No Borders Leftish

When I lived there for a year at the beginning of this century, Sweden stood out for its social democratic citizenship. Among the many distinct things that means, I was impressed by the benefits I didn’t expect, including the fact that I had access to no-nonsense, constructive (not policing) state assistance immediately, and that I could vote after a couple of months. I had political citizenship rights within weeks of living in Sweden. How democratic is that?! Lots of African Americans and other expropriated Americans never get political citizenship rights in the US. Who couldn’t vote in Sweden were expats. That kind of right to vote is what today’s Leftish No Borders advocates call “domicile citizenship,” as if they invented it and their ahistorical, radical anarcho youthfulness alone will will it into existence.

When I moved to Canada, that darling, that sweetheart of immigration advocates everywhere, I was struck by its opposite citizenship: I was not able to exercise citizenship rights for a decade, while I went through the residency and citizenship process. But people with a lot of money can readily buy citizenship rights in Canada. Expats enjoy citizenship. If you aren’t rich, residency is only a supplemental, contributing criterion for Canadian citizenship. It’s either Jus Sanguinis or money that efficiently makes the Canadian. And if you don’t believe me, well then let me tell you what a young, female African immigrant said at our surveillance-rich, monarchical swearing-in ceremony. New citizens were invited to give a speech about What Canadian Citizenship Means to Me. Her speech theme was: Canadian citizenship means, finally, I won’t be forced to submit to exploitation by Canadians so hard anymore. We could all relate, and she got a standing-O for it. (As well, opposite of Sweden, Canada or at least Manitoba has the most Kafkaesque bureaucratic culture I have ever experienced. No guiding principle of substantive rationality exists there. All of Canadian bureaucracy is geared for men in networks to pilfer from, while female secretaries preserve the assets for them.)

DHS and ICE are abominations, crimes against humanity. For sure, the brutal US approach to immigrants is enough to drive anyone crazy. In fact, I’ve seen that happen. It seems to me though that the problem is clear enough: Divest from policing and carceralism; impose borders and limits on your capitalist class, and tax them; and distribute wealth to support social reproduction and other productive economic contributions. And do like the Swedes: Make citizenship about living and contributing in a place, within communities, not about payoff.

In all the miserable time I was on Facebook–steered by its algorithms into some excellent people, but some irredeemable, flat-out jackasses as well, and steered by its algorithms into their most provoking posts—eventually the No Borders Left arose within social media. What frustrated me about them at the time was the stance they took: Borders are what cause capitalist inequality. Evidence? ICE and Global inequality. Hm.

Baffling. Would they explain their theory, flesh it out?

They would not. It was a moral principle dividing Good from Evil.

Most capitalists want the removal of all barriers to uprooting people, so that capitalists can mobilize and immoblize populations at whim, monopolize the human capacity for coordination, and substitute inputs (factors of production) without friction. Could a No Borders politics just be easily subsumed by that hegemonic force? Ruled irrelevant.

What struck me as distinctive about the Leftish No Borders mobilization is the “coalitional” involvement of Dem Party wonks and the total lack of explanation or practical strategy. I am not alone. According to one of its erstwhile advocates, David Feldman, the No-Borders “principle has come to stand for migrant and immigrant justice.” Where promising Left movements are engaging  practical politics and thinking strategically across many fields, Leftish No Borders advocates have not engaged practical politics and thinking strategically about immigration and citizenship at all (Catalyst 4(10): 148-9).

Given the obvious, capitalist No-Borders bedfellows, such an unusual dearth of Left theory and strategy in the 21st century should ring alarm bells. But apparently the Democratic Socialists voted thumbs up on the cosmopolitan, content-free, wonderfully-philosophical Open Borders principle. Somebody in there is killer at taking the group out for late-nite cigarettes and beer bonding. The Left kids are capable of better than this, and I think we should demand better from the Left kids. If we let them slip into pure romantic idealism in such political pockets, we’ve created holes for capitalists, the Right, and police to crawl into and start fucking us up.

Feldman is trying to operationalize Leftish Open Borders politics as “domicile citizenship.” So even though it’s weird that these metropole kids don’t recognize that such a thing exists within a certain, specific framework, the concept still is not as rigorous as normal Left thought. How in hell’s name is domicile citizenship going to get rid of global inequality, particularly if you recognize that people are not inputs or factors of production to be frictionlessly swapped around? A sociologist would know that empirically, people hate leaving home, and most displaced people just want to get back home. A sociologist would also know why: It takes a lot of communal work for individual people to adapt to a complex place and society. We can call that cultural and social capital for short, so that we can understand that these are a kind of asset, resources that people, a social species, require to live, and if you don’t get assets with money, they require work. The No Borders Leftish vision is so conservative- economistic, so anti-sociological, it really makes you wonder.

How can you make migration just when the propulsion for migration–not just capitalist inequality (as if that were an effect of geography, rather than the cause of geographically-distributed life chances; as if capital is immobile), but also imperial war and climate crisis–remains utterly unjust? What is the vision here? Billions of poor people–that is to say, people without assets, stripped of even socio-cultural resources–chasing capital all around the globe? Domicile (Swedish) citizenship is better than “national” citizenship or (Canadian) citizenship-by-effective demand, but you don’t get there through untethered idealism. And while it can contribute to working-class strength within a polity, domicile citizenship will not do much about capitalist inequality.

Occam’s Razor: Just fight against population managment in its disrupt and mobilize (war) and isolation and immobilization (policing and carceralism) modes. If all you want is a tite slogan: Defund Police > No Borders. Fight for people to live peacefully where they want to, which, except for capitalists, is usually home. Fight for making citizenship rights based on where you live, not what’s in your Cayman Islands vault. And fight for democratic citizenship rights, because those have been under enormous assault, and they’re all that protect us from the powerful in a world gone inequality- and inegalitarianism-mad. There’s something really fishy, really rotten about No Borders, kill-citizenship-off politics.

We should always strive for internationalism, for the democratic motley crew, and that’s a tough row to hoe (See Erica Benner’s Actually Existing Nationalisms). But the sacred Borderless world will come after and not before the bloody, global Communist (or at least social democratic) revolution.

lionlamb

 

 

 

Book of Grievances, June 2020 Edition

  1. Elected representatives shovel billions of dollars at police to support their slavery calling of assaulting, harassing, destroying, and mass-murdering working-class people, mostly of color.
  2. English Common Law.
  3. We cannot distinguish between a union that contributes to public value and a police fraternity because English Common Law.
  4. That is because most of us do not have the concept public value anymore. The neoliberals killed it over the 20th century.
  5. Other assassinated, crucial concepts that we cannot use today in public: inhumane; democratic Enlightenment; egaliberte; the motley crew; commodification; mystification; exploited; expropriated; slavery.
  6. Meritocratic technocrats manage populations: They masterfully practice the techniques of efficiently dehumanizing, isolating, immobilizing, exploiting and expropriating, crippling, and stunting people, as with the stepwise expansion of the carceral market-state, the imprisonment of immigrants, and the near-universal pandemic confinement of productive female workers to home cells while the public sphere is reserved for masculine policing.
  7. The Silence of the Geographers: COVID-19-justified policy does not reflect regional COVID-19 conditions.
  8. Technocratic autism: Leaders–politicians and public health officials–block mobilization toward increasing virus testing capacity, because they want to protect resources for hospitals and doctors and the commercial vaccine market. They do not care what happens to people’s health when they are dehumanized, isolated, immobilized, and impoverished as the solution to epidemics and pandemics.
  9. Anglo-Americans are proud of having leadership that never imagines policy that avoids the cardinal Anglo-American virtues of dehumanizing, isolating, immobilizing, expropriating, and stunting humans.
  10. Lazy-ass, reflexive sexism.

Medicalizing the Refusniks in the Conservative Restoration

From fictional character Lisbeth Salander to Greta Thunberg to comedian Hannah Gadsby, there seems to be this little trend on the progressive margins where women who never played along heart and soul with social hierarchy–and in fact go ahead and live and work just fine as any other non-elite, if not all sunshine and lollipops–women who do not labor day in and day out like neurotic, loyal dogs to bark out to other people phrases and images that will affirm a model average consensus–that these women can be profitably diagnosed as mental deviants, autistic. Psychologists use the “spectrum” contrivance to justify the notion that women who do not take responsibility for greasing the social interaction hustle all the time are the female equivalent of men who have no mirror neurons and cannot empathize. Same thing, different order of magnitude, the idea goes.

Psychologists define an autistic female as a female who relates to other people in a similar way to normal, non-autistic males. To understand what is going on here requires the capacity to take social context into account, and in particular to think about how the institutionalized load of hierarchy, equality, inequality, and inegalitarianism works in a social species.

