Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
A night of sleep has left me understanding your distinction between myth and ideology better, but I still don't feel I've really got it completely just yet.  Two more points that occurred to

Myths helped Bush win in 2000
It occurred to me that one reason why Bush had even a remote a chance to win in 2000 -- despite his obvious lack of qualifications and the relatively excellent state of the economy (with the caveat that many were already predicting a downturn after 2000) -- is probably indeed the fact that myths operated so well among the conservative basis, and probably even influenced the undecideds.  It also points to a major effect of having strong myths:  motivating the disaffected within the base to mobilize and rally together and vote.

Progressives do need a compelling theoryy (i.e. "myth") of economics
The more I think about Jerome's we are only as rich as the poorest amongst us, the more I like it.  But to make it work for more than just the base -- and I agree with afew that it is important to use this meme to "pander to the base", as you put it, to reassure them, and to expand it -- we need to back it up with some compelling theory.  Someone wrote recently in some other thread that we don't need an economic theory right now, that highlights and general principles will be enough for now.  I disagree.  The huge advantage that conservatives have in the U.S. at least on the economic front is that they have a very compelling folk theory of a free market, one that has explicative force and is coherent.  The nearest thing I could find to such a theory on EuroTrib was a comment Jerome once posted regarding an alternative to the CPE to bolster employment among youths in France -- if I read him correctly, basically he wass advocating Keynesianism in the form of emplois jeunes for masses of disadvantaged youths.  I am embarrassingly unread in economics, but it seems to me that if we want we are only as rich as the poorest amongst us to not sound too "out there" (again, primarily in the U.S.), we need to make it theoretically compelling: it has got to make sense for Joe and Jane Main Street, and it has to help them make sense out of their own real-world experiences.  Right now I fear it comes off more as fuzzy wishful feel-good thinking, not grounded in reality and practicality.  If we can come up with a version of such a theory that makes sense to the broad public, then it can act as a very powerful, perhaps essential, myth for expanding the base and swaying the undecided/uninformed.  (I just discovered the Towards a New Economics Manifesto which I need to get to reading.)

Mythologizing vs. Propagandizing
Although I think I understand your thesis better, I still am somewhat uncomfortable about the very slippery slope/incestuous relationship between "creating/spreading myths" and "propaganda" and "ideology".  You wrote that

Ideology is a very narrow set of myths strongly clustered. Ideology comes from the mythical idea of coherence and improvement. We must not confuse two. Myths are general narratives that explain the world whose main aim is not to correlate forces.

But teasing one out from the other is difficult.  Take Marxism:  I believe, though am not sure, that you would consider Marxism to be an example of a myth.  And from that myth was distilled an ideology.  But how/where do you separate the two?  Marx himself got caught up in his own rhetoric about revolution.  His legacy was indeed leaving an economic myth to generations that followed him.  But I am worried that this legacy lent itself to abuse leading to unprecedented -- and so far, unmatched -- levels of cruelty, suffering, exploitation, destruction and waste.  So, I still feel confused about the distinctions between myth, narrative, slogan, values, ideology, propaganda, and so on.   On the one hand, I obviously see the need for better articulating progressive values and viewpoints to the public; on the other hand, I am uncomfortable with this conscious, deliberate shaping of "myths" to make them more persuasive.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 08:13:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Marx offered one of the most compelling myths : I will explain to you the meaning of human history. His explanation was that history was engaged in a movement of inevitable progress towards a final, harmonious condition. He described a mechanism by which that happened, dialectics. And from it he said predictions could be made. And from that came the ideology of the dictatorship of the proletariat. And from that...

Disclaimer: I'm not trying to show you that's it's easy to "tease out" the mythology from the ideology. I'm not familiar with all this enough to attempt that. Anyway, what's more important, imo, is not the compelling or persuasive character of the myth, but what might be called its quality (basically, it was way off the reality mark, which matters less when a myth purports to describe unverifiable pie in the sky like heaven or the arrival of a cargo ship, more when it sets out to describe economic reality); and, next, its nature, which was to function as a predictive model (a system that claims to interpret the workings of history and to offer infallible predictions based on them has one foot in the camp of religion, anyway).

