By Thorsten Stegemann
[This book review of Stefan Fuchs' "Die Hypermacht" originally published in: Telepolis 2/26/03 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.telepolis.de/deutsch/inhyalt/buch/14253/1.html.]
The end of the Cold War was surely a blessing for humanity. Now that blessing threatens to become the spoils of a trial of strength lasting decades. Since the victor sets out its goals again, an unrestricted solidarity is clear. The political, economic, geo-strategic and cultural interests of the United States extend around the globe and doubtlessly reach a new dimension regarding hegemonial claims.
Under these circumstances, the rest of the world will not be harmed in looking behind the scenes of the "hyper-power". Stefan Fuchs' very readable compilation consists of nine interviews broadcast in the last months on German radio. The series of prominent participants reaches from Gore Vidal, Richard Sennett, Joshua Meyrowitz, Dan Clawson, Eduardo Lourenco and Morris Berman to Benjamin R. Barber, Thomas Frank and Noam Chomsky. From different perspectives, they illuminate the inner condition of the United States and come to conclusions that could be described as "catastrophic".
For example, Vidal, the historian who works on a kind of counter-history to official American writing of history is firmly convinced that the United States is transforming "with great speed" into a police state held together by corruption and sturdy common interests.
"Vice president Dick Cheney and the father of the president, Bush senior, became rich through oil. Condoleezza Rice, the security advisor of the president, worked on the board of directors of Chevron corporation for 5 years. Her special area was opening up oil resources in Uzbekistan and Pakistan. That a single interest group fills all important state offices without any resistance is unparalleled in the history of the United States."
Richard Sennett also identifies this lethargy in American economic life that doesn't incline to revolutionary outbreaks despite its enormous disparities but produces a feeling of "individual failure and personal inadequacy" among millions of persons. The consumerist idea appears triumphantly:
"Ever new reports about consumer capacity are central, not gaining joy through possessions."
The media also cooperate in this ideological goal when they are not occupied with the suppression or falsification of important information. Joshua Meyrowitz complains that the American mass media "are everything but democratically organized" and have attained an absolute perfection in veiling their synchronization. "Critical reports about cars clearly have no place in an environment marked by double-page advertisements for the auto industry. This doesn't mean that a negative test result of a certain model cannot appear. What isn't possible is doubt in the car as a means of transportation." That 20 critical newpaper articles countered nearly 4200 articles implying "Saddam Hussein equals Adolf Hitler!" on the eve of the 1st Gulf war is characteristic.
Dan Clawson sees an ominous development in the tendency to plutocracy reaching a peak in the last 25 years. For a seat in the House of Representatives, candidates must spend on average $840,000 and $7.3 million on average for a seat in the Senate with all the personal, economic and political interconnections:
"One cannot speak at all of two parties in the US. There is only one party, the party of money dominated by the rich and corporations.".
The influence of this party is extended around the globe through war and cultural exports. Eduardo Lourenco describes a "river of self-referring pictures in American cultural life emphasizing only consumption, not communication or aesthetics" and circulating effortlessly the smallest common denominator. Morris Berman believes that American "export waste" has torrential sales since it is directed to immediate instinctive satisfaction and mediates to consumers an ultimately infantile feeling of safety in a chaotic world.
While Benjamin R. Barber seeks a way out of the dreadful situation through far-reaching compromises between politics and the economy, citizens and consumers, Thomas Frank sees the whole American community in a deep depression because the normal citizen has lost all faith in social justice, political changes and a foreseeable ende of the "unlimited rule of corporations".
Noam Chomsky speaks of a "completely de-politicized society" that has left the monopoly of decisions to an anonymous leadership caste. "A sixth of the gross domestic product, over a trillion dollars, is spent every year for marketing, that is for manipulation and behavior control." The war against Iraq should be considered as a kind of domestic political necessity and not only under economic and geo-strategic aspects.
"Not because of Saddam Hussein's mushroom cloud over New York but because the election campaign will be in full swing next winter and Americans must be in the right mood. They may not reflect about pensions or health care under any circumstances."
The picture of the actual situation of the world and the only remaining leading nation is both impressive and depressing. No one should keep away from a constructive discussion with the richly informative texts. In the end, the axis of evil can be extended any way you like.