Let me introduce an idea from far outside of psychology, an idea that incorporates societal context: What will happen to girls when gendered parenting breaks down, and girls are raised by dads? Might not such females be socialized by their dads to relate to people in a way that common-sense and psychology currently associates with normal males? Wouldn’t it be weird to understand this as a medical condition or pathology?

Let me throw a real doozy at you. What if hallowed gendered socialization itself produces its own gravediggers–or at least female “autism”– through intergenerational socialization? What would happen if being a normal female, through normal self-abnegation, produced crippling depression, for example? What if, because of an unequal and inegalitarian societal context, normal socialization into “normal” female pro-social relationship behavior is not unvexed, but rather, contradictory?

Let me give you a true-life case to chew on. You have to think both about how contradiction works over time, and about socialization across generations. I know a woman whose post-war mother was very social and believed that it was her duty as a smart, good-looking white woman to have children, lots of them. After spending the very early years of her marriage in a thrilling and satisfying adventure of altruistic, internationalist work overseas, she give birth to her first child and promptly imploded in post-partum depression. The depressed mother weaned the baby girl within three months, handed that three-month old baby over to her clinically-depressed sister-in-law (left for years with four children while her military husband was in Vietnam), and the baby’s mother went camping in the mountains with her husband for that summer. When the parents returned at the end of the summer, the father took up some of the care work for that daughter, which consisted of things like teaching her to box out a very large opponent in basketball, playing burnout catch, and combatively debating politics and law. If that daughter was as a result not as socially female-normal as we would like to see, wasn’t the probable root of her “abnormality”–even by psychological-theory standards– a socialization that resulted from her mother’s generation not having established sufficient distance from feminine social expectations, a failure that caused the mother to fail to thrive, crippling her capacity to perform the “normal” self-sacrificing female role? This example suggests that the female pro-social ideal may not be stably reproduced, except possibly under highly-supported conditions, and that we should not be assuming it as the psychological norm for women at all.

If today’s famous, very “high functioning” autistic women (fictional or real) want to both live in the painful (There is no non-painful option.) but more liberated state of hierarchy refusal, while at the same time asking other people to give them more cooperation and credit–via the culturally-resonant tactic of donning a recognized, masculine mental deviance label with a politicized network protecting it– then good luck to them! Kind of a new take on “I was a tomboy,” it is one survival strategy, available to those people who easily trust medical population management and psychology as a profession. I think that if you need a medical diagnosis to explain to not only others but yourself as well the distance you maintain from normative social interaction to live as a woman with healthy boundaries, you are in fact intensely social, very socially aware.

You should be considered every bit as socially-attuned as the woman who eats and eats and eats garbage in bright wrappers to psychologically offset her endless self-depleting efforts to demonstrably affirm and reproduce a model average consensus, to chase the maximal social approbation available to women (Which is not much.)–popularity, as the kids say. Normative in an unequal, inegalitarian society becomes very unconvincing. If you’re female, dedication to winning social approbation is not a rational-actor self-optimization strategy–particularly not over time, as Mary Wollstonecraft (1792) observed upon “the great art of pleasing.” But because, unlike some women, psychological theory cannot take context into account, the underlying assumption is that irrational self-abnegation is normative for women. That’s how our culture, at the lowest-common-denominator, unconscious common sense (which is often the same thing as psychological theory), reflexively understands pro-social female behavior. I would even say that not being able to take context into account as one navigates the world is masculine-autistic, and psychology is institutionalized masculine autism, or at best a collective gaming a hierarchy. Either way, it’s got a masculine bias that makes it a dubious authority when identifying and treating female normativity and deviance.

For the sake of argument with what I think is just an historical culture, and not a necessary or beneficial one: Just because women can reproduce humans with their thinking bodies does not mean that they also need to reproduce patriarchies and other hierarchical shitshows as well. Women are humans, we’re not unqualified reproduction factories. We’re not 3-D printers. Demands for smooth, machine compliance with mostly-unpaid,  self-destructive, 24-7 reproduction work will be met with breakdowns of one sort or another, not least because we live in a commodity economy that does not reward that compliance, but rather mines it. Considered comparatively, transhistorically, rather than within the fishbowl of our culture, it is really odd that some women’s refusal of self-abnegation speed-up is classified as autistic. Is the female-autistic concept supposed to be some sort of amazing progress upon the 1970s diagnosis of bitch? If there were still mental hospitals rather than just prisons for surplus working-class people and immigrants, women would be in about the same cell we were in Freud’s day. In fact, we recently saw that the biosecurity strategy employed during the COVID19 pandemic did without blinking corral women indiscriminately into the home cells, in order to reserve the remnant public space for the masculine work of policing. Conservatism springs eternal.

Because I’m a prof, all day long I take care of other people’s emotional states–a lot of people’s various emotional states, up and down the social hierarchy. Because I’m female, people expect me to do it, and they punish me sanctimoniously if I wander away from the task. Yes, I had to adjust to that responsibility. And I did it pretty quick and well. Yes, occasionally, over the flow and gush of caretaking demands, I am caught not resonating at high emotional intelligence intensity, and I underperform. But mostly, under my ministrations, people get taken care of in their full human complexity. I help people to develop. Helping people to develop in our society is, very grotesquely, not recognized as pro-social behavior. That’s because it is an input into the labor factor of production, and thus must be discounted so that business can acquire labor cheaply and owners can secure profits.

It’s harder for me than for, say, performers who mostly work alone or entrepreneurial psychologists, to convince myself deep down that when I don’t want to expend the energy to play nice with, fix, and generally Mrs. Dalloway other people, it is because because I’m mentally abnormal, rather than because people in an inequality-normative society are socialized inegalitarians–sexists, capitalists, racists, etc., relentlessly “managing” (dehumanizing people as populations) and thoughtlessly withholding credit and cooperation from social subordinates including myself. Socialized inegalitarians tap the well. I cannot stay a functioning organism, get work done, and simply secure the necessary commodified inputs to thrive, while constantly bending over and self-sacrificing to other people’s benefit and advantage, as much as is socially prescribed in this unequal, inegalitarian society. The female-autism diagnosis, I suspect, is a displacement from recognizing inegalitarianism as culturally-embedded antihuman autism.

It is nonetheless true that over the many years, by frequently distancing myself from the responsibility to reproduce the ever-worsening social hierarchy and throw my elbow grease into creating a sparkly polish for that assholery, I have come to think and act differently from other people to some extent.

As well, as an old person, I can see now that the extent of that difference has been overplayed by my diligent patriarchal discipliners. It is a normative woman’s experience to slowly realize over time that all the disturbing things that rang bells for you, and in vain you asked other people to work with you to address, turn out to be real, trenchant problems, and on a very long lag, other people begin to show that they see them too. I see stunted people.

But if “high-functioning” socially-aware women are autistic, then holy shit, most people are autistic. Wow. So amaze. Much drug profits.

Down the Antihuman Path

On masculine emergency-services, their unionization, and the decline of public value in the context of growing inequality

In social media and politics, there are calls for defunding and demilitarizing American police. Establishment and conservative-liberal responses are working to channel and switch the frame, including to federal oversight and deunionization.
It’s less clear to me than to Democrat politicians how federal oversight addresses the fundamental problem of inhumane, overgrown, public budget-consuming police, unaccountable–not to the propertied, but to the vast American smallholding working class. As many studies have shown, the federal government is not accountable to the working class, and no one can find any policy in which it has been for half a century (Gilens & Page 2014). Although there are a couple, lucky “good apple” instances of police reform resulting from shifting from municipal to county government, Federal oversight of policing sounds like making municipal and county police into another military branch. It does not improve the situation to organize a domestic military force formally targeting American citizens and residents.
Deunionization sounds more interesting, but it is difficult to see how a state that prohibits class analysis would be able to distinguish in law between a union that represents public value–welfare across class, race, gender, etc. difference, and a fraternity, nominally called a union like police unions are, that represents only two things: private member interest and private property that is infamously conflated with public value in piles and piles of conservative economic and political theory, and that already has a monopoly chokehold on the state. The law’s inability to distinguish private from public value is the reason why the working class in English Common Law countries have been forced to accommodate police unions and their countless predatory campaigns against the public.
There is plenty of empirical data, but are there any footholds within English Common Law that can allow a government to distinguish between predatory private interest and the public value afforded by permitting working-class people the human capacity for communication and coordination that lawyers, capital, and the state together reserve for property owners?
More resources:
1) Related masculine emergency services aggrandizement/public-value diminishment:
In comparison to Gillezeau et al’s UVic study on the impact of unionization on policing (link above), here’s an econ study discussing the diversion of expensive military equipment to police, and its effect on their crime-reduction objective: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/pol.20150478. This can be incorporated in an argument about the diminishment of public value with the aggrandization of masculine emergency services.

