Nuclear Power

I used to research nuclear waste siting. Now I’ve gotten interested in Monbiot’s carbon-based nuclear proliferation.

The BBC’s “Nuclear Power Mapped” feature.

The “Energy Superhighway” conundrum in Germany. Germany tries to convert from nuke to wind power, but the wind is in the north and the power-sucking cities are in the south.

In Kolya Abramsky’s edited volume “Sparking A Worldwide Energy Revolution: Social Struggles in the Transition to a Post-petrol World” (2010, AK Press), a number of the contributors address nuclear energy’s history, impact and prospects for expansion, including chapters on nuclear-fossil industry collusion in the UK & EU, a chapter called “Japan as a Plutonium Superpower” (ouch.), the 2005 US-India nuclear deal, & peak uranium,
and a chapter by Peer Rijk that discusses the extent and whys of the US and global decline of nuclear energy:

Hints you already knew:
1) The $5 billion construction pricetag per reactor (There were 439 units across the world in 2008) is worsened by an automatic tendency for construction costs to balloon a la the defense industry;
2) The long length of time it takes to build reactors (10 – 20+ years) isn’t an advantage over developing clean renewable energy technology;
3) Like defense industry, nuclear reactors require billions of dollars of state subsidy over the whole lifetime of the reactor;
4) The reactors only last 40 years–then it’s another $400 million per reactor for upgrades;
5) Nuclear energy is a “lock-in” technology–because of the massive and continuing sunk costs of nuclear technology, building nuclear reactors has been shown to prevent investment in clean renewable energy and conservation;
6) Nuclear reactors spew really unhealthful radiation when under stress from climate change and other natural disasters endemic to living on a planet;
7) For all human intents and purposes, such radiation doesn’t go away;
8) Because nuclear energy has always been tied up with nuclear weapons proliferation, nuclear reactor proliferation encourages imperial nations to prosecute war on their nuclear-using enemies. Et cetera.

Since 3 Mile Island, 110 orders for nuclear reactors were cancelled in the US alone. At the end of 2008, there were 5 fewer units than at the 2002 peak of 444 nuclear reactors around the world. The current average age for nuclear reactors is 23 years. 117 reactors have been permanently shut down.

The World Information Service on Energy (WISE) will probably have a count of the countries that have abandoned nukes or put a halt to reactors. They have PDFs of their “Nuclear Monitor” newsletter.

European technocrats reject wind power.

A Courtier’s Job is Never Done

After 400 years, in 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Monarchy and Empire was ruined, crumbled, done, and over. This left a pool of Habsburg Empire dependents—courtiers–out of work. Despite the end of their world, the most resourceful of these fortunate sons of empire yet had something important to contribute to the global capitalist order that subsumed them. Uniquely and perhaps more cynically than most, Austrian courtiers recognized that Anglo-American-centered capitalism was a system not dissimilar from their own beloved empire. Anglo capitalism also prospered by exacting tribute, by prosecuting war and exploiting masses of men, women, children, as well as nature, for the sake of the accumulation and concentration of power.

The imperial monarchy’s weakness had been that its plunder-and-mercantilism economies tolerated merchants’ (often, aristocratic merchants) limitless exploitation and ravaging, inter alia, of each other. This cannibalism capitalism accomplishes also (witness the massive self-destruction of capital today, in order to facilitate primitive accumulation), but within capitalist constraints, to a capitalist end: the concentration of global wealth and parameter-determining social  power within a small coterie of capitalists of the future. This is the only element of equilibrium to the capitalist system, and while it is more equilibrium than absolutist or feudal mercantilism has to offer, it’s a preciously-narrow sort of  equilibrium,  grotesquely misrecognized as a global equilibrium.

For example, all that’s been happening in the world since the imperial Nixon regime is everyone is scraping and clawing, lying and self-promoting to make it into that 0.1% of the population that will be the holy elect saved, and in doing so, they automatically facilitate the violent primitive accumulation that will ensure capitalism’s continuance, along with national and regional economic destruction, the working class’ immiseration, and environmental ravishment.

Capitalism’s distinction is that it disciplines everyone to concentrate on exploiting less-powerful classes and nature by whatever means necessary. Tribute is mined and exacted methodically in capitalism, in the workplace, in the parliaments and legislatures, in nature, through social stratification. In capitalism, capitalists alone are fundamentally class conscious and always, already waging targeted, strategic class warfare—or at least employing others to prosecute that class warfare for them.

Capitalism is an organized, highly-stratified system the Habsburg Empire courtiers could not just understand, but embrace as a sweeping advancement in rational despotism.

