National Sociologies, Global Sociology

Disciplinary Orientation: Sociology traditions are national, with their own unique boundaries, as well as global–as Sociology developed upon the foundation of the Western Enlightenment.

While Sociology did not catch on in the Counterenlightenment UK, a discourse-centric version is a late institutional development attendant upon university neoliberalization and the defunding of English departments (which required academics to migrate and adapt their research agendas. The same kind of unfriendly state intervention liquidated Sociology in 1990s Denmark). British Sociology corresponds to a lively cross of the disciplines of Marketing and American Studies or English and Film Studies in the US.

Sociology is by contrast a large, venerable institution in the US, where like every other part of US culture, it is rooted in egalitarian Enlightenment but also clashes and oscillates with a strong, inegalitarian Antienlightenment tradition inherent in slavery, colonialism and imperialism, and rentier finance. WEB DuBois is a prominent Enlightenment scholar and American Sociology founder, and since the US is a global Sociology home base, DuBois is a core founder of the global Sociology tradition.

Canadian Sociology is a hybrid between the reluctant British and the enthusiastic, large, venerable American Sociology traditions. Counterenlightenment Canadian Sociology is founded in the conservative Chicago tradition of mid-20th century American Sociology, decades after DuBois and other Enlightenment American Sociology founders including Veblen, Lester Ward, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Elsie Clews Parsons, and Harriet Martineau, and decades after the French and German philosopher-sociologists Durkheim, Marx, and Weber, inter alia. Canadian Introduction to Sociology accounts tend to consist of a very truncated 1950s v.1970s generational interpretation of Sociology, prominently anchored in a stylized opposition between 1950s University of Chicago urban population-management “consensus” Sociology and post-1967/68 “conflict” Sociology. However, that mid-20th century dichotomy is losing descriptive power over time.

As ongoing Indigenous-Settler relations play a larger role in Canadian resource-extraction economic and state development, Canadian Sociology has adopted a population management role and paradigms that not only link to the Chicago School of the 1950s, but are also homologous with the discipline of Anthropology. As well, Canadian Sociology shares the US Sociology compromise with Antienlightenment institutions, the late 20th century Criminology offshoot.

With all due respect to Canada’s Counterenlightenment tradition, educated Sociologists should nonetheless acquaint themselves with Sociology founder WEB DuBois.

While the US has the biggest venerable Sociology community, Sociology is not influential in the US compared to the disciplines of Economics and Political Science. The most influential Sociology tradition is the Swedish Sociology tradition, which enjoys greater social and state legitimacy in the social democratic context, and has contributed not only to Swedish state policy but American policy as well.

The French state, by contrast, supports a venerable and globally-influential Philosophy tradition that has repeatedly proven its worth to French geostrategic interests. If someone tells you that ideas don’t matter, they haven’t really studied the comparative history of states, academies, and how ideas circulate and work.

The Class-warfare Application of the Precautionary Principle in Common Law Targets Blacks and Women

Recently, environmental news reported that the last of the supplies of leaded gasoline has been used in Algeria. Although the empirical evidence of leaded gasoline’s toxic, poisonous nature is absolutely solid, and has been for a long time, we live in an unequal global political economy that is geared to produce and distribute poisons to the last drop. Core capitalist countries produce and consume technologies based on poisons like gasoline, and in order to partake of the entire technological apparatus, the poorer satellite tributaries must consume the most poisonous poisons until they are tapped out. That’s what expropriative capitalist inequality incentivizes relentlessly. The ultimate social order value in capitalism is securing a stream of rent or profit (interchangeable liquid assets) for expropriator and exploiter capitalists. This non-negotiable social order is what prevents us from addressing climate and other environmental and health crises.

For capital, there is no check on producing and distributing scientifically-confirmed poisons, let alone any precautionary principle based on either science or the intuition of judges.

The complementary feature of expropriative capitalist inequality is the inegalitarian maldistribution of the precautionary principle in service of maintaining the unequal social order and its inherent crises. Promoted by a mobilized base of fear adherents, Labaye-type and terror Common Law ensure that the precautionary principle is inflicted almost exclusively upon individuals without protective socio-economic networks.

Recently there have been a few show-pony cases, such as rich men at the end of their careers–signficantly, their contributions to their socio-economic networks were winding down (Harvey Weinstein, Peter Nygaard, Jeffrey Epstein). In their heyday, these spectacular showcases did not harm a lawyer’s ideal of “social order.” These men significantly, demonstrably harmed many women’s autonomy, liberty, and capacity to earn a living. A superior standard of evidence of harm is used in these show trials marketing precautionary law and policy broadly. These ostentatious exceptions hide the essentially tyrannical distribution of precautionary Common Law and policy. The main targets of precautionary Common Law, as required by its exclusion of the sociological recognition of institutional conditioning and incentives in assigning individual criminality or misconduct, must be individuals without sufficiently-protective socio-economic networks. These low-status individuals are supplied by the social hierarchy, the social order itself.

These individuals are targeted for suppression (isolation, immobilization, censure, further exclusion from credit, cooperation, and resources) as possible risks to the social order (or institutional order). No evidence of risk to the social order is required, only the asserted presumption that elite judges and lawyers, working for states and employers, have a mystical, non-confirmable access to “empirical evidence,” per inegalitarian Antienlightenment epistemology. Characteristic of Counterenlightenment mashup tactics, an Antienlightenment knowledge concept is misrepresented as scientific knowledge within the judiciary and in work organizations. As a condition of ascribing criminality and misconduct, such an epistemology, judicial decisionism–quasi-evidence of individual risk to the social order–is founded upon the antisociological assumption that the social order is complete, perfect, static, and fully known to elites. Moreover, as the social order is a hierarchy, knowledge of the social order is presumed to reside with elites, in birds-eye elite positionality atop the social heap. It is conservative-biased law, and complement to the exclusion of precautionary principle or evidence of harm in capitalist production and distribution, it also helps maintain the crises of inequality.

