki-torch pool parties in it, Jones is serving cocktails, while the systemic-conspiracy marches on.
Abstraction in Systemic-Conspiracy
Abstraction is our core research stream out of six because it is present in all the others. Systemic-conspiracy is very abstract, and the problem of it is also one of violent abstraction. Not to mention, abstraction is invaluable for depicting and schematizing networks and systems. To show this, in my articles on abstraction I have touched on a number of topics that correspond to systemic conspiracy, and vice-versa.
Vicious Abstraction and Systemic Racism discusses how racism becomes mystified and systemic via republican political strategy, coincidently through a process of misrepresentation called ‘vicious abstraction.’ The war-on-drugs, which finds the most support among republicans, is a systemic-conspiracy as it mobilizes a large workforce to carry out unjust laws, which in fact were designed to suppress people of color and hippies.
The post The Abstract Empire of Global Capital touches on conspiracy in several ways. The term comes from George Soros, who is also a subject of conspiracy theory. The global expansion of capital has conspiratorial effects, disrespecting democratic will and violating borders unapologetically, all while increasing wealth inequality. Finance itself is heavily dependent on ‘abstraction.’ And the remedy to this conspiracy is in my view what H.G. Wells called “The Open Conspiracy.”
Perhaps most importantly, The Abstract Society defines “the system” — which is instrumental to the concept of systemic-conspiracy — as an abstracting entity. The post reviews the book of the same name and outlines the negative pressures and alienation effects of our highly advanced mass society in the 20th century and beyond. The latter two articles also both reference the abstraction of ‘money’, the deprivation of which is used as a means of control, producing the effect of conspiracy.
All three articles are replete with references to abstraction, clarifying the concept and the implications for systemic-conspiracy. In order to understand systemic-conspiracy, we have to understand this depth of abstraction.
For the purposes of The Abs-Tract Organization, on the think tank and policy front relating to systemic-conspiracy, it is important to consider three more of our articles: The Role of Think Tanks in Meta-Governance, The US Policy Environment and Political Climate Change, and Think Tank Knowledge vs. Corporate Power. These articles outline how knowledge and policy have themselves become corrupted, which I’m implying is by the extension of this conspiracy logic. It is a very abstract conspiracy indeed when its operating at the level of discourse.
The systemic problems we face are all meta-problems requiring meta-solutions. I believe that if we can agree on the diagnosis of the bigger picture, we can formulate macro policy solutions. The most abstract idea out there that defeats systemic-conspiracy is this one: to counter the military-industrial complex, we should invest in the peace–industrial complex. In his stunning 13-min talk “What is the Peace-Industrial Complex?” Idriss Aberkane calls war a “parasite” and advocates “weapons of mass construction” as an antidote to the pointless commitment to war.
Aberkane very eloquently redefines superpower as the projection of construction (which elicits love) rather than destruction (which elicits hate). The irony is that the peace-industrial complex is actually more functional and profitable, so the transition to it is incentivized. Imagine a peace-industrial complex as large and well-funded as the military one, if you even can…
But the utter stupidity of systemic-conspiracy by which we are collectively arrested is so powerful, that real change is written off as a pipe-dream. The intractability and absurdity of it all was highlighted when the authoritarian dictator of North Korea Kim Jong-un owned President Trump by aptly calling him a “dotard,” going viral on twitter, at once humanizing Kim a little and making him all the more threatening.
All conspiracy theories aside, Business Insider put together this very abstract network graph of Bilderberg members. The point is not that they control everything, but that they are embedded in systems of control. These are business people playing with a sort of Ouija board of global governance.
Given their large salaries and bonuses, they are also paid not to know certain things, like how they are instrumental in systemic-conspiracy, and how it co-opts their conscience. They are insulated and made ignorant of the deep critique of capitalism, as it threatens their position and status. Thus, they can wash their dirty hands and pardon themselves of any wrongdoing. They are also disincentivized to speak out or change the current system. Instead, they funnel money to aesthetically “progressive” projects that have little real impact.
What you don’t know can you kill you. Agnotology is a nascent field that emphasizes the cultural production of ignorance as an anti-epistemological force. It provides great insight into state secrecy and social epistemology. In Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance, the authors (also editors) of the volume, Proctor and Schiebinger, make the case that ignorance is under theorized and that their new term goes a long way in rectifying it.
Ironically, we are ignorant of our own ignorance. In the book, this observation is empirically reflected by Peter Galison’s estimate that the amount of data classified is 5–10 times greater than the open literature publicly accessible. Moreover, Proctor echoes the Socratic wisdom that knowledge of one’s own ignorance is a necessary prerequisite for intellectual enlightenment.
Considering this, Agnotology contributes substantial and needed insight to theories of knowledge. Proctor divides ignorance into three types: native state (common form; innocence; naiveté), lost realm (forgotten; selective; missed), and strategic ploy (“strategies to deceive”). It is primarily the last type that concerns us when dealing with conspiracy.