What the Austrian courtiers’ experience of the ultimate fall of their empire taught them and what they could appreciate above all was that all systems of human domination are vulnerable when their elites lose a strategic sense of whom to mine and wage war upon (less powerful groups of people) and what select group of men to organize with, protect, and promote (the capitalist class). The Austrians as well as Keynes saw that there is a potential strategic problem here in capitalism–that value is extracted and accumulated via exploiting potentially-creative human workers, yet capital is measured–baroquely–in more concrete exchange currency–making it sometimes individually-rational for capitalists to destroy whole economies in their unceasing, system-motivated efforts to use economic, political and cultural tools to monopolize social wealth. Keynes thought this meant that government has to step in to include the welfare and uphold the integrity of potentially-creative human workers, in order to protect value and the economy in a region. The more feudal Austrians simply recognized that capitalist supernovae first expand, then obliterate capital and the courtier job market. In the face of the Great Depression, the Austrians discerned a need for capitalist generals and marketeers. Perhaps there would even be a market for capitalist generals and marketeers.

The Austrian courtiers relocated westward, to the capitols of the capitalist empire; and while some—the intellectual Schumpeter for example–despaired of mobilizing the capitalist class to wage war on behalf of its empire, still others—Mises, Hayek, Popper for example—found new British and American capitalist patrons to support their enterprise–the long, relentless project of rousing the capitalist class, and demobilizing and spreading disinformation amongst the working class.

When talking to people they would manipulate—the working class, politicians, the media–what conservatives proclaim to the staff is essentially this: “Capitalism is heaven. All you need to do is believe that capitalists are not the humans who disappoint us and over whom we fall into occasional misanthropy; rather, capitalists are the sacred, commanding, disciplining, all-wise, all-loving patriarchs of our ancient childhood desires and dreams. They are the lords. If we give our work, blood, sweat, tears, children, culture, food, knowledge, land, air, and water over to them, if we give them our lives and our souls, they will create heaven on Earth. To the extent that heaven does not exist on Earth yet—well, that’s the fault of our own failure to give ourselves faithfully over to capitalist command.”

By contrast, democrats—the women and men who want to augment and expand the germ of democracy, equality, fraternity, and broad liberty and human development forged in the first bourgeois and working class coalitional struggles to overthrow feudalism—what democrats observe is that capitalism works because an organized capitalist elite accrues and hoards wealth in this way: disruptively, violently, and cripplingly, by exploiting workers and nature. Accumulation-via-exploitation results in concentrated wealth and power, produces despotism and belligerent imperialism, and fails to fall out in proliferated and dispersed wealth because it is enabled not by paying workers a comfortable share of the product value, but by coercive threat, by capitalists studiously manipulating and here and there deploying a vast, global reserve army of labor—the unemployed, interns, slaves, indentured servants, the elderly, women and children paid low “dependent” wages or nothing at all for their work, people paid “colored” or immigrant or low-caste wages, or nothing at all for their work, people who have to eke out their households in the margins and in ruined environments.

In capitalism, there are vast reserves of war-torn societies; there are vast reserves of dysfunctioning economies and depleted environments; there are vast numbers of workplaces crippling minds and bodies–so that people would give their lungs, wrists, and 30 years of their lifespans to escape. These quotidian horror sites are never outside of capitalism. These disruptions are essential to capitalism. They are the enduring, unfolding nightmare that enables capitalists to quickly, cheaply manipulate and discipline masses of desperate and anxious people, to exploit these people and their environments, to accumulate and concentrate wealth within the capitalist class for its own self-aggrandizement, its own apotheosis.
When the White Emigres and their present-day capitalist courtier heirs tell you there will be work for all in the capitalist utopia, they are lying to you right in your face…and they’re enjoying it. Lying to you is nothing to them, because to their courtier sensibilities, yours is the face of a domesticated animal that exists to be ground up into shrink-wrapped meat patties and trucked to a grocery shelf–to be “privatized”, as it were. Yours is but a mind to be captured, through your heart, in service of ruling class interests. The Habsburg Empire courtiers are only ever at the service of whatever small coterie of barbaric lords and ladies is currently en vogue. Bred in their own Austrian experience, the courtiers’ understanding of freedom and civilization is confined to chauvanism and competition, despotism, imperialism and systems of tribute.

….

For a further discussion of the Austrian courtiers’ contributions to the making of a more political economics discipline (posing as scientific), see also: “Box 6.5 The Marginalists” pp. 125- 130, as well as pp. 132, 153-155, 161, 223-224, 259, 267, 295-297, 391, 413 and 487 in Varoufakis, Y., J. Halevi & N. J. Theocarakis. 2011. Modern Political Economics: Making Sense of the Post-2008 World. Routledge.