Though professional-class feminists and other women promote precautionary law and policy to suppress individual risks to their own autonomy and liberty, precautionary law and policy targeting individuals and excluding recognition of institutional frameworks and incentives will be applied primarily to suppress women and racialized people–people who have the lower status and inferior access to socio-economic protection that is the standard condition of being apprehended by as a risk to the social order. Within groups marked for expropriation and super-exploitation, compradors blind to class inequality, such as the systemic maldistribution of the precautionary principle and evidentiary-based suppression, are part of the reproductive apparatus of power maldistribution and women’s and racialized people’s inferior life-chances in capitalism.

We should expect women and racialized peoples with racial, family, community, profession, and class ties to the capitalist class to serve as primary, credible organizers on behalf of the maldistributed precautionary law and policy that reproduces inequalities and crises.

If You Cannot Get the State to Enforce Your Contracts, You and Life are Screwed

Workers can make a contract to protect themselves from harm, exploitation and expropriation, actions disproportionately stunting their human development. The capitalist state will not enforce such contracts, at least not today. All that will happen is your manager will get pissed at you, seek revenge. So said a labor lawyer to me.

The only options available to workers today is collusion with capital against fellow workers and life, or suffer and die among the working-class pulped.


According to Foucauldians, Common Law simply and only permits individuals and groups to find concentric ways of reifying state power. The state is the engine of “creative destruction.”

But why will the state enforce big capital contracts, per Pistor?

In Foucauldian logic, I suppose because big capital co-constitutes state power.

But you know I’m not really an anarcho-postmodernist or structural Marxist. The big capital-state relationship is particularly emphatic under an inequality regime. In the social citizenship postwar interim, the working-class semi-autonomously co-constituted state power. I would rather say that shy of working-class revolutionary pressure, the nature and results of this co-constitutive class-state relationship are overdetermined.


1. When I worked as the education-file secretary for a governing provincial liberal party, I was given the rough assignment of hounding the state’s constitutional lawyers–state employees!– to write the legislation that the party had run and won on in the last election. It had nothing to do with capital aggrandisement. It was instituting Community Schools. Good god, the state constitutional lawyer was FURIOUS, spittle was flying from his bitterly curled lips. He wouldn’t do it. It was an abuse of legislation in his view, nevermind here was a state that was going to enforce this legislation. So I went back to my dad, who was admittedly mostly a prosecuting attorney for a small, regional state, but also practiced real estate and contract law after the prosecuting years. My dad drafted up a sample piece of Community Schools legislation for me, based on the criteria I needed to institute. I brought it to the provincial constitutional lawyer to use as a template or foil. He went APOPLEPTIC. He HATED the governing political party I worked for! He hated me! HATED. We had to bring in a neoliberal guru in the liberal party to soothe the constitutional lawyer and get him to write the legislation. I had to just sit there quietly in the board room like a little girl, receiving my humiliation in exchange for this guy doing his job.

This experience tells me that it’s not all about state enforcement. Whether we can get law–contracts and legislation–for anyone other than capital–there’s an element there of lawyers’ education, socialization, and politics. You have lawyers who believe it’s not worth their time to create legislation and contracts if some big fat capitalist will eventually come along and undo it. They want to create glorious PRESTIGE legislation and contracts, legislation and contracts of aethetically-pleasing fealty to the pure Common Law tradition of expropriation, which will survive until another, larger capitalist runs their patron over.

2. My dad now writes contracts for the communally-run public golf course in its relationship with the municipality. The golf course is a glistening emerald commons lodged like a shard in the foetid black heart of capitalist America. He does this because otherwise, he says, the City lawyers write the contract and it screws the public conditions of the golf course so that they can then privatize the public land on the cheap to one of their back-room good old boys for kickback. These state (municipal) lawyers again are playing an ideological role that can be buffered and reduced if we find a lawyer who values the public good and the commons.

Here I would like to suggest the frailty of this exceptional situation. My dad does this because a) He comes from a Swedish-American working-class background and so not only thinks the commons and the public are real, but that they are good and necessary for the good life. That condition is rare in the English-speaking world. b) He really likes golf. c) He really has a lot of contempt for the dealership-owning putzes at the local, rival private country club, and their eye-rollingly inexplicable capacity for snobbery, given what they are. A lot of unusual motivation there, which indicates why it is so rare to find pro-public, pro-commons lawyers in the English-speaking world who are willing to put in the work for other public and commons goods. The Common Law tradition, Pistor recounts, is lawyers charging fees (though, oddly, not a percentage) to expropriator capitalists for making state-enforceable expropriation claims for them. That’s it in a nutshell.

As Mariana Mazzucato has suggested, we have a problem in that our universities have been training anti-public (and of course anti-working class) professionals. Expanding inequality and inegalitarianism doesn’t help undo the collusion incentive for Smithers to serve up Springfield’s working-class fellows to Mr. Burns.

3. From a Political Sociology perspective, we can observe particular kinds of agents innovating to expand this inegalitarian human-stunting mining operation: Colluding workers, which besides state lawyers can eventfully include EDI managers and conservative judges.

In Canada, Judge Beverly McLachlin authored a ruling in 2005 that reintroduced the proliferation of an ersatz-objective test of criminality resting on the assumption that the state (or in analogue, the employer) is perfect and complete (Jochelson and Kramar 2014). In Labaye logic, we know who is a criminal when a judge decides (decisionism, festooned or not with uncommital gestures to empirical “objectivity”) that the actions or attitudes of an individual pose a potential risk of harm to the presumably complete and perfect social order. The deviant is criminalized or charged with misconduct for precaution. In the process, lawyers and judges are avoiding social science and asserting themselves as ventriloquists for the institutional or social order. Moreover, in assuming the problem is to suppress individuals from posing a potential risk to a static social order, jurisprudence denies the culpability of social and institutional conditioning and prohibits Enlightenment Sociology, much to the Tories’ satisfaction.

Legal scholar Richard Jochelson (2019) documents how this freshly-branded conservative legal maintenance in obscenity and indecency law became a model for other conservative legal and policy reforms throughout Canada. While overturning previous legal modalities of intervening in sexuality, the “Labaye test” (where criminality is determined by a judge or lawyer imagining how much an individual’s attitude or action risks unsettling the social or institutional order) has Common Law roots and branches, is part of the conservative Common Law tradition.

