Components of the National Culture

Notes from:

Anderson, Perry. 1968. “Components of the National Culture,” New Left Review 1/50.

Anderson introduces themes he will visit again in “The Intransigent Right” (1992, LRB): The Right, or conservatives or the enemies of the Enlightenment, can be recognized by their rejection of Enlightenment comparative methodology. Anderson focuses on the conservative rejection of both historical-comparative knowledge and contradiction as producer of change.

Task: Use “Components of the National Culture” to map styles of Anglo anti-enlightenment argumentation, including their consistent components, like anti-comparativism. Follow Anderson’s method in categorizing thinkers by discipline, origins.

Extend this map of antienlightenment thought. Use:

  • Anderson’s “The Intransigent Right” and “The Origins of Postmodernism;”
  • Ernest Gellner’s Words and Things (1959); “Enter the Philosophers,” Times Literary Supplement April 4, 1968.
  • Robin’s The Conservative Mind
  • Piereson’s “The Right Ideas.”
  • Pagden on Enlightenment human sciences, Lyotard as antienlightenment exponent.
  • Barton (1985) on the effect of Enlightenment ideas on upper class confidence and cohesion in Sweden;
  • C.B. McPherson’s Enlightenment method: Re-insert theories into their intellectual context, thereby illuinating theoreticians’ relation to their class. Remarry politics & economics (Anderson 1968: 28).

Antienlightenment themes & methods:

  • Reductio ad absurdum of Enlightenment science:
    • Wittgenstein (see Popper’s, Gellner’s critiques);
    • Popperian positivism;
    • Latour
  • Anti-comparativism
  • Antienlightenment knowledge requires funky, idealistic reconceptualizations or evasions of time
    • time removed (Wittgenstein);
    • time without change;
    • infinite recursion.
    • Historical knowledge as minute descriptions (Namier), meant to circumscribe democratic knowledge of why or how dispositions and institutions are created in context.
  • Show how conservatives methodically confuse the (eg. Sahlberg’s) distinction between accountable and responsible.
    • Responsibilization theory
  • Morgue & Truculent” style on behalf of capitalist imperial power:
    • Wittgenstein, Popper, Namier (Anderson 1968: 20);
    • Berlin’s know-nothing coverage of Hegel
  • Modification of enlightenment theory:
    • Hobbes: equality, freedom, social contract–>monarchy/oligarchy
    • Burke: “social contract” with the dead
    • Berlin & Popper: imperial conservatism is the true heir of “freedom & reason.”
  • Distinctive strategies of White Emigres in stopping Enlightenment in England v. US:
    • England
      • opposition to ideas, change, sociology, working-class (“mob”) leadership;
      • valorization of sedimented language.
    • US: White Emigres organize US capital to fund conservative ideas development and diffusion.
  • Expression of working-class leadership:
    • Aborted in utero in England by Aristocratic-bourgeois coalition; v.
    • Employed in revolutionary US and instrumental in Trente Glorieuses development, but repeatedly dismantled by revivification and resurgences of the slaver-banker coalition.
    • Political and policing repression of working-class leadership;
    • Working-class leadership managed out with emigration & immigration;
    • Conservative theory rejection of working-class leadership;
    • Relationship to economic development and maldevelopment
  • Ideas
    • Reduced in Anglo conservative thought to emotion, vulgar psychology (Burke, Namier)–>excising explanatory power
    • German-Franco conservatism: conceptualized as exceptional, esoteric knowledge to be managed by experts on behalf of princes (Nietzsche, Schmitt, Strauss, Foucault)
    • US conservatives: White Emigres organize US capital to fund conservative ideas development and diffusion.
    • v. Enlightenment human sciences: See Pagden; Marx; democratic Enlightenment sociologists: C Wright Mills, Veblen, Lester Ward, Du Bois, Bourdieu, Domhoff, Kimmel, Lamont.
  • Permanent conservative opposition to French Revolution: How does this work in France? How does it impact French philosophy?
    • If Canguilhem showed the development of scientific ideas in context, how does Foucault’s “balanced” conservative fear of the mob, use of Nietzsche’s genealogical method, and separation of economics and politics, create conceptualization-origin stories that conform to Wittgenstein’s reduction of science to a traditional language community?
  • French v. Anglo-American philosophical/theory literacy, as it permits tactical degrees of freedom: Case of Iraq War, where conservative econ merged with imperial Morgue & Truculence to reduce Americans’ tactical agility.

Use this framework to advance the following thesis question:

How does conservative imperial-capitalist thought handle changing elite networks?


The View from Political Science

The Political Science consensus in Canada holds two hand-me-down electoral strategy theories, the first older and derived from the US Democratic Party experience of mid-20th century African American internal migration, and the second newer and reflecting the financial- metropole (Wall Street-based and City of London-based) liberal national parties’ effort to theorize why following the first theory seems not to produce expected results (votes) today.

1a) Political parties should continue to focus on policies that appeal to the hypothesized interests of suburban voters, in particular conservative-liberal immigrant blocs, because of the theory that “The party that durably binds these rapidly growing groups to its coalition will dominate in the long term” (Zach Taylor, University of Western Ontario, 2018).

1b) The suburban-voter interests that parties and Political Scientists project include public provision of car-based infrastructure and the withdrawal of the state from supporting rival urban infrastructure.

Some theorize that core and suburban voters favour different parties because they have different policy interests. Core areas are dense and therefore support much lower automobile use in favour of transit and active transportation, and they feature a mix of land uses, housing types, and housing tenures. In postwar suburban areas, lower-density, single family detached housing tends to predominate, and home ownership and automobility are the norm. Homeowners have a stronger interest than core-area renters in preserving property values. At the same time, the individualist experience of detached-home ownership and automobile commuting has been correlated with lower political support for redistribution and collective benefits in Canada and other countries. The characterization of the suburbs as politically conservative derives in part from the lifestyles generated by physical environments and associated mobility systems (Fischel 2005; Moos and Mendez 2015)” (Taylor, 2018).

Thus, political-science/political parties’ older populism theory can be recognized as the Suburban Strategy.

By way of neutralizing the naturalizing elements of the structural analysis of suburban populism, I should note that in my government experience, what political parties and political scientists recognize as inevitable suburban “preferences” are demands marketed to suburb residents by suburb developers, as where developers’ communiques advise a suburb’s residents to take their experiential dissatisfaction with suburban life (as it falls short of the nuclear-family empyrean that was sold to them) and direct it into demanding exclusive public investment from politicians. It’s wise to seek out the underlying feudal ties in all conservative manifestations; identifying these permits strategy development (by which I certainly do not mean electoral tactics).

2) The spatial segregation of winners and losers produces liberal progressivism v. populism. “Neighbourhoods and regions in decline are found to be more supportive of defensive populist agendas, while the geographic winners of globalization and post-industrialization are generally more supportive of collective benefits, open trade and immigration (Inglehart and Norris 2017; Rodrigues-Pose 2018; Gest 2018)” (Taylor 2018).

Above I have highlighted some of the core hypotheses of these influential Political Science theses, including to underscore their logic hiccups. It seems clear that Political Scientists and the political parties that subscribe to and act upon these political theories will struggle to produce expected results, due to both spatial indeterminacies and changes in relevant variables.