Radhika Desai’s “Secondhand Dealers” (New Left Review) briefly reviews the impact of the White Emigration to the UK. (That means that Stuart Hall probably treated this subject.)

Here is a political scientist discussing the central political role of demonstrative passion in conservative hegemony

Feminism & Neoliberalism: Dovetail Development

Nancy Fraser on the co-development of the latter-20th century feminist movement and neoliberalism as a form of capitalism.

Neoliberalism wants cheap women workers.

Pillars of 2nd wave feminism (against state-organized capitalism) that melded with neoliberalism, post-1970s, to create the degraded form of feminism characteristic of the conservative age:

1) Critique of economism/focus on distributive justice –> cultural determinism, glorifying political-economic ignorance.
2) Critique of androcentrism, male family wage–> uncritical embrace of wage labour.
3) Critique of managerialism/technocracy/nation-state as arena of political contestation

–>market over state, deregulation, welfare state retrenchment.

It’s not just that feminism has been hijacked by capital.

There is an affinity between feminism & neoliberalism that enables their coalition: They both oppose traditional authority. Ideally, feminists oppose the traditional authority of elders, fathers, husbands; capitalists oppose traditional authority that slows or broadly redistributes profit accumulation. But capital has the resources and some feminists have the motivation to efface those specificities, or to cohere when the specifics overlap; and it’s capital’s terrain.

Current trends in feminist neoliberalism:

1) Today, feminism is less a critique of capitalism, and more of a contribution to neoliberalism, eg. microcredit finance as “answer” to poverty.

2) Gender and sexuality departments in universities are used to pioneer academic proletarianization, privatization and other neoliberal policies.

3) With the explosion of surveillance states, especially the US, feminist anti-male violence politics and policies are used as a tool to enforce US-centric state monopoly on violence and conservative policy orthodoxy within the capitalist World-system.

4) Feminist obeausity entrepreneurs oppose pro-working class food, health, and transit movements.

5) Neoliberal feminists continue to insist that we have to valorize popular political-economic illiteracy, which, they hold, is within a properly female domain, whereas they hold that political-economic literacy is “male.” This conceptualization translates in practice into the Victorian Progressivist/feminist assumption that a competent, educated woman’s work is properly low-paid/unpaid caregiving and hegemony transmission, wherefrom eventually elect women are promoted into caregiving and cultural management.

6) “Polyvocality” busywork keeps the young women fussing, fretting and preening about in the house, forever perfecting cocktail party guest lists and chiding each other about their manners, even as the house is being systematically dismantled by bulldozers, and plundered by Christian patriarchs, bankers, and oil men. It’s a prefigurative technique; it’s not political engagement. It’s a partial gesture, thats game-changing effectiveness requires social preconditions.

I agree strongly with Nancy Fraser’s dead-on observation that feminists (maybe because we come from different political and material vantage points) have not in this conservative era figured out how to oppose traditional authority in a way that makes feminism distinct from neoliberalism (that is, US-centric global monopoly capitalism).

While feminists who acknowledge this prefer to claim that feminism is just weaker than conservatism, and there is truth to that, it is also true that mainstream, liberal feminist politics and policies cohere feminists to neoliberal initiatives as well.

Eisenstein, Hester. 2009. Feminism Seduced: How Global Elites Use Women’s Labor and Ideas to Exploit the World. Boulder: Paradigm.

Eisenstein essentially takes up Viriginia Woolf’s enlightened charge in “Three Guineas” (1938).

and cites Johanna Brenner: “(M)ainstream feminist goals are entirely compatible with the economic doctrines of corporate globalization” (ix).

Judith Orr (2010) reviews the feminist terrain from England.

But for one anti-neoliberal feminist example, Naomi Wolf is always in there, drawing the line in the sand between capitalist class political projects and feminist commitments. You may prefer the (co-optable, acontextual) brand of female “purity” offered by liberal or radical feminism, but I really appreciate the dirty public role Wolf takes on in these controversies.

Prominent, reliable anti-neoliberal feminists include:

Nancy Fraser
Ellen Meiksins-Wood
Selma James
Judith Orr
Johanna Brenner
Hester Eisenstein
Naomi Wolf
Angela Davis
Barbara Ehrenreich
Julie Matthaei
Amy Goodman
Marilyn Waring
Jacqui M. Alexander
Chandra Talpade Mohanty
Pnina Werbner
Frances Fox Piven
Arlie Hochschild
Juliet Schor
Holly Sklar
Diane Elson
Mariane Ferber
Julie Nelson
Mimi Abromowitz
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Kim Phillips-Fein
Stephanie Coontz
Lani Guinier
Brooksley Born (?)
Naomi Klein
Sasha Lilley
Kate Drabinski
Emily Drabinski
Karen Orren (?)