Anglo indecency, obscenity, and incivility law and policy reduce people (again, commonly women) to risks to the social order or institutions, conceived as complete and perfect. Labaye law and policy conforms to: post-9/11 American law, which similarly reconceptualized people as terror risks to be tortured in secret prisons; and English-language pandemic policy and law, which similarly reconceptualizes people (in practice: women and children, not male police and police-like workers, truckers, or golfers) as “population,” germ-transmission risks to be locked out and locked down. Terror and Labaye-type law and policy restore the witch hunt, classic (often sexist) instrument and institution of commons disruption, expropriation and population subjugation (See Federici 1998).

A related note on Anglo Counterenlightenment

The witch hunt is an excellent example of how Antienlightenment justice does not really protect the margins, though that’s its brand. This is because the witch hunt, while engaging managers, lawyers, and clergy, is all about elite discretion. The Antienlightenment logic is that elites have the power, so we should all reinforce that. Leaving justice to discretionary elite patronage fancies reinforces elite interests and resultant crises, which is the last thing we need in the extreme power, freedom, credit, cooperation, and collective action-capacity maldistribution of the inequality society.

When I was studying for my PhD I took a course from the great Betty Dobratz. The theme of the Political Soc class was: Can you spot the problem with cross-paradigm synthesis? It was a beautiful exercise in logic. The key text was Alford & Friedland, Powers of Theory (1985), which presented competing theories and asked if you couldn’t just nibble from them like a smorgasbord. If you were Marxist-inclined, what you noticed actually happened is that the structure of Marxist thought was disappeared and crushed by this approach. All that was left was incoherence. Paradigms have their own, specific foundations, assumptions, and are oriented to specific justice teloi. The have distinct structure and logic. That’s why they’re paradigms. Mash- up does not work. The liberals had a harder time seeing this because Alford & Friedland, being liberals, did not trample away their premises and justice telos.

This, I think, is why Anglos love their Counterenlightenment mashup. As we see from a non-nominalist reading of Jacob’s history of the British “Enlightenment,” the British Enlightenment via Robert Boyle and the Royal Society is really a Counterenlightenment, reactively co-opting commercially-digestible reductions of the Enlightenment (mechanistic science, narrow toleration of pro-Anglo Empire religiosity) while jettisoning whole egalitarian premises and justice in favor of the inegalitarian Antienlightenment paradigm. Anglo Counterenlightenment adherents take pride in this. Is it not taking the best of both traditions, and ousting the worst? With Anglo Counterenlightenment, they claim, we can protect the exceptional elite and their heart-wrenching marginal beneficiaries, while also begrudgingly permitting some small room (SUVs and televisions, nationalist culture and horizontal morality policing, for example) for the middling sort, the Muggles, to adjust. Except you cannot. All that happens with the Counterenlightenment mashup is you studiously avoid examining the logical structure and product of your ideas and practices in situ, and then become shocked, shocked! by the catastrophic (for nonelites, planetary life) results of reverting to, maintaining, and exacerbating inequality and inegalitarianism, Antienlightenment.

It leaves unsympathetic onlookers feeling like liberals are either intellectually or psychologically flawed. Whichever, let’s say they are high functioning, and so dangerous.


Federici, S. 1998. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation.

Glasbeek, H. Class Privilege: How Law Shelters Shareholders and Coddles Capitalism. Toronto: Between the Lines.

Hay, D & P Craven. 2004. Masters, Servants, and Magistrates in Britain & the Empire, 1562-1955. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Jacob, M. 1981. The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans. Cornerstone.

Jacob, M. 2019. The Secular Enlightenment. Princeton University Press.

Jochelson, R and K Kramar. 2014. “Governing Obscenity and Indecency in Canada.” Pp. 294-314 in Locating the Law: Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality Connections, edited by E Comack. Winnipeg: Fernwood.

Jochelson, R and J Gacek. 2019. “Reconstitutions of Harm: Novel Applications of the Labaye Test.” Alberta Law Review 56(4): 991-1037.

Mayer, A. 1981. The Persistence of the Old Regime: Europe to the Great War. New York: Verso.

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

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

Robin, C. 2012. “Affirmative Action Baby.” June 28.

Tigar, ME. 2000. Law & the Rise of Capitalism. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Wood, EM. 2012. Liberty & Property: A Social History of Western Political Thought from Renaissance to Enlightenment. London: Verso.

Isolation Depletes Human Health

“Loneliness is a global crisis. According to Britain’s Campaign to End Loneliness, 45 percent of adults feel “occasionally, sometimes or often lonely in England.” In a 2019 poll, 22 percent of millennials reported that they had “no friends.” The World Health Organization has found that loneliness affected 20-34 percent of older people in places ranging from Europe to India to Latin America. Former US surgeon general Vivek Murthy called the problem an “epidemic” in 2017, even before the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant lockdowns, which have made the whole thing even worse.

The problem of loneliness isn’t solely an emotional one. A nearly eighty-year longitudinal study at Harvard University has found that family, friendship, and community are the most decisive factors when it comes to human health and happiness.

“Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too,” said Dr Robert Waldinger, the study’s director and a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School.

In a 2015 study, psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad found that loneliness is a risk factor for high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, and depression. An oft-repeated fact from the study holds that loneliness is as bad for you as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.”

–Collette Shade, 2021, “Capitalism is Making You Lonely,” Jacobin 8/23.

EDI affective management of wage stagnation and debt for financial expropriation

  1. Under the broad post-1970 regime of financial accumulation, finance is a powerful societal directorship, requiring states and work organizations (employers, managers, and legal staff and subcontractors) to repress wages in order to subject the working population to debt-financed household reproduction (See Adkins 2015, 2019).
  2. The mechanisms of this directive include engaging political parties in bond rating negotiations; providing strategic blueprints (see the Bain Report) to states and work organizations through integrated financial-management and legal firms serving as consultants and subcontractors.
  3. As well, a mechanism of this directive includes deploying affective labour exclusively at the managerial and legal level using affective technique to stigmatize, divide, and disorganize labour, preparing it for wage stagnation and debt.

