“Did you ever ask yourself how it happens that government and capitalism continue to exist in spite of all the evil and trouble they are causing in the world?” the anarchist Alexander Berkman wrote in his essay “The Idea Is the Thing.” “If you did, then your answer must have been that it is because the people support those institutions, and that they support them because they believe in them.”
Berkman was right. As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties, and live under the gaze of the most intrusive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. Half the country lives in poverty. Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are no longer hidden.
Society—especially capitalist societies, but also some earlier types such as feudalism—is divided by class, with a minority constituting a ruling class that lives by exploiting the direct producers. Thus, the majority is exploited and hence oppressed.
. . . [O]ne of capitalists’ favorite ideological ploys: individualism. We are the masters of our own fate, not society and its culture. If we fail, it is our own fault. We simply did not try hard enough or follow the right path. Individualism favors self-blame and a refusal even to look for social causes.
Enforced subordination calls forth coping reactions and leads to identities grounded in how well we manage to cope.
Examples of this kind of coping include what can be called “the good soldier” and “the sexy woman.” In the former, a person prides him or herself on the ability to demonstrate undying loyalty to a superior. In the latter, a woman prides herself on her ability to manipulate men in a world where men are dominant.