Historical left-feminists:

Alexandra Kollontai
Alice Field
Jenny Marx Longuet
Eleanor Marx
Annie Besant
Silvia Pankhurst
Virginia Woolf
Raya Dunayevskaya
Dora Monefiore
Clara Zetkin
Dolores Ibarruri
Lena Morrow Lewis
Harriet Taylor
Evelyn Reed
Kate Millett
Bernice Shoul
Teresa Ebert
Marlene Dixon

TBC…

What will feminists replace traditional patriarchal authority with, besides the orthodox, male-dominated US-centric market daddy wagon we’ve way too often been hitched to and steered by since the 1970s?

 Neoliberal feminism is not so much an abeyance institution as it is a technique for advancing conservative initiatives that feast on the blood, sweat and tears of women– while letting feminists feel those familiar feminine feelings: righteous and altruistic and busy…and exhausted and frustrated. This is a central problem to feminism that should no longer be pussy-footed around in the interest of maintaining a vagina- and queer sexual identity-centered coalition.


It does not increase women’s freedoms to answer “We shall replace the capitalist capitan of our hearts with polyvocality,” the idealist, romantic, pluralist “substitute” for sometimes-coalitional, sometimes-contentious political democracy, and a diluted, denatured and anxiously-respectable form of resistance. Which is not to say polyvocality isn’t difficult. Indeed, under present might-makes-right social relations, polyvocality can never be substantively accomplished to challenge the order. That difficulty doesn’t mean it is the prime lever to order change.

We don’t exit hierarchical, exclusionary, patriarchal “gang” relations by urging an interdependent pluralistic voluntarism (AKA  polyvocality). There’s an alluring micro-macro homology to that theory–and it’s too easy, and the US has shown that the valorization of pluralism cannot counter social human organization and power within a hierarchy building, surplus accumulating framework.

Instead Enlightenment’s champions fight together, over centuries, to found institutions that systematically, broadly redistribute  resources, surplus, status, and power (This is the Frodo Baggins theory: Concentrated power is a burden that corrupts. Control tyranny by distributing power to those least capable of (ab)using it, and keep it moving around. I’m sorry, it’s very nerdly; but essentially, in this view, Lord of the Rings is an Enlightenment story about how you get to communism. It should be rewritten by a socialist-feminist.), and we fight to beat back organized, capital-backed coalitions of conservatives–people who specifically want to restrict power, status and surplus to a small group most able to abuse it.

This is a long haul. Sometimes it requires disruption; sometimes it requires coalition-building and alternative institution building. Because there is an outside context of motivated power that systematically rapes and pillages, you cannot (figuratively) expand the acequias outside the remote interstices (figuratively, Northern NM) unless you repeatedly fight the long fight, as well as build alternative institutions and culture. Here is where historical-materialist feminists do not buy the capitalist portrayal of communism. Yes, communists fight, and that is needed. Pacified alterity cannot induce change by itself, because surplus-accumulating power is complex enough and flexible enough to absorb it; and it is not enough to celebrate the marginalized existence of pacified alterity within a dehumanizing, environmentally-destructive system. We need to re-engage strategic, contentious politics, to disrupt, as historical political sociologists Frances-Fox Piven and Domhoff will agree.

As Lichterman says, it is strategic not to reify specific individuals and groups as opponents, so that we can recognize the moment’s coalition opportunities; but we always have to be able to recognize the conservative difference and oppose it. We understand that egalitarian liberation requires a role for creative, contentious collective strategy when we recognize, as Zizek notes, that an order, including patriarchy, mobilizes its defenders.  The twentieth century’s basic passion, “the belief that politics was the key to our truths as well as our myths,” (Hobsbawm 2012) has not been superceded, only suppressed for class warfare purposes.


Polyvocality is necessary, but so extremely insufficient, that by itself, it does more harm (contributes to tyranny) than good (moves us toward broad egalitarian, developmental relations). Within the context of organized conservatism, the process and goal of polyvocality, and the prefigurative politics of polyvocality tend to deliver not polyvocality but conservatism, in the form of neoliberalism (conservatism-cum-liberalism). This is because the capitalist market grotesquely amplifies the voice of the powerful, the accumulators. In a putatively-polyvocal (pluralist) regime, the automatically-amplified voice will drown out all others. Like voting, polyvocality is an utter and complete mirage under capitalism. It prettily promises that immediately we can model and deliver equal and sufficient liberation for all, and with herculean effort it may provide a freedom here or there, at a scale sufficient to keep the ladies busy with manners and guest list projects while egalitarian freedoms are crushed en masse. Not unlike white women’s traditional role in the US South. So far, polyvocality’s chief accomplishment is to support capitalist class cohesion, and insofar as feminists subscribe to it, to subsume non-elite women under the project of multicultural capitalist class cohesion. Polyvocality alone cannot reduce women-exploiting, women-crippling business as usual.