Logic Hiccups:

  1. If Losers are Populist as theorized, and if the number or percent of Losers is declining or in equilibrium as liberal theories would suggest, how does today’s populism undercut the Political Science theory of growth-population political and policy pandering, the Suburban Strategy, where Political Scientists and parties had treated the Suburban Strategy as the main natural law of politics and policy?
    1. Might it be that the Suburban Strategy theory was itself a populism framework, and an excuse for prioritizing decidedly anti-populist FIRE interests? (See also research results showing that young people in suburbs have preferences unexpected in suburban pandering theory (Moos and Prayitno in the same volume, 2018).) In that case, “populism” is not new or resurgent. “Populism” is always the political party theory; political party theory only distinguishes varieties of populisms that diverge or converge with FIRE interests, and thus populisms which parties are variably geared to cater to.
    2. If the amount of Losers is not declining or in equilibrium, but is increasing, is there a problem with the effectiveness of the political system?
      1. Liberal theorists will answer 1.2 above with the Hobbesian theory that Today’s Losers are Racist White people whose pernicious impact on politics is outsized, due to their illegitimate, holdover White Privilege. It is a population that, morally, deserves a moderating comeuppance–citizenship reduction, per Hobbesian theory. Restoring the validity of the Suburban Strategy requires reducing the voice and collective action capacity of today’s Losers.
        1. This Antiracist TM antidemocratic political agenda, citizenship reduction, also reinforces expropriative FIRE interests.
        2. We note that while antidemocratic strategies to reduce the voice and collective-action capacity of today’s Losers are amply discussed by today’s Winners, there is no effort toward reducing the patently antidemocratic institutions— such as Houses of Lords (Senates), court systems, gerrymandering, electronic voting manipulation, unbounded marketing, unbounded private property legal innovation, international hoarding/tax avoidance institutions, and the electoral college–that would be amplifying right-wing populism. Nor has using wealth to build pro-democratic public institutions (public libraries, public schools, public research, public media, public transit, public planning capacity, tax enforcement, democratic property law reform, etc.) been on the liberal agenda for a couple generations.
  2. How are Winners both more supportive of “collective benefits” and “open trade and immigration”? That sounds like an unwarranted projection of contradictory preferences, or at best the preferences of a very tiny population: professional political scientists. It seems like Political Science is optimistically aggregating distinct social groups with distinct interests, and distinct electoral behaviour (“Go away, Bernie Sanders, AOC, Ilhan, and Jeremy Corbyn. Won’t someone please bring back our beloved Clintons and Biden, our dearest Blair and Giddens“), into an ersatz liberal-virtue bloc that it then terms “Winners.” Shady. That’s not social science. That’s not even economics. That kind of wishful self-delusion is going to continue to produce unexpected electoral loss. Again, however, if electoral success is only an exoteric goal, always evaluated within a framework of probability given by unacknowledged variables, then perhaps that framework, and the true goal, is simply ongoing polity support for FIRE asset expropriation. If political scientists can’t clear this up, then they have been too colonized by political parties to be recognized as scholars.

For example, here is an argument for de-democratization forwarded through the Washington Post by a Marquette political scientist (Azari, Julia. 2020. “Fix Primaries, Let Elites Decide.” Washington Post, February 18.)

Where are the Geographers?

It seems to me that Political Science, and parties, are bad at geography, which shouldn’t be surprising. They seem to use it more for justification than for valid analysis.

winnipeg growth is suburban

Despite the fact that Winnipeg’s “Active Core” is affordable and not densely-settled, 77% of Winnipeg’s population growth from 2006-2016 was in areas that require car transportation.


Note: The euphemism ‘preserving property values’ is doing some crazy-heavy lifting in Taylor’s litany of distinctive suburban interests above. This formulation needs to be separately deconstructed for its misleading neoclassical bias. When urban people vote for urban amenities like human-scale transit, infrastructure, quality public space, and greenspace, it’s not an altruistic irrationality induced by their lack of ownership. When urban people vote for public urban amenities, they are increasing both their own private welfare and others’ private property values (such as real estate value around high-speed transit stops), even at delayed cost to renters’ financial interests–so much so that urban property values are usually much higher in population centers than in their exclusionary, individualist suburban incarnation. Those are non-excludable goods, son. Recognize. They secretly feed the predation we lovingly call capitalism. This is a heterodox hint that economies are social– There is society, Maggie; and while capitalist law works to make value monopolized and scarce, everyone contributes to wealth.

What the economistic framework means by suggesting that suburbanites’ inferior property values are more salient to their politics is that these property values are exclusive, private smallholding goods, and so fit into neoclassical economic theory/mythology.

Why urban property values are high is because people require and want the non-exclusive public amenities on and about them, an obvious fact that a neoclassical economic framework struggles to apprehend. Economists should be troubled to explain why renters vote for public amenities that increase landlords’ property values–But at that point, all of a sudden, we’re in terra nullis outside of the orthodox econ explanatory schema: we’re apprehending capitalism as an imposed, coercively-reinforced framework permitting the exploitation and expropriation of life. So instead we remain quiet and befuddled.

But suburbanites don’t uniquely vote to increase property values. In Political Science and political party theory, suburbanites vote to maximize the inferior goods they share across their little, expensive kingdoms: car spaces, and, with political parties on their side, new public services, including light and airy new public schools. If you recognize inequality, it becomes clear that, not unlike socially-subsidized ranchers, suburbanites (are encouraged by developers to) view urban dwellers as rivals for the public investment that bolsters property value in human communities. The urbanites’ public-goods “head start” thus tends to be repressed and gutted by political parties. Especially in North America, cities without geographic advantages tend to be underdeveloped, endowed with insufficient, skeletal public goods and services, following the slaver-society model, and the built environment is in a constant state of expansionary neglect and rot.

When political parties pander to the developer-orchestrated suburban game of outrunning and outgunning urban development and property values, as they long have, they are privileging wasteful behaviour, in both post-war commercial-White Power and post-1980 commercial-multicultural incarnations. Polity players are redistributing wealth geographically to incentivize not uncertain “Baby Bird” voter imprinting, but to prop a predatory, inegalitarian theory pretending that non-commercial nonelite welfare does not contribute to value, and thus, environmental degradation, de-democratization, and social inequality are moral, fair and just.

Conservative Sovereignty & Freedom in Migration Politics

At the end of the Trente Glorieuses, Nepalese society did not have significant outmigration. That changed in the 1980s, when labor out-migration began to grow. India and Malaysia are the primary recipients of Nepalese labor migration.

At first patriarchal policy suppressed female labor migration. While in the 1980s-90s, Nepal male or parent guardian consent was required for female labor migration, labor migration was liberalized in the 21st century.

Piling oil rents in the Gulf states have led to high demand for domestic labor. Because affluent women do not work outside the home in Gulf countries, this domestic labor is recognized not as reproduction work, but as an entitlement of wealth to a luxury, slavery. Nepalese labor policy has continually shifted, responding to both domestic and international economic pressure for female Nepalese migrant labor, and the high individual costs incurred in highly-vulnerable, low-skill feminized labor in the Gulf States, which maintain a kafala labor policy that combines low wages with abusive slavery conditions for immigrants serving an inegalitarian oil-rentier population. In 2010-11, Nepal actively facilitated women’s labor migration to the Gulf States. At the peak in 2017, women comprised over 12% of Nepalese migrant labor, which in total remits about 20% of Nepal’s GNP. By August 2017 a Nepalese parliamentary committee traveling throughout the Gulf and studying the treatment of Nepalese domestic workers ordered the government to stop sending male and female Nepalese domestic workers to the Gulf countries.

