Law in Contemporary Society
[revision 3 was the last submitted before the deadline; I edit for clarity / pride in my work / classmates' benefit]

"How a functionalist farce became a modern morality play"

By AndrewGradman
Word count: If you turn my table of contents on its side, you will see the Hong Kong skyline. The paper on globalization portrayed therein is worth exactly as many words.

Act I. A functionalist farce

I.1 Man's search for a paper topic

I.1.i Question: "Does nationalism conflict with globalization?"

What impressed me, when I asked this of a FedSoc classmate, was his quick reflexes: “Obviously!” Then again, a libertarian is an adult who still believes an invisible hand will catch him wherever he leaps.

I.1.ii Method: informal colloquy (aka magic)

Yet in his reflexive dismissiveness, I recognized myself: a smuggler rushing to judgment, hiding his pet beliefs from logic.

Seeing my mulishness in his shook my confidence in my masculinity (for, what distinguishes man from the animals, is our patience to articulate phrases like "what distinguishes man from the animals"; plus, mules are sterile). I groped for a path from mulehood to manhood; I remembered Eben saying that the path to insight passes through stillness; I jerked one involuntary hoofstep inward, towards rumination.

And a miracle came to pass: two mules ruminated together.

I.2 His Question Questioned

I.2.i Is it even a valid question?

"A question becomes valid when it's answered," I brayed. "Wait for the answer."

I.2.ii A Functionalist Defines Nationalism

An Ism is a vision that empowers an audience to lead itself somewhere.

Nationalism is a tautology ("an audience pursuing whatever vision it circled on the museum map") until measured with respect to an outside stimulus. Rousseau called that stimulus the "lawgiver," but it's just a name.

Conversely, we can define a nation as a group with a consistent social reaction to a known stimulus. The axes against which anthropologists measure identities—attitudes towards God, poverty, death, leisure—were entrenched long before corporate cutters mounted our virgin shores.

I.2.iii A Functionalist Defines Capitalism

In other words, today the external stimulus is globalization. By which I mean Capitalism.

Capitalism is everything between the French and Communist Revolutions.

But it is more useful to let capitalism denote commodification, profit's enslavement of thought, marketing's enslavement of man. It functions as a vector for fetishism, the expectation to find more delight in things than in people.

I.3 His Question Answered

I.3.i Nationalism - Capitalism = armies+highways+lighthouses = Love

Thus the phrase "private property" carries a double meaning: capitalism invites the individual to cannibalize his public spirit, to digest love and reconstitute it as onanism.

I.3.ii Nationalism vs. Capitalism = socialism vs. solipsism = Us vs. Me

The tide of globalism has been rising since World War II, drowning ancient cultures, displacing the sea of faith. Chinese-sourced tchotchkes metastasize through its bloodstream.

The Amish invite every member to sample urban narcissism, but only after sixteen years of communal inculcation. Under globalism, the international agents of industrial stockholders invade the communes; glut the next generation's infant fetishes; indoctrinate by addiction.

I.3.iii Nationalism vs. Capitalism→colonialism = socialism vs. solipsism→utilitarianism

But even if the answer to my question is "yes," it cannot be a "yes" of the form, "and the winner will be ..." Rather, the peace-loving industrial world reaches settlements through roadmap negotiations:

* nationalism vs. capitalism→colonialism
* socialism vs. solipsism→utilitarianism

These marriages seem more stable, and more volatile, than the one-night stand the Nazis pulled on the Soviets. Yet the one thing socialism and solipsism still won't discuss at pillow talk is how to actually measure the utilities they claim to be adding. They can't.

So no, it was not a valid question.

I.4 His tragedy

I.4.i While the national folkdance is still getting its shoes on ...

If business is "That government which markets its brand through sales contracts"—and the marriage of business and government is a never-ending custody battle—we may restate my question thus: whether corporations (transferable-contractual-solipsistic-private spirited) or constitutions (territorial-democratic-socialist-public spirited) can market (legitimize) themselves better to you, the judge.

Capitalism already captured TV; zombies claim your dividend, memories of childhood meals eaten alongside parents in a frontfacing row.

Bloch flees to the Internet to stir the "storm corner for the revolution".

I.4.ii ... Globalization gets halfway around the world ...

Alas, the storm in this corner will fizzle out like all the others. We've long drifted from Jeffersonian democracy into the feudal schizophrenia of corporate contracts.

* It is old-fashioned to think you own the content of your website, when some corporate "brand" owns your mind. A neurologist can literally trace the scar where that brand was seared into your optical cortex.
* Every day you vote in several elections—or at least push-polls—in which corporate brainwashing machines compete to renew these property rights.
* Marketing is not sales. It's the rationing of identity. Marketing names us; the mall breathes life into us.
* Long after fallout kills the cockroaches, our brands will still scar the earth.

I.4.iii ... so face it, we're fucked.

I never dreaded the offspring of this dialectical marriage more than when I read Ernst Bloch, who argued that the rhetoric of fascism ("advanced capitalism") is more alluring than Communism's, therefore it will usher in the Revolution, therefore Communists should remove Democrats from Fascism's path to power.

I fear that our own strain of public-spirited narcissism (conspicuous consumption) will become incurable the day our rough utilitarian synthesis slouches toward the last tribe on earth.

I.5 His catharsis

I.5.i But maybe he said "We're in luck"? I can't hear so well over the harping cherubs

And yet, I'm still an optimist.

I.5.ii Legitimacy

When I'm not at the mall, I snuggle up with the late sociologist Peter Drucker.

I.5.iii Oversight

When whistleblowers are the only law-enforcement, we're gonna wish we passed that journalist shield law.

I.5.iv No ancestors! We're freeeeee! ! !

I'm glad I'm not in Eben's position, surveying our classroom, his generation's legacy. I could not restrain my temper so well.

Act II. Modern morality play : messiah :: Functionalist farce : ?

"What we just did," said one mule to the other, massaging under his bootstraps, "is impossible. Mules don't ruminate."

"That's why I love America," said the other. "It invented pragmatism because it doesn't like the truth. Now we just invent the truth." As if to demonstrate, he took another drag from his reefer.*

"Then tell your professor this," brayed the first: "Our generation may have degenerated into stubborn mules, but if that means we sterilized ourselves as well, then I deny being a mule at all!"

[*Editorial note: the actual author just has a headcold.]



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r11 - 12 Jan 2009 - 22:39:14 - IanSullivan
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