Stanley Dundee


Stanley Dundee

2017-09-05 v. 1

I follow Philip Mirowski as my leading scholar of agnotology. From 2012:

If we define agnotology to be the analysis of the intentional production and promotion of ignorance, then it has been the Fourth Horseman of the Absolution from Apocalypse for economists. Whether it be in the context of global warming, oil depletion, fracking for natural gas, denial of Darwinism, disparagement of vaccination, or derangement of the conceptual content of Keynesianism, one unprecedented outcome of the Great Recession has been the redoubled efforts to pump massive amounts of noise into the mass media in order to discombobulate an already angry and restive populace. The techniques range from alignment of artificial echo chambers and special Potemkin research units, to co-opting the names of the famous for semi-submerged political agendas; from setting up astroturfed organizations, to misrepresenting the shape and character of orthodox discourse within various academic disciplines. [emphasis added]

Near the heart of neoliberal thought and practice is the doctrine of double-truth; one set of truths for insiders and an entirely different (and even contradictory) truth set for the muppet masses. Here's Mirowski again, this time from Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste (2013):

What I shall refer to here is the proposition that an intellectual thought collective might actually concede that, as a corollary of its developed understanding of politics, it would be necessary to maintain an exoteric version of its doctrine for the masses—because that would be safer for the world and more beneficial for ordinary society—but simultaneously hold fast to esoteric doctrine for a small closed elite, envisioned as the keepers of the flame of the collective's wisdom. Furthermore, whereas both exoteric and esoteric versions would deal with many similar themes and issues, the exoteric version might appear on its face to contradict the esoteric version in various particulars. (p. 68)

And Mirowski (2013) again, relating agnotology to the double-truth doctrine:

The major ambition of the Neoliberal Thought Collective is to sow doubt and ignorance among the populace. This is not done out of sheer cussedness; it is a political tactic, a means to a larger end . . . Think of the documented existence of climate-change denial; and then simply shift it over into economic. Of course, they can't seriously admit it in public; but years of evidence since 2007 and the esoteric theory of ignorance recounted above unite to buttress the case that this has been one of the main tactics by which the NTC has escaped all obloquy for the crisis. The double truth is: as an insider, you realize this is a good thing, since it fosters the defeat of political opponents, the health of the kosmos, and the victory of the neoliberal market society (p. 83)