Counterenlightenment Justice Comes at a Steep Price

Vaccines are a consensus method of collective care for a complex, social, mobile Terrestrial species organized under a global capitalist profit- and wealth-accumulation regime entailing social, cultural, work, commercial, legal, political, and coercive relations. From a perspective–liberalism–that values both profit and profit-compatible altruism, vaccines should be a rare, fundamental touchstone of consensus. Every reasonable person should agree with prioritizing vaccine development and compliance.

However, the alliance of conservatives does not affirm this consensus, because, for various reasons, they reject collective care beyond the geographic and/or social boundaries of their personal networks.

I agree with conservatives that vaccine-based altruism is not a fundamental consensus touchstone. But I also disagree with the conservative rejection of humanist solidarity. While I understand the liberal presumption that vaccines should be a consensus issue, as a Marxist feminist, I do not accept that altruism must be compatible with profit (as in pharmaceutical vaccine commerce). Liberals would mistake this for a stubborn, doctrinaire principle, untethered from the social good. It is not.

The reason why I separate profit and altruism is that, while it secures an amazing cross-class and cross-status consensus, profit-compatible altruism, like charity or vaccine development and compliance, crowds out and undermines more fundamental, effective collective care, in such a way as to both proliferate human health crises and entrench dependency on commercial vaccines to provision the conditions of bare life. Profit-compatible altruism crowds out many less-profitable or unprofitable provisions required for mass thriving.

Here a liberal would object: We can have both vaccine altruism and the other conditions of thriving.

Yet we do not. Vaccine altruism emphatically, empirically comes at the price of broadly militarizing and carceralizing human life, entailing health-depleting isolation and immobilization as well as billowing social, political, and economic inequality, which also undermines human health.

I suggest futher that it is no coincidence that vaccine altruism is the consensus point at this conservatized, unequal, inegalitarian point in history. The socio-material conditions of human thriving are already reconceptualized and reserved in a conservatized milieu as luxury commodities. Disbelief in and black-boxing the socio-material conditions of human thriving, marginal and inconsistent recognition that these conditions pertain to nonelites, underwrites profit-compatible vaccine altruism. As the conditions of human thriving become economically inaccessible and culturally forbidden, the population is reduced to bare life, human health ebbs across the population, and we become increasingly susceptible to disease and death. All that stands in the way of our disintegration is the biochemical supplements we can access on the market. Our capitalist, liberal consensus altruism quickly deflates into a far less-disinterested dystopia.

The legacy of AIDS population management institutionalized in liberal political parties

In the AIDS epidemic, the late 1980s problem to solve was homophobia, which reduced public support for pharmaceutical innovation, an expensive, appropriate health intervention for a subpopulation threatened by a sexually-transmitted disease. In the core this subpopulation was not economically marginalized or otherwise particularly health-challenged, nor was it incapable of political organization.

The solution that pharmaceutical and political strategists designed was to obliterate in the core an understanding of the epidemic as variably distributed, despite the sexual mode of contagion and the boundaries of that sexual community in affluent countries. (As Dr. C. Hunt and others showed, HIV spread in Africa along the path of male migrant labor paved by capitalist inequality. However, this empirical trend in Africa was used to further sell the theme of uniform, universal HIV threat, rather than to identify and correct institutions inducing AIDS transmission.) Liberal political party-affiliated AIDS activists widely marketed the idea that everyone had an equal chance of contracting, suffering, and dying of AIDS. Distribution was stigmatized as a disease variable that would inevitably produce immorality if permitted in public discourse and problem solving. We can’t handle the truth of distribution.

In other words, given a political party homo asocial presumption of venal human nature (borrowed from Hobbesian theory and extended from the homophobic members of the opposition party to humanity), the solution epidemic and political strategists devised could not be a pro-social MacAlevey organizing approach, but rather was to proliferate scientism, scientific illiteracy, and fear.

There were two useful political side-effects to this political strategy:

First, this fear solidarity campaign tapped into a version of Anglo-American meritocracy, competitive worker culture, in which every worker reflexively thinks in terms of her own superior diligence and virtue, and suspects her coworkers of immoral shirking. This competitive worker affect is a proven handle for employers and their political parties.

Second, this fear solidarity campaign was particularly effective among urban youth who preferred to identify politically in solidarity with gay men. As a young person I identified politically with gay men, and, thanks to the AIDS activist campaign, by 1990 I was absolutely convinced that I was going to die of AIDS and soon. For AIDS activists that was an insignificant individual price to pay for a greater good. Because disease fear solidarity was a new (or renewed) population management device, it took health care workers off guard, and they were not necessarily on-message. When my friends and I went to get tested for AIDS, steeled for our immanent mortality, the health care workers would roll their eyes and complain about our unscientific ignorance of the disease distribution. But politically, such cracks in the no-distribution strategy were manageable; discursively, to speak of them is, thirty years on, still absolutely taboo within Dem Party networks. In an increasingly unequal, inegalitarian, and manichean world, raising the issue of contagious disease distribution is an emotionally-loaded flag of political-tribal belonging, loaded into a generation’s moral and emotional roots.

The campaign got the job done, and the important learning for the AIDS activists whose political experience would inhere in the Democrat Party (and affiliated parties around the world) was that to lead the public to virtue, pharmaceutical development, requires obliterating public recognition of epidemic distribution. It strategically requires obliterating public recognition of epidemic distribution; and because the strategy is associated with the liberal party and its suite of political commitments and networks, within that network, obliterating public recognition of epidemic distribution is morality and encompasses solidarity. To both maximize vaccine markets and reduce pressures for institutional and infrastructure reform, liberal political parties and communications professionals associate immortality and altruism exclusively with vaccine development and universal vaccine compliance. Political parties and comms professionals equate any non-vaccine problem-solving approach with death and selfishness. We can only pursue non-vaccine social goods when the last vaccine dose has been sold and administered, the last bug has been annihilated. Fortunately for pharmaceutical corporations and their investors and political representatives, humans are part of the Terrestrial biosphere, and so that biochemical end time will never arrive.

Restoring Epidemic/Pandemic Distribution Knowledge

What do we lose when we prohibit consideration of distribution in crises? Why restore to public discourse consideration of threat distribution? Publicly identifying crisis-impact distribution, for example the distribution of a coronavirus that spreads unevenly via vocalization, allows a society to identify, discuss, and mobilize the population to reform the institutions that make people vulnerable, that eviscerate human thriving. What we have been doing instead in our no-distribution comms strategy is culturally pathologizing humans and throwing our collective efforts behind building inhumane policy and institutions, such as long lockdown waves, along with vaccine development. But it is possible and preferable to maintain knowledge–including public knowledge–of distribution issues in epidemics and particularly pandemics, in order to advance the crucial public goods, beyond vaccine development, required to reduce risks inherent in our biological, material, Terrestrial, human existence.

We should not submit to the manipulative, political, ideological assertion that essentially-scary people (the disease vectors, the unwashed hordes, the mob, the barbarians, the populists, those jackasses who cut us off in traffic, the unmeritorious deplorables) simply cannot handle the truth, and so imprison people in untruths, however building scientific literacy will reduce pharmaceutical profits from the maximal horizon in which crises are only responded to with carceralism and pharmaceuticals. If we can muster our comms to convince people to fear humanity, then we can slap those comms pros across the face a couple times and, in crisis, retask them with orienting people to direct resources and work at failing infrastructure and policy, in order to bolster human thriving, not just to pharmaceutically supplement increased human suffering, as we are doing. We need to switch from that human suffering-and-vaccines pole to thinking around: Which markets, policies, and institutions reduce human thriving, as shown by the distribution of viral impact?

Distributional variables in epidemics and pandemics can be predicted and observed. Identifying the method by which the type of virus transmits, and given the probable tradeoff between virulence and transmissability in any identifiable viral mutation, we should center the following distribution questions and use them to design and build democratic disease containment strategies that protect population health along with subpopulation longevity.

  1. Who is getting very sick or dying, and where? What is the social and geographic extent of the viral transmission?
  2. What is the speed of viral transmission within and across social, sociological, and geographic boundaries?
  3. How does summertime and other costless, natural structural factors bolster immunity and transmission?
  4. How does the built environment bolster or weaken human immunity?
  5. Who gets sick or dies with mutations? How does mutation speed and type alter the assumptions as well as the extent and speed of viral transmission?
  6. TBD

Liberal Crisis Strategy Applied to an ILI

Flash forward to the start of the third decade of the the twenty-first century. The AIDS activists are decisionmakers in liberal parties. What happens when we apply their foundational political knowledge–first and foremost, bury the distribution– to herd public support behind pharmaceutical innovation in an ILI (Influenza-Like Illness) pandemic?

  1. The political strategy of obfuscating disease distribution shifts slightly to accommodate the differences between the diseases. In the case of AIDS, the campaign strategy was to obliterate public understanding of how AIDS was transmitted, and the limits of that transmission. In the COVID-19 campaign, the political strategy has been to obliterate public understanding of disease distribution by playing a shell game with public understanding of who are vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2–sick people dying at 85 years of age on average, particularly in long-term care homes–and what conditions decimate human immunity to the level of sick elderly people dying in long-term care homes: poverty conditions. This shell game morally undergirded the Counterenlightenment political claim that only by extending carceralism, long-term mass lockdown, human suffering, could racialized, marginalized people be inclusively cared for. That is a whopping lie.
  2. We reinforce worker competition culture, as diligence and virtue are exclusively associated with lockdown, expanded and extended human suffering.
  3. We further normalize carceralism, shifting into a high gear of carceralism–mass and long-term mass lockdown–as the primary response to crises, crises understood without valid reference to cause or distribution.
  4. We reinforce scientific illiteracy and scientism, ignoring the distribution of COVID-19 mortality and severe illness, as well as obfuscating the impacts of antihuman policies, institutions, and infrastructure on human health and wellbeing, and on democracy and economy.
  5. And we bury what COVID-19 has shown us about where our infrastructure fails to support human thriving. We neglect the most important knowledge COVID-19 gives us: Where we should be redesigning and reforming our institutions and infrastructure–from Long Term Care to schools to workplaces and norms to housing to prisons to parks to health care–to foster the human thriving that confers immunity to ILIs.