Examples of strategic ploy ignorance are found in trade secrets, the tobacco industry, and military secrecy. Trade secrecy is legitimized because it is concerned with intellectual property as capital that drives business and economics. However, other forms of secrecy are more nefarious as they obscure truths vital to the public in order to advance their own interests. The truth about the lethality of smoking was stalled for nearly half a century through the concerted “manufacture of doubt.” Likewise, for even longer the scientific consensus on climate change has been marginalized and obstructed by conservatives.
Post 9/11, the Bush regime has also implemented an array of draconian legislative measures including the Patriot Acts resulting in scandals such as NSA wiretapping and extraordinary rendition, among others. Another potentially dangerous form of strategic ploy ignorance production is the state-secrets privilege. The executive can annul any lawsuits or investigations if disclosure of information pertaining to the case can potentially threaten national security.
A notable case involved FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, whose appeals to expose evidence of FBI internal security breaches and a cover-up were blocked by the invocation of the state secrets privilege. Similarly, the disclosure of ‘Top Secret’ information, such as Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers, is extremely dangerous and considered treasonous. However, exposing the crimes also reveals how dysfunctional the government really is.
It is marginally productive to describe these issues outside the context of systemic-conspiracy. The cases of climate change and tobacco-harm denial plainly reveal the systematic distortion of science and policy, and the manipulation of public opinion. And with agnotology, denial is truly the operative word.
The successful suppression of these cases from the dominant news narrative is yet another testament to the power of a systemic faceless enemy. The systemic-conspiracy is not one that explicitly engages a few people, but one that implicitly engages many people in subtle and banal ways. Awareness in a new broader context makes it more salient.
“In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material forces of production.” — Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
The above quote is made in the context of defining historical materialism, the cornerstone of Marx’s scientific worldview. The rest of the quote goes on to explain the relationship between the material or economic conditions of a society and how that shapes social consciousness (in order to, I might add, justify the economic methods of productivity, be it slavery or otherwise). I’m cutting it because I want to reapply this excerpt to systemic-conspiracy, in how people are compelled and incentivized into conditions and relationships that they would not otherwise choose. The military-industrial complex pays well, and its funded by tax-payers who aren’t.
Systemic-conspiracy is unabashadly Marxist analysis. It has to be, as they are both so critically interested in power, social structure, capitalism, and the relationship between elites and masses. This approach is rooted in the Frankfurt school’s critical theory, which examined the Holocaust in realtime and analyzed it retrospectively. The Marxian philosophy of history (historical materialism) also dovetails with the study systemic-conspiracy and evolutionary globalization, so it is integral to our approach here.
This is going to raise the hackles of those allergic to terms like marxism, postmodernism, atheism, and communism. But metamodernism immunizes against this irrational skepticism. Moreover, we are not adding neo- or post- prefixes, but meta-. Marx may turn off conservatives, but systemic-conspiracy is a bipartisan meta-issue if there ever was one, and those who turn a blind eye to it will be shown on the wrong side of history. It is established that both major US political parties are co-opted by corporate interests.
The war machine is a businesses first and foremost, and this fact can not be evaded. That does not mean that all military are bloodthirsty, but contractors do have perverse incentives and ludicrous expenses. Nor does it mean we are calling for communist revolution, but a political paradigm shift is necessary. Our intent is to lay the theory bare, so that the analysis of systemic-conspiracy can speak for itself, and a new policy consensus can form. The defense industry is invested in its own survival, when it should be committed to it’s own “planned obsolescence.”
See the Meta-Marxism article for more depth on this specific concept.
Systemic-conspiracy is the malicious, sinister, impersonal features of “the system” that manifest in power structures, which then have criminal and counterproductive effects against innocent people. In the broadest sense, it is so widespread that it applies from the horrors of totalitarian war down to the absurdities of ab-gimmicks. It projects the appearance of conspiracy, is systemic and secretive in the form of tacit-collusion, as well as conceals actual micro-conspiracies.
It is analogous to The Matrix, which is everywhere watching and controlling you, fating you and others to a slavish existence. Think of what purpose it ultimately serves that Call of Duty is one of the most successful video games of all time. I will take Goat Simulator over war games any day, thank you very much. There is banality and complexity all the way through systemic-conspiracy, but the common thread is a decisively pathological meta-ethic: the war mentality; us vs. them. Every little moral aberration of ours becomes amplified when is plugged into the system. There are ripple effects that turn into shockwaves down the line, and throughout time.
In order to see systemic-conspiracy properly both in the past and present, we have to abstract up to the highest level of analysis. We can, for the purpose of analysis, ignore agency and focus on the system itself; on the contradictions and antinomies that compel us to engage in conflict rather than resolution. By definitively exposing the dysfunctional structure of the ‘systemic conspiracy,’ we can more effectively embrace demilitarization policies and put war out of business.
Systemic-conspiracy is a vital research stream of The Abs-Tract Organization for these reasons, and there is still much work to be done.
The Abs-Tract Organization (TATO) is a boutique research and media think tank, centered around the broad concept of “abstraction” and five other vital research streams.
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