The ways that embodied, social gender status has been harnessed by capital has been researched and theorized through the historical-materialist feminist tradition. In the turn of the 20th century patrimonial capitalist era, including the tumultuous and bellicose Gilded Age and Europe-wide civil war, finance organized society, fundamentally over-organizing capitalist elites and disorganizing the broad working class. After that imperial, class non-compromise produced destructive, inter-regional rivalry wars that went global, the Great Depression, and class struggle, a chastened liberalism turned from the imperial liberal-conservative coalition, and opened to socialist Enlightenment ideas. Finance capital was temporarily semi-disciplined, particularly in the expansionary industrial capitalist directorship of the Marshall Plan US; and a new, gendered and racialized class compromise was hammered out in Keynesian, FDR policy. In the postwar, social-citizenship class-compromise era, capital organized “unmarked” White and “whitened” men into working for a wage that could support expanding levels of household reproduction, including restorative leisure. In that basic, gendered and racialized class compromise reset, the work involved in that household reproduction was undertaken by women whose reproductive labor was privatized, owned by men at the micro level of familial relations, and rendered invisible, both through its exclusion from pay, the means of social contribution recognition, legitimate claim to citizenship and resources, and thus power in capitalism, and through the attendant culture, which imagined social reproduction as non-work, nothing more than the expression of feminine selfhood and identity.

Joan Acker (1990) studied female incorporation in work hierarchies, discerning that work organizations continued to rely on the established cultural invisibilization of social reproduction labor to unequally and inequitably set work standards against women’s encumberance, women’s reproductive labor responsibilities. Work organizations used gender-neutral contractual language along with a substructure of gendered productive and reproductive labor-time distribution norms to hierarchically allocate work, working conditions, and recognition of work, including through pay. In the capitalist era, while women have been saddled with social reproduction responsibilities, jobs have been devised for non-material workers who exist only for work (Adkins 2019: 1777). This labor-control system has effectively hamstrung women workers and reproduced a divisive, gender-unequal labor market.

In the post-Fordist, low wage/post-family-wage, thin-citizenship (Abraham XXXX) political-economic milieu that Lisa Adkins (1995) studied, as women were incorporated into the labor market after 1970 along with prior, patriarchal claims–“encumberances”–on their labor, they joined the labor market as substandard, cheap labor, second-class citizens constrained by employment conditions and standards that rested on the reductive cultural-economic reimagination of reproductive work as simple, natural femininity, uneconomic female selfhood (often shorthanded as “love”), in contrast to employment standards legally articulated and culturally affirmed as abstract, neutral, and universal, but only met by males who could quietly claim a foundation of female social reproduction work.

Adkins discovered in the explosive service-sector era that feminine embodiment and the performance of feminine work norms, including “self-sacrifice, emotional attentiveness, communicativeness, empathy, caring, desirability, attractiveness, and attention to appearance and image” (Adkins 2019: 1779), work that produces value for capital by producing or shifting moods and feelings, was denied as skills, as capacities, as work contributing to value and profitability. Where they had been enthralled to men to various degrees in the short postwar, industrializing Western class compromise, women were also being hyper-exploited in the service sector after 1970. In the 1990s, social science and management misapplications of discursive post-structural theory worked to legitimize exploitation and reinforce the discounting of women’s affective service-sector work by arguing that, like characters in a text, women workers did not have agency, did not do work and do not author moods, atmospheres, and feeling states. Rather the neoliberalizing poststructuralists argued, affect is generally elicited by society imagined as an amorphous collective of agential “readers” or audience (See Adkins’ critique of this poststructural project 2019: 1780). Tellingly, neoliberalizing poststructuralists did not correspondingly reimagine other, more traditionally masculine forms of work as the unremunerable product of diffuse, collective agency. Rather poststructuralists left it to conservative economic theory to assume that the distribution of income reflects the distribution of productive contribution to economy and society.

Inheritors to that neoliberal poststructuralist tradition, we will see that exceptionalist neoliberal feminism within the 21st century expansion of expropriative rentier capitalism reasserted affective authorship or work, but as an exclusive property of tight legal and managerial cliques. As Adkins and Lury (1999: 598) observed, with the material socio-technical devices of job descriptions, standards, benchmarks, evaluations and metrics enforced through employment documents and contracts, as well as more recently, EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) microcredits and credentials, only some people can make claims to own their identity within an accumulation regime that sells identities as products and services. The culturally-embedded economic denial of women’s traditional reproductive and affective labors has been in a small but important way removed, strictly for small, tight networks of multicultural women labor force managers in legal and work organizations. In this current phase of the patrimonial capitalist restoration, small, exclusive networks of neoliberal women across regionally-relevant ethnicities are are permitted to own their identities and brought into highly-remunerated management and legal positions in order to instrumentally shift moods and feelings within work organizations toward stigmatizing and dividing labor, preparing workers for wage stagnation and debt. A small, efficient, multicultural female managerial and legal caste has been cohered in work organizations in the 21st century to manipulate affect in order to divide, discipline and cheapen labour, serving financial rentier accumulation, patrimonial capitalism and broad citizenship attenuation. Ultimately, this managerial and legal work contributes to the perpetuation and exacerbation of social, economic, political, and environmental crises that require a restoration of equality to address.


Acker, J. 1990. “Hierarchies, jobs, and bodies: A theory of gendered organizations.” Gender & Society 4: 139-158.

Adkins, L. 1995. Gendered work: Sexuality, family and the labour market. Buckingham UK: Open University Press.

Adkins, L. 2019. “Work in the shadow of finance: Rethinking Joan Acker’s materialist feminist sociology.” Gender, Work, Organizations 26: 1776-1785.

Adkins, L. & C. Lury. 1999. “The labour of identity: Performing identities, performing economies.” Economy & Society 28: 598-614.

Federici, S. 2014. “From commoning to debt: Financialization, microcredit and the changing architecture of capital accumulation. South Atlantic Quarterly 113: 231-244.

Commonwealth Counterenlightenment

The Residential Schools were sold with the Commonwealth Counterenlightenment melange of authoritarianism and patronizing moral righteousness. It’s as Canadian as Canola.

Here’s the contemporary version of emotional politics, or Counterenlightenment Romanticism: A Sociologist becomes a born-again EDI manager 2 years ago, is recruited into management, pays an Elder to run a long blessing ceremony at the start of an employer-union negotiation meeting, harangues the union negotiators about Morality (Counterenlightenment), and then announces that the employer is not negotiating today.

