Wednesday, 2 December 2009


If we really think about it, are we satisfied with the current political, economic and moral system which we live in today? I, for one, am not. Consumer fetishism despicably forces on us a false sense of contentment while simultaneously binding us in perpetual slavery to the insidious chains of planned obsolescence and eternal production. Beyond the images of marketing and our illusory objects of desire a crippling nihilism awaits us, as we inevitably fall deeper into despair and alienation. Coupled with this we bow down to political masters who’s intent is not our happiness and security but their own commodity comfort, which by default requires the relative poverty of those that labour to sustain it. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the consequent collapse of the Soviet Union our despair has been fortified by the belief that there is no way out; no alternative. The alternative that was, communism has been seen to be the horror it was, barely distinguishable from the fascism and oligarchism it sought to negate.
However, there is an alternative. We should stop thinking in such black and white terms and realise that just because the Bolshevik attempt at utopia failed miserably that it will always fail. Bolshevism failed because it tried to operate in the same way as capitalism and ultimately refuted itself.
The idealist should never stop trying to envisage a better world and has a duty to attempt its manifestation. Following in the footsteps of idealist (in the ambitious not philosophical sense) Marxists such as Lukacs we have began to systematically design a utopian society, merging the ideas of various and sometimes contradictory philosophers of the past; from Plato to Zizek. What we have come up with is the Academocracy. A society ruled by intelligent civil servants with unprecedented and centralised power equalling only their sense of duty to the people and the state. An elective dictatorship that ends petty bourgeois squabbling and destructive self interest. Private business is allowed but marginalised; suffrage is limited to those who deserve it. A fleeting lust for mere things is relegated to an adoration of life and state. Nobody goes cold or hungry because what is put into the state is given out tenfold to those who need it most. Marxism meets Platonism in this, the most ideal of utopias. This account, however, is unfair in its brevity. For this reason Fred and Ed Aspbury offer you the chance to come and listen to us as we outline our critique of modern society and this, our solution. We look forward to your constructive criticism.

Date and venue to be announced.


  1. Some very interesting points in this provacative statement, and plenty of grounds for lively debate!

    One issue stands out for me as being particularly misplaced, however, though of course the concept might well be more nuanced than it appears here.

    This is the notion that suffrage should only be available to 'those who deserve it'!! I think one needs to be very careful indeed before talking in terms of "worthiness".

    After all, this is the argument that once ruled out, amongst others, women and 'working class' males. To leave such decisions, presumably, in the hands of a ruling elite is a discomforting thought indeed, invoking Ancient Greek notions of the state as a very limited democracy, indeed so limited as to not, in modern terms, qualfy as such.

    In my view, this scarcely qualifies as an ideal state of affairs, or an ideal state.

    That said, I am certainly in favour of thinking about what an ideal state might consist of, and this is a good launchpad for such discussions...

    Ruth Griffin

  2. Yes, yes and yes again. I really like this post. I think that the issues it attends to are very pertinent. What I like is that it sees the need to transcend the current liberal consensus; this is required in order to assert the universal and collective dimensions and coordinates of any future society. This is necessary now more than ever with the world quite blatently facing future ecological, monetary and oligarchical ruin.

    There is one thing that bothers me about this idea; and that is the notion of 'intelligent civil servants'. Remember, one of the main reasons that communism failed was because of educated communists; in effect bourgeois communists. This was especially evident in Russia and in East Germany. A large and collective state needed a large amount of civil servants to do the paper work. To do this it quickly required educated numbers, many of whom came from the previous regime. The point is that the educated elite are just as capable of protecting their own interests as any others. Indeed, what is most insidious here is that this is achieved by through the inertia of a large state. The interests of a politburo are protected by keeping the state exactly the way it is. In such a state of affairs nothing happens at all, which can but the brakes on any revolutionary change. So I think this notion needs to be worked out a little more, otherwise we would end up with a state run by sloth rather than necessary and radical change. The only type of person that I can think of that would fit the bill of the type of person you require would be either a Jedi Knight or a member of the Vatican cura.
    Kafka knew this lesson well, the danger the educated present in a total state comes in the form of an illusion; the illusion that all demands are being satisfied. Kafka knew that the ideal state was only ever slowed down and subject to the purgatory of infinite deferral. Remember the beauracrats rule the world, they are the one's that always remain; governments, ideals and political programmes come and go, but there are always civil servants.