The ultimate deadly infrastructure is our capitalist political parties and their comms pros in media, and secondarily, a complicit medical profession, together maintaining infrastructure failures and institutional failures, worker competition culture, carceralism, and scientific illiteracy–maintaining human suffering and increasing vulnerability now and for the long haul. There will never be enough profitable brand vaccines to staunch the epidemics and pandemics generated by the antihuman treadmill we’ve chained ourselves to. Freeze-raying our enemy, humanity, and mechanistically, chemically engineering our way out of Terrestrial life is a Gilded Age class compromise leading right to more devastation.

“Too little, too late.
Everybody got to medicate.”
The Decemberists, Anti-Summer Song.

What Historical-Materialist Theory Lets Us See and Predict

Below the Swedish Left Party advocates for population-wide human development: “Healthy teeth shouldn’t be a question of class.”

From an idealist perspective this will be baffling. Why in the world would a political party bother with teeth?

The idealist answer tends to be that Swedes are crazy. But this is a very good example of the distinct ways that theory allows us to see the cost-benefit structures of our social constructions/institutions, and predict outcomes, and in particular how an historical-materialist theoretical framework permits a distinct weighing of those costs and benefits in favor of egaliberte choices.

Historical-materialist theory, as an extension of Enlightenment and the philosophical-materialist tradition, tends to be a comparativist and organicist science, enabling more efficient systemic analysis. It allows us to see and predict impacts of inequality and inegalitarianism, such as are encoded in the steep discounting of human development within storage/accumulation/hoarding economies. In the philosophical materialist framework such steep discounting, in support of profit and rents prioritization, constitutes systematic torture of people.

Idealist philosophers tend to back up their truth claims not with collectivist science, but with “Great Man” stories, which they have expertly selected, and, if pressed, will soften with the “association” hedge–a rhetoric tactic in which “association” can be instrumentally toggled between causation and compelling coincidence. I have an English-language philosopher friend who likes to, as they do, regularly tell a story about a Primitive who liked t-shirts, illustrating that humans want capitalism, because it keeps them warmer, better satisfies human needs. Yet we can review materialist studies, counter to the philosopher’s Great Man story, which suggest costs caused by prioritizing profit and expropriation in how we construct our world, and steeply discounting the human development of the “population.”

The US’s Weston Price in the materialist-philosophical Enlightenment tradition traveled the world surveying the comparative impact –the costs– of the Western diet, built for profit and discounting the “population’s” human, Terrestrial development.

Pandemic Lockdown Incentives

Assuming, as we do, that there are no (0) health costs to long-term lockdown, isolating and immobilizing the population, let’s turn our attention to the pre-existing problem of the flu, which also primarily threatens the elderly. COVID-19 is an ILI (Influenza-like Illness, as medical professionals categorize it). When we recognize that COVID-19 is categorized an ILI, ethically, shouldn’t we apply our same current assumption–isolating & immobilizing humans has no (0) health ramifications–to support the institutionalization of a permanent mass lockdown? From that ethical position, the problem-solving question is: What techniques can we expand from surveillance, policing & incarceration, and permanently institutionalize across the population, in order to prioritize length of life at the end of life?

The average age of ILI COVID-19 mortality is 85 in the white population, younger in populations whose health has been compromised by inhumane racialized and colonial institutions. Because older people in failing health do not recover from acute illness (cite LTC doctor), even where they survive ILI’s, they are subject to further, permanent impairments. Thus, COVID vaccines are being distributed to the populations with inadequate immune response to SARS-CoV-2, and to their medical and care workers.

In Manitoba, there have been a total of 191 COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past year. Pressure on acute care facilities is not the reason for extended lockdown, as previous NDP governments had funded facilities for a high annual ILI burden, given Manitoba’s human health-depleting, immunity-suppressing environmental and colonial conditions. Long-term care (LTC) in Manitoba and Canada is another story. Over 60% of Canadian COVID deaths have been in LTC, and further LTC deaths resulted from staff crises. Insufficient wages and depleting working conditions leave a pronounced shortage of long-term care staff. As well, long-term care facilities were designed to save money, and the design spreads infection in the kind of population long-term care LTC serves. In Manitoba that population is the high-needs elderly with failing health, with multiple pre-existing conditions, who cannot be kept alive with self-care, family care, or in-home caregiver visits. This includes people with dementia, particularly ambulatory dementia, or as LTC medical professionals call them, “wanderers,” whose combined need for physical mobility and lack of memory require housing design modification and intensive care work–except where they are inhumanely controlled, as with chemical immobilization. (Where we are willing to accept inhumane control over people with ambulatory dementia, the ethical case for long-term, generalized mass lockdown weakens to the acute-care logistics priority and some but not all faith dogma.)

Yet the way we are addressing the COVID-19 pandemic is through mass (population) isolation and immobilization. What incentivizes the failure to address the weak institution–long term care–in ILI, and, new with the COVID-19 ILI, the reliance on radical mass lockdown?

Incentives, Conceptual Innovation: 1) A new, broad faith (contra preexisting science) has emerged holding that extended immobilization and isolation either have no health costs in humans, a social and mobile species, and/or that the welfare of the broad population can now be ethically and profitably, steeply discounted in this era.

Incentives, Inequality Political-economy: 2) Along with the discounting of mass human welfare has arrived a political-economic commitment to avoid organizing and expenditures to address institutionalized weaknesses, eg. in long term care labour and infrastructure.

Incentives, Political-economy Leadership: 3) To be researched: Which leading capital factions cohere consensus pandemic policy steeply discounting human welfare, even against the interests of local/regional small business? Likely suspect: FAANG (In finance, “FAANG” is an acronym that refers to the stocks of five prominent American technology companies: Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX); and Alphabet (GOOG) (formerly known as Google)).

Incentives, Professional-class Management: 4) Previous pandemic strategy studies have noted the high utility of medical professionals in securing mass lockdown compliance.

Incentives, Pharmaceutical Profits: 5) Vaccine developers have argued for lockdown to prevent non-commercial herd immunity, to ensure large markets for vaccination.

Dominant habits of thought cripple contextualizing reasoning in two prominent and reinforcing ways in the early 21st century:

Incentives, Habits of Thought: 6) Mechanism cripples contextualizing reasoning. To permit space for political and economic power to determine science’s aims, the mechanistic reduction of science defers scientific interpolation with scientific system analysis (organicist science, or science), making systemic analysis very inefficient. (See Peterson 2017 on the case of the delayed development of epigenetics.) As well, anti-organicist mechanism proliferates scientific illiteracy, permitting greater latitude for political and affective population manipulation. So in the COVID-19 pandemic we see communications professionals and media outlets amplifying mechanistic depictions of lockdown policy without health tradeoffs (For example, in The Atlantic, February 2021), to the point of proliferating anti-scientific mechanist discourse suggesting that now we can bracket scientific research on conditions facilitating and undermining human thriving, and that humans can adapt and evolve over the next few years into an asocial species that thrives under permanent lockdown conditions (CBC February 2021). In science, scientists interpolate mechanistic research with scientific systems knowledge to interpret, understand research findings; organicist science uses mechanism as research technique. Mechanism is a reduction of science that jettisons the knowledge of systemic conditions and the scientific task of interpreting research findings in relation to systems.

Incentives, Habits of Thought: 7) Counterenlightenment philosophy and metatheoretical commitment cripple contextualizing reasoning. Complementary to the mechanistic reduction or jettisoning of science, Counterenlightenment philosophy overcorrects for egaliberte population-management knowledge and justice by centering the margins, bringing together the interests of both elites and individuals and groups marginalized in the central-tendency population-welfare approach, and isolating the central tendency as the injustice to be solved, usually via mass-incapacitation policies. Yet the case of COVID-19 lockdown health harm and LTC (and test-and-trace) neglect clearly demonstrates shared human nature cohering the interests of the central tendency and the “lower” (low power) margin; Counterenlightenment marginal justice miscasts the problem, and perpetuates injustice and irrationality in these cases.

Universities Do Not Crowd Out Skilled Trades

Staving off a Green Transition, the inegalitarian private gee-gaw consumption economy crowds out skilled-trades expansion.

There has been consensus political messaging to the effect that regional public universities bamboozle families into diverting children from the skilled trades. Embittered by economic decline and climate crises, some people latch on to the improbable marketing vision of university professors running amok, murdering the tech/craft artisan resurgence dream. Like many romantic hallucinations, this is a conservatizing (AKA neoliberal) trope/tripe. It’s not true.

There is no undersupply of skilled trades labor for the economy. There is no data that supports this myth. The lack of skilled trades is produced by decisionmaking power market agents, capitalists, their lawyers, and their politicians. It is not produced by any workers, including professors, who are doing all sorts of productive work.

The main beneficiaries of the lie are tech, construction, and fossil fuel industries. Their only goal with this messaging is encouraging governments to defund regional public universities, and drive down wages in the skilled trades sector, thereby diverting more wealth to billionaires to stuff into tax-avoidance island vaults, yachts and other inter-billionaire vanity rivalry, and general squandering while Rome burns.

The beneficiaries and originators of the lie are the actual barrier to skilled trades expansion. They are the old industries that make their money off the climate-crisis inequality economy relying on a small number of people to consume gee-gaws in petty compensation for a lack of public investment in life supports and amenities of broad and significant benefit. The industrial employers are the muscle barricading the door on skilled trades expansion. The call is coming from inside the house.

Blaming universities is a diversion tactic. The diversion is not neutral. It undermines skilled trades expansion.

Contrary to the spin, universities have an extremely important role to play in a Green Transition overcoming the old-industry barriers to skilled trades expansion. Universities are needed to recover the ideas of the public good, destroyed over the conservatizing era and essential to Green Transition. People need to be reoriented into a public that can support taxation in terms of political norms, incentives, and boundaries, and legal capacity for tax enforcement on the rich and corporations, a public that can support deployment of wealth in large, climate-friendly, public infrastructure reconstruction projects–transit, water, sewer, libraries, parks, schools, childcare reconstruction, all powered by renewable energy and materials innovation–benefiting far more people and other life than the polluting, inequality gee-gaw consumption economy, and employing skilled workers.


