The USA Project: Book List

Howard Zinn - A People's History of the United States

A People’s History of the United States

by Howard Zinn

Featured on the song “Patriotism.”

Howard Zinn - You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

Bill Moyers - Moyers On Democracy

Moyers On Democracy

by Bill Moyers

Featured on “Sheep” and “Real Estate of Mind.”

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Confessions of an Economic Hitman

by John Perkins

Featured on “Kill People” and “Burn Black.”

John Perkins - The Secret History of the American Empire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men Jackals and How to Change the World

Naomi Klein - The Shock Doctrine

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

by Naomi Klein

Featured on “Democra Sees A Dead Body.”

Naomi Klein - This Changes Everything Capitalism vs The Climate

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate

by Naomi Klein

Featured on “Democra Sees A Dead Body.”

Sheldon Wolin - Democracy Incorporated Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism

John Robb - Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization

Chris Hedges - War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning

Chris Hedges - Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

Nassim Taleb - Antifragile

Naomi Wolf - The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot

Noam Chomsky - Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

Christopher Hitchens - God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Power Inc The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government

Matt Taibbi - The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

Naomi Wolf - Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries

David Rothkopf - Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making

 Chrystia Freeland - Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else

Inverted Totalitarianism, Superpower, And Managed Democracy


Sheldon Wolin is Professor of Politics, Emeritus, at Princeton University.

Inverted Totalitarianism

  • A new type of political system driven by abstract totalizing powers; one that succeeds by encouraging political disengagement rather than mass mobilization; relies more on “private” media than on public agencies to disseminate propaganda reinforcing the official version of events
  • Not governed by personal rule (is largely independent of any particular leader and requires no personal charisma to survive); the leader is not the architect of the system but its product; its model is the corporate “head,” the corporation’s public representative
  • Has emerged imperceptibly, unpremeditatedly, and in seeming unbroken continuity with the nation’s public traditions
  • A system which professes to be the opposite of what it is; disclaims its real identity, trusting that its deviations will become normalized as “change”
  • Reflects the belief that the world can be changed to accord with a limited range of objectives (i.e. ensuring that its energy needs be met, that “free markets” be established, military supremacy maintained, “friendly regimes” be in place considered vital to its own security and economic needs)
  • Promotes “managed democracy” worldwide – a political form in which governments are legitimated by elections they have learned to control
  • Enthusiastically exports culture and jobs while missing no opportunity to weaken trade union power at home and abroad
  • Evinces no interest in abolishing the system that enables them to maximize power: a free politics, under the right conditions and controls, interposes no barriers to their kind of totalizing power – the “right conditions” refers to the porousness of institutions that enables a different form of power – one ostensibly nonpolitical in its origins, unbound to constitutional limits or to democratic processes (call it “corporate power”) – to turn access or simple influence over legislators and policy-makers into copartnership – the incorporated state
  • Does not require as the condition of its success the overthrow of the established system; has no plan to suppress all opposition, impose ideological uniformity or racial purity, or seek the traditional form of empire; allows free speech, venerates the Constitution, and operates within a two-party system that, theoretically, secures a role for an opposition party; does not depend upon resentments against the prevailing form of government or social system
  • Disclaims its identity; detaches democratic myths from democratic practices enabling mythology, passivity, and empty forms to serve a type of totalitarian regime
  • Evolves from “strong democracy” instead of a “failed” one
  • Exploits what appear to be formidable political and legal constraints, using them in ways that defeat their original purpose without dismantling or overtly attacking them; exploits institutions to facilitate certain favored forms of power while checking rival ones
  • Wields total power without appearing to (without establishing concentration camps, enforcing ideological uniformity, forcibly suppressing dissident elements so long as they remain ineffectual); seeks to preserve an economy of fear and not saturate the market (ensuring domestic tranquility)
  • Economics dominates politics; what seem like reductions in state power actually increase it; power is exercised in a context where the participants know their cues
  • Replaces a politically engaged citizenry with legislative institutions design to “stand in” for the people; creates a system of “misrepresentative or clientry government”; eliminates direct connections between the citizen and government; relegates the political existence of the citizenry to a shadow-citizenship of virtual participation during the intervals between elections
  • Promotes demobilization making it difficult to form coherent majorities around common beliefs
  • Is the true face of Superpower; represents a blend of powers comprising the business corporation, the organization of science for continuous advance, and the systematic conversion of new scientific knowledge into new technological applications, esp. military ones; each of these powers is a presumption of virtually limitless development, a dynamic which governs economic behavior, the pursuit of knowledge, the production of culture, and military weaponry
  • Radically opposes democratic conceptions of power; both democracy and the political become distorted when the scales are continually expanded; an enlarged spatial scale both requires and promotes a technology of power that can make occupation and rule effective
  • Is legitimated and fueled by an ideology; ideology can be as vital a part of the technology of power as any mechanical invention, provided it is a dynamic – that is, if it possesses a “thrust” forward in time to accompany the occupation of new space; reassures that the technology of power is guided by some higher principle
  • Systematizes and exploits a dynamic complex of pre-existing powers to create the preconditions for Superpower: the availability of a totalizing technology of power and an accompanying ideology that encourages the regime’s aspirations to global domination; the primary power complexes include the state, corporate economic power, the powers represented in the integration of modern science and postmodern technologies, a military addicted to technological innovation, and a religious fundamentalism that is no stranger to politics and markets
  • Is a dynamic complex of powers – powers which constantly supersede their own previous limits and are totalizing in the sense that infinity, or the persistent challenging of the constraints of existing practices, beliefs, and taboos, rather than simple superiority, is the driving force; this force is accompanied by a systematic effort to establish the conditions that facilitate power and eliminate those which interfere
    • Culturally embedded memetic structures seeking complete control over organization (infinity)
    • The systematic effort is enacted through human agents
  • It coexists easily with a culture of softness, indulgence, and fantasy
  • Has a revolving door; a dual system of state and corporate power where individuals share experience in government and are intimately familiar with the inner workings of the corporate world
  • Thrives on a politically demobilized society, that is, a society in which the citizens, far from being whipped into a continuous frenzy by the regime’s operatives, are politically lethargic; political futility is systematized and apathy results as a political response
  • Aims at fashioning followers rather than citizens by furnishing substitutes such as “consumer sovereignty” and “shareholder democracy” that give a “sense of participation” without demands or responsibilities; prefers a citizenry that is uncritically complicit rather than involved
  • Crystallizes by providing a stimulus to rouse the apathetic just enough to gain support and obedience; the threat of terrorism supplies this element, evoking fear and obedience on demand without causing paralysis or skepticism
  • Provides “politics all of the time” but a politics largely untempered by the political; absent is the “political,” the commitment to finding where the common good lies amidst the welter of well-financed, highly organized, single-minded interests
  • Evolves as a scarcely noticeable and undramatic convergence of tendencies and unintended consequences with no abrupt discontinuity; a historically rooted (i.e. corporate powers of the 1800s, …); unprecedented in its union of corporate and state power (systemization and the shared culture of partners)
  • Begins to crystallize amidst the affluence of the world’s most dynamic economy; creates an economy of fear, a system of control whose power feeds on uncertainty, yet a system that, according to its analysts, is eminently rational
  • Cultivates a loyal intelligentsia (intellectuals, scholars, and researchers) of its own through a combination of governmental contracts, corporate and foundation funds, joint projects involving university and corporate researchers, and wealthy individual donors