Since then, the international community, with the cooperation of social scientists, has pressured the Nepalese government to lift its ban on domestic labor export to the Gulf societies, citing “discrimination” against women (though more Nepalese men than women are domestic workers to Qatar), and backing that charge by recalling Nepal’s 20th century patriarchal permission policy. Because of its post-1970s drift into remittance dependence, economists tend to reduce Nepal to its labor-factor supply role in the global economy, evaluating the rationality of Nepalese actions on that fetishization. More recently, economistic migration advocates have romantically invoked the metaphor of detention, charging that the Nepalese ban on domestic labor tours of kafala duty in the Gulf is the central moral hazard, responsible for “trapping” Nepalese women.

In February 2020, migration advocates cited two cases of female Nepalese workers who had sneaked into the Gulf against the ban. When the two young women’s preference structure somehow inexplicably flipped, and they found themselves surprised to discover that kafala slavery was not to their preference after all, they sought to escape their kafala contracts and leave their employers and the Gulf states. One of the women took out a loan to fly home to Nepal, and the other asked the Nepalese government to pay for her flight back to Nepal.

The Nepalese consulate used its state power (inferior to Kuwait’s) to negotiate a short (9 day) prison sentence for the escapee, and for the Kuwaiti government to pay for the woman’s flight back to Nepal. It thereby used state power to assist the woman, while preserving a commitment to not use scarce Nepalese resources to subsidize slavery in rich Gulf societies. International migration advocates responded to Nepal’s intervention approach with indignant frustration.

21st c. Moral Economy: Efforts to Mobilize Factors of Production v. Antislavery

It has become clear that migration is an essential element in the world economy. Sending countries benefit increasingly from remittance payments and the return of skilled migrants, receiving countries benefit from younger workforces, and migrants themselves find new opportunities through their move to a new country. Migration redistributes wealth at the world level and plays a central role in development and poverty reduction. Moreover, within the current globalization process, which favours an increasingly free circulation of goods, information and capital, it is worth considering including free movement of human beings as well.”–A. Pecoud, Universite Paris, paragraph 3 in Migration without Borders, 2007.

Because of the economistic reductions of workers to a factor of production, and  democratic sovereignty to consumer sovereignty, as well as the resurgence of the classic conservative (per Hobbes 1651) opposition of freedom qua movement to democracy, the capacity for neoliberalized subjectivities to recognize injustice in slavery has been drastically eroded. This is an interesting development, given that economists’ role is to justify and support capitalism. It looks like there is room in conservative economics for conceptualizing slavery as consistent with capitalism, a la Hobbes in the era of global chattel slavery (1651).

Of additional interest:

  • Single-column accounting: Economists are not concerned with the costs to the sending country associated with managing the outcome of abusive labor contract. There has been no attempt to conceptualize or measure the costs to the Nepalese state and society of rescuing and reintegrating abused workers. Those costs are simply black boxed as irrelevant to the economics of labor mobilization. This is a good indicator of what dogmatic apologists conservative economists are.
  • Migration Justice Warriors support slavery where it is consistent with labor “mobilization.”

Hobbes, 1651, argues against Enlightenment democratic freedom, instead advancing a naturalistic, conservative conceptualization of freedom, consistent with tyranny, as simply pertaining to the physical movement that powerful social actors permit:

Liberty or freedome, signifieth (properly) the absence of Opposition; (by Opposition, I mean externall Impediments of motion;)…(W)hen the impediment of motion, is in the constitution of the thing it selfe, we use not to say, it wants the Liberty; but the Power to move…(W)hen the words Free, and Liberty, are applyed to any thing but Bodies, they are abused; for that which is not subject to Motion, is not subject to Impediment. And therefore, when ’tis said (for example). The way is free, no liberty of the way is signified, but of those that walk in it without stop. And when we say a Guift is free, there is not meant any liberty of the Guift, but of the Giver, that was not bound by any law, or Covenant to give it…Feare and Liberty are consistent…Liberty and Necessity are Consistent…(T)he liberty of men would be a contradiction, and impediment to the omnipotence and liberty of God. And this shall suffice of that naturall liberty, which only is properly called liberty…For if we take Liberty in the proper sense, for corporall Liberty; that is to say, freedome from chains, and prison, it were very absurd…for men to demand as they doe, that Liberty, by which all other men may be masters of their lives. And yet as absurd as it is, this is it they demand; not knowing that the Lawes are of no power to protect them, without a Sword in the hands of a man, or men, to cause those laws to be put in execution. The Liberty of a Subject, lyeth therefore only in those things (…) the Sovereign hath praetermitted: such as the Liberty to buy and sell” Hobbes, T. 1651. “XXI, Of the Liberty of Subjects,” Leviathan.

Migration advocates are the contemporary exponents of the Hobbesian opposition to democracy.

Foreign Born Population

To do:

I. Quantitative analysis of home preference

  1. The pro-migration political coalition systematically ignores policy intervention options that make home more habitable. The conservative equilibrium economic theory undergirding the pro-migration political coalition is that labour will inevitably drain to higher wage regions until wages equalize globally. While there is occasionally some marginal investigation into stickiness resulting from transaction costs, the core presumptions are that a) repairing home, other forms of (Bourdieusian) capital, can be ignored as a rational-actor option; and b) no distinction should be made between sovereign movement and non-sovereign mobilization. Investigate the validity of this conservative economic theory supporting and naturalizing migration as the preferred working-class management policy (v. democratic policy).
    1. In what historical and present cases or statistics do we find evidence of resistance to economic migration, despite wage differentials?
    2. What is the comparative role of disruption and disorganization in promoting migration?
      1. War-driven migration
      2. Environmental crisis-driven migration
  2. Discuss findings relative to: How does the demise of Rousseuian social contract democracy, and the law-assisted dominance of governance for cosmopolitan capitalist interests, impel migration management as working-class policy instead of democratic institutional development?
    1. 3rd rail welfare state: Fortification against Hobbesian social contract?
    2. Suggestions for distinguishing sovereign movement from non-sovereign mobilization.

II. Survey economics & international human rights recommendations to preserve slavery. Classify (and compare with historical versions) rationale types, eg.:

  1. Worker (immediate) preference for slavery conditions;
  2. What is Slavery Even?” discourse;
  3. Prohibition against slavery is “discrimination” against natural slaves;
  4. Prohibition against slavery is “discrimination” against women;
  5. Hobbesian All Physical Movement of Individual Bodies = Freedom;
  6. Oligarchs as Protectors of the Marginal;
  7. Migrants with good jobs in countries with systematic labor abuse won’t be able to visit home and return to the employer;
  8. Migrants Prefer Jobs that Locals Don’t Prefer;
  9. Globalization: Circulate the Factors of Production;
  10. Migration = Global Wealth Redistribution;
  11. etc.


Notes & Bibliography

Badger, S., G. Cafiero, & Foreign Policy in Focus. 2014. “Kingdom of Slaves.” The Nation.

Global Slavery Index. “Arab States.”

Global Slavery Index. “Canada.”

HRW. 2012. New York.

Lainez, N. 2017.

A. Pecoud, 2007, Migration without Borders.

Shantz, Jeff. 2015. “’Slave-Like Conditions’: Abuse of Foreign Workers in Canada.”Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal. Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 233–23.


Shrestha, M. 2017. “Push and Pull: A Study of International Migration from Nepal.” World Bank Social Protection and Global Labor policy working paper 7965.