  3. Quite!

    But I think that we may already exist in a world run by 'intelligent civil servants' - and that the society that Fred dreams of actually exists!

    To wax Zizekian, your fantasy seems to be very much on the 'side of the real'!

    Souldn't this be starting point of your critique - a critique of 'intelligence'..?

    Neil Turnbull

  4. 'Consumer fetishism despicably forces on us a false sense of contentment while simultaneously binding us in perpetual slavery to the insidious chains of planned obsolescence and eternal production.'

    I could not agree with this more! It is scary in which the way people believe they gain true contentment with a product, but then 2 months later they 'have to have' the latest product, which surely just proves that they do not gain true contentment. It is almost as though consumerism is an addiction for many!

    However I have to agree with the other criticisms, what will these intelligent civil servants have intelligence of? Many well educated people do not have the life experiences necessary for being empathetic towards those who have unfortunate upbringings and little education. Which means the current crisis of rich and poor would not be solved.
    Also just because somebody goes to university and gets their degree, what makes them have more intelligence than the guy who works in a factory?

  5. valid criticisms but i think ones that can be dealt with when the details of the 'academocracy' are outlined, firstly the 'deserving electorate'. this would be guaged by an exam (a short one) on the policies of each standing candidate. no normative or critical opinions need be assesed, simply what each candidate claims they wish to do. im sicl of people choosing MY leaders based on unresearched opinions on what theyb want to do. for example, i cant count the number of 'public leftists' (those people, mostly students, who are socialist wothout really understanding what that means) who want to vote lib dem but cant actually outline any policy whatsoever. this is a disgrace! peolpe are voting for the name not the government. this needs ro be addressed. the exam will be objective (as possible) and would not discrminate on racial, gender or any other terms. the exam will be sat every term (5-10yrs) so people will not be rejected forever.

    as to the nature of the 'educated cicil servants.' these are graduates form the political acadamy- designed to make the cream of the (revised and reinvented) education system into leaders. it will come hand in hand with a particular kind of indoctrination (anyone who thinks we are not indoctrinated now and is thus repulsed by such an idea is misguided) that places servitude to the welfare of the state and its people as the highest priority. the private estates of senators will be isolated (by law) fromtheir political income so that we an limit as much as possible conflicts of interest. thanks to a revised education sustem (dont forget this is an 'ideal' state) there is no class or financil privelage so all who are capable can access the political acadamy. it would be the very essence of a meritocracy. Yes it would be more of a greek (or roman) democracy than the one we have now but this is not necissarily a bad thing. the 'court of public opionuion' is a virus that rots the core of progress. people approve or disapprove of government based on what the papers say and thus are too fickle. thus there are 2 steps from people to central government, if people want change they can, in an election, change their local reps, who in turn are trusted to select the national senators that would please their electorate. a democracy but one that allows the rulers to get on with things without having to constantly think of their changable public popularity

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  7. The birth of Aspburyism Part I

    My mate’s a mechanic. And she, much like Team Aspbury, has really thought about it. She firmly believes that if the world were run on the same lines as she runs her garage, then the world would be a better place. Definitely. If the garage mechanics were in charge, things would be so much better. Let us call this “idealist” plea, for a moment, Mechanocratic Utopianism. Mechanocratic Utopian thought could only really be realised, she half-apologises, through the exercise of the unprecedented and centralised power of an intelligent bureau-mechanocracy. No form of totalitarianism has yet achieved the exercise of centralised power that she has in mind – and, I’m sure that if you, like I do, agree with her starting premises you will find it extremely hard to resist her conclusions. However, someone who does resist her rhetorical thrust, at least slightly, is her boyfriend. He is a nail-technician. The nail-technocracy has very different ideas – for example, the Buffication of the Proletariat, see below – and although it does share some of the central tenets e.g. “deserving suffrage”, it disagrees on the form that that deserving should take: Mechanocratic Utopian thought, for instance, does not recognise nice nails.

