Thursday, May 02, 2013

This week's All the Hegemony You Can Eat


Here’s an interesting little story. The state of Louisiana currently legislates for the equal teaching of evolution and intelligent design. The state’s governor endorsed the act, asking the rhetorical question, “what are we scared of”?

Disinvestment in science and technology is one thing. Students who hold that the laws of nature can be suspended at any point are going to struggle with the sciences. If the state education system will not foster a scientific culture it will not turn out new scientists and will drive existing ones away.

It’s an interesting illustration of the practical limits of neoliberal economic theory. Businesses love state investment. Capital needs an appropriately educated workforce. Equally it needs a healthy workforce with good morale. It needs a strong transport infrastructure, reliable utilities and waste disposal, post, telecommunications. It needs a guaranteed currency. It needs enforced property rights and well defined borders. It needs all these things and more. Capital requires an actor, something at least the size of a national state, to pool the necessary resources. Of course individual businessmen and women don’t want to pay for these things out of their own pockets, but it’s these factors, more than income or capital gains taxes, that affect investment choices.

Why has there been a continual drive in the United States to restore creationism as a legitimate scientific credo? Why would a ruling class hurt itself so? There are ideologues out there, and the bourgeoisie relies on the state to preserve its coherent unity as a class. Creationism is contested as well as advocated by bourgeois representatives. But this is also clearly part of a management problem, of hegemony. It is about how to deal with mass participation in public life.

We have gone on a lot about Truthiness on this blog. There are ideologies, and there are ideological assumptions, but part of what makes truthiness recent and real (and not just a humorous quip) is there are areas of public life where rational debate has been fully subverted in favour of things like “family values” or “legitimate concerns”. If you attack every iteration of the scientific method, particularly if you stop it from ever forming in the first place by, say, insisting descent through natural selection is at least as plausible as intelligent design, you render people incapable. The gain that the masses make through achieving universal education is, in this instance, nullified.

If you have no concept of what is scientific and what isn’t then you will not be able to discern something as basic as your own material interests. Each attack on science is a pre-emptive strike against a counter-hegemony trying to form. Socialism is as much about the preservation of four centuries bourgeois achievement as it is anything else.

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