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Published on July 20th, 2014 | by Jen McClellan & Kerry Koerbling

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Black Hole Political Theory: Developing Ideology by Playing with Metaphors

If you are reading this article, you are about to gain ultimate knowledge of how ideologies can develop through the application of metaphors. Congratulations.

Meet the metaphor:

“metaphors establish taxonomic relations between semantically distant concepts.”

That’s pretty abstract, so let’s break it down. Metaphors have transformed from this flowery thing we used like a decoration in poetry to something that helps us understand abstract concepts. They can be incredibly useful as a starting point when attempting to define capitalism or when shaping your ideologies about what socialism is or should be.

Metaphors, such as, “my job is a jail,” are an indication that a person is trying to draw connections by emphasizing similarities and categorizing those things politically. How successfully their generalizations are articulated or received depends on both their ability to categorize and their understanding of the subject matter they use for a base or target.

Metaphor targets provide information about what types of properties they can meaningfully inherit and, therefore, about what types of categories they can meaningfully belong to.

If “research on analogical problem solving has shown that the alignment of two relationally similar situations can do more than simply provide a solution to the target,” then our suggestion is simple: We often use metaphors because we face big problems that not everyone has the time to research in depth nor understand completely, and metaphors can help us understand complex concepts over time. The idea is you come up with a metaphor and test whether or not it works through daily observation.

Let’s put this suggestion into practice.

Metaphor: L.A. is a black hole.

The idea of comparing social and economic functions to astronomical ones is derived from Marx. In “The Communist Manifesto,” Marx used simile  –  a type of metaphor – to describe modern bourgeois society by comparing its practices to sorcery:

“Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.”

To say that L.A. is a black hole doesn’t initially solve anything, but it does draw parallels. It prompts one to think about capitalism’s behavior. It analyzes capitalism’s effects, linguistically and empirically. This metaphor can be used to recognize capitalism in many forms.

Eugene Debs used metaphors frequently and adeptly. He was a man of his times, and his speeches were filled with imagery, bringing his message of emancipation to the workers of his day.

The nature and frequency of metaphor use since Debs’ time has progressed. As metaphors become increasingly conventional, a shift in mode of alignment from comparison to categorization occurs.

Look at the capitalist in his or her singular form (within the black hole metaphor):

A CAPITALIST is a COLLAPSING NEUTRON STAR.

The authors of “Discovering the Universe” state: “We can use the equations of general relativity to understand the fate of collapsing neutron stars … all matter warps the space around itself. When  matter gets sufficiently dense, it actually causes space near it to curve so much that it closes in on itself …”

Here, we can imagine that matter presents itself as capitalist thought: The capitalist thinks herself to be more important than all other members of her community. We see her perpetuate class separation, racism, sexism, etc. by the systems she employs, and her ego inflates to the point where she sees all universal matter condensed so much that she cannot think of anything beyond her own economic gain.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, “Whoever dares undertake to establish a people’s institutions must feel himself capable of changing, as it were, human nature itself, of transforming each individual who, in isolation, is a complete but solitary whole, into a part of something greater than himself, from which in a sense, he derives his life and being [of changing man’s nature in order to strengthen it]; of substituting a limited and moral existence for the physical and independent life [with which all of us are endowed by nature]. His task, in short, is to take from a man his own powers, and to give him in exchange alien powers which he can only employ with the help of other men.”

To us, that says we should practice the development of our ideals by asking that others aid us in their formation.

Thus, we pose to our readers this metaphor challenge:

a) Find a sentence about BLACK HOLES and transform the sentence as demonstrated below in your own inventive manner to fit the L.A. is a BLACK HOLE metaphor; or

b) Create your own metaphor accompanied by a couple of descriptive sentences, again, transformed as below to fit your newly created capitalism-related metaphor.

EXAMPLE:

How to change a sentence about Supermassive Black Holes to fit the metaphor, L.A. is a BLACK HOLE:

“Early in the life of the universe [city], black holes [corporations] could have formed from the condensation of vast amounts of gas [ego] and also from the collisions of stars [executives] during the process of galaxy [business] formation, thereby creating supermassive solar masses [investors].”

Send  your work to submissions@thesocialist.us. A secret committee will read your submissions, choose the best sentence/metaphor and the victor will be mailed a bodacious reward package!

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About the Author

JEN MCCLELLAN is a student at Moorpark College, Ventura County Local Vice Chair, Young People’s Socialist League (YPS) Chair, California Student Union (CASU) activist, volunteer at Walnut Canyon Elementary School, member of The Socialist Editorial Board, and all around anomaly. KERRY KOERBLING was born in Van Nuys, California in 1962. Kerry became an activist when he helped his hometown of Newbury Park get a library annex. He is a socialist because he has observed the structural failures of capitalism and knows there is a better way.



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