Like other inegalitarian cultures, Canadian “civility” is a particular style of saying “fuck you.”

The fall from late 19th c. egalitarian materialism, according to Timpanaro

Perry Anderson on Timpanaro’s view of late 19th c. positivism as an egalitarian materialist knowledge approach:

“Whatever its limits or eventual simplifications, (Timpanaro) maintained, the positivist culture of the late nineteenth century represented a break with religious myth and folkloric superstition, at a time when high culture had not yet cut all connection with popular aspirations…the turn of the century, however, was increasingly framed by anti-objectivist epistemologies whose target was any consistently materialist view of the world. In the arts, naturalist report yielded to mystical longings or intimations of epiphany. The result was a culture of great brilliance, but much more cut off from popular life–a populist semi-culture typically ‘instilling petty-bourgeois ideals of moralism and maudlin sentimentalism’.  The tasks of cultural unification that positivism had once set for itself were abandoned. The style of mass culture might have changed, but the disposition of the elite culture had not. At these altitudes, idealism in one variant or another–most of them subjectivist–remained the norm” (Abridged from Perry Anderson 2005: 195-196).

How Counterenlightenment Culture Dissolves the Mass Public University

1. In the Counterenlightenment culture, the premise is that people don’t develop appreciably, but are either meritorious or ruined. Therefore prejudices are not something conferred by the socio-material environment, and to be investigated and worked through by the responsible, developing individual, as they would be in Enlightenment culture.

2. In the Counterenlightenment culture, prejudices are damning evidence of personal ruin. The individual is accountable for her ruin, to the discipline meted out by governing authority. A Counterenelightenment power game is to hang the charge of ruin on your political opponents, and “prejudice” is in that culture a moral ruin charge, as is “uncivilized.”

3. Human development is always already sidelined, never the business of the Counterenlightenment. That’s why Counterenlightenment culture is incompatible with, and undermines, the mass, public university in particular. The business of the Counterenlightenment is inegalitarian inequality governance.

4. So for example, “woke” youth politics, invoking managerial authority over older workers, reinforce Counterenlightenment culture, insofar as they are also premised on a view of older workers as ruined.

5. As Timpanaro & Anderson (2005) argued, Counterenlightenment culture creates a rich elite idealism product (in elite universities, for example), but it disorganizes most people, forcing them from practicing scientific and logical reasoning into incoherent moralism. Core, Arts knowledge cannot be pursued at a mass public university, and postsecondary education will revert to vo-tech. Gutted of its Arts core, professional school education and credentialing collapses. Mass public universities devolve into mini courses, credits, and credentials to add to the resumes of job competitors. University research and education persists only in the elite universities, where idealist Arts are pursued. Social inequality and inegalitarianism are entrenched, often in the name of protecting the marginal.

On Foucault’s Non-Intervention in Population Governance Problems: Seen through Bratton’s Contagion Thesis v. Enlightenment-Counterenlightenment-Antienlightenment Contestation

MH: Benjamin Bratton argues from a materialist perspective for an “epidemiological view” of society–understanding ourselves as nodes in networks of potential contagion. The author sees lots of positive political potential in this contra both Foucauldian anti-state politics of individuation and right wing populism. I think it is actually a kind of reduced materialism that the author uses (biology is considered separate from sociality, so far). Might be worth using as a springboard for critique, anyway. Benjamin Bratton, “The Revenge of the Real: politics for a post-pandemic world.” Starts to get intereating around ch. 3.

Management of necessity: Bratton’s argument (so far in MH’s reading) is that the reality of the pandemic is an essential, material biological event Bratton poses as indifferent to performative politics, is a hard surface that has forced humanity to reckon with the necessity of “a positive biopolitics”. That is, under the duress of the material boundary, SARS-Cov-2, governments act capably to both read and respond to data about this indifferent biological reality. So Bratton poses a social-liberal celebration of pandemic governance; a rejection of the Foucauldian critiques of hierarchy and normalization; and a rejection of the fallacy of individuality affirmed by Foucault.

This is an argument that appeals to MH on environmentalist grounds. However, there is little in the argument about how it is that “populations” are actually differentiated in terms of their relations to the biological reality. The overcoming of performative politics is at best overstated. In my reading of the pandemic, it’s false. This is not to say that Cold War Foucault’s genealogy of management is robust. On the contrary, its flaws are apparent from different perspectives.

There is also (so far in MH’s reading of Bratton) little by way of conceptualizing humans as developing, or the crucial role of sociality in development. It’s not clear to me that Bratton will be very useful to me. It sounds like a social-liberal reworking of radical environmentalism or the basic, and not really credible movie thesis that nature will finally provide us a sovereign to offset our capitalist class.

MF: Timpanaro-Anderson helped me to recognize from another angle that Foucault’s quite specific Cold War French elite philosophy academy critique of positivism qua population governance, and his neoliberal Beckerian “individuation” solution, fail to specify that it is specifically the Counterenlightenment & Antienlightenment view of people as meritorious or ruined (v. developing as in Enlightenment culture) that induces the authoritarian, undiscerning, dehumanizing population-disciplining state intervention that Foucault critiques.

The symptom in Foucauldian philosophy is that Foucauldians fail to regard owners-employers as an institutionalized, legal category of disciplining governance, preferring instead an exaggerated anticommunist “anti-totalitarian” stance that while “subtly” indicting capitalist states as well, astonishingly ignores the notoriously totalitarian employment relation inscribed in capitalist inequality. So Foucauldian postcolonialists can see the state’s hand in Residential School atrocities, but the huge agency and culpability of Antienlightenment and Counterenlightenment religious institutions and authorities have been hard for them to focus on.

Foucault’s lack of specification of the problem–Counterenlightenment premises–in governance or management meant that he contributed to the growth and institutionalization of Counterenlightenment culture, as with his Beckerian individuation solution that could only support marginal (elites and their chosen clients) individuation at the cost of reproducing broad nonelite dehumanization as ruined population requiring suppression strategies. What Foucault critiqued, he reproduced and expanded.