2) Theory framework

British economic historians Clegg & Usmani’s study “The Economic Origin of Mass Incarceration” (https://catalyst-journal.com/vol3/no3/the-economic-origins-of-mass-incarceration ) argues that the US went down the path of eviscerating public value when the federal govt failed to recognize the need for massive welfare state build-up as the US urbanized in the mid-20th century. Without a welfare state able to make capitalist urbanization work, the Black public demanded the carceral (and masculine emergency services) turn, in Clegg & Usmani’s account. In their explanation, relentless, unchecked carceral (and masculine emergency services) build-up was the residual policy path left to the welfare-poor US.

Clegg and Usmani’s theory oversteps their data; but with a theory tweak, their explanation can be modified usefully. Their explanatory framework suffers from a very typical methodological problemNot incorporating research into the elite-interest mobilization probably overdetermining the selection of this policy path (Bill Domhoff’s standard critique of state-centric theory, the validity of which has been affirmed, inter alia, by Page & Gilen’s research). So to be more neutral about causation until study of elite-interest mobilization around masculine emergency services & carceral expansion is incorporated, I would push this explanatory framework further in a political-economic direction:
American domestic policy expertise was unprepared for urbanization in the context of expropriative (rather than productive/competitive) capitalism.
That context meant that as Black migration from the South to Northern urban manufacturing cities was occurring, the manufacturing moment was quickly dying in the US, to be replaced by deregulated, exploding global financial expropriation. Black Americans escaped the stunting, carceral rural Southern landscape, with its absolute public impoverishment, for a rapidly-decaying Northern territory of economic opportunity without sufficient social opportunity. In its hunt for skilled, low-wage labor, manufacturing was relocating too fast too far, and Black Americans had chased it on one of its spurts, only to encounter a middle-class fortune lottery.
This is a typical pattern in capitalism, and should have been anticipated and addressed with welfare state tools. However, with rapidly-growing levels of unemployment, and insufficient humane welfare state tools, urban crime grew in the US. As a rule, people deprived of both income and assets have no other survival recourse than crime in the capitalist context. As Clegg and Usmani suggest, the federal US state was unprepared to develop a humane path forward, a sufficient welfare state, though models existed.
Particularly in the US, the main expertise with governance within an expropriative economy was the racism-resonant, racism-reproducing slaver governance theory and technique that was also imported into the US’s Southern Military Tradition. Through the political parties, Southern leadership played a starring role in institionalizing violent and coercive, antihuman slave plantation management technique across the US. Sometimes they had beautiful manners and charming accents while they did it. Sometimes not.
Due to the US’s political-economic centrality and policy diffusion power, this policy legacy has rebounded across Anglo-American policy. Imperial England, the other home of global finance, is also no slouch when it comes to coercive serfdom-, slavery-, and colonial-management technology and strategy.
I’ve studied slaver governance theory and the effects of its implementation. But what can be mentioned quickly in this context is historian Matthew Desmond’s research into that big business’ highly-developed, antihuman violence machinery (design, methods, technology, bureaucracy), as discussed in this 1619 podcast: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/podcasts/1619-podcast.html.
The US was able to easily dip into a vast reserve of expert antihuman know-how when it encountered urbanization; so in response to racialized urbanization, it turned reflexively to expanding men-with-guns infrastructure domestically.
Public-value disciplines, infrastructure, management, and governance fell by the wayside.
This theorization has the virtue of corresponding to the literature on race and the US welfare state: Quadagno et al., and it affirms and projects race-centric explanations for US policy choices within a political-economic framework that permits additional research into elite mobilization, as well as connecting to Mariana Mazzucato’s public-value research and institutional reform program.

References:

Bove, J. & E. Gavrilova. 2017. “Police Officer on the Front Line, or a Soldier? The Effect of Police Militarization on Crime.” American Economic Journal 9(3): 1-18.
Clegg & Usmani. 2020. “The Economic Origins of Mass Incarceration.” Catalyst.
Desmond, M. 2019. “In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation.” The New York Review of Books, August 14.
Fallows, J. 2015. “The Tragedy of the American Military.” The Atlantic.
Gillezeau, R., J. Cunningham and D. Feir. Forthcoming. “Police Unionization and Crime.” Clio Society.
Kattel, R. & Mazzucato, M. 2018. “Mission-oriented public policy and dynamic capabilities in the public sector.” UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose.
Maley, J & D Hawkins 2017. “The Southern Military Tradition: Sociodemographic Factors, Cultural Legacy, and U.S. Army Enlistments.” Armed Forces and Society 44(2): 195-218.
Mittelstadt, J. 2015. The Rise of the Military Welfare State. Harvard University Press.
Quadagno, J. The Color of Welfare.

2020 Contemp Soc Theory Readings

Course project

Classical social theorist Karl Marx pursued knowledge that could allow for the universal development of individuals. In his socio-materialist view, global individual development requires communication and coordination capacity, as where Marx advocates in an Epicurean vein for the workers’ rational self-governance, or where American pragmatist John Dewey theorized education for democratic development.

We also have strong social theory traditions calling into question the very possibility of coordination coexisting with broad humanization.  Following the venerable princely Germanic managerial tradition, our social theory engaging the problem of population management (Frankfurt School, Foucault, Illich) see the antihuman population reduction strictly embedded in techniques executed by senseless, self-maximizing middle-class state workers, tragically oppressing the marginal–a coalition of the poor, the deviant, and the meritorious elite– in a flat social world of legible symbolic inequality. Such a view presumes a state accountable to a sub-rational working class, and so in need of correction. In these postwar schools’ view, the opposite of oppression by a brute managerial mass occupying the state is the anti-Enlightenment exceptional, decisionist, confederation of Masters, dreaming of sending the population to Mars. Yet dehumanized population and elites are not so much opposites, unfreedom and liberty, as co-constitutive relations.

The COVID-19 moment allowed us to see that antihuman population management presupposes, requires, and reproduces its complement, the exceptional, decisionist, substantively-rational Ubermensch: As policing exploded, population isolation and immobilization strategy was expanded from criminal work prisons to migrant work prisons to the universe of disease vectors (as we began to conceptualize humanity), and women’s productive work was obliterated. At the same time, unlimited policing and Master-class and meritorious exceptions to isolation and immobilization policy abounded. In regions of low COVID-19 impact, unused public resources were expropriated from languishing public institutions, while footloose global billionaires claimed ever-greater shares of assets and diverted them to their private war chests.

Long neglected, but re-emergent in contemporary social theory is a new critique of the co-constitutive relation between antihuman population management and advancing serfdom, as well as a reassertion of the abandoned question of how humanist mission and constraint can direct and shape population coordination. Can collective agency toward egalitarian development, a lodestar egaliberte concept, and substantive, humanist equality counter steeply-hierarchical anti-Enlightenment powers, and permit large-scale humanization along with coordination?

In this course we will springboard from contemporary theory to conceptualize the relation between equality/inequality and population management. We will conclude with contemporary theorists calling on public-values disciplines to re-engage both positive and boundary-setting agency in the context of rampant private predation and dehumanizing population management.

 

1. Population/Elites

Goeller & Weinberg. 1975. The Age of Substitutability.

Film: The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, Brett Storey

Foucault, Michel. Security, Territory & Population.

Foucault, Michel. Excerpt from Discipline & Punish, 1975.

Schmitt, Carl/Agamben on decisionism and exception in German theory.

Cayley, David. Illichean theory on COVID.

Hudson, Mark. 2002. “Branches for Roots.”

Taylor, Paul. 2020. “Susceptible, Infectious, Recovered.” London Review of Books 42(9).

Brenner, Robert. 2020. “Escalating Plunder.” New Left Review 123.

 

2. Scholarship Illuminating the Hidden Foundations of Society

 

Scholarly hermeneutics of censored theory

Losurdo, Domenico. Excerpt from Hegel and the Freedom of Moderns.

Fracchia, Joseph. 2005. “Beyond the Human-Nature Debate.” Historical Materialism 13: 33-61.

Benner, Erica. Excerpt from Really-existing Nationalisms.

Benner, Erica. Excerpt from Be Like the Fox.

 

Socio-Economic Relations of Capitalist Society

Growth Tech v. Expropriation & Rents Tech

Gordon, Robert. “Perspectives on The Rise and Fall of American Growth,” American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings 2016, 106(5): 72–76.