  • Is the union of state and corporation in an age of waning democracy and political illiteracy
  • Has its own “constitution,” its own “more perfect union.” Its constitution is about powers whose scope and influence derive from available resources, opportunities, and ambitions, rather than legal limits. Its composition is meant for “increase,” not constraint – not based on the intentions of the framers but on the unlimited dynamic embodied in the system whereby capital, technology, and science furnish the sources of power – has no inherent political authority, the constitution for preservation has limited authority while its actual power is dependent upon those who operate the constitution for increase – these two constitutions, one for expansion, the other for containment, form the two sides of inverted totalitarianism
  • Depends upon the symbolic relation between two elements – one political, the other economic.
    • Empire – consists of large military might, of bases scattered throughout the globe, of arms sales, of alliances and treaties with comparatively weak client states – has only customers and clients, dominated markets instead of incorporated provinces
    • The Globalizing Corporation – brings to foreign countries economic goods and services as well as the softening power of cultural influences and products
  • These elements transform the “homeland” from a self-governing, predominantly inward looking political society into a home base for international economic and military strategies
  • The “dynamic powers” of science, technology, and capital (vital to the imperial reach and the globalizing drive of corporations) are the basis of the new system of power – politics and governance are a strategy based upon the powers that technology and science (including psychology and the social sciences) have made possible – exploitation of these powers enables their owners to redefine the citizenry as respondents rather than actors, objects of manipulation rather than autonomous
    • A key feature of these “dynamic powers” is their distance from the experience of ordinary beings
  • Insulating status ascribed to imperial affairs, the secrecy and inhibitions beginning to envelop domestic politics and the operations of globalizing corporations have the net result of excluding the public from a deliberative role in each and all of the major preserves of modern power – the demos is free to enjoy the results of its exclusion but as no claim to significant political power – thus democracy, like empire and globalization, gains a universal status, but what it universalizes is not the practice of self-governing democracy but American power
  • State power not only relies upon corporate power for the conversion of scientific advances into technological achievements but depends heavily on corporate personnel for policy advice and managerial skill
    • The political is managerialized – politics, elections, and the operation of governmental departments and agencies are routinely considered managerial rather than political skill
    • Results in a decline of public ethic and ideal of civil service
  • Corporation and state are indissolubly connected – privatization becomes normal and state action in defiance of corporate wishes the aberration
  • An attempt at reconstituting the nation’s identity (not just a system of aggrandizing power)
  • Signifies form-free power, sophisticated and “advanced”
  • Cannot mean “government by the people”
    • Not practically because the global “responsibilities” of Superpower are incompatible with participatory governance
    • Not theoretically because the powers that make Superpower formidable to not derive either from constitutional authority or from “the people”
    • The condition for the ascendance of Superpower is the weakening or irrelevance of democracy and constitutionalism, except as mystifications enabling Superpower to fake a lineage that gives it legitimacy
  • Represents a substantive transformation where a corporate or economic model of governance is superimposed upon a political form whose constitution consisted partly of republican, antipopulist elements and partly democratic elements
  • Depends on censorship of popular protest and other mechanisms to isolate democratic resistance, insulate society from hearing dissonant voices, and hurry the process of depoliticization
  • Terrorism, power without boundaries, becomes the template for Superpower; the measureless, the illegitimate, becomes the measure of its counterpart