While positionality isn’t destiny, Foucault’s analysis was off because of his positionality within the elite imperial French philosophy academy. To offset Cold War American positivism-mechanism, the Cold War French state’s interest–which Foucault forwarded via French state-supported philosophy–was an Antienlightenment inequality and idealism restoration, sold as individuation. As in other 20th century theory–notably Lyotard–marginal elites and their clients’ humanity, individuality, was rescued at the cost of reducing the “middle class” to inhuman population in the Antienlightenment approach. The morality, the pathos legitimizing this switch was supplied by the clients in philosophy, and by elites in commercial, economic, legal, and political theory. With their state jobs and, on-average, heterosexual, “White” 19th-early 20th century immigrant lives, and post-war patriarchical relations, the capitalists’ private and state employees, the “middle class” became the villainous scourge of Antienlightenment and Counterenlightenment narratives.

For contemporary example, with Counterenlightenment pandemic population governance, we don’t recognize that humans, including especially kids, are developing and have needs–including health– related to that. Instead, we grossly reduce nonelites to undifferentiated disease nodes, to be suppressed (locked down). Counterenlightenment morality is attached to this ontological and moral view of “average” nonelites as uniformly ruined and ruining, requiring surveillance, punishment and discipline. Unequal and inegalitarian, expropriative and exploitative global capitalism is neatly reproduced again.

It sounds to me like Bratton’s is generally a social-liberal celebration of (supposedly independent state) pandemic policy as the institution of governance recognizing material limits or conditions…rather than governance via sheer idealist performativity? Bratton “does, though, see untargeted quarantines (lockdown) as a bad government response to contagion.”–Not sure what distinction Bratton can make there, given his theoretical framework.

In the first place, pandemic policy should not be used as an example of independent state management. While the Chamber of Commerce was surprisingly sidelined in the extended emergency governance, and that at first glance seems to support the autonomous state thesis, yet very capitalist pharmaceutical industry, hospitals, and HMOs, and the commercial medical professions’ directorship went stratospheric. With antecedent military strategic preparation, the pandemic provided the material and discursive conditions for a shift across capitalist power, not the emergence of a humane state managerial capacity. Pandemic management military-medical strategists had observed this potential in epidemics prior to COVID-19, and built their strategies around it. To assume that pandemic policymaking was the exercise of anything like an autonomous state is to drown in…or perhaps rather surf upon…DNC bullshit.

I doubt that Bratton’s DNC (military and political strategy) thesis, conceptualizing humanity as a contagion, can be compatible with egaliberte, and the Enlightenment premise of human development through sociality. Does Bratton’s contagion thesis reflect the environmentalist or crude materialist perspective? Is he constructing human relations as a potential contagion, some of which may be positive from a social movements perspective? I hope it’s not just a cute, marketing gimmick to say that humans are essentially social, and some of that sociability can produce good things while other forms of sociability can produce bad things. Thinking of the mass of humanity as a (potential) contagion is not a cute or innocent way of incorporating recognition of human socio-materiality, any more than Malthus’ class-biased, crude-materialist view of nonelites was cute or innocent.

I think we need to directly attack the anti-reason within the Counterenlightenment effort to obscure humans’ developmental social nature, as the Counterenlightenment broadly suppresses (surveils and incarcerates) nonelite population upon the military population control model. We need to go back and challenge Foucault’s attribution of population control to the Enlightenment sloppily aggregated (eg. population control under Anglo Counterenlightenment premises, attributed by 20th century theorists to Enlightenment), and Foucauldians’ related obfuscation of contrasting development and sociability (human ontology) assumptions in competing paradigms. I’m writing an article reconsidering and reclassifying regional “Enlightenment” paradigms comparatively. Others such as Matthew Desmond (2019) have shown that our modern population surveillance, and coercive and violent control methods are most closely related to the methods deployed by the managers of Antienlightenment slavers’ plantations, in expropriative capitalism, not to the ideas of the Scottish “Enlightenment” (a British-derivative Counterenlightenment). Genealogy is always elite-positionality knowledge, not valid knowledge.

Restoring the inegalitarian authoritarianism of Antienlightenment, the trajectory of the British global Counterenlightenment, is not the answer to our problems. It wasn’t the constructive answer to European peasant bondage and suffering. It wasn’t the constructive answer to Indigenous societies in Canada. It wasn’t the constructive answer to socio-economic and political development in the US South. It wasn’t the constructive answer to Indonesian social ferment. It wasn’t the constructive answer to Afghanistan. It’s not the constructive answer to managing pandemics. However, so long as we cannot say that the Antienlightenment should not provide the final solution to Palestinians, then inegalitarian, margins-centering Antienlightenment roots in our culture and gains strength and power, reinforcing our crises.

Working through Prejudice

A methodical difference between Enlightenment and Counterenlightenment is that where Counterenlightenment moralism (as per legal or HR EDI policy) asserts that the good person has never herself entertained prejudices, or has completely overcome them, the Enlightenment approach works through prejudices, assuming along with lifelong human development, that individual people are never free of prejudices, though they certainly can sufficiently overcome individual kinds of prejudice. So as in Jacob’s Chapter 3, “Secular Lives” in The Secular Enlightenment (2019), we read about everyday Enlightened travelers who rove around the world, judging and working to overcome asociological judgments. An individual or social commitment to progress was judged by critical engagement with prejudices, and valuation of not just rationality but reason.

The distinctive Western Enlightenment refusal to see any people above prejudice, and morality in traveling and exposing onesself to new people, places and experiences as working through received or hasty judgments, is reduced and miscast by the Counterenlightenment as prejudice itself.

Counterenlightenment moralism is political, juridical, and performative, involving combatively accusing opponents of prejudices, where prejudices are conceptualized as punishable, exceptional faults and crimes inhering in the essence of the person. Thus, for Counterenlightenment carriers, prejudice becomes effectively norm-status violation within an institutionalized hierarchy or network. This view is sustained by the static liberal belief that people for the most part do not develop, but are meritorious or ruined.