MacBride, Elizabeth. 2020. “Why Venture Capital Doesn’t Build the Things We Really Need.” MIT Technology Review, June 17.

The Social Relations of Expropriation: Social Reproduction & Capitalism

Moos, Katherine A. (2019). “The Historical Evolution of the Cost of Social Reproduction in the United States, 1959-2012”, Review of Social Economics.

The Social Relations of Expropriation: Serfdom/Slavery & Capitalism/Liberalism

Losurdo, Domenico. Excerpt from Liberalism, A Counter-History.

Arat-Koc, Sedef. 2016. “Unfree Labour, Social Reproduction, and Political Community,” pp. 179-192 in Unfree Labour?, edited by Choudry, A. & A.A. Smith. PM Press.

 

Shared Humanity and its Social Conditions & Constraints

Marx, Karl. Excerpt from The German Ideology.

Fracchia, Joseph. 2008. “The Capitalist Labour Process and the Body in Pain.” Historical Materialism 16: 35-66.

Dewey, John . Selection from Democracy and Education, 1916.

Chibber, Vivek. 2014. Excerpt from Postcolonial Theory and the Spectre of Capital.

Linebaugh & Rediker, The Many-headed Hydra.

Olsen, Gregg. Excerpt from Power and Inequality.

Watch: BBC “Karl Marx on Alienation”: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02h7dlv.

Watch: Marie Kondo episode 1 (Netflix)

 

3. Reclaiming Agency in a Public-values Discipline & in Public Work

 

Toward Scientific Literacy: Agential Public-values Sociology is Science

Pagden, Anthony. The Enlightenment.

Toulmin & Goodfield. The Architecture of Matter, The Discovery of Time.

R Levins & R Lewontin. The Dialectical Biologist.

Varoufakis, Yannis. “A Most Peculiar Failure.”

Reclaiming Public-values Agency

Mariana Mazzucato, excerpts from The Entrepreneurial State.
Katharina Pistor, excerpts from The Code of Capital.

In the context of accumulated inequality and inegalitarianism, Mazzucato works to restore agency stripped from public-values disciplines and public servants, including instilling the sense of capability and confidence to pursue public-values missions, while Pistor argues for governments to reclaim the capacity to set boundaries on predatory private behaviour.

Jane McAlevey, excerpts from No Shortcuts.

McAlevey explains the failure of the Alinskian model, and how to reorganize communities.

Y No Testing

In addition to countries including Germany, Iceland, and South Korea that mobilized mass testing this year to more efficiently restore humane social and economic intercourse, some English-language states outside the global power/COVID-19 metropoles have had the capacity to move to mass testing. Mass testing allows communities and societies to reduce uncertainty, permitting appropriate, targeted policy across institutions, as opposed to crude population isolation and immobilization policing. Yet in the English-speaking world, these places’ political leadership actively eschewed mass testing. Below I present two examples of this situation, Manitoba and Minnesota, as well as the UK and US Homeland Security policy model they follow, and an additional case, Hawaii, where testing capacity is low, but undeniably required.

1)

Manitoba, Canada has a very long, harsh winter that keeps the population indoors. Thus, with normal, high levels of human interaction, the province is annually afflicted with severe flu outbreaks. Having had a working-class semi-responsive NDP government, Manitoba maintained contagion-managing infrastructure, including 200 ICU beds, a public testing facility Cadham Laboratories, and further testing capacity in the public university, employed in March 2020. The province had time to increase testing capacity, because it turned out that its isolation reduced COVID-19 transmission to and within the province. With leadership mobilizing mass testing, a lockdown that produced an extreme version of natural Manitoban winter and geographic isolation could have been efficiently replaced with mass testing, allowing for an efficient economic and social restoration that could have advantaged the province relative to other jurisdictions with more difficult pandemic conditions. In late March, Cadham and the UM labs did increase testing capacity; but leaders allowed testing to dwindle as it became apparent by early April that there would be few COVID-19 cases in the province. However, this low pandemic impact did not mean restoration of social and economic institutions under the conservative government’s leadership. Within the context of low COVID-19 impact, the provincial government elected to maintain suppressed, selective testing (of health care workers and people exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms), in favor of manipulating the global emergency discourse and fear. Low COVID-19 impact provided the conservative party the time and space, alongside a plausible threat (of disease and mortality), to implement their pre-existing austerity goals.

The result has been, as elsewhere, the widespread popular diffusion of population mentality, pathologizing and displacing recognition of humanity, and in particular in Manitoba, a willingness to embrace austerity and institutional dismantling in fear of a “Second Wave” contagion.

2)

Minnesota’s health official in charge of testing, Daniel Huff, managed to secure an arrangement with Mayo Clinic and the University of Manitoba to increase testing capacity. In April they publicly announced that they had achieved the capacity to test 20,000 Minnesotans/day. But political leaders thereafter decided to abandon mass-testing in favor of maintaining the population policing and economic-suppression biosecurity strategy, as it had been originally planned by the Red Dawn biosecurity strategy team organized by the US Department of Homeland Security. By late May, as with other regions outside the hardest-hit COVID-19 core metropoles, the biosecurity strategy was somewhat relaxed in Minnesota to allow for more economic activity. But as elsewhere, Black mortalities and unemployment, women’s unemployment, and general economic destruction were severe biosecurity casualties.

In early June, supported by the US Executive, the heavily-armed regional and national militarized police and militaries launched a brutal warfare campaign on American civilians, upon the pretext of Minnesotans protesting legalized extrajudicial killings of civilians by police.

3)

Two influential UK epidemiological strategy teams, including the Imperial group, ran computer models of various responses to SARS-CoV-2 transmission from January through March. These models have avoided geographic, population density, and transit centrality variables, so would not represent the uneven distribution of COVID-19, which were remarkable, including in the UK: COVID-19 raged through London, while in the UK at large, mortality was lower than in the previous year. In late January 2020, the NHS instructed the strategy theorists to stop modeling mass testing, arguing they did not at that moment possess sufficient mass-testing capacity, and the UK government decided not to devote resources to mobilizing mass-testing capacity. Eschewing the mobilization of testing capacity, the UK government instead embraced the population isolation-and-immobilization biosecurity approach, which was commonly likened to a war-mobilization effort. Authorities across political, scientific, and health institutions have declined to explain this choice. However, Anglo-American countries, among others, had heavily built up policing, military, and surveillance infrastructure, so it seems reasonable to hypothesize that their response—less than a war-mobilization effort—leaned on their pre-existing, institutionalized commitment to coercive population management, and their pre-existing ideological discounting of working-class—including particularly women’s—economic contribution.

In another biosecurity capitalism win, extending and celebrating as TINA (There Is No Alternative) isolation and immobilization practices would maintain a susceptible and fearful market for for-profit private drug companies to sell SARS-CoV-2 vaccines to at some undetermined point in the future. Media unfortunately conveyed the idea to the public that such a vaccine would stop all novel coronaviruses.

4)

Hawaii will prove an interesting case because the economy is dependent on tourism, the continuous introduction of new population that expects at least a minimal level of human-accommodating freedom in an expensive visit. Moreover, Hawaiian tourism infrastructure is largely not developed as more-carceral All-Inclusive tourism. As elsewhere, decision-making in Hawaii was very concentrated among the Governor and individual island Mayors. The Governor suggested in May that mass testing at airports could permit the resumption of tourism without unappealing tourist incarceration. However, Hawaii has little scientific infrastructure, and, also a military stronghold, had thrown in with heavy, National Guard-amplified biosecurity, such as roadblock checkpoints and beach raids, instead of developing any testing capacity through the first half of 2020. From where Hawaii would import tests, how they would process those tests, and at what expense, is far less clear than in jurisdictions like Manitoba and Minnesota, which have expandable testing infrastructure. We will see if Hawaii’s patriarchal militaristic tradition is more compatible with the expenses of retrofitting tourism to a more carceral “All-Inclusive” model, and if they will be able to compete on this basis with cheaper Mexican vacation options. The economic damage to tourism economies like Hawaii’s is devastating. On some of its islands like Kauai, the mortality toll from population isolation and immobilization—suicides, solo recreation deaths–has exceeded its COVID-19 mortalities five times over. These health results may signal broader trends to come.

Favoring and expanding the policing-and-austerity heavy biosecurity strategy has expanded and prolonged population isolation and immobilization, as well as politically-manipulable fear. The commitment to the biosecurity strategy has meant that coronavirus testing infrastructure has been neglected, most egregiously in jurisdictions where the information coronavirus mass testing–as has been shown from Vo, Italy to Iceland to Germany and South Korea–averts the epically-destructive economic, social, and political consequences of biosecurity policing and austerity. As the Kauai case suggests, we will begin to see the lagged health consequences of biosecurity policing and austerity as well.