Managed Democracy

  • The application of managerial skills to the basic democratic political institution of popular elections
  • The expansion of private (i.e. mainly corporate) power and the selective abdication of governmental responsibility for the well-being of the citizenry
    • Not driven by desire to control, but from the realization that governance can be accomplished thru “private” mechanisms largely divorces from popular accountability and rarely scrutinized for their coerciveness
  • Free market – not simply about buyers and sellers or producers and owners, but about power relationships that are fundamental to the management of democracy
  • The union of corporate and state power means that instead of the illusion of a leaner system of governance there is a more extensive, invasive system – one removed from democratic influences and hence better able to manage democracy
  • Depends upon managers – managers are the product and creation of corporate culture
    • Corporate culture is the norms and practices operative at various levels of the corporate hierarchy that shape or influence the beliefs and behavior of those who work in a particular institutional context – not confined to the corporation
  • Requires a process by which “extreme” views are filtered and control rests with a favored guardian group, the “right people,”
  • Capable of exporting democracy – states (and their ruling classes) are preselected by the conquerors and rewarded with being the first to gain a foothold in power – they are expected to produce the political structures of a democracy in which power is distanced from the people in whose name it is to be exercised

A College Degree In Hip-Hop Culture

The USA Project was born as a thesis project for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Hip-Hop Culture at Connecticut College. This self-designed major established the first ever curriculum dedicated to the history, science, and art of Hip-Hop Culture, with particular focus on Afro-Diasporic music in America. The curriculum was primarily based in the sciences of anthropology and sociology while incorporating courses in the fields of psychology, cognitive linguistics, history, and the creative arts.

Bachelor of Arts Degree, Hip-Hop Culture; Connecticut College, 2005

Digital Hip Hop

Given the emergence of Hip Hop before the rise of the internet, most of the academic Hip-Hop cannon (as of 2005) lacked any analysis of the impact of digital technologies on the culture. A primary focus of the major was to identify and study the impact digital media was having on the cultural processes of Hip-Hop and explore various methods for accurately re-appropriating Hip Hop in digital space.


The Transformation of Space & Nature into Economic Wealth: The Parallels Between Slave Provision Grounds and Hip-Hop Music

Developed new theoretical frameworks analyzing the parallels between how slaves used isolated provision grounds to created economic markets, and thus enabled independence, with how Hip Hop artists and entrepreneurs utilized isolated urban places and spaces to create new economic networks and enable financial independence.

Identity Formation in Hip-Hop Culture: Race, Space, & Place

A focus on identity formation in Hip Hop culture with a special consideration for the theoretical frameworks of Pierre Bourdieu.