    Whatever their individual disagreements might be, they, and I, feel that there is a place for both in the Academocracy. Aside from the fact that they both have NVQs (level II and III respectively, I believe) they both agree that any system that brought petty bourgeois squabbling to an end (like Mssrs Aspbury, they aren’t so concerned about petty squabbles of the proletarian variety) and that any system that promoted constructive over destructive self-interest is “obviously a really good idea”. They were equally enamoured of the idea of “Elective Dictatorship”, the consensus being that the contradictoriness of the phrase opened up an aporia (απορια), an impasse, indeed a spatiality in which, and through which, the deconstruction of the subtle interplay of differance of an interminable chain of signification could be worked through, perhaps during tea breaks, with immense implications for political praxis (πραξις)

  8. The birth of Aspburyism Part II

    Having dealt with the problem of what qualifies admittance to the Bureau-Academico-Mechanico-Nail-Technocratic State, in terms of governance and suffrage, our discussion, down the pub, then moved on to the issue of how this new state could be realised. On this, we finally achieved a consensus on the only two possible routes to our glittering utopia. According to Left-Mechanocratic thought – the self-confessed extremist wing, also known as Mechano-Garagistic-Centralism, which has a spanner as its emblem – power is to be wrested from those that currently wield it in a violent (only if necessary, see below), struggle that will install a temporary “day-release apprenticeship of the proletariat”. Alternatively, the Mechanico-Corporativist faction – which also has a spanner as its emblem - would seek a strong alliance of academy, state, garage and nail-parlour. Whichever of the methods establishes it, this process of “garagification” will then gradually yield to the process of “buffication” in which legislative and juridical power is handed over to theo-bureau-buffocrats whose task will be the imposition of δοχα via the nail-bar/pulpit.

    Naturally, I voiced the concern that this, as indeed hinted at by the Aspburys, all appeared very similar to previous totalising political systems, but I was completely assured that this would not be the case and things “would be different this time”. I felt obliged to ask how the Theo-Bureau -Academico-Mechanico-Nail-Technocratic State (στασια θεοβυροαψαδεμιψομεψανιψοτεψνοψρασια) would handle dissent. The reply was that because it is “such a bloody good idea”, everybody would eventually see the sense of handing over power to a small group of privileged functionaries and all internal contradictions would consequently be dissolved, if they hadn’t been beforehand, during the transition from the Garagified to the Buffed State.

    Unfortunately, my comrades are not able to attend your presentation but I am happy to attend this historical world moment in their place and make representation (vorstellungen) of the views synthesised above. Whatever misgivings we had, by the end of the evening I think we were of one mind when, just before last-orders we all chimed in unison, “Isn’t it just about time somebody stood up on the table and gave us all some clear direction?”

  9. Thanks sempronio. I agree that there may be some dissent about exactly who the academocracy favours but, idealistically, the answer is noone. freedom through subservience to ideals is promised here and all have a chance to create beautiful nails or functioning cars as they see fit. especially artistically. art is what makes us human and not animals and thus all art- dissenting or not- will be encouraged.
    as for how we would bring about the revolution, well i would suggest that nothing short of bloody rupture with the old world, a purge, a cleansing. let terror be the order of the day and let the ancien regime's decadance be hidden beneath a pool of cold blood. its not nice but its necessary. the violence of the old world can only be met in kind and all together, and not one institution shall be left to operate as before... especially the education system! some will be hurt in the process but the revolutionaries must act so that the future generations do not have to. this should be greeted as the most beautiful of sacrifices; a martydom without gods. there will be dissent from those to comfortable with the decadent past and these will be dealt with in the manner with which they act: violence begets violence and speech shall be met with silence.
    once the new society is in place, a generation or two down the line, nobody will be without so why would anybody want to rebel. all will have equal (and excellent schooling) all will feed their children, all will be equally defended. why would anybody want to change that? again i am of course talking idealistically and hypothetically here.
    i still conced a lot could go wrong. the jacobins got comfortable with power, as did the bolsheviks. the brigate rosse and the red army faction became a little too obbsessed with robbing banks and maximising casualties instead of keeping their eyes on the goal. ultimately it will require not just groups but the people themselves to change things. maybe it will happen a smarx says. or maybe we need to instigate the inevitable. either way we need- as you say- leaders; and these must not be abstract and hypothetical philosophers like myself, but action heroes, to use a regretable term. marx had lenin, rousseau had robespierre. their utopias failed but they had bulldogs with the balls to try. hopefully we are not all out of such instruments.