Communications pros in media and marketing departments are not correct about where peace and security are going to come from. No matter how profitable for someone, a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is very unlikely to be able to stop subsequent coronaviruses and other viral epidemics and pandemics, particularly in the hole of inequality and inegalitarianism unbounded policing and austerity continue to dig. Manitobans need to press our leaders to prioritize expanding upon our strengths and skills, funding Cadham and university labs, and enhancing our capacity to identify contagious individuals in epidemics and pandemics, selectively treat them, and restore social and economic conditions more efficiently, reducing high-damage biosecurity to a temporary and limited strategy. This kind of leadership can launch world-leading expertise and further opportunities for Manitobans.

The Public Must Be Compensated

Political partisans have been trying to claim that Sweden’s Public Health authority, fronted by Anders Tegnell, is unique in pursuing a “cruel” herd immunity goal. It is a bald lie. Herd immunity to COVID-19 is the end-game for all decisionmakers in public health, including in the authoritarian-coalition NPI (Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention, AKA mass, indefinite Isolation and Immobilization) response designed by Biosecurity experts (See the FOIA’d Red Dawn emails in the New York Times).

The difference from Sweden’s democratic-scientific approach to the pandemic is that the authoritarian coalition’s NPI Mass Isolation & Immobilization approach allows the security state to practice implementing population lockdown (Red Dawn emails discuss this goal, along with testing the internet.), while technocratic epidemiologists are thrilled to be using societies as laboratories (See https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/opinion/coronavirus-pandemic-social-distancing.html). All the “early”/”late” implementation discourse in the media is scientistic nonsense typically used to sell Biosecurity indefinite mass house arrest, as opposed to a testing-forward, selective-isolation policy that no coalition has emerged to champion within the authoritarian societies.

But we must start focusing on the bait dangled by the authoritarian-coalition strategy. The avalanche of economic, social and health costs it unleashes cannot be worth the golden carrot swaying before the manhandled public: an immunization crafted over 18 months for one (1) version of coronavirus, where novel coronaviruses develop repeatedly. (A new avian flu, the Red Dawn biosecurity experts noted, had developed in China early this year even while COVID-19 was taking the spotlight.)

The people must rise together and demand compensation from the state for their epic sacrifices to the authoritarian coalition’s social-control practice and universal-lab conveniences.

For A More Humane Pandemic

April 2020 revision

Including the US, many countries’ public health authorities, their virologists and hospital workers, have coalesced with politicians, citing mortality risks to the immune-compromised, and prioritizing support for health care professionals in a time of ramping demand in many jurisdictions. Together they have instituted an isolation and immobilization policy upon a great, crude swath of the people, now designated “non-essential workers.”

Eager to protect and serve, people have embraced the virologist’s statistical conceptualization of people as disease vectors. People have embraced a sort of altruistic policy, suggested by public health officials for indefinite implementation. We can see this collective enforcement everywhere, as people impose self- house arrest and dutifully sew their own face masks. Police have expanded checkpoints from DUI to immigrants and now the entire population of disease vectors. Parks are closed, corporations and states furlough and fire employees, New York epidemiologists call for Americans to “freeze in place,” and the only people allowed to move their bodies in plague-riddled Milan are people who own dogs.

 

There is a greater good at stake. It’s just not the greater good we think. While we admire the brand of selfless cooperation, there is also a very strong element of inhumanity in our approach to the pandemic. It is very much rooted in a fundamental, Malthusian premise: Our humanity is the problem to be eradicated. To follow expertise means faithfully following whatever lab-coated technocratic policy crushes humanity while, thankfully for the politicians (some of whom liquidated their vulnerable investments before policies were implemented), maintaining and augmenting economic inequality. The issue here is that indefinite detention, for example the prohibition of walking, the preference for indefinite isolation and immobilization, is also torture in a walking, communicating species, which is what humans are. Both policy confining people to cell-like apartments and mortality are distributed very unequally, afflicting people who live in public infrastructure-poor areas and in the US, particularly long-beseiged African Americans.

Yet if we agree with population management experts in law, that isolating and immobilizing criminals and migrants in prisons is a necessary cost, logically we must agree to the similar recommendation of population management experts in health:  immobilizing disease vectors long-term in their homes is a necessary cost. We have a specific model for how we address problems, optimizing the variables of masculine policing employment, maintaining the medical system as -is, reducing deaths among the immuno-compromised, and maintaining the state-mediated intergenerational transfer of wealth from the working class to business owners and top managers. Applied to the COVID-19 pandemic our “health” and “epidemiology” concepts are narrowly technocratic and political;  nonetheless when we say it’s all for health, we think of our mortality and feel deeply.

Governments have offered trillions to compensate businesses for the economic depletion accompanying extended shut-down of all but “essential” work– primarily hospital and guard work. When life is on the line, most people are pleased to pitch in, particularly helping to police and abnegate themselves. In Canada, a Globe & Mail thought leader posed himself a Pandemic Mr. Rogers, affirming that Canadians are “helpers,” and that what helpers do is isolate and immobilize themselves.  But there is more to being a responsible member of a human society, even in an emergency.

 

A better approach is possible in many places. In Vo, an Italian town where an early COVID19-related mortality occurred, the government instead tested everyone and isolated the 3% of the population that proved to be infected (80% of whom were asymptomatic). In a mere two (2) weeks, the blanket-testing and selected-isolation approach eradicated COVID19 from that population. Iceland is a prominent exception to the technocratic-political refusal of mass-testing. It has been mass-testing and select-quarantining to stop the virus in Iceland within a couple of weeks. With its high public health capacity and systematic incorporation of humane criteria in public policy, Sweden has pursued a testing-forward, selected isolation policy to maintain a socio-economy where federal transfers don’t facilitate business to loot the paychecks of future generations. With its high public health capacity and systematic incorporation of humane criteria in public policy, Kerala has responded to the crisis with effective disease suppression balanced with humane supports and democratic freedoms. As the Wall Street Journal recently observed, countries such as Germany, that are conceptually able (via corporatism) to recognize the contribution of their working class to their economy, soon moved onto increasing their testing capacity, toward a testing-forward approach that allows them to minimize population isolation and immobilization. Minnesota has the capacity to mobilize a testing-forward approach, and save its diverse working class and the economy that depends on human thriving.

 

While blanket testing takes state organization and costs money up front, it can be more efficient and effective–and useful in the long run, and will cost less than shutting down the entire society and economy, and indefinitely treating most people inhumanely as nothing more than disease vectors, a variant of criminals, as the technocratic-political population-management model must do.

 

Different conditions require different interventions. The testing-forward approach is not appropriate in urban concatenations, such as Milan, London, and New York City-Connecticut, where for specific reasons of age demographics, culture, and global economic network and transit centrality, COVID19 has raged throughout the population, and spread outward. In those metropoles, selected testing and blanket isolation & immobilization makes sense. Just as Wuhan was transformed into a “dystopia,” in the first week of May New York’s Governor Cuomo announced that New York City would become a surveillance and policing city as its response to its convulsive, central COVID-19 experience. Because NYC is a capitalist metropole, this will create a commercial export industry in antihuman infrastructure. This antihuman policy and infrastructure will be heavily promoted, but must be resisted outside these capitalist criminalized, disease-vector population cores.

Blanket testing/selected isolation would work best in regions with a lower incidence of transmission. The virus has been spread with the travel of business elites. Yet even in seemingly highly-infected Colorado, playground for the rich, testing has shown that only 1% of the population is infected. Regions less central and disadvantaged under global capitalism could move into a forward economic position, diminishing global inequality, if they were permitted to take advantage of their more moderate COVID-19 exposure, by instituting universal testing rather than the debilitating and interminable blanket isolation & immobilization approach that looks best on computer simulations preserving the existing parameters that produced the crisis.

 

Unfortunately, in countries like the US, policy flows from its financial metropoles. In a pandemic, this subsidiarization is not beneficial. It is a lack of regional-appropriate capacity. While global centers have the resources to manage morality throughout, including solidarity with the afflicted, distinctive high-capacity regions like Minnesota have a different responsibility, to always recognize that that the authoritative status of population management and policy expertise not only reflects their wonderful technical knowledge, but is also conferred by experts’ and politicians’ attunement to optimization at the hearts of the global system—misconstrued, in technocratic conceptualization, as universal welfare. Favoring “freezing” the hinterlands, metropole expertise will argue that the virus and antibody tests are not perfect. Yet if the virus and antibody tests are not perfect, in humane-policy jurisdictions like Sweden, Iceland, and Kerala, they have been shown to be sufficient to allow for efficient, targeted virus suppression and eradication—without incurring other forms of mass health devastation, economic collapse and exacerbated, multigenerational inequality.