Nepal’s 2020 population: 29M. 3-7% of Nepal’s population, over 900,000 Nepalese emigrate, mostly to India and Malaysia. 2-12% of (20,000) labor emigrants are women. Remittances comprise 20% of Nepal’s GDP (UNICEF 2013).


The Apartheid Democracy Disposition

Directly opposing democratic Enlightenment theory, institutions, and practices, Apartheid Democracy is a conservative reconstruction of the democracy concept. An historical- provisional variant of Herrenvolk Democracy, Apartheid Democracy abjects democratic development institutions and dispositions, such as suggested by Rousseau, Dewey (1915), socialist-backed social democratic theory, inter alia.

In the 21st century, Apartheid Democracy inheres in and is exported by the US and Israel. Rooted in a coalition of slavery institutions and partisanship (including within the US polity and military), colonial Lebensraum theory, the post-Holocaust rejection of the European Enlightenment, and strategic Schmittian “Enemy” and Straussian exoteric politics theories, partisans of Apartheid Democracy are disposed to conceiving of all interactions with even tangential democratic implications as crucial win-loss contests. They have learned from the history of slavers’ US Civil War loss and the Holocaust that the Enemy, democratic Enlightenment, must be ruthlessly attacked and where possible destroyed. There can be no compromise. Capacity enhancement resources must be monopolized by the community, the enemies of the Enlightenment.

Thus, the Apartheid Democracy disposition readily tends to–overrelies on–bullying and lying in interactions with perceived Enemies.  Breaking down the opposition is not just policy, but also the interactional goal, directly opposed to practicing the democratic-development skills of exchanging information, ideas and grievances, permitting collective capacity growth across difference and change, and materializing collective objectives enhancing distributed sovereignty and human development.

While the Apartheid Democrat’s self-professed brand may be as a political realist, in situations where the partisan of Apartheid Democracy does not possess coercive power, the reflexive disposition to bully and lie through interactions can backfire, reducing the Apartheid Democrat’s capacity to achieve her objectives. Apartheid Democrats are highly sensitized to indicators of democratic alignment. By reflexively attacking Enemies regardless of the strength or probability of the democratic threat, the Apartheid Democrat cuts off paths and blows up bridges that could divert Enemies to mutually-acceptable alternative outcomes. The Apartheid Democrat’s realism is confined to situations where she possess monopoly control over the means of coercion. Branding aside, Apartheid Democrats are idealists deeply engaged in a war of position.

Moreover, by indiscriminately, too frequently shifting into belligerent gear within an institutional network she inhabits, the Apartheid Democrat reduces her own credit and cooperation linkages within that institutional network. Other network members may come to occasionally or even methodically constrain her capacity to disrupt the institutional network. The Apartheid Democrat will practice an exoteric politics of self-branding as apolitical to reduce constraint.

Neoliberals, by contrast, specialize in perceiving options that can divert Enlightenment democrats toward inegalitarian conservative objectives.

Corollaries & Hypotheses:

  1. The US military is the absolutely essential condition for Apartheid Democracy.
  2. While Anglo-America/Israel can aggressively dominate and subordinate jurisdictions without coercive power, clashes between Anglo-America/Israel and Europe likely produce fewer wins for the Apartheid Democracies than would otherwise be possible if they used a more varied (eg. neoliberal) tactical repertoire.
    1. Thus, a Trump presidency is suboptimal for US strategy and power relative to Europe. Discounting the relationship with Europe may be an effect of post-Cold War, reduced European-theatre US military interests, where Apartheid Democracy centers the US military.  As well, the US may be assigning EU relations to the UK.
  3. Individual Apartheid Democrat dispositions are best constrained by Europeans and Europeanists.
  4. Politically-mobilized neoliberals and other conservatives enable and supplement Apartheid Democrats where they do not possess control over the means of coercion.



Limits of the Gentrification Narrative

Does a fear of gentrification mean that we should not fight for making public places, streets, and parks better? No. This knowledge only highlights the importance of community members’ involvement in tackling neighborhood change. This knowledge also emphasizes the importance of creating places that benefit everyone – places that connect existing residents, instead of dividing, alienating, or displacing them, and places that enhance the existing character of a neighborhood, instead of erasing it.” –Kahne, 2015, “Does Placemaking Cause Gentrification?,”

While this planning article struggles with the overextension of the “gentrification” master narrative, it hints at the geographical limits of this theory’s applicability beyond global metropoles, economically-exclusive places where developers targeting a smallholder managerial class serving a global millionaire and billionaire class have uprooted and erased well-connected, flourishing, and socially-mobile working class communities like Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and neighbourhoods in Vancouver, Toronto, London UK, and San Francisco.

Consider that the problem with gentrification is not just the middle working-class purchase of some small amount of livable private space from the racialized poor, and the accompanying addition of a couple of coffeehouses (as can slowly happen on a couple of streets in Winnipeg). The critical concept emerges to describe the uprooting of a diverse and thriving community of smallholders from capacity-enhancing urban public amenities that they themselves have built and fought for over time. Planners’ solution to the latter problem is institutionalized community consultation, connected to theory for democratic development. It’s clear that Winnipeg has long repressed planning capacity, including community consultation capacity, in favor of monopoly developer control, and this continues to be the norm. However, that is another, older, hinterlands problem.

Institutionalized planning incapacity and general democratic underdevelopment as a colonial legacy continually refreshed by weak newcomer citizenship should not be reduced to the metropole phenomenon of gentrification, because popular gentrification-critique morality stigmatizes and suggests reducing non-poverty smallholder collective action capacity in order to amplify the evident “voice” of the poor, such as represented in poverty advocates’ recent romantic accounts by Bain Financial Corporation (the Dollar Store owner, among other investment asset holdings). Bain Financial’s capacity to serve as a “patron” and “voice” of the racialized poor is not threatened in Winnipeg. This is because Winnipeg’s anti-democratic institutions are strong, and Bain Financial is, like other market institutions supposedly native to and culturally owned by the poor (at least in antidemocratic neoclassical economic “consumer sovereignty” theory), an anti-democratic market institution. Its poverty “advocacy” agenda consists strictly in profiteering from and reproducing poverty, as complement to its privatization portfolio.

Theoretical entrepreneurship suggesting that any income-increasing class diversification of a neighbourhood, or even any isolated instance of community-consultation failure, is the gentrification problem empties gentrification of its critical specificity, and worse, in Winnipeg, contributes to the traditional problems of democratic, public collective-action incapacitation and planning and amenity poverty.

Unlike global metropoles, Winnipeg is not a town where the problem is the new economic-inequality-driven, private-property exclusion of the collectively-rich, privately-less-affluent from their own legacy of rich city shared public amenities. Winnipeg is a railroad population center in an extractivist region that is amenity-poor because it has a long-time, settler-colonial, cross-class democratic collective-action deficit (particularly relative to the power of regional developers). Winnipeg’s urban race problems are continually reproduced by the cultural norm reducing democratic development to consumer sovereignty. That reduction denies and evades the salient problem of building democratic collective-action capacity across colonial, settler, and newcomer conflicts of interest.

Urban geography has found that the neighborhoods with the proven capacity to build their own (not Bain Financial Corporation’s) institutions strengthening their social and political capital, are rarely homogeneous poverty neighbourhoods. Not charity or poverty advocacy, but class diversity with strong communication and high solidarity and collective-action capacity can strengthen and develop neighbourhoods, and permit stronger social mobility. Contra the gentrification critique, the problem in hinterlands is how to form coalitions across class, citizenship status, and racial difference that can organize for the new institution of humanist amenities that do not reproduce human stunting (as distinct from millionaire/billionaire thwarting). What do we need to organize that can improve the life quality and life chances of the regional coalition of smallholders?