CCPA Manitoba. 2021. “Manitoba’s Road to Resilience.”

Case, A. & A. Deaton. 2021. “Life expectancy in adulthood is falling for those without a BA degree, but as educational gaps have widened, racial gaps have narrowed.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March: 118 (11).

Durrant, J.E., & Stewart-Tufescu, A. (2017).  What is ‘discipline’ in the age of children’s rights?  International Journal of Children’s Rights, 25: 359-379.

Gordon, R.J. 2016. The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The US Standard of Living Since the Civil War. Princeton University Press. 

Challenge to the Conventions of the Polis

Notes from Kleingeld, Pauline and Eric Brown, “Cosmopolitanism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Cosmopolitanism as Internal Challenge to the Conventions of the Polis

“Convention, which is a tyrant over human beings, forces many things contrary to nature” (Plato qua the Sophist Hippias, Protagoras). Convention is the term for the sedimentation or accumulation of norms, and the institutionalization of ways of living together in a polis, a community on Earth. Polis politics build upon convention. From Sophist Hippias to the Cynics (Diogenes) to the Stoics (Chrysippus and Roman) to the Christians (Augustine) and to the Enlightenment Republic of Letters and every “motley crew,” cosmopolitanism in all its historical variants is the critique of, an internal challenge to the sacredness of a city’s convention, where conventions are identified with the distortion of nature or natural law.

I would say in Kleingeld & Brown’s own account, cosmopolitanism cannot be understood apart from its repeated historical position in opposition to a governing status quo. Cosmopolitanism is not a property of imperialists. Even in Greek and Roman history, cosmopolitanism is associated with empire insofar as the comparative imagination accompanied territorial expansion, making cosmopolitanism resonant. But cosmopolitanism, the challenge to polis politics, predated Alexander the Great, and is not confined to periods of empire expansion, which also include in tension with cosmopolitanism an anticosmopolitan dehumanization of “barbarians” (p. 2).

The cosmopolitan challenge contrasts with conservative Plato and Aristotle’s classical “uncosmopolitan” stance (p. 2). For Plato and Aristotle, a man identifies first and foremost as a citizen of a particular polis, within which he “signals” (establishes?) his loyalty to particular institutions and people. The virtue of this polis ethics is that it values transparency and political legibility, enabling political engagement. The cost is that, alone, it is gamed and degrades toward its opposite, a non-transparent, corrupt mafia-style polis, as Machiavelli illustrated. Supplement is required.

In contrast to Plato and Aristotle, Socrates as the ultimate core scholar model avoids traditional political engagement in favor of examining himself and others, which activity he identifies as a political contribution. This is scholarship’s contribution to cosmopolitanism, the comparativist disenchantment of the polis, revealing its social construction as a preventative or corrective to corruption. This is also to clarify that cosmopolitanism is not any old contrarian objection to a polis, but a challenge to mystification and to an order distorting nature and thereby stultifying human development, a challenge specifically based in respect for empirical human limitations and the range of possibilities, recognition of what Critical Realists distinguish as the empirical-the actual-and the real.

Over a 400-year period (300 BC – 100 AD) between empires, philosophers from across the Hellenized world fully theorized and practiced cosmopolitanism. As is very clear in the influential Hellenic traditions, cosmopolitanism asserts that, ethically, members of a community whose capacity to contribute to human thriving is excluded or wasted by polis conventions ought to take their talents anywhere in the world where they can be recognized as helpful. In implicitly-egalitarian game theoretic terms: If no cooperation, then exit. You will recognize this as a version of social contract theory: Where community conventions sideline members’ participation in ongoing social construction, cosmopolitans agentially look for another community, rather than loyally submit to self-abnegation and stunting, rather than being reduced to first-class citizens’ tools. From a nonelite sociological position, cosmopolitanism is a political boundary upon, and ethical counterpoint to the hegemonic polis-participation ethics articulated by and for elites in the classical period. Cosmopolitanism is an internal challenge (including scholarly critique) to a polis’ convention; but it is distinguished by prescribing external reorientation as a corrective to the convention.

For reasons not stated, Kleingeld & Brown’s account of the influential Hellenic tradition focuses on the Cynics and Stoics, excluding the radically-egalitarian and scientific Epicurean cosmopolitanism which theorized varieties of system change, maintained a very strong humanism, and, in the face of hegemonic barriers, prescribed forming “schools”–prefigurative salons and communes to collectively develop an egaliberte good life and philosophical and scientific knowledge. Though Epicureans originally practiced tactical separatism, they did not sacralize separatism as Christianity did. Epicureanism recognized a connected world through atomic theory; and later Epicureans in Pompeii were also engaged in traditional politics. Epicureanism was hugely influential to Enlightenment cosmopolitanism as well as to its latter version, socialist and Marxist internationalism, both of which have also been hugely influential.

Despite its large influence, democratic Enlightenment tends to be at odds with Atlantic capitalism and expunged from (or highly distorted in) English-language thought. In our Counterenlightenment world, scholars struggle with the relationship between critique of and challenge to hegemony, sometimes–as with Kleingeld & Brown–using idealism and genealogy to cull out from the definition of cosmopolitanism socio-material challenges, sometimes–as in studies of cosmopolitan consumption–totally jettisoning even critique from cosmopolitanism. Splinted on, the resulting postmodern redefinitions of cosmopolitanism can hang awkwardly off the trunk of the concept.

In place of a Epicurean cosmopolitanism and a thoroughgoing account of Enlightenment cosmopolitanism, Kleingeld & Brown substitute Christianity. It is a problematic, unstable, and revealing substitution. With the rise of Christianity via the Holy Roman Empire, Christians share with cosmopolitans the disagreement with local convention, polis politics. But Augustine diverges significantly from cosmopolitanism in establishing the Christian principles that a) the dispersed community to whom Christians are responsible is not comprehensive of humanity but rather the smaller network of Christians, the hierarchical church; and b) Christians do not build better polis, better life in any place, with other people. Much more minimally, Christians only follow rules, keep their noses out of trouble. Christians do not just avoid social construction, they further denigrate working with other people to improve human life–as immoral individualism and narcissism, abjected as “love of self” against the sacred church hierarchy, asserted as the exclusive sociable option as it is the gateway to the “real,” non-Terrestrial society after death. This is a central theme of Counterenlightenment (McMahon 2001), because Augustinian fundamentals made Christianity extremely useful to empires as a subsidiary population-management institution. Christian foundations are thus extraordinarily anti-cosmopolitan. To see Christianity as cosmopolitanism requires swerving to redefine cosmopolitanism as a passive-aggressive ethos accompanying institutional expansion via prosyletization, and introduces a number of incompatibilities with other cosmopolitanisms, traditions in which people actually identified themselves with cosmopolitanism. Words mean stuff.

While there are a lot of Christians and hybridity, and other coalitions and diversions have been possible, contra Kleingeld & Brown’s inclusion of Christianity as an unstable part of European cosmopolitanism, I think that it is important to recognize these foundational Christian divergences from cosmopolitanism because of how baseline Augustinian Christianity reinforces anticosmopolitanism in the imperial context. This includes Christianity’s ideological influence on contemporary attenuated-citizenship norms, such as observed by Anderson (2020) in the EU, but perhaps more famously proliferated by the imperial US, which has nonetheless sold property-based citizenship rights as cosmopolitanism. Its Augustinian foundations have implicated Christianity in anticosmopolitan dehumanization, pathologization, exploitation, expropriation, slavery, and warfare, as well as charity–the avoidance of addressing systemic violations of human nature in order to prioritize elite interests.

Further, the fact that Christians only share with other cosmopolitans in Kleingeld & Brown’s account a rejection of polis political convention makes me quite dissatisfied with K&B’s efforts elsewhere to distance cosmopolitanism from politics, such as Enlightenment v. Counterenlightenment politics. K&B are not analyzing consistently. Their account inflicts whiplash as it opportunistically strips out cosmopolitanism’s openness to others, leans on raw opposition to the polis–particularly in incorporating Christianity within the cosmopolitan set, then recenters apolitical cosmopolitanism. What might be creating this analytical inconsistency is a combined disciplinary and liberal tendency to interpret internal challenge as nonconfrontative, a commitment to a cosmopolitan ideal that is strictly non-disruptive–an idealist, politically-oblique critique or refusal of (rather than, more broadly, challenge to) the polis, that does not threaten to dismantle and reconstruct the polis. The philosophers may be trying to steer a view of cosmopolitanism exclusively as an idealism, or perhaps separatism (in the Christian case), but in any case, fundamentally exclusive of revolutionary strategies engaging elite opposition and visceral conflict. This prior political and disciplinary commitment could be why K&B go on to struggle to account for Enlightenment cosmopolitanism, however famously embedded in the community of philosophy. Kleingeld & Brown’s philosophical-idealist and liberal account of cosmopolitanism includes Augustinian Christianity and excludes much of the Enlightenment. That’s not valid.

Renaissance & Early Modern Era: A Rebirth of Cosmopolitanism

Cosmopolitanism came to the fore again with the Renaissance renewed study of ancient texts. “By arguing that humans are destined by Nature to be sociable” Erasmus in Querela Pacis “pleaded for national and religious tolerance and regarded like-minded people as his compatriots” (p. 5). The re-forming cosmopolitanism of the Renaissance era through the 17th century was shaky, though. Many early modern theorists were committed to asocial individualist assumptions to refashion materialism in a capitalist configuration. What distinguishes individualism is the assumption that what humans have in common is a raw self-preservation drive, which is thought to be anti-social, per Hobbes.

Modern Natural Law theory’s wobbly notion of “fellow feeling” could inform a nascent cosmopolitanism or could just as easily justify war against peoples elsewhere, dehumanized as barbarians. Grotius, Pufendorf and other theorists of sea-going imperialism applied social contract theory to imagine international law (p. 5).