 

We need to be able to recognize when and where population management detaches from the human, becomes inhumane, so that we can instead support policy alternatives more effective and efficient for circumstances in our part of the world, connected to but also distinct from people in other places. Doing like Sweden, Iceland, and Kerala, and following not just the virological disease-vector population framework and the politician’s population-communications framework, but incorporating Enlightenment sociological and developmental biology perspectives can help us keep our eyes on what it is to be human and what we need to make to support humanity.  In this pandemic, a cost-forward blanket testing/selected isolation approach would cost some percentage of the trillions governments are working to transfer from workers to business elites for generations, where such problems as coronaviruses are caused by already-excessive discounting of workers’ human needs and welfare (Wallace, Liebman, Chavez & Wallace 2020). It would require immediately building testing capacity under state direction. It would require an organized mobilization, redeploying many of the out-of-work legions in the work of testing, or bringing into testing the armies of frustrated altruists within the military. It would be stridently opposed by metropole expertise, because it would be an expenditure of collective resources, and the global financial metropoles will not benefit from either mass testing or the diminishment of socio-economic inequality.

A testing-forward turn would also reduce the runaway risks and costs of universalizing blindness to the multiple conditions humans need to thrive and survive. For all their hopeful public recitations, none of the potential upsides of the crisis will materialize if we are not able to recognize these conditions, and act upon them now.

 

Mid-March reporting held that Minnesota state and private (eg. The Mayo corporation) labs did not have sufficient supplies to do mass testing. This “shrug” reporting was quite common in the US and Canada at the time, and there was little interest in how the state might fund and organize testing in these jurisdictions.  Throughout the US the main interest in this story was exhibited by political partisans, who used it to bicker over which party was to blame for the poor testing capacity. This diversion is part of the problem with dependency on antidemocratic political leadership temporarily patronizing virologists. By contrast, Sweden averted politician leadership problems by having long ago built up an independent public health bureaucracy. Politicians have little say in public health policy there, though there was some attempt by politicians to intercede. Without politicians able to jump into manipulating people’s fears to keep policy choices within inequality-preserving parameters (eg. using police and commercial tech to institute a vast prison landscape), Swedish public health experts could take into account the significantly-deleterious mental and physical health impacts of treating humans as little more than population network nodes, and instead design epidemic interventions that preserve human health. While the US and Canada shrugged at their own incapacities or gave room for politicos to carp at their political enemies, governments such as Germany’s began to fund and organize mass testing capacity.

Mayo is among the private corporations that raced to produce immunization, as, with both state and private markets, immunization is expected to be more lucrative than testing. It could be that Mayo’s for-profit requirements mean that Minnesota, unlike Iceland (which state has more independence from New York), does not have the public-private-sector incentive to produce the testing that could end the epidemiological threat far more quickly than more-profitable immunization. This for-profit medical preference will be devastating to human health and the economic viability of the working class and capitalism itself in the short, medium, and long-term. Did Minnesota public health authorities have the capacity to intercede and redirect efforts? In April, Minnesota announced its public health officials had convened Mayo and the University of Minnesota to produce 20,000/day swab (molecular/RNA) coronavirus testing capacity. Yet the governor of Minnesota continued to prioritize isolation & immobilization policy, barring the public from parks and recreation.

Are we blinding ourselves to our humanity in order to prevent us from “squandering” our wealth on making less-central regions viable, in order to reserve our wealth as back-end compensation for the disruption of existing centers of overaccumulation? Minnesota’s economic and political elites are well connected to the US financial metropole; but because Minnesota also has working class people, from farm workers to small business owners to furloughed managers, following an isolation and immobilization program is not in this region’s health or economic interests. Ultimately, even our friends in New York can benefit from Minnesota pursuing a humanist testing-forward approach, and preserving health, social, and economic integrity in the US.

Our problem isn’t insufficient mobilization. Our problem is that we are already excessively subordinated, as our swift lockdown makes evident. Prioritizing policies that keep the wealth in overaccumulation centers, stubbornly discounting life outside centers of overaccumulation, will reproduce the crisis conditions, because those crisis conditions inhere in dehumanization and inequality. This pandemic, like the epidemics before it and the crises that will come after it, has everything to do with how capitalism in a dense human-population world smashes its giant, necessary, global working class into no economic choice but to reproduce themselves by living off of what awkward combination of commodified and, especially, uncommodified goods and services they can access and cobble together (Katharine Moos, 2019; Wallace, Liebman, Chavez, and Wallace, 2020). Capitalism separates wealth from the working class, but the population is needed to grow wealth. The wild game must be supplemented by poultry. The development must sprawl into field, forest, and watershed. While we clutch our pearls and claim that our expert antihuman policies are for the “health,” the frontline nurses and doctors, the grandpas and people of color, in fact we are living in a time in which a sinister Malthusian presumption undergirds our expertise: In our disposition to maximize the augmentation of dehumanization and inequality both in our everyday and our emergency policies and institutions, we continue to discount the humanity of working people, to discount their economic contribution, to take more and more from them, to immiserate, stunt and weaken them around the world and cut short their lives, our lives. How can we develop feelings about the foundation of our pandemics, so that we can stop reproducing them? Do well-educated Minnesotans have the capacity to break with the antihuman population management models? Can Minnesota put its weight behind testing rather than freezing humanity?

 

For supporting articles, follow Mara Fridell on Twitter.

References

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix:

 

Anglo-American Health Authorities Prescribe Indefinite Isolation/Immobilization:

‘How long will we need to practice social distancing? “For now, it’s probably indefinite,” Dr. Marrazzo said.’ —New York Times, March 17, 2020.

 

‘How long, then, until we’re no longer behind and are winning the fight against the novel coronavirus? The hard truth is that it may keep infecting people and causing outbreaks until there’s a vaccine or treatment to stop it.

“I think this idea … that if you close schools and shut restaurants for a couple of weeks, you solve the problem and get back to normal life — that’s not what’s going to happen,” says Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and author of a book on how outbreaks spread. “The main message that isn’t getting across to a lot of people is just how long we might be in this for. As Kucharski, a top expert on this situation, sees it, “this virus is going to be circulating, potentially for a year or two, so we need to be thinking on those time scales.’

Vox, 3/17/ 2020, Coronavirus Lockdowns.

 

Testing Data

COVID-19 Testing Data: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-testing

 

 

Humanist Approach: Global Testing, Selected Isolation & Immobilization

Alternative to Inhumane Selected Testing, Global Isolation & Immobilization Policy

As public health authorities cite mortality risks and prioritize repressing demand on critical care beds, people have embraced the public health researcher’s statistical conceptualization of people as disease vectors. People have embraced a sort of altruistic policy, suggested by public health officials for indefinite implementation. We can see this collective enforcement everywhere, including in certain cities around the world where COVID19 rages. Today and for some indefinite time, the only people allowed to move their bodies in plague-riddled Milan are people who have dogs to walk, recalling the days when the only people allowed to take breaks at work were smokers.

 

While we admire the brand of selflessness, there is also a very strong element of inhumanity in our approach to the pandemic. Though doubtless dogs are better for health than cigarettes, the issue here is that indefinite detention, the prohibition of walking is also torture in a walking species, which is what humans are. Yet if we agree with population management experts in law, that immobilizing criminals and migrants long-term in prisons is a necessary cost, logically we must agree to the similar recommendation of population management experts in health:  immobilizing disease vectors long-term in their homes is a necessary cost. In both cases, there is a greater good at stake. It’s just not the greater good we’re thinking of.

 

In deference to the public health model, the Trudeau government and provinces are stepwise imposing extended mass quarantine and immobilization. The federal government has offered $85 billion to compensate businesses and individuals for the economic depletion that will accompany extended shut-down of all but “essential” services, apparently such as, looking out my home office window, issuing parking tickets to the quarantined. Most Canadians are pleased to cooperate with trusted authorities, and they certainly show themselves to be a beautiful people in their cooperative attitudes. One Globe & Mail thought leader posed himself a Pandemic Mr. Rogers, affirming that Canadians should be “helpers,” and that what helpers do is isolate and immobilize themselves.  But there is more to being a responsible member of a human society, even in an emergency.