Antienlightenment-Counterenlightenment Compatibility

Rival Counterenlightenment-Antienlightenment political factions are relatively compatible. The Counterenlightenment has been since its Boyle-Newton-Royal Society inception in England, a mystifying, constraining, and corroding co-optation of Enlightenment virtues, engineered and aimed, like its Antienlightenment Catholicism-and-expropriation sibling, against egaliberte. Together, Antienlightenment and Counterenlightenment are a double-barreled shotgun pointing at Enlightenment. At the very start we see the long leash Counterenlightenment elites give to Antienlightenment elites, as well as by contrast their deep–and often violent–opposition to democratic Enlightenment development: “While English moderates had cast their lot with the restored monarchy in 1660, by 1685 it was clear that Stuart rule entailed royal Catholicism and the prospect of royal absolutism. By 1687 those suspicions had found plenty of verification in James II’s attempts to install his placement in the counties, the courts and the universities…In the aftermath of the Revolution of 1688-9, liberal Christianity wedded to (mechanism) was offered to an English and eventually to a European audience as a binding social philosophy… born of revolution but intent upon repudiating revolution as an instrument of change” (Jacob 2006: 53). This Counterenlightenment bias can be seen as structural or pragmatic, but it also certainly has an idealistic, moralistic life

The Long Enlightenment-Counterenlightenment Struggle: Contesting, Hybridized Traditions through England, the Dutch Republic, France, and on

Jacob, Margaret C. 2006. The Radical Enlightenment: Panetheists, Freemasons, and Republicans, 2nd edition. Lafayette: Cornerstone Book Publishers.

Jacob, Margaret C. 2019. The Secular Enlightenment. Princeton.

Opposed Enlightenments in England: The Reactionary Moderate v. Radical

English-language scholarship identifies the roots of the Western Enlightenment in two antecedents: The Renaissance and the English Revolution and the millenialist Puritan reformism of the 1640s. The Renaissance bestowed a tradition of naturalism which was unevenly merged in the Enlightenment with an embrace of mechanistic philosophy and science.

Via naturalism, systemic organicist science fertilized the mechanist seeds of what was to become social science. This was the consensual point of the Enlightenment:

Mechanism provided social democratic radicals with a basis for dispensing with the authoritarian, inegalitarian institutions of church and aristocracy. Similarly but distinctively, mechanism provided reactionary English and Continental reformers–the “moderate Enlightenment”– with a basis for checking the powers of church and king while at the same time suppressing radical egaliberte and reducing radical social democratic reform to elite-governed social utility. At the same time, Renaissance naturalism–AKA “paganism” or classical philosophical materialism, particularly through the Epicurean tradition– kept alive a link between mechanistic science (method) and organicist science, crucial to democratic social reform.

[Research agenda (This may be available through Jacobs’ works): Review Bacon, Newton, Boyle and the “moderate Enlightenment” for Counterenlightenment network connections and ideas. Are there connections between what McMahon characterizes as brute Catholic Counterenlightenment jeremiads and the “moderate Enlightenment”? Was the “moderate Enlightenment” simply inspired by the radical Enlightenment while turned toward elite goals? Or was it co-opting radical ideas to a conservative agenda? Little of Column A, little of Column B? How did the economic requirement for patrons (differentially?) influence the development of the moderate and radical Enlightenments?]

From the 1640s (at least) on then, the elite-driven “moderate Enlightenment” fought to suppress the radical Enlightenment, which however extended its influence through publication, including clandestine publication, sometimes in association with secret organizations like the historical Freemasons (not to be confused with the derivative Northern Irish Orangemen, whose fundamental commitment to British imperialism leaves them uninterested in Enlightenment, nor the eventual devolution of the Freemasons to a business fraternity). One radical strategy was to encode organicist science in a new religion, the worship of nature. I think that is Jacobs’ interest, as the Freemasons archives are an important part of her data. However, she acknowledges that the radical Enlightenment was feared not only, and fundamentally, for its egaliberte agenda, but more publicly, for the “heresy”–the philosophical materialism and atheism that justify egaliberte.

While mechanism is a proud, central part of the Anglosphere capitalist cosmology and has received much attention thanks to its amenability to elite governance and capacity to build commercializable instrumental knowledge fortifying capitalist hierarchy, it is “naturalism” (per Jacobs) that was essential to the Enlightenment, as the animating impulse for Enlightenment was to better understand and improve society, and organicism–not mechanistic epistemology or method–is the completion of the scientific approach, is geared to the collaborative, scientific systemic analysis required for effective, substantial social reform. In other words, social democratic radicals propelled both the Enlightenment and the development of the mechanistic science that was incorporated into building capitalist inequality and meritocratic inegalitarianism, contra the radicals and social democracy.

While she focuses heavily upon her archives and thus the Anglo-Dutch roots of the Enlightenment, Jacobs has a wonderful dialectical read on the development of ideas through history and across regions. Through Jacobs, we can see that Enlightenment is a tradition, a fight over the good society. Enlightenment does not have a continuous, unopposed history, but rather flows and braids over time and across regions.

[Research Agenda: Recuperate the Classical Materialist Tradition in the Radical Enlightenment. (Perhaps Jacobs avoids because of the non-Anglocentric connections with Marxism, opposed 20th century motley-crew socialist revolutions, and egaliberte revolutions prior to the English Revolution, such as the German Peasant revolt, and the role Enlightenment Sweden played in the downfall of the Holy Roman Empire). This is the tradition that capitalist Cold War scholarship buries. Yet Stoicism is resurgent in the patrimonial capitalist restoration, and even in Moderate Enlightenment-Counterenlightenment Canada, for example, it is difficult to look away from the prolonged and extreme suffering inflicted by the Catholic church on behalf of the extractive state.]

Yet by eschewing investigation into the classical materialist tradition as it was recovered by Renaissance scholars and informed the Enlightenment orientation to social reform, Jacobs will mute the ways in which the Anglo-based “moderate Enlightenment” is already a hybrid product of Enlightenment–comparative, organicist science (including mechanist methods) for social reform–and the Counterenlightenment commitment to inequality and inegalitarianism that McMahon (2001) documents so well. It is because of this sine-qua-non Counterenlightenment cause, inequality and inegalitarianism, that scientifically-informed social reform, in the hands of the “moderate Enlightenment,” will reduce to social utility for elites: “modernizations,” efficient management of worker populations, tending toward surveillance, population mobilizations and immobilizations on behalf of capital and empire, and periodic hygienic sterilizations. Further, once capitalist Cold War US strategists strip organicist science off mechanist method, egaliberte social reform is in for a beat-down. (Mechanist) lab “scientists” are enlisted in the resurgent army of religion-mystified imperialism, the restoration and expansion of expropriative political-economy, the restoration of patrimonial capitalism.