Foreign Policy & Immigration: France

Reviewing the US perspective (Paul Gallis, Congressional Research Service, 2006) on French foreign policy requires some interpretation, or reading between the lines, but here are notes:

  1. Anglo-Americans cannot understand that French societal reproduction balances the deeply-antagonistic cultural contenders, laicite (secularism) and Catholicism. Managing this explosive cultural antagonism is why there is precious little independent room for other religions to shift French societal reproduction.
    1. Anglo-Americans misread French culture as wholly secularized because, as Tories and slavers, Whigs and capitalists, they are scandalized by the persistence of any democratic reproduction capacity at all. It consumes their attention, while Catholic culture seems natural.
  2. Sources of French sovereignty include:
  • Proven European coordination capacity;
  • Consensus-cohering human rights and democracy brand;
  • The UN;
  • Arab and worldwide colonial ties;
  • US governance has been constrained by economic orthodoxy, which reduces US strategic degrees of freedom.
    • For example, France can (and can coordinate Europe to) take advantage of  extreme US averseness to disrupting core FDI-based commercial relations, permitting the “medium size” “modest resource” country strategic sovereignty to resist and counter some of the US’s military geostrategic disruption and reorganization initiatives.


Caged within the orthodox econ framework that political-economic organizers like Paul Samuelsson and Milton Friedman had erected, it was impossible for the American polity to understand why France did not cooperate with the belligerent imperial takeover of Iraq, and worse, it was impossible for them to understand how France was able to not cooperate. According to econ theory orthodoxy, the FDI ties should have absolutely subordinated France to US sovereignty. After all, the territorial invasion and takeover was executed on behalf of the immediate economic interests of an international capitalist community–though monolithically conceived and under-specified.

Designed to support financialization and expropriation, the orthodox econ perspective rigidly excludes interests external to its view-from-the-top framework. France was afforded greater strategic degrees of freedom by French theories–including a revolutionary theory of democracy that economic orthodoxy had excluded and rendered completely illegible/irrational to US polity members. (This sheds light on the value France places on maintaining its own semi-sovereign philosophical establishment.)

Although France was the target of US exasperation, the conceptual and strategic constraints imposed on the US polity by total economic orthodoxy capture was a significant source of frustration to the US Congress in the early aughts.

I hypothesize that, relatively freed by its conservative paradigm (with its sacred social hierarchy core, as opposed to the more constraining liberal paradigm core, absolute private property right), the Republican aspect of the US Congress learned from this conflict with (what it viewed with frustration as) an “illegitimate” European power.

Trump was propelled to leadership by the Republican Party because of his capacity to engage imperial strategy beyond economic orthodoxy. Trump’s dogma is conservatism, wider than private property-bound economic orthodoxy, and endowed with more strategic degrees of freedom in the current expropriation-oriented context. Unlike Bush strategically constrained by economic orthodoxy in the early aughts, Trump today can suppress France’s sovereignty, and other sovereignties, and subordinate other governments and alternative interests to US strategy because he can temporarily suspend commercial relations. Prior to Trump, that tactic had been unthinkable. In both orthodox economic and Ordoliberal theory, only capitalists, and not states, were supposed to have the capacity to suspend economic relations as a power tactic. As President Bizniz, Trump is trusted to wield capitalist and state powers.

While other countries today are frustrated with Trump’s tactical suspension of commercial relations to impose absolute US sovereignty, it is important to point out that this phase is the consequence of foiled, unrealistic expectations that were implanted by the artificial constructs sewn by the theoretical monopoly of economic orthodoxy–to which most those countries (not SE Asia in 1997, not France in the early aughts, not Russia or China) and factions still cling. Two truisms apply here: “It is difficult to get a man (or a polity) to understand something, when his salary (GDP) depends on his not understanding it” (Upton Sinclair); 2) They want their cake and to eat it too.

The Democrats are in disarray as remnant heterodox factions struggle to expand their theory and collective action repertoire, and their core continues to try to pursue traditional neoliberal policies constrained by orthodox economic theory, and the traditional racial management objectives that coordinate global ruling class interests. The crisis in a US that has been nearly gutted of theory diversity, including the democratic Enlightenment theory that allowed its independence, is between a faction operating within the authoritarian slaver legacy of conservative theory, as embodied in the Southernized US military,  and a faction around the DNC, operating within economic orthodoxy and devoted to managing domestic and international racializations (including with military coercion) to serve secure private property rights to major global asset acquirers.

Foreign Policy & Immigration

The State’s Objective: Racialized population management on behalf of an international network

In the 1950s, UBC political scientist David Corbett compared postwar Commonwealth Canadian and Australian immigration and foreign policy. He started with the premise of the objectives of foreign policy and domestic policy. According to the political scientist, while foreign objectives are satisfied in policy, domestic objectives are satisfied in politics. Racial management from a British perspective played a central role in both foreign and domestic objectives.

The objective of foreign policy is…prevention of a precipitous move into the communist camp on the part of the non-white populations of the world,” while the objective of “domestic politics” is preserving “harmony among ethnic groups, and the economic strength and national patriotism necessary for a nation to meet its international commitments, defend itself, perform its treaty obligations and carry out its proper responsibilities in the community of nations” (Corbett 1958: 115).

While Corbett used language that tended to hide the sociological distribution of duties and obligations within Commonwealth social contract, it is apparent from the Commonwealth perspective that, along with controlling racialized peoples around the world, domestic ethnic management primarily serves the anti-Rousseauian purpose of permitting the Commonwealth country to perform its obligations to external interests. A postwar liberal might specify those interests in relation to some nations, as Corbett did, and a more contemporary observer would specify those global interests as belonging to an economic network or the capitalist class, and carried by states.

[While critical analysts in the US core can often more clearly see the structure and political organization of the capitalist class, the advantage of the tributary Commonwealth perspective is that it can more reliably apprehend the spatial distribution of that interested class’ network, a perspective that the US lost as it became a financial and consumption core tied to an aging oil-based GPT. Together, they may shed light on the distribution of sovereignty in global capitalism.]

Failing to Conceptualize Postwar Australian Policy

Labouring to jam his comparative case study within a Procrustean bed of liberal notions (Realism, Idealism), Corbett goes on despite himself to demonstrate that the Australian Labour Party was able to efficiently parlay its wartime nationalism brand into the capacity to manage the conversion of working-class interest in reducing working-class competition– via immigration– into the working-class interest in full employment. By instituting full (male) employment, the Labour Party was able to institute mass immigration without contribution qualifications–that is to say, not capitalist but humanist immigration, immigration without structured stigma.

It was very difficult for Corbett to conceptualize the postwar institutionalization of Australian foreign and immigration policy from within a liberal framework. From a liberal perspective, Corbett had to interpret full-employment-embedded mass immigration without stigma as “idealistic” policy. However slippery the Realism/Idealism terms, by liberal definition, anti-capitalist policy is not “realistic.” But in fact, in combination with policy supporting universal working-class access to income, stigma-free immigration is a pro-worker variety of nonelite mobilization.

The normalized mobilization, called simply “immigration,” contrastingly tends to be designed and legitimized by economists, capitalists’ think tanks, and consanguine conservative-liberal policymakers to disrupt and constrain nonelite collective action, in service of the governing objectives Corbett described at top.