Enlightenment Cosmopolitanism

Often kicked out of European cities and countries for their opposition to political conventions, Enlightenment cosmopolitans rode the waves of capitalist empire in voyages around the varied world. The anthropological encounters ignited their confidence that the world could be reconstructed in better ways. Enlightenment cosmopolitans aspired to make themselves into people who could be comfortable with and learn from different people in different environments, “nowhere a stranger.” Ideals and a culture of open-mindedness and a critique of prejudice arose in opposition to the ruling network of royalty and the Catholic church.

Refusing to recognize the central conflict of the Enlightenment era, Kleingeld & Brown give no context to why Enlightenment cosmopolitans were belittled, their developmentalist struggle to overcome their own prejudice and make a better world obfuscated by the Counterenlightenment Catholic sophistic conflation of early modern capitalist, individualist materialism and the pro-social philosophical materialism of Enlightenment democrats. Counterenlightenment theorists recited the original Christian dismissal of collectivist polis improvement: nothing more than “individualism” (p. 6).

Cloots (1755-1794) finally extracts from early modern theory the problematic of red in tooth & claw states (rather than individuals) battling it out in the bellicose “state of nature.” The switch to the state as actor is a much more reasonable depiction of the problem of the polis and power than the asocial human individual assumption Hobbes used to sell government as protection racket.

Fichte conceptualized sovereignty as layered (p. 7). With layered sovereignty, part of state sovereignty–concerning external relations to other states–could be transferred to a federated level of regional or global governance. Kantian cosmopolitan law: Both states and individuals, as citizens of the Earth, have rights (p. 8). MJF: If the economy or geography generates groups, should groups also have a tier of rights?

Contemporary Cosmopolitanisms

Marx, Lenin and Stalin identified cosmopolitanism as a capitalist ideology; but they advocated working-class internationalism and they argued that the development of the working-class would improve humanity, which Kleingeld & Brown see as a kind of cosmopolitanism (p. 9).

Cosmopolitan duty is not restricted to beneficence, but justice and respect as well (p. 9).

Political cosmopolitanism: Layered sovereignty, dispersed sovereignty (p. 12)

Alternative cosmopolitanisms: Nonelite cosmopolitanism (p. 12). Deveux (2018), Bailey (2017). K&G don’t recognize Sociologists, like Michele Lamont’s work on everyday cosmopolitanism.

Cultural cosmopolitanism: Multiculturalism (p. 11)

“Economic cosmopolitanism”: Imperialism. Kleingeld recovered Hegewisch as an early theorist of a capitalist cosmopolitanism, the idealization of comparative advantage and free trade (p. 8). Econ “cosmopolitanism” requires large-scale labour migration and re-schooling. As well it ignores automation (p. 14). Labour migration is called “world citizenship” (Caraus & Paris 2018); Abraham would critique this broad, very thin concept of citizenship. Kleingeld (2004) contributed a reading of Kant that legitimized the EU.

Moral cosmopolitanism: In the Kantian view, “it is morally necessary to establish just democratic states and that just democratic states need some special commitment on the part of their citizens in order to function as democracies” (p. 16).

K&B get dicey when it comes to characterizing non-cosmopolitans and anti-cosmopolitans, because they exclude the likelihood that cosmopolitanisms clash, as where Alternative cosmopolitanisms will not be compatible with Kleingeld’s “economic cosmopolitanism,” or even political cosmopolitanisms.

Multipolarity thesis is Rawlsian (See p. 12).

Kleingeld & Brown’s political precommitments compromise the validity of some of their claims about cosmopolitanism

This SEP article contains insights and is engaging (particularly compared to the wonky one on capability theory), but there are limits to Kleingeld & Brown’s credibility. The logical inconsistencies in Kleingeld & Brown’s account seem to be side effects of their primary commitment to crafting a narrative linking the European cosmopolitanism legacy to the European Union. There’s superficial validity to that theory project. Yet Perry Anderson’s (2020) account of the fundamentally antidemocratic, conservative-restoration nature of the EU polis construction project explains why cosmopolitanism turns out to be an uncomfortable theory fit for that institution. Generously, perhaps K&B’s narrative contributes bridging towards a more inclusive future for the EU; but theirs is a good example of how the philosophical tendency to buttress ruling class positionality compromises scholarly analysis.

First, examine Kleingeld & Brown’s insistence that the core of cosmpolitanism is apoliticism: “The nebulous core shared by all cosmopolitan views is the idea that all human beings, regardless of their political affiliation, are (or can and should be) citizens in a single community.” This characterization is not valid, seems unnecessarily motivated by the EU project or liberal defensiveness, and does not work with their inclusion of early Christians as cosmopolitans. It requires a historical revisionism that is obfuscating. Kleingeld & Brown go out of their way, even in their whole section on “Enlightenment Cosmopolitanism,” to obfuscate the well-known empirical history of the “Republic of Letters” Enlightenment v. Counterenlightenment political clashes, though mentioning in passing strained relations with governments. Astonishingly, Kleingeld & Brown have to expel from the account of Enlightenment cosmopolitanism philosophically-engaged, political cosmopolitans Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, Addison, Hume and Jefferson’s opposition to “prejudice” and ideal of living “nowhere a stranger,” as irrelevant to the philosophical consideration of cosmopolitanism. Usually, philosophy is not so prudish around ideas of the good life. Really, K&B’s philosophical account of Enlightenment cosmopolitanism is too distorting, too history-aversive, in their effort to narrate a cosmopolitan teleology ending at the EU. Whatever they do in their books for popular audiences and politicians, these philosophers need to prioritize scholarship in their SEP article, even if that means being less idealist or ideological, and acknowledging the ways in which the EU departs from cosmopolitanism. Or maybe the SEP is not really philosophy.

Speaking of the good life, Kleingeld & Brown also ignore Epicurean cosmopolitanism, which is a poor choice because Epicureanism was one of the least-inconsistent cosmopolitanisms that have existed (K&B note and dismiss the critique of cosmopolitans as hypocrites on p. 9. The same defense applies to Enlightenment actors.), as well as very influential in the Enlightenment. Relatedly, Kleineld & Brown butcher Marxism when they go out on a very shaky limb to attempt to dismiss the Marxist critique of “economic cosmopolitanism,” K&B’s term for capitalism (p. 13). First, K&B fail to recognize that Marxists, not unlike K&B, are arguing against conflating imperialism with cosmopolitanism. Second, Marxists are not arguing that capitalism–however rebranded as “economic cosmopolitanism”–is “not viable” (p. 13). Only in the rally speeches did Marx declare that capitalism will provoke a world-wide revolution. In Marxist theory, with which philosophers should have more familiarity than rally speeches like “The Communist Manifesto,” capitalism will undermine free trade, as well as the socio-material conditions for its own reproduction. But that does not mean automatic revolution in Marxist theory. It does mean capitalism requires expropriation. That can go either way: Economic elites, via political parties, the law, and the police and military, may expropriate the public, smallholders, and nature, as is done now; or democratic revolutionaries can expropriate capitalists.

Come on. If I talk or write about those crises dynamics, as I do, everyone knows I’m using a Marxist analysis. Even undergrad students can recognize it. It is not credible that adult professional scholars forget how Marxist theory works. I can understand how most educated liberal and conservative people skipped over all the theory in Capital V. III, Ch. 13-14, about how capitalists have the fungible power to offload their crises on the working class and planet, therefore Marxist theory isn’t about guaranteed revolution. But in the year 2020 (the last revision for this article) it’s no longer Cold-War cool for professional scholars to have missed the whole Marx’s Ecology (2000) and related literature, in which we find the recovery of Marx’s analysis that capitalism sows environmental and human destruction–the key term in contemporary Marxist theory is the capitalocene.

Again, a Sociologist is forced to gaze upon the problem of philosophy’s fundamental, persistent disciplinary commitment to elite positionality, conservatism, as well as postrevolutionary philosophy’s related allergy to the Enlightenment philosophy-based discipline of Sociology, as where Kleingeld & Brown cleave tightly to Psychology to try to deal with the cosmopolitan or non-cosmopolitan implications of “relations constituted by reciprocal obligations” (p. 16). The philosophical materialist tradition from Epicureanism (particularly) through Marxist historical-materialism, and even Durkheim and Weber–this is to say the Sociology tradition–contributed fundamental, very influential research and theory connecting the human essence of sociability (however varied) to “recognizing obligations to benefit fellow citizens” (eg. fellow class members, fellow nationals, fellow group members) if not to the exclusion of other Terrestrians. Psychology struggles with relations beyond the individual mind. As Durkheim long ago showed, that’s not what Psychology is built for. That’s Sociology.

Hot Turducken: Why Imperialism, Christianity, Capitalism, and Federalism are Not Cosmopolitanism

It is probably because the EU is an antidemocratic agglomeration of resources that we see such enormous contemporary pressure to capture and reprocess a proud European political-ethical tradition, cosmopolitanism, with idealist tools honed to lop off the parts of history that the EU cannot consume, and substitute in other bits.


The EU & Cosmopolitan Consumption

Marketeers sell products by associating them with virtues. Marketing academics study how effectively various virtues sell products. Consumption Sociologists conduct interpretive studies associating marketing campaigns with consumer identity. The finding is that consumer identities are awkward.

If EU marketing has incentivized a reconstruction of a cosmopolitanism ideal uprooted from its historical relationship with politics, Consumption Sociologists are prepared to interpretively associate an aesthetic-only cosmopolitanism–AKA pretension–with consumer identity. The finding is that pretentious consumer identities constitute ineffective cosmopolitanism.


Zylberman’s Biosecurity Strategy Studies

Patrick Zylberman’s influential 2013 biosecurity guide lays out a pandemic history & the pandemic planning programme we experience. Zylberman worked within central French, UToronto, and Princeton networks.

Legal advancements in liberal history toward indefinite mass detention: 1) UK Public Health Act (f. 1875) amended in 1984: No need to prove infection, no limit to detention duration. 2) Post 9/11 US, governors can call State of Emergency, making resistance a felony. Legal doctrine established post 9-11: The protection of public health overrules any privacy and individual rights. Doctrine popularized with Anglo-American Civic Duty campaign, focused first on immunization, then mass detention. (Zylberman 2013: 401-3; 425).

