41 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. On the other hand Fran, if I studied in your school (of graduation or current work) I would have to adopt and follow the accepted definition of imperialism in that school if I wanted to be understood and get at least a pass grade. And I would do so. I wonder if I used the term “primitive imperialism” for say Roman imperialism whether this would be understood and accepted? I mean in more or less the same spirit that the term “primitive accumulation” is used.

  2. @Ikonoclast

    “minimally connotes the use of state power to secure or attempt to secure economic monopolies for national companies.

    Wrong – imperialism does not have to use state power.

    Consequently everything in your post that followed:

    On this basis,…..

    was misconstrued or wrong.

    There is no reason why attempting a scholastic, narrow, academic view would lead to contradictions. A accurate view avoids contradictions. Its called rigor.

    A broad understanding is a hindrance not an aid to a clear understanding.

    Which is what we want.

  3. @Ivor

    It looks like I have run into one (or two) old school Marxist-Leninists. I really am not interested in what doctrinaire Marxist-Leninists have to say. After the experience of Soviet Russia, Marxist-Leninism is entirely disgraced. This is just as one can say after our experience of capitalism to date that capitalism is entirely disgraced. Lenin, though highly intelligent and successful within his own parameters, was a disgraceful and contemptible human being in nearly every sense. Marxist-Leninists were and are totalitarians wearing a false socialist face.

    I am Marxian rather than Marxist. The Marxian strains of my thinking do not by any means constitute or exhaust the entirety of my thinking. I know this is difficult for those who deify Marx and Lenin (and probably Stalin) to understand. I study and think to understand ideology not to be captured by it.

  4. Footnote: Marxist-Leninists have to ask themselves why Marxist-Leninism ended in Stalinism and very little that was much better after that. Clearly, violent revolution and revolutionary terror lead us down the wrong path and engender ever more violence in subsequent convulsions.

    If doctrinaire Marxist-Leninism is not the cause for it, I remain baffled by the insistence on a Marxist-Leninist construction of the word “imperialism” rather than a wider and more useful interpretation of Imperialism as “any system of domination and subordination organized with an imperial center and a periphery”. I will continue to insist on this construction. Those who can’t accept this because of their specific indoctrination may please themselves.

  5. @ZM

    I note that in my general predictions that we are very likely in catastrophic ecological danger I am supported or more correctly led in my views by 11 Nobel prize laureates, among many other scientists.

  6. @Ikonoclast

    You are now conducting yourself in a very filthy manner. You appear to have no control over your overly fertile imagination.

    Deliberately and falsely implicating others in totalitarianism is a contemptible ploy that brands you irretrievably as some backward ancient cold-war warrior of the worst kind.

    Your world – your wealth – which is about to come tumbling down according to the IMF, was and is a blood soaked criminal construction based on lies and rank, insipid, delusional propaganda – the last refuge for scoundrels.

  7. @Ivor

    I apologise for the jibe about Stalinism. That was uncalled for. I do however ask you to declare whether or not you are a Marxist-Leninist and/or whether or not you support revolutionary violence and in what circumstances.

    I wholly agree that my world – my wealth – is about to come tumbling down. I wholly agree that my world (as a denizen, as a coincidental and sometimes colluding benefeciary of capitalism, as a first world worker who benefited from the welfare state “social democratic” accomodation with capitalism and from an accumulated history of colonialist and capitalist imperialism, oppression and wealth stealing is a “blood soaked criminal construction based on lies and rank, insipid, delusional propaganda.” I mean to say, do you think I don’t know all that? Of course I know all that. That does not prevent from also knowing and rejecting the bloodsoaked Marxist-Leninist movement which is equally reprehensible and another hisotrical blind alley in terms of developing a peaceful and sustainable society.

    In the interests of full disclosure, need to make a political position statment and a short philosophical statment.

    I am probably an unaligned left-wing individual with misanthropic and nihilistic tendencies. I am a religious and political agnostic still troubled by lingering superstitions instilled in childhood and hodgepodges of anachronistic ideologies received in social and formal education. I now advocate peaceful, democratic transition from corporate-oligarchic capitalism to worker cooperative socialism. However, I think the most likely outcome of current trends is a most horrendous barbarian dystopia of ecological catastrophe and remnant populations governed by corporate dictators or warlords. I see little that is good in ambitious human nature, “leaders” and the seemingly all too common desire to dominate others and external nature. On the other hand, I take comfort in the unconscious goodness of the many obscure, little people who daily do good little things to help people near to them.

    I take comfort in the fact that production must precede both consumption and destruction (including of course reactionary and revolutionary violence). This reality forces a kind of virtue onto us. Survival can only be assured by constructive production. Absolute human evil, as complete negation of human life, is impossible as production of life and at least initial affirmation of life must precede both destruction of life and nihilistic despair. Absolute human evil cannot exist nor reproduce itself for both self-care and other-nurture are not just life-affirming in a fuzzy sense but strict necessities for creating and sustaining life. On the other hand, imperfect or partial good is good enough in most cases to affirm, to generate and to prolong life.