It was not that the postwar Australian liberal party was simply, craftily using nationalist credibility earned in the war and solidified in a brand to orchestrate exoteric domestic politics imposing the objectives of international capital, but rather that the Australian working class understood its interests and responded not with the irrationality that liberals and conservatives automatically, tendentiously attribute to the working class’ distinct interests, but with rational cooperation.

[Conservatives and liberals influenced by conservative thought (eg. Hobbes’ tendentiously-narrow definition of non-elite liberty as bodily movement) will not grasp the distinction, but with a socialist recognition that labour mobility can come in both pro-labour and anti-labour forms, what the Australian Labour Party instituted is pro-labour mobility, as contrasted to migration as “a capitalists’ proposal, a weapon against labour” (Corbett 1958: 113).

From a liberal framework that simply naturalizes the working class subjectivity as irrational, Corbett was unable to satisfactorily explain the Australian working-class’ acceptance of postwar mass immigration. In wavering language, he suggested that “probably” mass immigration was imposed upon and sold to an unwitting working class with idealistic messaging (Corbett 1958: 115). He offers this weak analysis, lacking any empirical evidence, as confirmation that under unspecified conditions, Political Science’s Idealist hypothesis is as valid as its Realist hypothesis. This framing begs the question of the conditions under which “Idealism” v. “Realism” may operate.]

Postwar Canadian Liberalism: Immigration Policy

Corbett’s comparative case, exemplifying Realist governance, was Canada, where the Liberal Party leader Mackenzie King presided in the postwar period, as before. The ruling Liberal Party did not institute full-employment policy in Canada, and, despite postwar resettlement needs, maintained the capitalist’s contribution-qualified Canadian immigration policy, only expanding numbers gradually.

Over the decades, the Australian right removed the full employment framework, restoring the working-class disciplining variety of mass immigration.

In Canada, the variety of mobilization, the “immigration” that King maintained was eventually expanded, and has become branded not only in Canada but abroad as well as the model for achieving the state’s domestic-politics objective, the objective of ethnicized population management in service of an external network.

The context for the diffusion and adoption of Canada’s model is the neoliberal milieu, conditions in which (we have begun to recognize) liberalism has been widely reoriented to conservative social-ordering principles of inequality and inegalitarianism. But these social-ordering principles are not how neoliberal delegates sell their transitional work. Historically, conservatives have sold their society as a form of divine paternal protection and cultural patronage. In facilitating the transition to greater inequality and inegalitarianism, neoliberal delegates aestheticize, moralize, center, and normalize the marginal experience.

Research Agenda

How does King’s Canadian immigration model continue to reflect and amplify the conservatized liberal consensus? How does it continue to secure the worker-constraining variety of immigration? (TFW.) How does the Canadian model achieve the domestic objective to secure compliance across ethnicity for the benefit of international economic interests? (Multiculturalism.)

With the growth of refugee migration, could the Canadian model lose its glamour again, even for liberals, if pro-worker governments arise elsewhere to institute “idealistic” policy? In that case, it may be useful for the growth industry of Canadian immigration expertise to diversify their portfolio and comparatively consider the virtues of different varieties of immigration policy within distinctive policy packages.

Method: Compare Canadian to contemporary Swedish foreign and immigration policy.

Sweden as Comparator: Immigration & Integration

The utility of Sweden as a comparator in discussions of immigration and cohesion is partially that Sweden is a society that achieved integration, coherence at the turn of the 20th century, though this fact tends to be buried in liberal propaganda characterizing Swedish coherence not as a hard-won social achievement, but as “natural” or “biological.” What is the function of portraying a political achievement as a biological attribute?

Liberal and conservative consensus portrays Sweden as “monolithic,” an inferior or insufficient multicultural model in comparison to “diverse” Canada. While I experientially understand the difficulty of integrating into Swedish and as well Canadian social relations, my analysis is that the Sweden-is-homogeneous framework is an overplayed symptom of global military and economic interests in breaching the country’s democratic-sovereignty boundaries. Any “homogeneity” (cohesion, sovereign democratic boundaries) Sweden has is a hard-won achievement, and those boundaries can be at odds with metropole priorities. Like Canada and Ukraine, Sweden was integrated into the global economy as an extraction (forestry, mining) periphery. Prior to the social democratic reorganization at the turn of the 20th century (not so long ago), it was a highly-balkanized country, in terms of regionalism, elite internal conflict, and relations with global powers–Britain, Germany, and Russia. Capitalist ideology will always paint any degree of working-class sovereignty as an obstructive monolith…a many-headed hydra, as Linebaugh and Rediker observed.

Canadian Multiculturalism: More Than Ethnic Management?

It has been suggested that Canadian multicultural policy serves as a sort of vehicle for deliberative democratic practice, fortifying sovereign democratic development. One researcher starts from the empirical observation (surveys) of dehumanizing and non-compromising attitudes in Ukraine. The idea here is that these attitudes are cultural, not based in ongoing experiences where there are little by way of compromise options. This view sees untapped capacity, multiculturalism not as ethnic management but as Bahktinian carnivale. After all, in the staid old Soviet Union, bureaucrats were also involved in disruptive collectives as critical artists (O. Kulick, 2020). With the addition of multicultural institutions, space could be made within capitalist societies for more deliberative democracy and regional sovereignty, right?

By contrast, I have been viewing multicultural policy as an insufficient vehicle for deliberative democracy in the face of global financial and military interests. I have been living for 11 years in Canada, and, along with studying comparative immigration policy, I am versed in the Canadian and OECD arguments for the virtues of Canadian multicultural institutions–These arguments tend to highlight Canadian multiculturalism as a culturalist vehicle allowing rapid immigrant ownership of the nationality, thus enabling smoother market integration, and as a byproduct, social integration. Canadian multiculturalism is really cultural, taking the form of toleration aesthetics and manners, and food celebrations.

While it is tempting in a context of liberal cultural determinism to imagine that we can negate externally-imposed intra-territorial conflict by simply, stealthily instituting cosmopolitan cultural-appreciation institutions, Canadian multiculturalism is not constructed as a vehicle for the deliberative democracy that can build sovereign democratic capacity, that can set boundaries (to some extent) upon imperial interventions. Canadian multiculturalism is an institution cohering for the global market a colonial society comprised of a selected (“chosen,” with all its divine connotations) influx of contributing labour and capital superimposed over a defeated native population. But even were it backed by similar pro-immigration norms and structural factor requirements, multiculturalism is probably not robust enough to overcome ongoing, externally-imposed alienation.

My research in Sweden was with immigrant groups and the political parties (Vansterpartiet), unions (LO), and national and state welfare and research agencies involved in newcomer integration and advocacy. Multicultural policy in Sweden predates Canadian multicultural policy. While this is a heightened moment of immigration in which conflicts come to the fore, Sweden has been a longtime immigration country (including, per LO-led policy, for distinctly different, particularly war-refugee, economic-refugee, and family reunification migrant populations compared to Anglo-American settler countries, including Canada, primarily managing economic mobilizations). As well, Sweden uniquely exercises particularly strong, institutionalized, sociological self-critical capacity, while maintaining (struggling to maintain, but still struggling) the boundaries that allow for the reproduction of substantive democracy (real equality of opportunity and democratic outcomes).