1999 US conference of first-line medical teams recommends administrative powers increased to impose quarantine, isolation, intervention of military, media censorship. 2001 US Fed law introduces these recommendations, plus police & National Guard intervention (Zylberman 2013: 402). 2002 US Public Health Security & Bioterrorism Preparedness & Response Act extends police powers over asymptomatic persons. Not common in Europe, but instituted in France. (Zylberman 2013: 405).

To resist a drift into scientific nuance, which highlights probability rather than sustaining emergency, the Civic Duty campaign converts Good Citizens into militants for the Good Cause. The patriotic atmosphere discourages frontal opposition (Zylberman 2013: 445).

Countries impose an overdrawn civic sense in which the emphasis is on duties and obligations of citizens, and on the requirement to give proof of altruism, whether quarantines, vaccinations, or mobilizing health sector reserves (Patrick Zylberman 2013: 32).

Quarantines are political. In 1822 France, being against quarantine meant resisting the Bourbon restoration. But as discovered by UT psychologists and the DHS Red Dawn biosecurity strategists, SARS showed that voluntary detention was more acceptable than expected ( Zylberman 2013: 424-5).

Despite the mounting psychological harms, the majority (50-68%) of Torontonians & French did not try to evade detention. The major source of these people’s readiness to obey was trust in health professionals (Zylberman 2013: 427-8).

MJF analysis:

While Biosecurity strategy ramped up policing and detention capacity and acceptability, it relies for legitimacy on public trust in public health authorities. The US did not have public health authorities, though there was effort to construct Fauci as this health authority.

Fauci, an old DC force praised by Bush the Younger, organized a NIAID Emerging Viruses conference in DC in 1989, establishing the concept of biosecurity threat, as not based in bacteria or viruses, but in humanity as a microbial population vector and conveyance apparatus. This renaturalizes humanity; but also, as it is translated through biosecurity policing, it pathologizes humanity. Similar to epigenetics reconciling culture and nature, but also restoring Mother-Blame. The humanity of non-elites is reconceptualized and dehumanized as population.

“By viewing ‘problems as problems’, rather than ‘people as problems’, individuals are able to talk with each other in a respectful manner, and talk with themselves in ways that support their responsibility and their accountability.”

(Macready, T. 2009. “Learning social responsibility in schools: A restorative practice.” Educational Psychology in Practice 25: 217.)


Zylberman, P. 2013. Tempetes microbiennes. Essai sur la politique de securite sanitaire dans le monde transatlantique. Paris : Gallimard.

Zlyberman, P. 2016. ‘L’avenir, « cible mouvant. » Les Etats-Unis, le reque NRBC et la methode des scenarios.’ In Serge Morand and Muriel Figuie, eds. Emergence des maladies infectueuses. Risques et enjeux de societe. Versailles: Eds. Quae

The Gilded Age Pandemic

A striking case of policy and institutional constriction in the engineered absence of an autonomous Left

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that authoritarian solidarity fights against demos-capacitating policy. One example is the important case of global pandemic policy leadership laboring to divert from a test-and-trace approach that would permit targeted rather than extended, extensive, and intensive incapacitation. From its start in private strategy groups composed of military, politicians, and doctors networked with military and political parties (for example, the US pandemic strategy group Red Dawn), pandemic policy has been biased toward population incapacitation. In an era in which pharmaceuticals were a leading capitalist industry, the military enemy-population incapacitation model served as a complement to the vaccine market. Right up to March 2020, the US was considered a global leader in pandemic planning because of its focus on population incapacitation and the vaccine market. The vaccine market became the capitalist substitute for democratic development. Pharmaceutical corporations came to be widely regarded as the only legitimate source of liberty. While Anglo-American liberals believed themselves to be nobly defending science and the vulnerable margins against barbarians, their version of science was reductive and slipshod enough to cohere them principally to an authoritarian coalition.

For example, the UK Sage group included hospital managers and political party strategists. Early on, Sage decided that they would forgo test-and-trace pandemic management. The group, including politicians representing pharmaceutical profits, asserted that test-and-trace would cost more than it was worth. Pandemic policy models that optimized existing hospital capacity piled on by correlating testing approaches with higher incidence of COVID-19. In other words, some researchers were disseminating the logic error that testing causes SARS-COV-2, rather than identifies viral transmission. Due to a management error that lost test-and-trace data, comparative data on test-and-trace in the UK became available and economists analyzed it. It turned out upon analysis that test-and-trace was very effective (Beale 2020); though by reducing the spread of the coronavirus via identification and selective quarantine, testing-and-tracing would reduce the pharmaceutical industry’s profit margins. However, in the interim, spring through fall 2020 (AKA the Southern hemispher’s winter), as Melbourne, Australia stepped into the role of extended, extensive lockdown poster child, the UK Sage group rejected test-and-trace policy in favor of a TINA lockdown-to-vaccine policy. Their policy prescriptions were copied in tributary regions, where media trumpet Melbourne’s prison-like conditions and its ensuing summertime defeat of the coronavirus (reminiscent of Canada’s earlier summertime “defeat” of the virus. Almost makes you think stronger summer immunity plays a predictable role in the suppression of ILIs (Influenza-Like Illnesses)).

In February 2021, further prosecuting the Anglosphere case against targeted test-and-trace, The Guardian ran headlines about how Hong Kong’s “ambush” targeted test and trace policy violated civil rights and discriminated against the poor. It was a case of authoritarian implementation of test-and-trace, with Hong Kong health authorities targeting poorer residents living in crowded city neighborhoods, where little evidence of coronavirus transmission was found. On the other hand, in contrast to the “virtuous,” information-lite, winter-long mass lockdown authoritarianism instituted in the Anglosphere, the authoritarian Hong Kong deployment of targeted test-and-trace only immobilized the working class residents of crowded neighborhoods for two (2) days. Where Hong Kong’s interpretation of test-and-trace was more inequitable, the Anglosphere mass lockdown approach intensified inequality more gravely.

Given that lockdown-centric policy benefited the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of the medical industry, one might have imagined that medical professionals would have used their clout and collective action capacity to intervene, to help pressure and organize pandemic policy that would reduce the burden on hospitals and hospital staff. By and large, the medical profession did not. While in backstage knowledge-sharing seminars, medical professionals merely listed community transmission as their preferred target amongst a number of factors correlated with COVID crisis conditions in long-term care, medical professionals and their organizations actively promoted lockdown-heavy policy at the expense of policies, like test-and-trace, that would both reduce the burden on hospitals, and diverge from population incapacitation. Particularly in Commonwealth countries, health care and hospital coalitions’ social media messaging pounded on extending and intensifying population incapacitation, military-grade lockdown, as the only reasonable alternative to what they asserted were the only and irresponsible alternatives: first a reconstruction of “herd immunity” as a moral ill; then “opening” for the petty sake of small business revenue, contrasted with the fearsome gravity of mortality. (In contrast to Canadian medical professionals, in October 2020, rather late and two months out from vaccines hitting the market, the American AAMC called for a national test-and-trace mobilization in the US.)

The Anglosphere medical profession’s choice to eschew test-and-trace, more humane policy that would reduce pressure on hospitals, was a precondition for preserving maximal vaccine markets, suggesting that the medical profession is also invested in pharmaceutical profits–or at least, as this Deloitte pharmaceutical industry strategy report indicates, the medical profession is managed by the pharmaceutical industry. That could be researched with a political-economic approach. Or the medical profession’s choice may indicate a population incapacitation preference within the medical profession, and important limitations in the medical profession’s concept of solidarity–limitations that should have been anticipated by a review of doctors’ record of political campaigns opposing public health. While it could be difficult to research such preferences, due to social desirability issues, nonetheless the social-psychological hypothesis as well as the political-economic hypothesis and the outcome suggest that to preserve the public welfare, including health, medical professionals should not be treated as unique and primary authorities, determining public health policy–any more than should politicians representing powerful corporations with financial interests at citizens’ economic and health expense.

Varieties of Sacrificial Solidarity:
Population Incapacitation v. Democratic Capacitation Solidarities

Solidarity involves sacrifice. There are different distributions of sacrifice within different kinds of solidarity. We often think of solidarity in relation to unions and social movements, but of course there are solidarities that distribute sacrifice quite differently. The convergence of conservative-liberal institutions and conservative-liberal government has created a version of solidarity that sacrifices the health, wellbeing, and human development of the “population,” a deindividualized theoretical construct deployed wrecklessly in inegalitarian, widely-incapacitating governance. The development of working-class people’s human capacities–for collective organization, strategization, and communication– are sacrificed in capitalist solidarity. Women’s human development is sacrificed in patriarchal solidarity. Black people’s and Indigenous people’s liberty to pursue human development is sacrificed in the solidarity networks of racial capitalism and colonialism.

The long roll-out of COVID-19 public policy reveals the distribution of sacrificial solidarity in the context of the “era of democratic recession” ( Diamond 2015; Shrecker 2020) presided over by conservative-liberal institutions and conservative and liberal ruling parties. A coalition of institutions combines with governments run by conservatized liberal political parties leading the sacrifice of human welfare and development on behalf of markets in vaccines and incapacitation technologies, as well as with conservative governments, a patriarchal network sacrificing human welfare and development, to demand the solidaristic sacrifice of the population’s health, wellbeing, and longevity. Conservative-liberal institutional allies have included hospital management, the medical profession including its members in both private practice and public health, pharmaceutical corporations, health care workers unions, social workers (considered part of the health care workforce, which constitutes in total 13.5% of the Canadian workforce), and most steadfastly, media.

Thus, a more population-capacitating test-and-trace pandemic policy is neglected in favor of incapacitating mass lockdowns, where isolation and immobilization are scientifically well-understood to deplete health and reduce longevity. An activated and amplified coalition of interests overdetermines the incapacitating approach, particularly as it maximizes vaccine market profits. It is a further indicator of non-sovereignty that countries like Canada are dominated by the population-incapacitation coalition, as vaccine prioritization (let alone population incapacitation) is not unambiguously in the national interest. Coronavirus vaccines are an expenditure rather than a source of profit in tributaries like Canada. Coronavirus vaccines are developed in the US, UK, Europe, China, and South Korea, and produced chiefly by the US and India, as well as to a lesser extent in China, the UK, Germany, and South Korea.