  10. by the way, i am also (for some reason) registered as 'bluecondition' on this blog.

  11. Fred you are beginning to sound dangerously like Ernst Junger!

    I suspected that there was a blood-soaked totalitarian manifesto behind your initial post when I wrote The birth of Asburyism and which I offered by way of satire.

    Has The Academocracy has already lost its sense of humour?

  12. well, without meaning to go down a well trodden path of cliches, you can't make an ommlette without killing a few people. i think thats how it goes anyway. im not sure i like the junger comparison. i would have said more lenin, or even stalin (heaven forbid). as for blood soaked. those blood stains wash off easily enough, you just need to have the historians on your side

  13. I'd suggest that perhaps you need to shift the focus more toward the revolutionary process as a way of thinking & a way of life, and away from the description of *a* revolution which will lead to some sort of utopia.

    I'd stand by a definition of the revolutionary as someone who continually rejects the established in favour of a new they cannot fully know in advance. Most revolutionaries don't therefore deserve that title, except perhaps briefly during a particular revolution. Where the definition of revolution is basically just a sudden change in social circumstances: the revolution itself quickly passes, even if its effects do not. Perhaps the trick then is to find a way to indefinitely prolong revolution?

    So it might be helpful to spend some time thinking about what the transformative movement would involve beyond lots of people getting killed. After all, in the terms of my definition above, is there really anything that revolutionary about violence?

    A useful test: if you can put 'After the revolution...' before many of your plans, you aren't thinking enough about process...

  14. The lessons of history would suggest that one of the main problems with revolution, which in this context I take to be a violent rupture of the status quo, is the somewhat inconvenient fact that once they are underway they tend to snowball out of control and result in some form of totalitarianism. I realise that a benign dictatorship is what is at stake here, but whether the outcome can be controlled in this way is to be doubted.

    Even more crucial for me (and yes, I am aware that killing might sometimes be justified, for example in self-defence) are the ethics of violent revolution. While it is all very well to chatter blithely about blood being spilt, is it not significant that this always has to be someone else's blood, never the leader's and their compatriots? The masses come in very useful indeed as cannon fodder, though we are meant to believe that the outcome is in their own best interests. On the contrary, don't utopias tend to work in favour of those who instigated them?

    For me, the end (the purported ideal society) could never justfy violent means unless, that is, the instigator of the revolution is prepared, even in theory, to lay down their life and those dear to them. Why should the leader expect others to sacrifice themselves on the alter of his utopian project? (and I use 'he' advisedly here!)
    Ruth Griffin

  15. Just to correct Sempronio about Junger. Junger was, in the end, no advocate of 'blood soaked totalitarianism at all'. In fact he defined himself as 'anarch' and a 'waldganger' - that is, someone who advocated the 'retreat into the forest' in the face of modernity's technology-induced nihilism.

    I think that Junger would view Fred's 'Academocracy' has quintessentially nihilistic as it seems to will the destruction of everything of value in the past in the name of bright new and gliterring rational-bureaucratic future. The point for Junger is to find ways of 'crossing nihilism's line' - and Fred has yet convince how his 'Academocracy' is likely to achieve this.

    Neil Turnbull.