Consequent to my Sweden-Canada immigration comparison, I tend to view multiculturalism as an oblique contributor to market-centered social cohesion, an adjunct to a national order that prioritizes market autonomy, not deliberative democratic capacity. Multiculturalism helps coordinate market actors and so stabilizes the market–an antidemocratic institution. It also can accommodate or reproduce non-democratic dispositions, practices, and skills. It doesn’t require education for democratic development (Dewey 1915), only communications professionals. It is a policy jewel owned by conservatism still under socialist heat, though multiculturalism was not even pioneered by conservatives or liberals, but by social democrats with socialist backbone. Though it has been posited as a integration resource in Eastern Europe, I think multiculturalism has thin capacity to substitute for or create the conditions for deliberative democracy enabling citizens to collectively organize sovereign boundaries and development. It may not be adequate to the social challenges of tributaries riven by imperial rivalry.

Still, perhaps market-friendly multiculturalism is a possible humanistic integration institution for regions, like Canada, that are confined to asserting symbolic sovereignty?* Sweden was able to assert some developmental sovereignty because a) political organizers prioritized cross-national union and working class development prior to polity strategy, and b) it works in a regional alliance with other Nordic countries serving different imperial masters. That may not be an optional development path everywhere. It’s not desirable in the British Commonwealth network.

Because it becomes institutionalized in an expert market, Canadian, American, and UK policy tends to be overhyped and exported excessively and uncritically, including to Canada’s and the US’s own hinterlands. This expertise can often be counterproductive to tributary regions’ political-economic and social development. Yet as a sociologist always aware of the social construction of our world, I am also committed to the collective, comparativist Enlightenment approach to knowledge building. I continue to think there is a great need for well-specified, interregional-comparative and historical-comparative scholarly interventions.


*Note: It sounds like I’m harshing on Canada. I do not think its immigration and integration policies are good export models. However, I do think there is a Canadian advantage, which some other countries share: It doesn’t have such a big population that it wastes incomprehensibly-vast amounts of cultural capital and human life on junk jobs, rentier activities, underemployment, military keynesianism, policing, surveillance, and incarceration, like the national capitalist cores do. It still wastes a lot of life.

However, what makes the Canadian model tick as a class compromise is that it is a pretty simple capitalist tributary–it never had any ambition to mess around with democracy beyond capital-serving political parties coordinated by metropole bond raters and Anglo-American capitalist core political parties (public goods and services are skeletal and mean, information is hard to get, there’s no white collar crime enforcement, it protects global mining rents from taxation, the police exist to remove indigenous peoples from resource extraction right-of-way); its main form of societal reproduction, the immigration pool, is highly vetted, and charged, for its capacity to deliver over cultural and financial capital; the population is low enough that only indigenous lives are systematically wasted; and Canadian virtue is achieved simply via expressions of nationalism, men’s hockey, and charity. Although it’s a neoclassical econ model, it’s not a societal model.


Econ Efforts to Mobilize Factors of Production

“It has become clear that migration is an essential element in the world
economy. Sending countries benefit increasingly from remittance payments
and the return of skilled migrants, receiving countries benefit from younger
workforces, and migrants themselves find new opportunities through their
move to a new country. Migration redistributes wealth at the world level and
plays a central role in development and poverty reduction. Moreover, within
the current globalization process, which favours an increasingly free
circulation of goods, information and capital, it is worth considering including
free movement of human beings as well.”–A. Pecoud, Universite Paris, paragraph 3 in Migration without Borders, 2007.




Law & Political Economy

The enduring entanglement of modern property law with this original “feudal calculus” is a thread running throughout Pistor’s book. Most importantly, it informs her skepticism about the alignment that is commonly assumed in liberal grand narratives among progress, property rights, and the rule of law (understood in the sense of the universal applicability of general rules, such that no one class received preferential treatment by the state).

There have been revolutionary moments, Pistor concedes, in which property owners did line up behind the demand for general rights—the American and French Revolutions being cases in point. But once their property was established, owners became, like their feudal predecessors, defenders of privilege. They have advocated not universal binding rules, but what Max Weber called a “modern particularism,” finding ways around the law when it suited their interests.” —Tooze reviews Pistor (2019).

The Usual Suspects: The University of Chicago, Ronald Coase, and Aaron Director established the school of Law and Economics in the 1960s. Its purpose was to diffuse the functionalist liberal grand narrative on capitalist law, in which capitalist law is mythologized as harmonizing interests throughout society by creating rules that maximize efficiency, productivity, and economic growth. This obfuscatory economist-managed myth factory helped distribute resources and power globally, but within the inegalitarian rules of feudal privilege that efface the citizenship and interests of smallholders and life on Earth.

Responding to the 20th-21st century expropriation explosion and democratic dissipation, Pistor is part of a new school, Law & Political Economy, that clarifies that global Anglo law, based in New York and London, actually marries exceptionalist feudal restrictions on [immobile] land property alienability with increasing volumes of extremely-mobile exclusive private property claims [only obliquely upon–but governing the disposition of– tangible assets], so that states enforcing this elite, privately-manufactured law have come to unequally, inequitably, exceptionally enforce the asset claims of large, global capital owners against the interests and welfare of the rest of societies.

Note the gendered leadership of the Law & Econ v. Law & Political-Economy networks. Together patriarchs may imagine their protection racket as benevolent. Women are experientially informed about the central, pervasive, destructive role of expropriation in capitalism.



Bhattacharya, Tithi. 2017. Social Reproduction Theory. Pluto.

Choudry, Aziz & Adrian A. Smith, eds. 2016. Unfree Labour? Struggles of Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada. PM Press.

Ghodsee, Kristin. 2018. Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism.

Graeber, David. 2006. “Turning Modes of Production Inside Out: Or, Why Capitalism is a Transformation of Slavery.” Critique of Anthropology 26 (1): 61-85.

Kapczynski, Amy.

Kalecki, Michal. 1971. Selected Essays on the Dynamics of the Capitalist Economy 1933-1970. Cambridge University Press.

Kato, Daniel. 2015. Liberalizing lynching: Building a new racialized state. Oxford University Press.

Law & Political Economy blog.

Lawrence, Andrew G. 2014. Employer and Worker Collective Action. Cambridge University Press.

Marx, Karl. 1867. Part VIII, “Primitive Accumulation,” Capital V. I.

Moore, Jason. 2015. Capitalism in the Web of Life. Verso.

Orren, Karen. 1991. Belated Feudalism: Labor, the Law, and Liberal Development in the United States. Cambridge University Press.

Pistor, Katharine. 2019. The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality. Princeton University Press.



Strategic Error Bias amongst Authoritarian Nonelites

Hypothesis 1: At least a portion of the lower-managerial and producer “Middle” working class is  systematically afflicted with an inability to accurately assess power relations and strategize messaging and action.

Hypothesis 2: This social segment’s systematic analytical error reproduces collective action incapacitation within working-class communities.

Corollary: In particular, non-elite subjectivities can be strategically handicapped by an overly-simplified Power Structure and Power Resource analytical framework. The interactional failures this analytical oversimplification produces in turn reproduce an inadequate tactical and strategic repertoire biased toward individual and collective de-capacitation.

The Non-elite Power-perception Error: Deploying an overly-simplified model of power, and importing elite perspectives on non-elite individuals’ object status, non-elite dispositions can misrecognize any individual power as monopolized sovereign power. For example, they can imagine that a strong individual will or passion alone can reliably overmaster and subordinate other individuals in any situation. As well, they theorize inaccurately that when an objectified will does not simply submit to the command of a presumptive Master will, this is because the objectified person is a faulty object. As with other objects that fail to ameliorate human sentience in the world, the resistant person targeted for objectification is psychologically apprehended by the presumptive Master as treasonous.