In tributary hinterlands, conservative-liberal institutions including the public health department, a low-capacity union representing health care workers, and the medical profession’s pecuniary interest in credential scarcity and monopolizing public health decisionmaking, combine to produce a prone reaction to the pandemic, leaving only core policy mimicry, the sacrificial solidarity of population incapacitation.

The population-incapacitation coalition’s ethical case is ambiguous. Over the course of 2020 and 2021, the population-incapacitation solidarity coalition misled the public about the duration of the pandemic, instead ramping up their demands for population incapacitation over the months and years, while their media amplified these demands. To incapacitate the demos, to divert the public from less-incapacitating pandemic policy, and to advance incapacitating policy and institutions, including the vaccine market priority, the authoritarian coalition portrayed the pandemic to the public as resolvable with shifting windows of time-delimited sacrifices and rapid vaccine development. In 2020, they had publicly encouraged a locked-down population to believe that vaccines would permit lifting constraints, in part to stave off public interest in less-incapacitating, long-term pandemic management. The outlier state of Sweden, whose organicist-science public health department was from March 2020 explicitly managing the pandemic to maintain democracy and broad human health for an expected pandemic long haul, was opportunistically vilified by the population-incapacitation solidarity coalition in moments in which Swedish population health and mortality statistics looked less competitive than their Scandinavian neighbors. By mid-January 2021 as vaccines were beginning to be distributed, the Anglo-American corporate-state media introduced norms continuing antihuman population incapacitation measures, as well as messaging encouraging the depersonalized mass to abandon expectations for access to human conviviality, contact, and mobility. Melbourne’s long, intensive lockdown was touted as the policy model.

By the end of January, as the US fall 2020 elections had concluded, political party networks’ incentives for oppositionally politicizing the pandemic ebbed. In the conservative hinterlands of Canada, though hinterlands transmission rates were low, the conservative provincial government announced along with the federal Liberal government that they were instituting amplified carceral measures to maintain a more constraining regional mass quarantine indefinitely. Liberal and conservative political parties lunging for population incapacitation policy cohered around a carceral approach. While the Canadian Liberal Party diverted billions of dollars in public revenue to the development of a permanent, for-profit traveler prison archipelago across Canadian cities, inhabitants of America’s Siberia, Manitoba, were threatened with costly motel incarceration if they attempted to escape the flat, deep-freeze, commercial-agriculture province lockdown for regions permitting better outdoor activity opportunities, when a rolling maximum of 0.3% of the population had contracted the virus (per restricted testing identification), of which tiny fraction of the population, 3% experienced significant symptoms–symptoms that the existing acute care facilities were able to treat, as the facilities had been supported to treat influenza in elderly populations by the previous NDP government. COVID-19 population lockdowns were imposed on populations whose human welfare was steeply discounted, as in tributary hinterlands, for political convenience and without valid reference to local conditions.

Political convenience has required a politics of fear. As justification for increasing population incapacitation, the conservative hinterlands government cited the mutability of the coronavirus, intimating that it was “more deadly” than ever. The claim was not backed by scientific conclusions, and there was no public education about the viral trade-off between deadly and transmissable. The conservative-liberal foundation of pandemic policy was population incapacitation to preserve the institutions of socio-economic inequality.

Incapacitation Governance, Biosecurity, and Human Rights

At a first read, it looks as though COVID-19 has exposed a shocking dearth of state capacity. Across Canada and many regions of the world, ruling political parties and markets failed to mobilize to correct the identifiable, accumulated governance failures that created extraordinary global vulnerability to the fundamental biotic process of viral development. Countries including Canada saw a climb in the mortality and further impairment of older people, particularly those over 85 whose health was already in steep decline and so were living in long-term care homes, many of which were structured on economic efficiency criteria, and facilitated contagion. Eventfully, this biological and infrastructure susceptibility spilled over into crisis for long-term care and acute-care hospital logistics. In 2021, medical professionals and exhausted, traumatized logistics managers voiced the need for a systemic approach to the intense crisis site of long-term care. Where pre-existing problems flaming SARS-COV-2 into pandemic continue to be systemically neglected, we find governance responses maintaining and furthering population incapacitation institutions–such as the Canadian federal government’s choice to use emergency legislation not to mobilize long-term care and other health infrastructure improvements, but rather to deploy a $4.45 BN budget toward funding the construction of private traveler prisons (“isolation sites”) across Canadian cities. The pandemic reveals not state incapacity but the long trend toward market-based citizenship fortifying a property rights regime pitted against human rights, demos-capacitating solidarity, and human health (See also Schrecker 2020).

Other anti-scientific irrationalities and moral hazards of population-incapacitation governance in Canada include the federal governing party’s refusal to exercise leadership and engage the Canadian public in an information campaign allowing the public to understand and participate in the rational global distribution of vaccines first and foremost to the people whose health is significantly threatened by the coronavirus. The Canadian Liberal Party has simply refused to activate the Canadian rational altruism brand, favoring instead a low-profile nationalist vaccine policy (RJ Leland 2021), along with the extension of mass home incarceration and further institutionalization of traveler incarceration.

Its inability to lead a rational, humanist approach to vaccine distribution is associated with the ruling liberal party’s unwillingness to relinquish the tool of fear politics, the incapacitation policy of misleading the public about the coronavirus health-risk distribution, a communications policy autocrats deem necessary to ensuring lockdown compliance. Opposing a capacitating humanist approach to crisis management and intervention, the pseudo-scientific aura of “population” health management corrodes as it serves to support the irrational, anti-scientific policy priorities that produce such profound, debilitating crises amongst humans on Earth (See Wallace et al 2020).

Introducing A Distinctive Organicist-science Approach to Pandemic

“We know that policy choices have long-run consequences” (Piereson 2004). Now that liberal and conservative political parties have cohered around the population incapacitation agenda, we can assess who, outside of Sweden and other minority parts of Europe (French and Italian teachers striking for return to schools with health protections), are championing a democratic capacitation-forward response to long-term pandemic. So far, most of the remnant Anglo-American Left has been noticeably unable to distinguish a working class capacitation approach.

Instead, and particularly under its financial-metropole leadership, the Anglo-American Left has coalesced with autocrats deploying mass incapacitation to maintain and exacerbate current resource maldistributions, with the Anglo-American Left contributing the moral argument that feminized workers and marginalized, poor people of color are best protected from the threat–people pathologized as disease vectors–by extended mass lockdown. The remnant Anglo-American Left has also justified its authoritarian coalition on the basis of invalid rejections of non-incapacitating policies, such as test-and-trace, clarifying health communication, and targeted global vaccine prioritization; invalid, opportunistic assumptions about emergency duration; invalid assumptions about the distribution and facilitating conditions for COVID-19 mortality and debilitation; alignment with mechanistic commercial science and medical interests misrepresented as science tout court; silencing organicist science, including social epidemiology and its warnings on the serious effects of long-term immobilization, isolation, and impoverishment; and the anti-populist framework, and uneven opposition to politicized conservative party pandemic strategies, though the Anglo-American Left has embraced politicized conservative and liberal parties’ pandemic strategies where those have been aligned with population incapacitation.

Long-run consequences of deepening the inegalitarian institutionalization of population incapacitation include significant socio-material harms–direct harms such as decreased population health and longevity associated with immobilization/sedentarism and isolation (organicist social epidemiology science that the Anglo-American Left has abandoned), but as well a cascade of harms associated with resource maldistribution. Population incapacitation has worsened resource and power maldistribution; over the long crisis, the global working class has so far lost $3.7 trillion, while the global billionaire class has gained over $10 trillion (January 2021). This resource maldistribution undercounts the aggravated inequality growth in conservative-liberal regimes, where a large proportion of the working class is state-subsidized into small business ownership, which (captured working class) population has also lost income and smallholding assets.

What has stood out is that most of the remnant Anglo-American Left has deferred to and embraced authoritarian population-incapacitation policy during a long Shock Doctrine crisis–a crisis whose very roots are in inhumane institutions. Presumably this sort of Left is oriented to ameliorative advocacy during quieter moments. We can associate such a Left with ad hoc local charity; the Romantic revival and Call-out culture; meritocracy, professionals and managerialism; and organizational subordination to liberal political parties and their primary, capitalist constituencies. This is the crooked little Left that remains alongside other authoritarianisms after a century of capitalist Cold War evisceration of the global capacious Left (Bevins 2019). Its mass-incapacitation COVID-19 pandemic response is a measure of the liberal party and Counterenlightenment-conservative theory dependency of the remnant Anglo-American Left.

Lockdown/vaccination is a conservative-liberal and not a Left solution to problems. In the biosecurity lockdown/vaccination regime, mass society “does their part” by self-abnegating to the detriment of their health and longevity, their economy, and democracy. The “population” recognizes its Terrestrial biology as the problem, dehumanizes itself, and preserves itself as a vaccine market, where priority access to vaccines is the sign of social value (“essential workers”), prestige. The population agrees with decisionmaking elites that commercial vaccine development and consumption will solve the problems that the impact of infectious disease shows to be clearly caused by inequality and public infrastructure poverty (public goods scarcity).

So for example, instead of using their collective action capacity to fight to institutionalize more humane conditions bolstering human immunity and health, such as better institutional ventilation (HVACS and openable windows for fresh air), small class (not classroom) sizes, and half-day school for highschoolers, US teachers’ unions misused their collective action capacity in winter 2021 to fight to jump the global vaccination queue. Most people’s immune systems can handle the COVID-19 coronavirus. COVID-19 death and impairment are clearly strongly associated with inhumane living and working conditions, as important contributors to pre-existing immune system inadequacy; and vaccines should have been prioritized for subpopulations–from Native American reservations to Brazilian favelas– beseiged and weakened by the socio-somatic incapacitation unleashed by colonialism and capitalism, as well as long-term care residents at the end of life living in long-term care homes in need of humane redesign. Those among teachers and students who suffered pre-existing disease and poverty should have had a priority place in the vaccine queue by virtue of their immunity impairment.