Radical Enlightenment has always struggled against exclusion from the polity, has always struggled for sufficient patronage for its adherents to survive in societies built on violent and ongoing expropriation and exploitation. Radical Enlightenment has been violently opposed by Counterenlightenment exponents as well as Moderate Enlightenment adherents ensconced in the polity and enjoying patronage. Radical Enlightenment has been coopted by the imperial Moderate Enlightenment, and it has been tactically routed.

Despite its many disadvantages in the political-economic environment and despite been targeted and beseiged, the brilliant thing is that Radical Enlightenment has been so effective by nonetheless promulgating egaliberte, social-democratic/democratic-socialist ideas through cosmopolitan networks of publication, often clandestine, and secret organizations. Where/when inter-elite solidarity has been low (Revolutionary Era Sweden, for example), Radical Enlightenment ontology, epistemology, cosmology, and ideas have been influential and even very effectively institutionalized.

If the great imperial-capitalist insight of the British, such as Anglo-Irish Moderate (Counterenlightenment hybrid) Enlightenment organizer and chemist Robert Boyle (1627-1691), was that most self-organized societies–including motley crew, collaborative scientists–can be co-opted and subordinated to elite, imperial rule with a combination of carrots and sticks, nonetheless we can survey under what conditions this imperial intervention upon autonomous societies, and their subordination, fails. The history of Sweden (Barton, 1985) shows that elites need to be better organized and more solidaristic than the workers if they are to win the Counterenlightenment utopia, and that Enlightenment ideas can cleave the coalitional elite bloc. Jacobs shows us that Enlightenment ideas thrive and penetrate elite thought where radical-democratic Enlightenment agents can strategize, meet, and publish clandestinely. With the Basque case study, Silvia Federici (1998) also showed that gender solidarity protects societies against imperial intervention, disorganization, and subordinate reorganization.

Such historical studies can provide insight into mapping elite-captured scientific communities (mechanists) as well as raw Counterenlightenment crusaders today, and strategizing to restore the Enlightenment organicist science and materialist philosophy building collective, comparative knowledge for societies capable of fostering universal human development.

Enlightenment in the Dutch Republic



Enlightenment in France


Scottish Enlightenment

The mid-to-late 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment consisted of Whig-Presbyterian (Calvinist) fraternal (clannish) friendships based in the important institution of the Scottish university system (Jacob 2019: 125-6). Richocheting off the British revolution, the exponents were the sons of elites who rejected and refuted “enthusiasm”–at first monarchical state religious (Episcopalian and Catholic) clerical hierarchy and dogma. Eventually though, the aging Scottish Enlightenment opposed as “enthusiasm” the heat produced by the revolutionary clash between egaliberte democrats and belligerent Antienlightenment loyalists in France, and they reeled at the 1790s development of class-conscious nonelite societies organizing in Scottish towns toward parliamentary reform (Jacobs 2019: 155-156). These were of little use to the Scottish Enlightenment. However they represent a civil, composed, commerce-first Enlightenment ideal, the Scottish fraternity did not prize narrow, Protestant religious toleration as the English did in reaction to their revolution; the Presbyters didn’t mind scuffling with the Episcopalians (Jacob 2019: 128-9).

The Scottish brotherhood found fertile solace in studying how a “philosophy” (generative metaphor) based in Newtonian theological mechanics could be combined with chemical invention to mesh Scottish agricultural rents, expropriation, with labor exploitation, and propel their economy toward the leading British standard (Jacob 2019: 145, 149, 151). The Scottish Enlightenment’s elite brotherhood of bachelors (Jacob 2019: 135, 150) prized the stability they required to study and promote economic development at the foot of a capitalist-slaver empire, England.

To frame their multi-sided efforts to delineate the ingredients for economic growth, exponents of the Scottish Enlightenment developed–and bequeathed to imperial powers–the poorly-aging concepts of stadial history, the notion that societies progress in stages (Jacob 2019: 139, 152), and of the human body as machine (Pitcairne, see Jacob 2019: 130).

The Scottish Enlightenment was thus an elite, fraternal, pragmatic, economically-ambitious intellectual ferment on a semi-periphery of rival world empires. The epitome of “Moderate” Enlightenment to fans in the Anglophonic world, and of Enlightenment tout court to Counterenlightenment and Antienlightenment enemies, it had little truck with equality, democracy, freethinking, philosophical materialism, and individual human development (Jacob 2019: 132, 154-6). It included theorists devoted to anticosmopolitan, inegalitarian prejudice such as Adam Ferguson (Jacob 2019: 142). Instead of recognizing that baroque conventions of politesse emerge from inequality and inegalitarianism, David Hume shifted them into the cultural fault of Goth barbarians (Jacob 2019: 137). The brothers often, with great sexism, discussed the Woman Question (Jacob 2019: 137-8). But depending on their distance from the English Revolution of 1688-89, some even opposed slavery as either an immoral affront to Christian freedom (Hutcheson) or as a misapplication of rentierism (Jacob 2019: 143). Anders Malm (2016) has shown that the real lure of the steam technology embraced by the Scottish industrial philosophes was less a unique physical power to accomplish work and more its severe and mobile capacity to enthrall human labor. I cannot say that it was really a Counterenlightenment, as the British “Enlightenment” was; but the Scottish Enlightenment was at essence a semi-peripheral, rivalristic elite reaction to a disruptive and threatening neighboring economic expansion. For all the cleverness and folly of man’s mind, the Scottish Enlightenment’s philosophical contribution was primarily logistical, metaphors applied to the goal of economic management. However well documented and hegemonic, it was a derivative retreat from the egalitarian drive to understand the world that has propelled Enlightenment.

Still, the Scottish Enlightenment contributed to the development of geology. James Hutton influentially propelled in the Anglosphere a theory reflective of the preceding French Enlightenment theory that the Earth’s heat produced land masses from the ocean floor over millions of years (Jacob 2019: 154). As well, we can, with care and context, harvest bits and bobs from the extensive written production of the Scottish Enlightenment, such as Adam Smith (1776).