You cannot move toward either political or cultural democracy if you are studiously neglecting and forever deferring to disrupt the egregious, overbuilt, institutionalized, hierarchically-structured relationships of tyranny and domination–our relationships within the oikos, our relationships to the surpluses extracted and amassed, and to those who control them–that structure our everyday lives. That neglect is the result of making the wrong (respectable, proper) coalitions.

Polyvocality has to be a preservation practice of monastery communities, and a second-tier goal, after feminists have stopped forming “coalitions” with (being co-opted by) capital’s primitive accumulation and exploitation initiatives, and have instead embraced the long hard road of forming capitalist order-disruptive, organization-building coalitions with the working class, which is not male (even if conservatives have had some of it wishing it were). It’s obvious that US working class institutions are heavily to blame for this coalition failure–but they’re nearly obliterated now. 


The point I am making in this post:
Feminists need a socialist backbone not because socialism is a more transhistorically-essential political program; not at all. Feminists need a socialist backbone because without a critique of capital, in a capitalist context, feminism will be emphatically subsumed by and subordinated to conservative surplus and power accumulation projects that eviscerate feminist achievements and obstruct feminist goals.


The conservatives are showing us that in the US, time and time again, they can invoke and wield Little King politics that promise, no matter what else might be going on, that every dispossessed American can join together with the political-economic elite in ruling with an iron fist over women as a group. That political strategy cannot be beat back and held down unless feminists can join together with socialists to advance, both with some prefigurative politics and with plenty of non-innocent, political conflict, both the egalitarian distribution of the wealth society collectively creates and post-feudal freedoms for all.

Women who have emerged from abuse know–You cannot overcome systematic abuse with a culture of “egalitarian” respect and listening, practiced by only one side, the abused. Now consider this difference in this analogy: We cannot exit our abusive relationship (based in surplus and power accumulation)–We cannot exit our planet, and find a more supportive “women’s shelter” planet. Ours is the long, hard battle not just to maintain a distinct, better vision of human relations, but to engage in conflict, to subdue, and to conquer the oppressor–as the political-economic opportunity strikes (as he loses coherence, confidence, hegemonic monopoly), and put him on a new track, within which he is motivated and compelled to share in the reproductive provisioning and to share resources, status, and power.

At that point the idealists–the anarchists and postmodernists have an important role to play in fostering reinforcing polyvocal culture and art. The monks and nuns of prefigurative politics will take care of themselves today. We need to be fostering, valorizing, and protecting organizers, strategists, communist horizon theorists (including socialist-feminists), monkeywrenchers, and fighters.

Out with FPTP

The recent Canadian election argues for Britain’s upcoming vote to replace the marginally-democratic First-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system. This long-overdue change would require protest and disruption as well as within-establishment work.

FPTP defenders argue that the old FPTP British electoral system “tends to produce a two-party system (see Duverger’s Law), which in turn tends to produce single-party governments, which don’t have to rely on support from other parties to pass legislation.” In our era, this is a disadvantage for everyone other than the conservative party faithful, as the next purported “advantage”, “FPTP encourages ‘broad-church’ centrist policies,” is not a law but is rather contingent upon class mobilization. Given the context of a capitalist playing field, FPTP only encouraged centrist policies in the mid-20th century era of strong working class mobilization (backed by a credible communist alternative threat)–a structural-political compromise. Strong capitalist class mobilization and weak working class mobilization on that same capitalist playing field is a double-whammy that results in increasingly more right wing governance, in which case FPTP produces extremism, rather than centrism. We can see this very clearly in contemporary Anglo-American electoral politics and governance.

An additional factor is also actually rather key in the evolution of electoral politics, esp. in the US: “FPTP forces parties to become coalitions in themselves, rather than forming coalitions with other parties later.” In effect, since parties are coalitions anyway, FPTP forces excessive amalgamation. This debilitates left-liberal coalitions particularly, as they contain an irreconcilable class-rift disadvantage that modern right-wing coalitions do not. Thus lib-left coalitions are less chronically illegible, frustrating, and alienating to voters and more effective when they are not forced to internalize their more fundamental contradictions within one party, but rather negotiate a coalition in government.