Most US teachers and students had no ethical claim to jumping the queue. There were far more vulnerable populations domestically and around the globe. Because there was no viable Left to observe and articulate the glaring, overwhelming correlation between COVID-19 death and impairment on the one hand, and on the other, exposure to inequality and public infrastructure poverty, US teachers’ unions followed the politics of prestige: With lockdown pandemic policy taking democracy-compatible solutions off the table, commercial vaccines were left as the only available collective care option. To access vaccines first meant social prestige. Health care workers were first in line for vaccination; teachers’ unions demanded the only sign of “Essential” status available to workers in capitalism.

Examples of a distinctive working-class capacitation approach include:

a) Law & Political Economy policy reforms distributing wealth to address vulnerabilities glaring in the light of pandemic;

b) using emergency powers to mobilize resources, including:

i) expanded public health care capacity: test & trace capacity, long-term care restructuring, hospital and acute care capacity, social epidemiological public health research and policy institutionalization, and removal of excessive professional barriers to medical education and practice;

ii) Basic Income protection and economic independence; democratically-capacitating community infrastructure investment including parks, water and air quality, light and ventilation systems in public buildings, sewage systems, active transit, and quality public housing; education for democratic development renewal; and criminal code reform–in order to target with supports and significant reforms the failing social and institutional areas that the pandemic has revealed to be overburdened with dangerously-unhealthy and inhumane conditions: working-class communities of color, long term care, junk jobs, and prisons and carceralism.

Over and over, for three generations and more, we have observed how the conservative-liberal Right is organized to translate the crises it generates into inequality institutions, setting up further crises which in turn allow the Right to channel the world’s busy system gamers to exponentially increase inequality and so crises keeping most people disorganized. Incapacitating population management is inegalitarian culture. Commercial vaccines markets, surveillance and AI Big Data analysis, permanent online work, using tributary populations to test drugs, and loosened drug regulation–the consensus pandemic treatment–are not brakes on crisis-prone inegalitarian culture; they are accelerators. Misrecognizing inegalitarianism as morality, we are getting swept up in the culture, and we do not know how to set boundaries and we fear to break collaborative networks. Thus we assist in the construction of our own avalanche of crises. The pandemic is not as special as we like to think. Again, we have failed to recognize the social construction of pandemic, leaning on inegalitarian anti-populist political culture to justify lunging to the unwarranted, sociologically-illiterate conclusion that to recognize the pandemic as socially constructed is to see it as imaginary. The pandemic is not just caused by a scary invisible alien bug enemy, and it’s not caused by a polluted horde, population that morality requires be smothered out. As it has always been, pandemic is caused by our reflexive collective refusal to use our organizing capacity and resources to prioritize and bolster widespread wellbeing, our reflexive collective choice to “solve” problems over and over again by discounting and displacing socio-material human thriving. COVID-19 has shown us that we are still hopelessly enthralled by the margins-centering inegalitarian justice telos of the Counterenlightenment Right. We continue to help reproduce our growing immiseration and planetary crises. Caught between a collectively-manufactured, irrational inequality of sovereignty, freedom, and human development, and our socio-biological nature, we are always in pandemics.

A self-directed Left will not coalesce with authoritarian policy that incapacitates an extensive, dehumanized and pathologized “population” while maintaining anti-scientific and mechanistic inequality priorities. We want to use crises, especially long crises such as pandemics rooted in global, commercial, capitalist occlusion of human thriving, to galvanize and institute egaliberte policies, not to cooperatively, solidaristically accommodate and coalesce with authoritarian, dehumanizing social structuring, however it is always sold as protecting the most vulnerable, per venerable conservative theory. Consensus authoritarianism builds & cements mass-incapacitating and debilitating inequality institutions, particularly destructive in an unchecked Gilded Age, and all the more difficult to dismantle “after” the crisis.


AAMC. 2020. “AAMC Recommendations for COVID 19 Testing: The Current State and the Way Forward,” October.

Beale, Rupert. 2020. “Get the Jab!” London Review of Books 17 December: 12-13.

Bourguignon, Francois. 2015. The Globalization of Inequality. Princeton.

Gill, Stephen. 1998. “New Constitutionalism, Semocratisation and Global Political Economy. 10: 1 Pacifica Review: Peace, Security and Global Change 23.

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Harrington, Brooke. 2016. Capital without Borders: Wealth Managers and the One Percent. Harvard University.

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Lacey, Joseph. 2021. “Coronavirus: Four Traps Governments Fall into When Making Decisions about Lockdown.” The Conversation.

Labonte, R. 2021. “The Canadian Policy Response to COVID-19: What’s in it for Health Equity?”

Leland, RJ. 2021. TBD.

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Robeyns, Ingrid and Morten Fibieger Byskov, “The Capability Approach”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

Robin, Corey. 2004. Fear: The History of a Political Idea. Oxford.

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Statistics Canada 2020 a. “Reduced Quality of Life.”

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  1. In Counterenlightenment Canada, reason is reconceptualized as cooperation. But cooperation with whom? With Essential health care workers and the sick and dying, of course! You’re not a Monstrous Antivaxxer are you?

    Capitalists’ police killed off the constructive socialists, unions were poisoned and dismantled. We’ll never get out of this shitpit, with its floors caving beneath us all the time as its chorus of loge gremlins praise the cooperation, until we fight down the many cop layers, organize the working class, and so free the constructive socialists. Those should be the priorities.
    But in the meantime, I’m going to say something about human capacitation v. the incapacitation reflex, as ways to solve problems. How can we stay solid behind working-class organization if we cannot even think beyond mass incapacitation, our monomania in all the crises?
  2. One example of the COVID reinstatement of mechanistic-positivist pseudo-science was on display in February 2021, when the CBC’s Piya Chattophyay interviewed a University College London psychologist, Katerina Fotopoulou, encouraging her to leap from her research expertise to assure the Canadian public that whereas touch deprivation, yes, seriously undermines animals‘ health, and in the past, prior to COVID-19, touch deprivation also used to have serious consequences for humans, people are now miraculously exempt from isolation and immobilization harms, due to new, mystical qualities of “adaptability” and “resilience.”

    Surely humans possess some adaptability and resilience, but the limits of those are already known through the volumes of previous research (and Fotopoulou’s ongoing research) into the harms inflicted by isolation and immobilization. It is possible that the SARS-COV-2 virus, or the lockdown policy, or some other novel mystery factor, contains some heretofore-unobserved and untheorized quality enhancing human adaptability and resilience, much like Peter Parker’s spider bite gave him superpowers; however, that sort of baseless speculation belongs in comic books and bong sessions. Science proceeds logically upon theory, the collective of previous empirical evidence and analysis. This example of a political-market comms org, the CBC, deploying a clinical psychologist and private psychotherapist for comms control, demonstrates that positivism-mechanism is pseudo-scientific mysticism. Just as liberal parties develop dialectically with conservative parties, positivism-mechanism is a main vehicle itself for the proliferation of scientific illiteracy.
  3. Consensus authoritarianism: A 2009 post on military-guided private pharmaceutical investment in vaccine development as well as mass-lockdown policy instituted with the 2001 US Health Emergency Act.
  4. The legacy of AIDS population management today: In the AIDS epidemic, the late 1980s problem for epidemiologists to solve was widespread homophobia, which reduced public support for pharmaceutical innovation, an expensive health intervention for a subpopulation that in the core was not economically marginalized or otherwise particularly health-challenged, nor was it incapable of political organization. The solution pharmaceutical, medical and political strategists designed was to obliterate in the core an understanding of the epidemic as variably distributed. Particularly political party-affiliated AIDS activists widely marketed the idea to the public that everyone had an equal chance of contracting and dying of AIDS. Distribution was stigmatized as a disease variable that would inevitably be immoral if permitted in public discourse and problem solving. We can’t handle the truth. In other words, the solution epidemic and political strategists devised was to proliferate scientism, scientific illiteracy, and fear. There were two useful political results: First, this fear solidarity campaign tapped into the Anglo-American competitive worker culture, in which every worker reflexively thinks in terms of her own superior diligence and virtue, and suspects her coworkers of immoral shirking. Second, this fear solidarity campaign was particularly effective among youth–such as myself–who preferred to identify politically in solidarity with gay men. As a young person, I identified politically with gay men, and I truly believed that I was going to die of AIDS. Because fear solidarity was a new population management device, it took health care workers off guard. When I went to get tested for AIDS, steeled for my immanent mortality, the health care workers would roll their eyes at my ignorance of the disease distribution.

Cosmopolitanism Theory: Toward a Conception of Legal Internationalism

Along with the application of the Renaissance scientific florescence to democratic politics, cosmopolitanism is a pillar and legacy of the 18th century European Enlightenment. The Renaissance recovery and study of the Greek materialist texts that survived Catholic censure over the centuries fueled Enlightenment science and cosmopolitanism. Michele Lamont has clarified that cosmopolitanism is not elite cultural capital. One useful framework for thinking about cosmopolitanism is as an ethical reconstruction of responsibility beyond “close to home” interests and troubles (See Nina Eliasoph 1998), . (See also Pasi Sahlberg on the distinction between egaliberte responsibility and hierarchical accountability.) For examples, a Fair Trade cosmopolitan would include in moral consideration, and consumer decisions, the health and viability of humans and ecosystems in food producing regions; or a cosmopolitan would organize a political campaign against the pollution and overfishing of whale habitat; or a cosmopolitan would consider immigration policy ethics in the context of military disruptions for resource control abroad.

Two types of cosmopolitanism are practical (or, as philosophers see it, aesthetic) cosmopolitanism and the more formal codification of cosmopolitanism in philosophy. 1) An expanding network of practical cosmopolitans cultivated an attitude of open-mindedness and valued the knowledge associated with peripateticism: travel, observation in dialogue with new connections across geographic and sociological boundaries. Like Greek materialists, they distanced themselves from customary loyalties, instead fostering their own political sociality across borders. They were intentionally restructuring their social networks. 2) There are many variants of philosophical Enlightenment cosmopolitanism, the formal logical codification of principles, or even simply the piquant abstractions uttered by the influential philosophes of the day.