 

Another approach is possible in many places. In Vo, an Italian town where a COVID19-related mortality occurred, the government instead tested everyone and isolated the 3% of the population that proved to be infected (80% of whom were asymptomatic). In a mere two (2) weeks, the blanket-testing and selected-isolation approach eradicated COVID19 from that population. While blanket testing costs money up front, it can be more efficient and effective, and likely costs less than shutting down the entire society and economy, and indefinitely treating all people (but especially those without vacation homes) inhumanely as nothing more than disease vectors, per the technocratic statistical population-management model.

 

The blanket testing/selected isolation approach may not work in cities, such as Milan and London, where for specific reasons of age demographics, culture, and global transportation centrality, COVID19 rages throughout the population. For those cities, selected testing/blanket isolation & immobilization is considered the most appropriate policy. But blanket testing/selected isolation would probably work best in places like Manitoba, and most of Canada. It could well be that regions disadvantaged under global capitalism could move into a forward economic position, diminishing global inequality, if they were permitted to take advantage of their more moderate COVID-19 exposure, instituting a universal testing rather than the universal isolation & immobilization approach.

 

This is not the only policy area in which governments in Canada treat Canada and a region like Manitoba with policy better suited for Milan or London. While global centers have the resources to manage morality throughout, including solidarity with the afflicted, we have a distinctive responsibility in our region to always recognize that that the authoritative status of population management and policy expertise not only reflects their wonderful technical knowledge, but is also conferred by experts’ attunement to the conditions at the hearts of the global system—misconstrued, in technocratic conceptualization, as universal welfare.

 

We need to be able to recognize when and where population management detaches from the human, becomes inhumane, so that we can instead support policy alternatives more effective and efficient for circumstances in our part of the world, connected to but also distinct from people in other places. Incorporating Enlightenment sociological and developmental biology perspectives can help us keep our eyes on what it is to be human and what we need to make to support humanity. In this pandemic, a cost-forward blanket testing/selected isolation approach would cost some percentage of $85 BN, yes. It would require redeploying many of the underemployed in the work of testing. It would also reduce the runaway risks and costs of universalizing blindness to the multiple conditions humans need to thrive and survive. For all their public recitations, none of the potential upsides of the crisis will materialize if we are not able to recognize these conditions.

 

Are we blinding ourselves to our humanity in order to prevent us from squandering our wealth on making less-central regions viable, in order to reserve our wealth as back-end compensation for the disruption of existing centers of overaccumulation? What is Canada’s interest in this?* Our problem isn’t insufficient mobilization. Our problem is that we are already excessively coordinated, as a one-week lockdown makes evident. Prioritizing policies that keep the wealth in overaccumulation centers, stubbornly discounting life outside centers of overaccumulation, will reproduce the crisis conditions, because they inhere in dehumanization and inequality. This pandemic, like the epidemics before it and the crises that will come after it, has everything to do with how capitalism in a dense human-population world smashes its giant, necessary, global working class into no economic choice but to reproduce themselves by living off of what combination of commodified and, especially, uncommodified goods and services they can access (Katharine Moos, 2019). Capitalism separates wealth from the working class, but the population is needed to grow wealth. The wild game must be supplemented by poultry. The development must sprawl into field, forest, and watershed.

 

If we cannot remember our humanity, and pursue the appropriate policy approaches that allow us to thrive, we have nothing to look forward to but more crises. You could see how that would happen, and be celebrated as morally just, within the framework of capitalism. But it isn’t solidarity if it only ever sacrifices one way.

 

*It turns out that what Canada is interested in is what it has always been interested in: extractivism, rah, rah. The government is intent on reserving its power to socialize costs for subsidies to twilight oil rentiers. So it doesn’t want to pay up front for comprehensive testing, and preserve any hope of having an economy not in decline, let alone implement policy on behalf of humans. Instead, it’s forcing the Canadian people, from their home-detention sentence, to suckle the bloated, near-moribund corpse of trash oil capitalists.

 

Anglo-American Health Authorities Prescribe Indefinite Isolation/Immobilization:

‘How long will we need to practice social distancing? “For now, it’s probably indefinite,” Dr. Marrazzo said.’ —New York Times, March 17, 2020.

 

‘How long, then, until we’re no longer behind and are winning the fight against the novel coronavirus? The hard truth is that it may keep infecting people and causing outbreaks until there’s a vaccine or treatment to stop it.

“I think this idea … that if you close schools and shut restaurants for a couple of weeks, you solve the problem and get back to normal life — that’s not what’s going to happen,” says Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and author of a book on how outbreaks spread. “The main message that isn’t getting across to a lot of people is just how long we might be in this for. As Kucharski, a top expert on this situation, sees it, “this virus is going to be circulating, potentially for a year or two, so we need to be thinking on those time scales.’

Vox, 3/17/ 2020, Coronavirus Lockdowns.

 

Testing is Being Deprioritized

COVID-19 Testing Data: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-testing

Iceland is the exception, is mass-testing and select-quarantining to stop the virus in Iceland by mid April.

Iceland’s relative sovereignty makes me think that what contrastingly distinguishes an unspoken Anglo-American social contract is that the people of the hinterlands must always disgorge themselves to the overaccumulation centers. That’s what makes the Anglo-American model tick.

Remembering the Humanity of the Population

Population management can be humanist or antihuman.

 

Contrast 21st century children’s experience to late 20th century children’s experience. 21st century children in the West have been hit by crisis wave after crisis wave. In the late 20th century US, the world I grew up in had one chronic crisis, and it was, in our experience, simple bullshit. Sure, some people (comms & cops) in particular places (DC) built jobs and job networks on the back of the perma-crisis. But for most of us, the experience was annoying and laborious, but we had control. Even as children we were required to constantly labor over the private, internal work of holding the discursive construction of that “crisis” at bay. “I hope the Russians love their children too,” Sting steadied us. For most of us, our problem was to avoid manipulation. The Red Menace would never disrupt us working-class people in the core.

The initiation of the first crisis, a real disruption to working people’s lives, was misconstrued at the time as a private crisis. But I was there, sitting next to it on the bus, joking with it and listening with it to its beloved Jon Bon Jovi tapes. In high school, my best friend and, really, my partner, the shooting guard to my point guard, was a refugee from the state repression of the Hormel strike. Her large Catholic family had been blown apart by the state sending in the troops to put them all down, at the beginning of the dismantling of American labor organization. She was the last child, the one child who could fit in the trailer by the river her parents were reduced to when they lost their manufacturing careers. As a 1980s teenager I didn’t probe into my friend’s trauma, and at the time I didn’t understand this was the initiation of the mass crisis cycle in the West. All I felt was really lucky to have such a great friend show up in town at the beginning of my high school years.

 

Forged in Crisis: The Archipelago of the Hyperreal & the Barbarity

For most people in the West, however, the crises started a few years later with AIDS. AIDS initiated what was to become a fatefully, geographically-split experience of mass crisis. AIDS anointed and launched a new archipelago of disrupted life. With every subsequent crisis, the archipelago drifted away, increasingly alienated from vast socio-geographic blocs of private experience only disrupted secondarily, by its tethering–as a population–to the Archipelago of the Hyperreal. Experiencing suffering, death, and disruption, the moral, social-psychological community life of the metropole was reforged within the passion of a thousand suns. People in cities with high AIDS rates lived through a collective experience that pressed their faces together into the matters and terrors of life and death. They became for themselves a hyperreal people managing with moral conviction the advent of a new population imaginary. Their positionality gave them sanctified knowledge of what was truly important in this world. And they knew also that there were mobs, barbarians in the distance who had not been baptised by this fire, this crisis, this confrontation with the underlying reality. They knew that it was their sacred moral duty as the hyperreal people to impress upon the inchoate mob its new identity as a population, a duty  sacralized by technocrats, not just economists with their iffy idealist models, but now also public health authorities, prophets of the hyperreal.

Convinced they were part of the AIDS epidemic, the population nodes marched dutifully, in mortal terror, to the testing centers, where, in not too long, they encountered eye-rolling technicians and were sent home, confused and officially pronounced HIV-negative. It wasn’t quite an experience of relief. It wasn’t an experience of togetherness. We were never supposed to talk about it: It wasn’t just a sub-real experience. It was also an immoral experience. We were reduced from humans to disease nodes; but we weren’t subsequently restored to humanity: Then we were nothing. Humanity had moved on to the hyperreal.

 

Antihuman Population Welfare Coalition

Within the Archipelago of the Hyperreal, leftists embraced a new coalition, positive that the combination of moral fervor and technocratic power would combine to bring the mob to heel at the throne of the real, stark life and death. It would finally subjugate the individualist and racist Western mob to a population framework. A hierarchical coalition of the rational and moral–liberals, left-liberals, and in their orbit, communists–would politically advance when the mob was disciplined to the exigencies and morality of technocratic population management.