    The closest human approach to “evil”, as life negation, occurs, perhaps paradoxically, in human political power and ideology systems and in material production systems which can become massively and systemically maladaptive, inhumane and inhuman, thus becoming life negating at the very point where they promise life affirmation on a mass scale.

    As a final note, being a thorough-going agnostic means not just taking the position of claiming no knowledge about God or gods, their existence or otherwise, their qualities and attributes. It also means taking a position that one can claim no special incommunicable knowledge about the nature of Reality. Being a thorough-going agnostic means disavowing the validity of gnosis as a means of obtaining knowledge. Gnosis is quite distinct from empirical observation with the senses and consequent investigation using the scientific method. A thumbnail definition of gnosis would be “just Knowing the Truth through (spiritual) experience”.

    From my standpoint I found Buddhism (the most profound of all religions to my knowledge), though initially very interesting and still containing much philosophy of interest, to founder on the rocks of gnosis. It cannot escape the charge of being a kind of gnostic subjectivism. There is no way to differentiate gnostically known reality from subjective illusion.

  8. Ikono

    It has been a decade and perhaps two since it would have been warranted to call me an old school Marxist-Len|n|st.

    I’m a member of The Greens, as you’d know, which is a capitalist party composed largely of people who are called ‘petit bourgeois’ by old school M-Ls with no organic connection to workingclass organisation and a perspective of nudging the existing social system in the direction of reduced inequity, more permissive social policy, more accountable and inclusive governance and greater respect for the integrity of the ecosystem. The party asserts and assumes that capitalism can accomplish these things. I come here most weeks offering my own suggestions within this paradigm.

    For an old school M-L, that would be ‘crossing the class line’ – a form of class treason.

    My enthusiasm for precision in language has nothing to do with my political inclinations, though inevitably, language, at least implicitly, expresses one’s position in relation to class power on each occasion one begins to discuss matters bearing upon public policy.

    You say you are ‘baffled’ by ‘insistence on a Marxist-Len|n|st construction of the word imperialism’ yet you cite Said, who is not any kind of Len|n|st for his focus on the metrople and periphery on the basis that I raised it. I merely include these more ‘third worldist’ usages because they at least retain the idea of the exploitation of the periphery by the metropole and are therefore, at least in broad terms, about property rather that mere handwaving about abstract power.

    You can see though surely your construction above ‘an imperial centre’; ‘domination and subordination’ is both question begging and (outside of an analysis of trade flows, transfers, divisions of labour and provision etc) altogether too nebulous to be used in anything but the proverbial soap box in the corner of a public park.

    It is generally the case with terms that they arise precisely because one wants to distinguish one thing from another. We use different words for knife and razor for example, because although they are both metal cutting objects with sharpened edges we want to distinguish them so that people understand what we mean. Giving one term too much work often makes it less rather than more useful, and indeed ‘equivocation’ is a form of argument in which the slippery use of terms seeks to obscure specious claims. One sees this in public policy debates with painful frequency. I see no value at all in lending the term ‘imperialism’ a looser interpretation, though as I point out above, even the occasional CEO agrees with you on that. Apparently, giving investment advice amounts to imperialism.

  9. @Fran Barlow

    It is true that we use different words for different things because of the differences between them, but it’s also true that we use the same word for different things because of the similarities between them. Different knives, to borrow your example, have different appearances, properties, and uses, but we use the same word ‘knife’ for all of them when the similarities have more relevance than the differences. A thesaurus offers many synonyms for ‘knife’, including ‘blade’, ‘cutter’, ‘dagger’, ‘scalpel’, ‘shank’, ‘shiv’, and ‘sword’. Is every blade a knife? is every knife a scalpel? should we say that a shiv is a specific variety of knife, or should we say that shivs are not knives but resemble them closely? If we prefer the word ‘dagger’ in a context where we want to emphasise points of difference, but prefer the word ‘knife’ — for exactly the same individual object — in a different context where we want to emphasise points of similarity, isn’t that reasonable?

    So if we can agree that specific instances A, B, and C are all examples of ‘imperialism’, but we can’t agree about specific instances Y and Z, instead of arguing about what the correct definition of ‘imperialism’ is and whether Y and Z are genuine examples of it, wouldn’t it be more productive to discuss both the points of difference and the points of similarity, and then to discuss which contexts might make the differences more relevant and which contexts might make the similarities more relevant?

  10. @Fran Barlow

    The Online Etymology Dictionary says of “imperial”:

    late 14c., “having a commanding quality,” from Old French imperial (12c.), from Latin imperialis “of the empire or emperor,” from imperium (see empire). Meaning “pertaining to an empire” (especially the Roman) is from late 14c.

    And for empire:

    early 14c., from Old French empire “rule, authority, kingdom, imperial rule,” from Latin imperium “rule, command,” from imperare “to command,” from im- “in” (see in- (2)) + parare “to order, prepare” (see pare).

    So both English words have roots in the Latin imperium (at one stage or another) and come to English via Old French where they spelled one with an E and one with an I.