I have noticed that because of Kant’s strong influence in some modern academic networks, sometimes his version is misused to represent the variegated whole. Kant had two anti-humanist impulses. One he grew out of, the other he did not: Kant was always a sexist pig. And Kant was pro colonialism, but got better. Something that the long Counterenlightenment regularly obfuscates is that the whole point of Enlightenment is human development, individual and collective. So for example, Enlightenment exponents regard it as a virtue to labor to overcome one’s prejudices. Prejudices are not just opinions or even socialization. Prejudices are barriers to recognizing others’ human development, barriers to egaliberte societal development. Enlightenment exponents don’t think that people are unprejudiced. It is the (also global) interested and instrumentalist Counterenlightenment that constructs people, groups, communities, and societies as finished and compleat: castes, the superhuman and the subhuman, rulers and the damned.

Similar to Enlightenment science, Enlightenment cosmopolitanism was furthered by the anthropological discoveries–crucially redefining human capacities and constraints–that rode along with global, imperial capitalist commerce. Yet Enlightenment cosmopolitanism was not a commercial ideology. Cosmopolitanism formed in critical opposition to the inegalitarian state preconditions for capitalist coups. The state preconditions included not only monetary issue and management, organization and resource allocation for the network of capitalist elites, it also included institutions for incapacitating, exploiting and expropriating depersonalized “populations” within state territory, particularly via institutionalized religious population management. Enlightenment science and cosmopolitanism accompanied, but directly contested the restricted and restricting definition of life and humanity that this incapacitating population governance secured.

Among others, the South Sea islanders played an important role in allowing Enlightenment cosmopolitans to expand European understandings of how it could be possible to live together while reducing manufactured scarcity (Pagden).

From the influential and legally-codified clerical reaction starting in the 18th century, to early 19th and late 20th century Romanticism, to 18th-21st century slaver theory to late 20th century global capitalist postcolonial justice theories, Counterenlightenment arguments against democratic development have issued two lasting legacies: 1) ruthless, hysterical causal association of Enlightenment with an all-sided societal apocalypse; and 2) the backhanded delineation and promotion of the Counterenlightenment’s ultimate bete noir, democratic Enlightenment.

Legal Cosmopolitanism

Nussbaum (TBD)


From Nancy Fraser’s philosophical analysis of the distribution of representation (an expansion of her philosophy of resource and recognition distribution justice), we can extrapolate that the function of state territorial boundaries is to moderate capitalist effective demand, capitalists’ outsized capacity to assert themselves as stakeholders in any polity decision. The impetus to such state formation is to obtain the minimal, Hobbesian state sovereign criterion of capacity to protect territorial denizen-citizens’ lives. In this moderation function of states, they are coalitions between exploited population and regional capitalist-rentier elites. (This conceptualization complements Political Marxist theory.) Because they have come to either shift to protecting non-territorial capitalist-citizens’ interests–global capitalist-rentiers, rather than territorial denizen-citizens–or they serve as secondary protectors to those primary protection states, eg. the UK and US, with the metropole financial centers, modern states are failed states by the Hobbesian criterion.



Fraser, N.

Kleingeld, Pauline and Eric Brown, “Cosmopolitanism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <;.

McMahon, Darrin M. 2001. Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity. Oxford.

Nussbaum, M.

Pagden, A.

Sick Fixation

Ascherson, Neal. 2020. “Who Betrayed Us?” The London Review of Books, 17 December: 25-28.

Ascherson reviews/triangulates two books about the Weimar transition, by Robert Gerwarth (2020) and Sebastian Haffner’s 1969 Die Verratene Revolution.

I had never understood why American Marxists fixate on the Luxemburg-Leibknecht assassinations to the extent that “social democratic betrayal” is a fundamental analytical category for them, and they consider it a badge of honour to fail to distinguish politics, political trajectories, or coalition opportunities. With a little reading outside the lines, this helpful Ascherson review clarifies what has gone on in the overpoliced, smoking, twisted pile of hot scrap metal that is American Marxism.

The context was French capitalists’ huge investment losses with the Russian revolution. France wanted to make up for those losses, ensuring a fat chunk of profit as well, by charging Germany for WWI, charging a LOT. The British blockade had killed off half a million Germans, and the Reichstag had enraged the military by voting for a peace resolution. As the German military was losing World War I, it shifted into a bitter, contemptuous cannibalism. General (and politician) Erich Ludendorff’s strategy was a domestic “revolution from above,” to “shift the blame for defeat away from the army and onto the civilian left,” always a hometown enemy of militaries (25-26). Ludendorff advised Kaiser Wilhelm II to convert Germany into a constitutional monarchy and let the Social Democrats into government to deal with the French expropriation (26).

The German Social Democrats (SDP) were a huge (millions), fractious, diverse agglomeration who, by dint of class, had been excluded from the Absolutist polity. It was basically a working class social movement coalition. Contrasting with the experienced Russian revolutionaries who had taken over Russia the year previous, the Germans were hopelessly unprepared (26). It is now difficult to imagine an unready German, but Germany’s formidable, venerable, inegalitarian political and cultural machine maldistributed capacity. Elites had too much, the vast population too little. Elites had prepared working-class Germans to be manipulated like puppets by Naude’ coups.

One morning in the autumn of 1918, Chancellor Max von Baden handed the reigns of government to the pro-war, antirevolutionary SPD faction leader, saddlemaker Friedrich Ebert. General Wilhelm Groener, Ludendorff’s successor, made an alliance with Ebert: Ebert would have the support of the army if he would suppress Bolshevism, support the military officers, and replace with a conventional parliament the workers’ councils that other SPD factions had immediately erected upon von Baden’s resignation (26).

With the aid of his co-conspirator Gustav Noske, Ebert issued emergency decrees to immobilize and incapacitate the workers, and managed the right-wing militaries, police, and militias to run amok, beating, killing, terrorizing, and crippling the rest of the SPD. Throughout much of the capitalist world, communists have been killed, jailed, thrown out of their jobs, and generally suppressed because they were good organizers and effective at egalitarian management. But for the most part, proven communist organizational capacity was not being removed in the blitzkrieg of SPD ascendance to military-sponsored power. The “bearded, middle-aged Berlin drama critic” Kurt Eisner was a notable exception, a good, revolutionary SPD leader organizing Munich; he was gunned down in February 1919. Communist theorists Luxemburg and Liebknecht were not exceptions. They basically named themselves Sparticists, let out a rebel yell, and were immediately gunned down. What is distinct about Luxemburg and Liebknecht, along with dozens of SPDers who had joined their Sparticist group only to be immediately killed by the counter-revolutionary military, is their afterlife as martyr symbols for a suspiciously police-convenient, indiscriminate Marxist hate-on for social democrats everywhere.

With capable Eisner’s death, the revolutionary SPD began a quick disintegration and died in May 1919. Thereupon, Ebert presided over the Weimar republic’s fairly-progressive liberal representative democracy, most distinguished by advancing women’s liberty and welfare, until, having not earned the love of its subjects, its economic fortunes were battered away by the Great Depression (1929) and it was overthrown in 1933 by Hitler and the Nazis (25, 28).

In the Weimar Republic interim, Kurt Turcholsky wrote a poem to the republic, alluding both to its unlovability and to its geopolitical power constraints:

“We dreamt, under imperial restraint,
of a Republic–and now it’s this one!
One always fancies the tall slim one,
And ends up with the little fat one.
C’est la vie!”

For some, Ebert and Noske’s formal social-democratic membership serves as sufficient explanation for their vicious betrayal of comrades and class. Taking an historical-analytical step forward, Ebert and Noske’s factional alliance with the rightwing German military must be a sufficient explanation for their vicious betrayal of comrades and class. What I cannot believe is that there is no investigative scholarship into the role played by the other, capitalist Atlantic forces in managing Ebert and Noske’s violent turn against their working class brethren. The role played by French financial pressure was huge, to start with. What did they and their allies negotiate backroom with the Ebert, Noske, and military government alliance? The Trojan Horse German state that this grotesque alliance made, with its nice parliamentary laws liberalizing access to birth control, Emergency repression, and death squads, was filled to the brim with its own enemies, Left and Right. You’d have to be a forlorn, isolated idiot to expect this to be a stable arrangement. We can say with confidence that neither Germany’s military strategists nor its geopolitical enemies expected it would be stable, though it was the Great Depression that pushed it off the edge. By failing to rein in or redirect the rightwing military, police, and militias, in failing to provide a newly-enfranchised working class democratic citizenship (for example by providing a polity venue for Eisner and the Munchners to institute their ideas), or by failing to abdicate to stronger, clearer-eyed social democrats, Ebert and Noske proved themselves weak leaders, in the sense in which Arendt judges some Jewish leaders under Nazi rule.

The lesson shouldn’t be that Marxists should categorically hate social democrats because all social democrats are counterrevolutionaries, all are Ebert and Noske. It does Marxists no good to stick to their antisolidarity guns out of romantic loyalty to Luxemburg and Liebknecht’s brief, futile romantic gesture. Marxists as romantics are not preserving a utopia; they are lost. Romance is built for the transition from egaliberte to conservatism. It was terribly easy for 1968 student rebels to be romantically, culturally manipulated by rightwing police, as where German students projected romance for Liebknecht in a torrent of spite upon Willy Brandt, whom Ascherson grimly reminds us was “nobody’s class traitor” (28). Acting geopolitically as Russia, the Soviet Union goaded this romantic implosion, dismissing social democrats as “Social Fascists” (28). With the tortured-to-madness global Left gnawing on its own limbs, neoliberalization, the conservative restoration launched unimpeded. The Counterenlightenment beamed with a new elite confidence (evident for example in Luuk van Middelaar’s political theories, also discussed in this edition of the LRB).

The lessons should be that a) When the Right goes hunting, it goes hunting together. b) Militaries, police, and global capitalists are highly organized and normally do not rest in their rabid, fundamental opposition to socialism, egaliberte, democratic Enlightenment. If you want to understand why a Left failed, investigate for regional political intervention as well as military or policing intervention. If you don’t pursue that research question, we have to presume you are part of a right-wing mystification project. c) Lazy Realpolitik is not smart, stable politics. Compradors and the messes they manage are made to be broken. d) Idealism and romanticism cannot substitute for organization. Idealism and romanticism also are tools for dismembering socialists and democracies.