Conventional Detergent: Political Science as an Ideological Laundromat

An old friend with years in the purchasing department of a leading consumer products conglomerate once told me that the active ingredient in washing powder is actually a minuscule component in those huge boxes of famous brand soap powders from which US daytime television dramas derived their sobriquet. The rest, he said mockingly, is just to make suds (foam). His point was that the consumer pays for the suds.

I retorted that although the deception did not surprise me, he underestimated the importance of foam. Although I am no chemist, unlike my friend I have been washing my own clothes for years. I explained that one had to understand some basic physics, too. Suds, I added, are needed for dispersion, i.e., to carry the chemical solution to the bundle of clothes in the machine. This was done by hand in the days of washboards.

My first attempt at scholarly writing was at the age of 16. The US withdrawal of uniformed services from Vietnam was still fresh and the professionals in the field I thought I would study on the way to a career at the bar were already telling the ostensibly defeated men of the Ivy League why they had lost the war. Years later I would write a series of articles criticising that body of scholarship. At 16 I only had the fragments of the public record in the county library and my readings of Liddell-Hart, Clausewitz and Mao at my disposal. Then my conclusion was that the stated objectives of US war against the Vietnamese people were incompatible with the actions taken to wage the war. That seemed to me to be a simple and logical conclusion. The US did not distinguish between a hammer and a screwdriver.

When I began to study that subject called political science I thought I was going to learn more about how such decisions or distinctions were made. I was soon disappointed. This led me to retain the major — because the required course load was so small — and spend the remaining two years studying every other subject (mainly arts and literatures) to grasp what it might mean to be educated in our society.

Although I had abandoned the academic discipline — and was not called to the bar — I did not cease asking the questions I believed were the subject of study for that field. I can say, to cut the biographical at a decent interval, that I have been an active participant in a representative cross-section of organized activities that has permitted me to see how people in organizations of very different types articulate themselves and behave, both internally and externally. Very few of the theories or concepts to which I had been introduced in academia were in any way adequate to explain or predict (two functions of classical science) what I experienced and observed. In fact the only useful theories I found came from my study of arts and literatures. Furthermore it was these theories which offered some insight into what political scientists actually do in those places they are employed.

In 2014, I submitted the argument that the West was preparing for some kind of world war. I based this on specific observations and the bald assertion that the Anglo-American Establishment (to use Quigley’s term) was a captive of the public school/preparatory school indoctrination of more than two hundred years of empire. In other words, world war a century later was an expression of what the Americans call “school spirit.” “Let’s celebrate Sarajevo with another bout of mass slaughter and destruction.”

I am reasonably sure that the majority of readers dismissed this “unscientific” proposal. Surely no one in office would want to repeat the Great War or World War 2, much less for the sentimental reasons I mentioned. And yet the near universal praise for the deceased realist Heinz K offers an excellent support for my case as do the assessments of another “offensive” realist still with us and rather lionized by all masters and mistresses of insight into today‘s global bellicosity. Heinz K. consistently justified his intrigues based on his reading of Metternich, the continental cutout for British policy after the French Revolution and Napoleon were defeated. Balance of power (terror against the population) and deterrence are quintessential British concepts. With the merger of the British and American Empires through the Great War these doctrines became the central dogma of the piratical cult that Rhodes and Rothschild conceived in the Round Table. It is important to know that while for most people the Round Table is a cult of nobility and order (or something from Camelot or The Holy Grail films), Thomas Malory made quite clear that it was a system of vicious treachery dominated by a sinister and jealous monarch and his deceitful and ruthless champion Lancelot. It is the real Round Table that should concern investigators, not the fantasy.

Far from being a paragon of virtue and loyalty, Lancelot is an adulterer and a cheat who stoops to any trick needed to win the tournaments Arthur has instituted to maintain control over the chivalry and, needless to say, the deplorables (the rest of the population). Anglo-American imperial policy is not similar to the Round Table as Rhodes, Rothschild, Milner et al. envisioned. It is identical with it. One need only look at how NATO and the COVID regime perform. It is a matter of record that the most draconian policies were applied throughout the Anglo-American Empire: the US, Britain and the white dominions. A realist, if that term means anything in the vernacular, would have to ask how such uniform tyranny could have been exercised in all those nominally independent countries? The answer is not hard to find.

Political science as practiced in the academy and those tank manufacturer-funded institutions who collude in the articulation of public policy cannot call attention to the obvious. This is especially true of the so-called “realists.” What makes them so offensive is their obfuscation combined with moralizing verbosity. Yet the “realist” scholar or school is admired by all young and old (we have not yet heard of “trans-aged”).

Consider the pre-mortem and in vivo critiques of the Ukraine and Palestine theaters. The steadfast refusal to analyse these as elements of one world war is generally tolerated because of the episodic objections raised to Anglo-American imperial warfare (my words, since for the realist the AAE and the one war world do not exist). Furthermore, the belligerence or in the case of Heinz K, duplicitous action toward China is never seriously criticised. It defies imagination to consider that the academic, “punditric” and weblog/podcasting spheres have never studied Manifest Destiny (a laudable exception is Bruce Cumings — no political scientist).

“Political science” and its sister “international relations” literally concern the study of politics/policy and trans-border engagements. However what they do not concern is the exercise of real power. Neither the sources of power nor its composition are seriously observed or described. While classic geopolitical writing — often cited as boilerplate — like Mackinder or Mahon at least admits power for its own sake and attempts to describe its exercise, these books, even like the maligned Liddell-Hart are treated as superficially as dinner conversation at the club (whichever type one may imagine). That is no accident. Conversation is not supposed to offer offense to anyone, especially those whom it is dangerous to offend). In the jousting that goes by the name scholarship the best cheat wins.

Like in the automatic washing machine, the power lies in the minuscule cult that rules the empire. Political science and her siblings produce the suds, the foam.

Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is author of Unbecoming American: A War Memoir and also Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa. Read other articles by T.P..