Once we were historical materialists. Great humanists roamed the Earth. Democratic Enlightenment ideas about who we are and how we should live were shared from the global adventures of the motley crew, as described beautifully in the works of Herman Melville and later, historians Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh. These Enlightenment humanist notions were embedded in Marxist philosophy at its Greek materialist roots, and they infused socialist and communist population-welfare ideas. It’s why, as late as the early 1980s, much of core working class (excluding African-Americans, who were still deprived of assets and exposed to policing) was still protected from the disruptive crises that capitalist allies bombarded developing countries with. For the protected core working class, crisis was mainly a discursive social construction, struggling to prepare the way for the global end of Enlightenment materialist socialism, and its replacement with a global antihuman population management regime befitting expropriative capitalism. The great project of our financialized era was certainly not the progressive symbolic and material advancement of the motley crew, but the “equitable” restoration of the antihuman imaginary, subhuman status to the entirety of the globe’s working class. If conservative political parties did this directly, like a boss, liberal political parties accomplished it thoroughly, through metropole managerial meritocracy and technocratic population management. The US slavers’ South, idealist Britain, surveillance China, and modern-slavery Saudi Arabia were at the helm, steering right social thinking and institutional and policy development.

In the neoliberal Late Monopoly Capitalist era, ideas about who we are and how we should live seeped out sideways from a deep well of antihuman population-management ideas. Capitalist economists crafted population-welfare models in their basements. Their morality was to blackbox what it is that humans are, centering the welfare of a marginal peoples, the capitalists, as expressed in economic growth indicators. Public health authorities fretted with them over population pyramids, arguing that population welfare would decline if the pyramids were not pyramid in shape. Even the humanities and social sciences were steered by linguistic philosophy into arguments for the moral centrality of certain positional knowledges, against understanding comparatively and scientifically the range and possibility of humanity. [TBD: Discuss Lyotard here.] The motivated democratic Enlightenment curiosity in the range of human expression and human limitations was nearly wiped out.

 

Redistributed Capitalist Crisis, Hyperreal Moralism, & Antihuman Population Welfare

We turned the corner to the 21st century bracing for the crisis rollout. Y2K, which was to disrupt us all, failed to materialize. But the planes hit New York City’s Twin Towers not much later, on 9/11, and again the Archipelago of the Hyperreal recoiled and bunkered from the barbarians. The experience was the hyperreal crisis of humanity; it required the imposition of (antihuman) population solutions like securitized travel and borders and military disruption of the more democratic oil countries; and all who failed to submit to the slate-wiping gravity and necessity of our hyperreal mortality were abjected as monsters.

Wall Street crashed in 2007-2008. The experience was the hyperreal crisis of humanity; it required the imposition of antihuman population solutions like Quantitative Easing and carceralism for the advancement of economic, political, and social inequality; and all who failed to submit to the slate-wiping gravity and necessity of our hyperreal crisis were abjected as monsters.

In 2020, population health experts registered a new flu epidemic, Coronavirus, COVID19, ripping through some populations, flooding medical systems, and ending the lives of people with fragile health, including especially aged men. The population health technocrats turned to our institutional hierarchies, and with astonishing, breathtaking speed, together they reduced humans to population nodes, disease vectors.

The experience was the hyperreal crisis of humanity. It required the imposition of antihuman population solutions like the gendered discounting of labor (“Inessential” feminized work enclosed in home arrest), universal, mandatory immobilization and isolation, the shut down of all our institutions accommodating human requirements for sociability and bodily movement. All who failed to submit to the slate-clearing gravity and necessity of our hyperreal crisis were abjected as monsters.

Surely, the universal reconceptualization of humans as population disease-vector nodes–requiring total institutional reformulation to obliterate humane approaches to population health, such as maintaining rather than shuttering childrens’ and community sports and social infrastructure–was the only way to secure health.

Surely, as an emergency strategy, this antihumanism in service of population welfare is a temporary modification.

Surely, all who fail to submit to the slate-clearing gravity and necessity of our hyperreal crisis must be pilloried and abjected as monsters.

 

Reproducing The New Crusades

“Pragmatically” Setting Aside The Idea of Humane Population Welfare: Generalized Crisis, Socio-Geographic Alienation & Capillary Regulation Reproduce Mass Dehumanization

While certainly much of the hinterlands complies with, internalizes, enforces, and moralizes the inhumane population welfare measures, what the barbarian multitude out here has also learned to do throughout the ratcheting crises is to undertake the stressful work of balancing: We struggle to balance cooperating with the increasing imposition of inhumane population welfare policy and infrastructure with carving out and maintaining ideas and practices that allow us to continue to express ourselves as humans. So for example, in the current imposition of immobilization and isolation, we try to figure out private ways to live healthily, to move and socialize, like humans.

We struggle to figure out how to balance living as healthy humans with cooperating with the notion that we need to be immobilized and isolated as disease vectors. This struggle is not the hyperreal of immediate life and death. But in its own lesser reality, it is terrible and depleting work. We are subjected to self-appointed inhumane population welfare bullying if pieces of our monstrously-cruel observations about statistical logic or ideas about humane population welfare drift into the public sphere or unwelcoming private spheres. We weep in disappointment, frustration and anger, and we lose sleep–not just for ourselves, but for others caught in antihuman population management–because we remain secretly human, though we are now only recognized as disease vectors.

We must acknowledge that it is obviously an extremely-compelling moral argument, that everyone collectively submit to (inhumane) population welfare logic and institutionalization. It is clearly even morally persuasive to suggest that in particular the barbarians, with their subreal experience of merely accommodating crises without passion, need to be cut down to disease-node size, require discipline and silencing. These conceptualizations have the virtue of resonating with political parties’ antidemocratic populism theories. But their real power depends on a wild assumption we are asked to embrace: That the “emergency” dehumanization will at some, reasonable point cease, and the “normal” will return. What is the evidence for accepting this assumption? Who can point to inhumane population welfare policy that has been rolled back after the previous crises?

It is the increasing scale of dehumanization that is reproducing crises, epidemiological, social, political, and economic. Because we’ve selected almost all of them for their competence in the various tasks of bulk dehumanization, there are precious few to no responsible, on-message “Adults in the Room” who can or will switch the tracks. Humane population welfare is off-brand, off-message, and not in the budget.

 

Could We Imagine Population as Human?

Marginal, remnant messaging suggests that even the prioritized beneficiaries of antihuman population welfare policy might be better served with a more humane population imaginary. The critique of elder isolation, the centerpiece of a brave recent movement toward humane population welfare within Anglo societies, is reduced to a lone, ghostly protest whisper on the edges of the emergency antihuman population welfare mobilization.  It is the only intimation that we could imagine an alternative and humane population welfare. The humane population imaginary no longer has much of a social coalition behind it.

What kind of society, what kind of social welfare would we be making, if we instead recognized–in say, a democratic-developmentalist Epicurean materialist sense such as inspired Marx–that humans have a characteristic range of capacities and have limitations, and that our ideas, policies, institutions, and practices of population welfare could and should be oriented humanely to these, even in an emergency?

It is outrageous, unthinkable to suggest in this neoliberalized era of crisis, population management, and institutional reform–let alone in the midst of this crisis– that moral and technocratic authorities, and hyperreal people, go so far as to consider antihuman population welfare measures as themselves a monstrosity, in which perspective people struggling to balance the statistical social good and our own human expression and development flips morally, becomes a moral good instead of a sign of evil. We are no longer Melville’s motley crew. We have been made into a drastically-divided, hierarchical world: the Hyperreal Men cohered in crisis and the barbarians.

Anti-Enlightenment and anti-Marxist Cold War messaging lied. Capitalism’s victory did not vanquish population management. On the contrary, it produced waves of disruptive crisis and the global excretion of unfettered antihuman population management. We need to recover the ideas that recognize the human in population.

 

Other Views:

Agamben on public health and bare life: http://www.journal-psychoanalysis.eu/coronavirus-and-philosophers/

Sotiris’ Foucauldian response to Agamben: http://criticallegalthinking.com/2020/03/14/against-agamben-is-a-democratic-biopolitics-possible/

Oleg Komlik sees formal national-level cultural differences which obscure lived regional experiential differences. The relevant factors for understanding Coronavirus response from a national-cultural framework include: “the state’s realization of its role and degree of responsibility towards society, the extent of citizens’ trust in the state’s institutions, the tension between individualistic and communal values, the social and civic motives versus business and economic interests.” A national-cultural perspective obscures how individualistic and communal values are identical in some regions in the geography of capitalism, but require work to balance in others.

 

Relief in dark times:

Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite

Ezra Furman’s Restless Year