The Death of Hip-Hop: The History and Significance of Hip-Hop’s Commercialization and Commoditization

Examined the history and political significance of Hip Hop’s commercialization and commoditization.

Discursive Space in Post-Slave American Music: The Hip-Hop Vernacular

Examined the discursive space of Hip Hop, placing it in the context of a post-slave vernacular and investigating its various forms of linguistic and symbolic resistance.

Discursive Transformation in Hip-Hop Culture: A Linguistic Analysis of Hip-Hop Culture in Contemporary America

Analyzed the Hip-Hop vernacular with particular focus on key linguistic devices used to re-appropriate power.

A Media Strategy to Challenge the Ideological Isolation of Suburban America

Developed an in-depth strategy to challenge the ideological isolation of the suburban youth by utilizing elements of Hip-Hop media.

The White Appropriation of ‘Nigger’

Examined the white youth’s adaptation and appropriation of the word “nigger, with particular attention on how the word’s context has changed and potential drives of change

The White Negreo?: Hip-Hop’s Discursive and Textual Space in relation to White, Suburban Youth in America

As an ethnographic proposal to be submitted to the Wenner-Gren Foundation, this project closely examined the discursive and textual space of Hip-Hop music before and after its commercialization and commoditization to outline and understand the aesthetic effects of a white suburban consumer base.

The Human Animal - The USA Project: Hip Hop as a Weapon of Mass Communication

The USA Project: A Digital Ethnography Through Sound And Story


Ethnography is the scientific study of human culture which seeks to identify cultural norms, beliefs, social structures, and other patterns that govern the behavior of a particular set of people.

Ethnography is based on data obtained through anthropological fieldwork, where the ethnographer researches and documents a society through first-hand participant observation.

Ethnographic Fiction

Ethnographic fiction, or ethnofiction, uses the scientific methods of anthropological fieldwork to describe a particular culture through an imaginative form of narrative. As a work of ethnographic fiction, all research and fieldwork is conducted scientifically, using established means and techniques in the field of anthropology, and then re-contextualized artistically.


Ethnomusicology uses ethnographic methods to study the social and cultural aspects of music in their local and global contexts.

The USA Project treats music as a social practice and process emanating from specific cultural contexts. The music system is predicated upon a series of concepts which integrate music into the activities of the society on a larger scale. These concepts, which underlie the practice and performance of music and the production of music sound [1], enable music systems to become a viable medium for the communication of information in today’s society, especially given the rise of digital media technologies and the Internet.

[1] Alan P. Merriam, The Anthropology of Music


“Space” is produced – it is a cultural construction. The concept of spatialization provides the primary framework for using hip hop as template for resistance.

Focusing on social space, French philosopher Henri Lefebvre argues that space is not an inert, neutral, and a pre-existing given, but rather, an on-going production of spatial relations.

According to Lefebvre:

  • Social space is produced and reproduced in connection with the forces of production. The production and reproduction of spatial relations between objects and products – ensures continuity and some degree of cohesion.
  • Social space serves as a tool of thought and action; that in addition to being a means of production it also serves as a means of control
  • Social space not a thing among other things, nor a product among other products: rather, it subsumes things produced and encompasses their interrelationships in their coexistence and simultaneity—their (relative) order and/or (relative) disorder
  • Representations of space “are tied to the relations of production and to the ‘order’ which those relations impose, and hence to knowledge, to signs, to codes, and to ‘frontal’ relations.” They also refer to “conceptualized space, the space of scientists, planners, urbanist, technocratic subdividers and social engineers, as of a certain type of artist with a scientific bent — all of whom identify what is lived and what is perceived with what is conceived”
  • Spaces are “lived” directly “through its associated images and symbols and hence the space of ‘inhabitants’ and ‘users’”

Discourse & Discursive Spaces

Discourse is communication – an exchange of information. The experience of discourse can be defined as the interrelationships between language and life and between symbolic representation and the social world.

Discourse consists primarily of sets of linguistic and symbolic practices that are enacted or mobilized by social subjects who continually strive to make sense of the world around them. Discourse is “sets of ready-made and preconstituted ‘experiencings’ displayed and arranged through language which fill out the ideological sphere.” [2]

[2] Stuart Hall, Culture, the Media, and the ‘Ideological Effect’

“Discourse, which encompasses language and other symbolic forms enabling communication and the production of meaning, enacts the processes through which the conditions of human existence are thought and explained, how they are made sensible and bestowed with values and meanings in social terms.” – Murray Forman, The ‘Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop

Public Discourse

Public discourse is hierarchically structured, with spatial relationships organized along lines of subordination and domination – relationships of power – that are consensually and, when deemed necessary by those in positions of authority, coercively maintained. Discourse offers one of the main sites for cultural exchange – especially between classes.

