Good Old Brute Power

Look for the Union Label” (Chronicle of Higher Ed 2005)–On the very real, active, large, non-trivial, continuing, foundational role of hierarchical, non-“Foucauldian,” brute power in our everyday (especially our work) lives, and the importance of middle class radicalization (for example, academics’ recognition of brute power.)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Nothing–no Walmart jobs, no charity, no church, no Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR), no tenured profs wrapping themselves gloriously in the flag of the Global Truly Oppressed in order to most righteously demand access to cheap adjunct labor–will “improve the lot of the poor” like middle class Americans becoming radicalized (Not forming their own labor aristocracy craft unions).

It’s what the whole world is waiting for. (…I know. That sounds overblown. This is not an ego love song; it’s pointing out a vast problem. This occurred to me again when I came across foreign graphic t-shirt websites; boy, does the world wish Obama were socialist. And as Zizek pointed out, the world gets fantastically buoyed by the small signs that democracy can break through the managerial barrier in the US.)

 If only the GSO Alum movement expanded. I hope that’s OWS.

In “Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes: Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact,” Hodson & Busseri (2012)  give the conservatives a taste of their (Chas. Murray/The Bell Curve) own mystery g-factor snake oil.

As the countless, devout non-readers of this blog well know, I am a political sociologist who struggles with an inability to pick favorites between structuralist Marxist explanations and instrumentalist Marxist and social movement explanatory frameworks, and in particular I am of the view that if you’re interested in contemporary (post 1870) Anglosphere politics and political economy, then you’d better be analyzing what the capitalist (and pro-capitalist) Right has been up to lo this past century.

Therefore, although I’ve not found political scientists to be terribly useful to me in the past, at this stage, I’ve found political scientists Corey Robin’s and Radhika Desai’s works on conservatism to be very stimulating and a perfect next step from social movements sociology, and a wonderful complement to the a-bit-more-structuralist (but nowhere near so bad as Bloch) analyses of Varoufakis, Dumenil & Levy, Monthly Review, Harvey, Henwood, Pollin, Baker, and PERI, etc.(1)

While Radhika is pretty good at feeding me her books and articles, Robin is doing the hard public intellectual road, and therefore continually throws out fascinating US conservative mobilizations historical tidbits all the time, which I need to store for future reference. Here.

Good old brute power is executed in the workplace, for example in universities. During the McCarthy era, Whitney Griswold (who was something of a 5th Amendment scholar) had a famous line that there would be no witch hunts at Yale because there would be no witches at Yale. One of the things that I have to look into is the pre-McCarthy-era (1941 & on) NY state effort to purge education institutions of socialists, that served as the template for the national HUAC purges. This is written about, I am led to believe, in Andrew Hartman’s Education and the Cold War.

(1) On the other hand, for an excellent example of the descriptive and predictive limitations imposed by instrumentalist Marxist/elite scholarship’s avoidance of structural explanations, see William Carroll’s “From Canadian Corporate Elite to Transnaitonal Capitalist Class: Transititions in the Organization of Corporate Power” (2007). Now don’t get me wrong–I love me some Domhoff, Burris, etc. and Carroll’s no doubt a great scholar. But this 2007 article is an interesting example of how instrumentalist method–unrelieved by structuralist analysis– can produce subpar political economic analysis. The reliance on corporate interlocking directorates as well as financial press discourse (seen as constructing a multicultural, pro-reform “value framework”) leads the analyst to overlook the very structural way that banks stayed central, stayed in power, stayed in control of the “business community” and everything and everybody else, in the financialization era.

Whereas in the same pre-financial collapse period, JB Foster at the more structuralist MR was basically flapping his arms from the barn roof, shouting, trying to point out the profound flaws and non-equilibrium poise of the financial system and public and private debt, proud anti-structural determinists were basically affirming a contradiction-free marketing story (parallel to and not unlike the eco-modernism story) of how the capitalist elite had both elegantly reformed into a more meritocratic, cosmopolitan, multicultural and so trustworthy fraternity, and, via conflictless, voluntary, pro-democratic capitalist institutional reform, institutional investors (eg. teacher’s unions) now efficiently controlled and disciplined investment.

Carroll did allow that from the mid-70s on, national and international capitalist policy planning organizations were the new coordinating mechanism for–now cosmopolitan, meritocratic, so trustworthy–banker hegemony. But that doesn’t change that fact that neoliberal-era scholarship that refuted or discounted or avoided structuralist Marxism tended to produce an analytical bias toward taking financial capital’s beautiful 1990s legitimation campaign at face value, and amplifying it, blinding them, blinding lots of people to the development of Crisis conditions.

Obviously, the post-2007 banks’ clearly-continuing, central role in regulating liquidity strictly for the benefit of FIRE upper management (And oh okay, for the benefit of US imperial hegemony as well. That’s the same class benefitting there.–Unless of course you’re the sort who likes to argue that working class stagnant wages, indentured servitude, wrecking-balled working class state institutions, and the measurable health symptoms of declining working class welfare are all subjectively or objectively in working class interests in some random, tiny timeframe or cosmic global sense or in some opportunistically-idealist theoretical view.), and banks’ clear colonization and control of the state, blew any marketing amplification to smithereens (and demand caution about the explanatory power of the network analysis-dependent and media analysis-dependent power structure methodology).

I mean, I think in the year 2012 Canadians still basically believe Carroll’s story operates in Canada, because, obviously, Canadians are so civilized (relative to Americans), that determines all; but look at the private (and future public) debt, the reversion to an extractive economy–with the class warfare uberalles politics (Wild Rose, conservative diffusion and adoption) that tends to (except in the case of Norway) produce.

People who’ve gotten themselves to a place where they can consider social context are reliable if they can both pay attention to political movements, including elite-maintaining conservative movements, and seriously take into account the structure as well.

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