Psychological or discursive domination can work on a limited scale; but it is more limited than authoritarian non-elites tend to perceive. Psychological domination tends to work at a low hum along, and not against, categories of social status. Its effects may not be reliable or durable. In a complex society, psychological domination is not transposable to all interactions and relations.

Consequent to a misrecognition of all power as monopoly sovereign power, an authoritarian non-elite individual A (ANE-A) will tend to assign to other non-elite individuals (NE-N) the responsibility for carrying out ANE-A’s own personal interests. Probably, other individuals will not serve as instruments for the individual passion of ANE-A, but rather will pursue their own individual interests or the interests of a more-powerful, organized collectivity.

This is because non-elite individuals do not have sufficient structural social power to individually incentivize or impose what is a hierarchical functioning (subordinating others’ wills, converting other people into manipulable objects, tools, hands).

This structured experience the authoritarian non-elite individual (ANE-A) psychologically projects as a function failure, or malevolent defection, of the object (the objectified), NE-N. Psychological projection of harmful intention onto objects is natural (See Scarry 1985.); but the error that leads to the objectification of people, and projection of treasonous intent or incapacity upon insubordinate people, lies in power-relations illiteracy. The authoritarian non-elite subjectivity misinterprets insubordination as a malevolent and dysfunctional (incompetence) withholding of cooperation and credit in a world of fluid but absolute monopolized sovereignty, realized in simple domination by force of personality in individual interactions.

Emergent problem: Because the structured experience of subordination/objectification failure is rampant within authoritarian non-elite relations, incompetence and treason are perceived as ubiquitous in non-elite subjectivity, and so non-elite people tend to lean heavily on punishment as a tool for managing all but ideal patronage relations. This reinforces a tendency toward patronage-seeking behaviour and social hierarchy. Where corporal punishment is inaccessible, authoritarian nonelites will rely on moral condemnation in an effort to break down their target’s semi-sovereign (social but positionally-distinctive) self.

This produces a collective-action problem within the working-class: Working-class communities are bound up in punishing and thwarting each other. Their strategic capacities and tactical repertoires–including Power Structure and Power Resources analyses, negotiation, and cooperation–are constantly bound, atrophied, and stunted, and not just from above. Defection is universalized within the working class.

In capitalism, capitalists are relieved of universalized defection and crippling by monopoly control over resources. Their monopoly access to social power allows capitalists greater tactical latitude to make allies, form coalitions, and collaborate with rivals, while distributing patronage to delegate their agency. These rich tactical and strategic resources also incentivize capitalists to hysterically avoid expulsion from the capital-saved network and fortify class boundaries. Capitalists can be authoritarian without undermining their collective action capacity. This is not true of non-elite people.

Common “ameliorative” interventions in this serious social inequality problem tend to be constrained to moral discourse: Smallholder identity group coalitions simply exhort each other to act more deferentially, validating authoritarian non-elite individuals’ analytical error–the overprojection of hierarchical relationships of command and objectification. Doomed to fail and to proliferate a sense of alienation, the deference-demand “fix” reproduces the class’ strategic incapacitation.

Note: Some theory entrepreneurs have intimated that British Commonwealth or Southern US culture provide superior deference skills–presumably such that prevent, for example, authoritarianism from eroding nonelite collective action capacity. They suggest that a strong deference culture provides a micro-interactionist solution to collective-action capacity inequality, or makes collective-action capacity inequality a moot issue. I think this (often chauvanist) claim can be contested, including with empirical evidence from the Commonwealth and US South.

If we allow ourselves to imagine that non-elites can use their supposed surfeit of time to become psychological therapists preserving authoritarianism, then we can alternatively propose that instead, they can be assisted to better conceptualize power and improve their collective action capacity. Non-elite people need a better power-analysis framework and a relational-tactics and strategy repertoire expanded beyond authoritarian Master-servant relations, however glorified as “deference,” toleration, or accommodation. For a model, elites are not only better incentivized to understand each other as more than simple hands, they are also better socialized to use a broader array of interpersonal tactics and strategies, to work together coalitionally across rival interests. The sociological craft tradition (Mills, Bourdieu, Lamont, et al) can study and convey to working-class, racialized, and feminized people more expansive power knowledge.

Recommendation: To organize the balkanized smallholders, including feminized and racialized contingents, use the television series Game of Thrones, up through season 8 episode 3 (“Battle of Winterfell”) as a resource to stimulate power-structure and power-resources identification and theory development. Like The Prince, The Prison Notebooks, and The Power Elite before it, Game of Thrones is designed up through season 8, chapter 3 as a prolonged, multi-pronged, didactic corrective to popular misunderstandings of power relations. It was built to stimulate power-theory development. More effective would its pedagogy be if implemented as curricular discussion material in collectives.

(Note: After season 8, episode 3, Game of Thrones degenerates into a dog’s breakfast of Whiggish ideology and movie industry auto-canonization. Zeynep Tufekci (2019) recognized the show abandoned sociology for psychology at the end. If you’re the sort who enjoyed the democratic Enlightenment, or even if you’re a non-slaver American, you will hate being force-fed the Red Coat/Cold War moral framing of Daenerys’ clunky M.O. swerve, along with most of the hackneyed gruel you’re served after the Battle of Winterfell. Orly, Sam Tarly is a naive academic, but our True ‘n’ Just King is The Storyteller. Get over yourselves, Renaissance Festival. Truly, neoliberal times blow in terms of moral-fable product.)

The goal of power-theory development and tactical-strategic repertoire building amongst non-elites would be to replace the preponderance of thwarting and punitive tactics–both corporeal and psycho-discursive–with a broader, more valid power-relations analysis and skills repertoire, thereby reducing working-class political stunting.


Game of Thrones: Lessons on Power

GoT power-relations lessons are not necessarily encapsulated in pithy verbal recommendations, but rather by examining how characters embody power-relations tactics and strategies, and their effects, as well as learn over time. Still, the character Peter Baelish pivots to advise Sansa Stark, as she moves into a queen role, with an important reminder to remain strategically adroit:

Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend… Live that way and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something that you’ve seen before.” –Peter Baelish to Sansa Stark, Season N, Episode N.



Adorno, Theodor et al. 1950. The Authoritarian Personality. University of California Press.

Benner, Erica. 2017. Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli’s Lifelong Quest for Freedom. New York: Penguin Random House.

Game of Thrones, seasons 1-8, episode 3.

Kierkegaard, Soren. 1846. The Present Age.

McAlevey, Jane. 2016. No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age. Oxford.

Machiavelli, Niccolo. 1513. The Prince.

Mills, C Wright. 1956. The Power Elite.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1887. On the Genealogy of Morals.

Tufekci, Zeynep. 2019. “The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones.” Scientific American, May 17.




Feminism & Work Development Control

‘Selling an attitude of independence has been crucial to the allure of most major female pop stars since Madonna, but there is a chasm between the carefully curated appearance of sovereignty – a mainstay of branded feminism – and actually running your business.

“Getting that control takes a lot of stamina, and a lot of drilling, drilling, drilling,” said Robyn.

Daring to ask questions and revealing your lack of knowledge makes you insecure, even vulnerable. “It’s not a sexy process, although the result is, of course, something that’s very desirable for people. I think getting there has been something that I’m admired for by the industry, but people that have been very close to it, they haven’t been very impressed.”’ –Snapes, L. 2018. “How Robyn Transformed Pop,” The Guardian, September 28.