How I mean to relate this to your unease about thinking about myths is that it's not the case that we should be  attempting "conscious, deliberate shaping of "myths" to make them more persuasive", but that we should be searching in reality itself for a general myth that springs from the base of what is false about the current economic "wisdom" and what seems to us (can't do better than that -- but either we try, or we don't) true about the real state of economic relations. There's a discussion above about, basically, what is the meaning of wealth, what is the meaning of value. Personally, I think that's at the very base of economic thought (there may be others that people may suggest). What we need is to work on those notions till we come up with a narrative that may serve to expose the speciousness of the ultra-free-market myth, while setting out an alternative that has quality (is not miles off the reality mark) and does not have a mechanically predictive nature (will not lead to quasi-religious belief in some future state of happiness).

If we can do that (and it is no small or quickly-accomplished task) then we will have something that measures up to these requirements:

we need to make it theoretically compelling: it has got to make sense for Joe and Jane Main Street, and it has to help them make sense out of their own real-world experiences.

Exactly. Dead on.

And from that point we will have won more than half of the battle. But, I fear, if we don't dig that deep, we will not stem the tide of money-fed propaganda from globalising big-corp financial capitalism.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 05:30:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I still am somewhat uncomfortable about the very slippery slope/incestuous relationship between "creating/spreading myths" and "propaganda" and "ideology".
 I too would be uncomfortable with a superficial mythology, but I don't think this is the issue here.  I think the idea here is that, once you have a clear set of ideas that make sense, the "mythology" creates itself and is self-perpetuating.  Myths, as condendsations of ideas, are inevitable because  of their symbolic efficacy.

While I tend to be pessimistic about our ability to face the future, I tend to be optimistic about mythologizing a new economy.  I'll cite a few examples I've quoted before:

One is Post Autistic Economics, a true-cost economics movement born in the grandes ecoles in France, and spreading to Britain and the U.S..  Another is Natural Capitalism.  Natural capitalism stresses the true cost of materials and is already being introduced by corporations such as Interface.  Interface is the world's largest carpet and flooring manufacturer.  Their plan is to create a rental economy.  The idea is that corporations must be required to recycle what they produce and therefore companies that can recycle the materials in their products the most efficiently can charge the lowest rent.  This makes sense: humans shouldn't own natural resources, they should borrow or rent them, because they are mostly non-renewable. The "rental" may not be a monthly charge, but a one-time payment that requires the renter to give the carpet or flooring back to interface after X years.  Such a relationship build customer relationships with corporations, but also defines the most efficient relationship between corporations and the products they make, and the natural consequences of making those products. Anyway, I think you get the idea...

Recycling is another example of a rising mythology, one with a quasi-religious connotation.  Many people today feel guilty when they do not recycle.  Why do they feel guilty?  Because they are aware of a duty, a shared responsibility that goes beyond consumption.  As a writer for Harper's pointed out, he gets chided by his children when he forgets to take out the recycling on Monday morning, and he equates taking out the recycling to a ceremony, a ritual--and rituals always have a basis in mythology, in symbolism.

Anyway, we are facing an economy of exchange, of that there is no doubt.  But I do think the left can frame or mythologize those exchanges to make them work for the greater majority.  Great diary...

by andrethegiant on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 10:37:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Exactly, this is for fighting in their turf. This is using the narratives we know that work, believe and see as true

Regarding af uture exchange economy. do yout hink it would work as anew set of narratives for our own base?

Weakiest link, sustainable worl, exchanging society?

How does it sound exchaging society.. it sound too utopian. what can of narrative would you propose?

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 07:20:42 PM EST
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Mythologizing vs. Propagandizing
Although I think I understand your thesis better, I still am somewhat uncomfortable about the very slippery slope/incestuous relationship between "creating/spreading myths" and "propaganda" and "ideology".
Kcurie is fond of Cultural Anthropology and Claude Levy-Strauss, and so talks about myths. I am fond of cognitive linguistics and George Lakoff and so would frame the same argument in terms of metaphors.

It is possible that, since 'myth' is associated with 'untruth' in Western culture, 'metaphor' is a more palatable way to discuss the strategy.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 18th, 2006 at 05:03:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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