    1826, “advocacy of empire,” originally in a Napoleonic context, also of Rome and of British foreign policy, from imperial + -ism. At times in British usage (and briefly in U.S.) with a neutral or positive sense relating to national interests or the spread of the benefits of Western civilization, but from the begining usually more or less a term of reproach. General sense of “one country’s rule over another,” first recorded 1878. Picked up disparagingly in Communist jargon by 1918. (Note: I will come back to this one very biased sentence.)

    “It is the old story of 1798, when French republicanism sick of its own folly and misdeeds, became metamorphosed into imperialism, and consoled itself for its incapacity to found domestic freedom by putting an iron yoke upon Europe, and covering it with blood and battle-fields.” – Francis Lloyd, “St. James’s Magazine,” January 1842”

    So, the word “imperialism” has existed in English from about 1824 or a little earlier so far as this tells. This first usage, as description of the advocacy and/or processes of empire, was first applied in the Napoleonic context.

    Marxist-Leninists later appropriated the word to mean specifically capitalist imperialism (and all that that implies and entails). The sentence above “Picked up disaparingly etc.” is itself very prejudicial and biased as the Marxist-Leninist analysis of capitalist imperialism has comnsiderable validity and applicability. The revealed crude bourgeois bias in that sentence does not obviate the correctness of the rest of the entry about the origin of the word in strict etymological terms.

    Thus I hold that my more general meaning has the better historical precedent and further allows better analysis and categorisation of the various types of imperialism, ancient and modern. In terms of nomenclature, capitalist imperialism is appropriately dealt with precisely by adding that adjective.

    To continue to insist solely on the Marxist-Leninist construction of the word “imperialism” after having the above pointed out is to remain rooted in doctrinaire Marxist-L.ist (or like dogmatic leftist) nomenclature at least at the scholastic or academic level. The best construction I think that can be put on this is that the broader, more etymologically correct, more semantically and conceptually useful meaning of the word “imperialism” simply grates on certain persons after many years of political indoctrination or academic pedagogic inculcation in a limited specialised meaning.

    The dimensions that such a narrow construction of “imperialism” (as capitalist imperialism or the like) misseinclude the military aspects of empire which have remained rather constant in some strategic nnd geostrategic senses for at least several thousand years. Clearly I am not referring to military technology and tactical doctrine based on the technology level.

    I wonder why it is common for modern scholars (other than perhaps M-L scholars and their rather slavish intellectual offspring) to commence the history of imperialism (broadly defined), as a description of some of the processes of empire, including especially but not only military behaviour and consequent looting and tribute, from as early as the 24th C BC? You need to work at becoming more of a polymath. Your lack of understanding of military strategy and geostrategy and how it dovetails with and is indeed integral to the processes of empire (broad imperialism) is quite clear. But I will not argue further with a pedagogical pedant generally impervious to logic as you have proven yourself to be on at least one other clear occassion (the issue of the ETS as a beginning wedge for the privatisation of a commons). You clearly didn’t understand the basic logical categories of the analysis on that occasion either.

  11. @J-D

    instead of arguing about what the correct definition of ‘imperialism’ is and whether Y and Z are genuine examples of it, wouldn’t it be more productive to discuss both the points of difference and the points of similarity, and then to discuss which contexts might make the differences more relevant and which contexts might make the similarities more relevant?

    Arguably, depending on whether one was insistent on using the term ‘imperialism’ in cases where it was likely to be misleading.

  12. Ikono

    But I will not argue further with a pedagogical pedant generally impervious to logic as you have proven yourself to be on at least one other clear occasion (the issue of the ETS as a beginning wedge for the privatisation of a commons). You clearly didn’t understand the basic logical categories of the analysis on that occasion either.

    LOL … Fair enough then. You seem overwrought. Let’s leave it at that.

  13. A little news: The Hinkley C nuclear power plant in the UK has been approved and will apparently go ahead, at a cost of over $14,000 a kilowatt-hour. That is more expensive than utility scale solar even in dreary old Britain and vastly more expensive than point of use solar. And it won’t even come online until 2023 even if everything goes right, which it simply doesn’t when looking at new reactor construction in Europe. And the comparison with the cost of other low emission alternatives will be even worse by then. (And yes Hermit, feel free to have your weekly revelation that the sun doesn’t shine at night. How nice it must be to retain that childlike surprise at things like sunset.)

    In other news China is slapping a 6% tariff on imported thermal coal and a 3% tariff on imported metallurgical coal. Good for the planet, not so good for the coal export industry but pretty insignificant compared to the 58% drop in coal prices from their peak in 2011.

    And on a personal note my bank has sent me a new card with pay wave on it but no mention of charges if I exceed the 10 free withdrawals I get per month. Is it legal to tell people they can just wave their card to pay for things but not mention the charges they will get if they actually do that? I’d call not making it explicit lying through omiss… omish… omisshun… lying through lying.

  14. @Ikonoclast

    I do not engage in such poorly conceptualised endeavours.

    I have already made it clear, I support the program of Edvard Kardeli, which I have experienced first hand.

  15. Hermit, if you are aware that the actual cost of new solar before subsidy averages about $2.50 a watt or less for a typical Australian installation but chose to the extremely unusual Royalla installation because it was expensive then you are a liar.

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