According to Pierre Bourdieu in Outline of a Theory of Practice, “the boundary between the universe of (orthodox or heterodox) discourse and the universe of doxa, represents the dividing line between the most radical form of misrecognition and the awakening of political consciousness.”

Postmodern Ethnomusicology

The USA Project utilizes various styles rooted in postmodernism, where self-conscious reflections are layered upon the past, present, and future to create a mosaic of both the individual and its environment. Using this manufactured backdrop of time and space, The USA Project seeks to explore and challenge the intellectual foundations of the American Myth.

By casting hip hop’s creative processes into an Afro-diasporic mold, The USA Project emphasizes a unique strain of post-modern rhetoric which intertwines contemporary models of anthropological theory (ideology, language, resistance) with historical experience. This process allows The USA Project to frame hip hop as a geo-specific, sub-dominant expression which re-appropriates a dominant ideology and language – a vernacular to the languages of European colonialism and oppression.

The Postmodern Identity

The postmodern “self” as a continually evolving compilation of multiple influences (past, present, expectations of future) without a concrete identity fixed within time and space allows the protagonist of The USA Project to become hybrid of complex social reflections. In adopting an identity composed of a fragmented, decentralized core, the protagonist is better able to observe, analyze and interact with the underlying structures and processes of Americanism.

This framework is also helpful in understanding digital identity, such that virtual space is freed from the constraints of physical place, time and distance. The elements of hip hop, specifically when used as a template of resistance, create an “urgency for action” by presenting relevant commentary on socio-political events, thus defining a sense of the Present.

The Human Animal as an Identity

As a narrative structure, The USA Project revels in the self-conscious reflexivity of a destructured, dehumanized subject – the human animal. This identity, formed as a post-modern construction, is better equip to withstand the massive speed and change of a culture saturated in science, technology, and capital.

This decentralized identity incorporates an inability to predict the course of history, which diametrically opposes the Superpower’s notion that power creates reality on a supernatural scale. This identity also finds power in the awareness of its existence using specific and deliberate processes of resistance and applying them through forms of discourse, because whoever dominates or controls the “official” use of language in a society holds the key to social and political power.

Being that isolation provides the vital component in forming an environment capable of harnessing the re-evolution of “self,” the relationship between hiphop and the human animal – between the art and the artist – is one of transformation, where hiphop is reduced to its most fundamental elements (particularly in the case of language) and re-organized in accordance to the individual as opposed to the larger collective identity. This is reliant on digital space being organized to produce solidarity, a sociofugal process which is relative to the individual’s re-appropriation of available technologies.

The Paradox of Hip Hop Identity in Postmodern Timelessness

The paradox of identity in postmodern timelessness is that hip hop expression is deeply rooted in the local, social, and physical experience. While accurate, these definitions exclude the possibility of identity in hip hop as a process of self-creation in the realm of the digital “unreal,” where one’s definition does not depend on the existence of the “other” or the “physical,” but rather on the reflection of one’s own self, thus allowing the possibility of rejecting collective definitions and perceptions in favor of creating an identity solely unique to the individual.

As an identity within hip hop culture, the human animal symbolizes spatial disorientation and draws a distinction between the human as a complex cultural construction and the animal as a complex biological organism. It is important to note that although this process claims to place myself as an animal outside of “culture,” the process itself can be seen as relative to the larger cultural systems in which I am embedded, thus presenting another paradox.

Being that hip hop expression has historically been rooted in the first-person perspective and experience of material space, a third-person, top-down perspective, which is vital to successful fieldwork, contradicts conventional hip hop practice and pins two very oppositional modes of thought against one another. Furthermore, being that cyberspace is geographically independent and virtually placeless, a dichotomy in identity formation emerges which forces true authenticity in hip hop to remain situated outside the cyber paradigm.

Therefore, authentic use of hip hop expression to create something new is wholly dependent on the artist’s ascetic assimilation of hip hop culture – understanding hip hop in its proper socio-historical context while maintaining the necessary distance that allows the style to become manifested in novel form – appearing as hip hop but with many distinct nuances. It is here that the template for Darknet begins to be constructed.







Cornel West Democracy Matters Winning the Fight Against Imperialism