The View from Political Science

The Political Science consensus in Canada holds two hand-me-down electoral strategy theories, the first older and derived from the US Democratic Party experience of mid-20th century African American internal migration, and the second newer and reflecting the financial- metropole (Wall Street-based and City of London-based) liberal national parties’ effort to theorize why following the first theory seems not to produce expected results (votes) today.

1a) Political parties should continue to focus on policies that appeal to the hypothesized interests of suburban voters, in particular conservative-liberal immigrant blocs, because of the theory that “The party that durably binds these rapidly growing groups to its coalition will dominate in the long term” (Zach Taylor, University of Western Ontario, 2018).

1b) The suburban-voter interests that parties and Political Scientists project include public provision of car-based infrastructure and the withdrawal of the state from supporting rival urban infrastructure.

Some theorize that core and suburban voters favour different parties because they have different policy interests. Core areas are dense and therefore support much lower automobile use in favour of transit and active transportation, and they feature a mix of land uses, housing types, and housing tenures. In postwar suburban areas, lower-density, single family detached housing tends to predominate, and home ownership and automobility are the norm. Homeowners have a stronger interest than core-area renters in preserving property values. At the same time, the individualist experience of detached-home ownership and automobile commuting has been correlated with lower political support for redistribution and collective benefits in Canada and other countries. The characterization of the suburbs as politically conservative derives in part from the lifestyles generated by physical environments and associated mobility systems (Fischel 2005; Moos and Mendez 2015)” (Taylor, 2018).

Thus, political-science/political parties’ older populism theory can be recognized as the Suburban Strategy.

By way of neutralizing the naturalizing elements of the structural analysis of suburban populism, I should note that in my government experience, what political parties and political scientists recognize as inevitable suburban “preferences” are demands marketed to suburb residents by suburb developers, as where developers’ communiques advise a suburb’s residents to take their experiential dissatisfaction with suburban life (as it falls short of the nuclear-family empyrean that was sold to them) and direct it into demanding exclusive public investment from politicians. It’s wise to seek out the underlying feudal ties in all conservative manifestations; identifying these permits strategy development (by which I certainly do not mean electoral tactics).

2) The spatial segregation of winners and losers produces liberal progressivism v. populism. “Neighbourhoods and regions in decline are found to be more supportive of defensive populist agendas, while the geographic winners of globalization and post-industrialization are generally more supportive of collective benefits, open trade and immigration (Inglehart and Norris 2017; Rodrigues-Pose 2018; Gest 2018)” (Taylor 2018).

Above I have highlighted some of the core hypotheses of these influential Political Science theses, including to underscore their logic hiccups. It seems clear that Political Scientists and the political parties that subscribe to and act upon these political theories will struggle to produce expected results, due to both spatial indeterminacies and changes in relevant variables.

Logic Hiccups:

  1. If Losers are Populist as theorized, and if the number or percent of Losers is declining or in equilibrium as liberal theories would suggest, how does today’s populism undercut the Political Science theory of growth-population political and policy pandering, the Suburban Strategy, where Political Scientists and parties had treated the Suburban Strategy as the main natural law of politics and policy?
    1. Might it be that the Suburban Strategy theory was itself a populism framework, and an excuse for prioritizing decidedly anti-populist FIRE interests? (See also research results showing that young people in suburbs have preferences unexpected in suburban pandering theory (Moos and Prayitno in the same volume, 2018).) In that case, “populism” is not new or resurgent. “Populism” is always the political party theory; political party theory only distinguishes varieties of populisms that diverge or converge with FIRE interests, and thus populisms which parties are variably geared to cater to.
    2. If the amount of Losers is not declining or in equilibrium, but is increasing, is there a problem with the effectiveness of the political system?
      1. Liberal theorists will answer 1.2 above with the Hobbesian theory that Today’s Losers are Racist White people whose pernicious impact on politics is outsized, due to their illegitimate, holdover White Privilege. It is a population that, morally, deserves a moderating comeuppance–citizenship reduction, per Hobbesian theory. Restoring the validity of the Suburban Strategy requires reducing the voice and collective action capacity of today’s Losers.
        1. This Antiracist TM antidemocratic political agenda, citizenship reduction, also reinforces expropriative FIRE interests.
        2. We note that while antidemocratic strategies to reduce the voice and collective-action capacity of today’s Losers are amply discussed by today’s Winners, there is no effort toward reducing the patently antidemocratic institutions— such as Houses of Lords (Senates), court systems, gerrymandering, electronic voting manipulation, unbounded marketing, unbounded private property legal innovation, international hoarding/tax avoidance institutions, and the electoral college–that would be amplifying right-wing populism. Nor has using wealth to build pro-democratic public institutions (public libraries, public schools, public research, public media, public transit, public planning capacity, tax enforcement, democratic property law reform, etc.) been on the liberal agenda for a couple generations.
  2. How are Winners both more supportive of “collective benefits” and “open trade and immigration”? That sounds like an unwarranted projection of contradictory preferences, or at best the preferences of a very tiny population: professional political scientists, or of the people not connected to Anglo-America’s baroque, anti-democratic political institutions–like young adults not connected to the primary system in the US.

    It seems like Political Science is optimistically aggregating distinct social groups with distinct interests, and distinct electoral behaviour (“Go away, Bernie Sanders, AOC, Ilhan, and Jeremy Corbyn. Won’t someone please bring back our beloved Clintons and Biden, our dearest Blair and Giddens“), into an ersatz liberal-virtue bloc that it then terms “Winners.” Shady. That’s not social science. That’s not even economics. That kind of wishful self-delusion is going to continue to produce unexpected electoral loss. Again, however, if electoral success is only an exoteric goal, always evaluated within a framework of probability given by unacknowledged variables, then perhaps we should notice that framework: It looks like the true goal, the framework, is simply ongoing polity support for FIRE asset expropriation. If political scientists can’t clear this up, then they have been too colonized by political parties to be recognized as scholars.

For example, here is an argument for de-democratization forwarded through the Washington Post by a Marquette political scientist (Azari, Julia. 2020. “Fix Primaries, Let Elites Decide.” Washington Post, February 18.)

Where are the Geographers?

It seems to me that Political Science, and parties, are bad at geography, which shouldn’t be surprising. They seem to use it more for justification than for valid analysis.

winnipeg growth is suburban

Despite the fact that Winnipeg’s “Active Core” is affordable and not densely-settled, 77% of Winnipeg’s population growth from 2006-2016 was in areas that require car transportation.


Note: The euphemism ‘preserving property values’ is doing some crazy-heavy lifting in Taylor’s litany of distinctive suburban interests above. This formulation needs to be separately deconstructed for its misleading neoclassical bias. When urban people vote for urban amenities like human-scale transit, infrastructure, quality public space, and greenspace, it’s not an altruistic irrationality induced by their lack of ownership. When urban people vote for public urban amenities, they are increasing both their own private welfare and others’ private property values (such as real estate value around high-speed transit stops), even at delayed cost to renters’ financial interests–so much so that urban property values are usually much higher in population centers than in their exclusionary, individualist suburban incarnation. Those are non-excludable goods, son. Recognize. They secretly feed the predation we lovingly call capitalism. This is a heterodox hint that economies are social– There is society, Maggie; and while capitalist law works to make value monopolized and scarce, everyone contributes to wealth.

What the economistic framework means by suggesting that suburbanites’ inferior property values are more salient to their politics is that these property values are exclusive, private smallholding goods, and so fit into neoclassical economic theory/mythology.

Why urban property values are high is because people require and want the non-exclusive public amenities on and about them, an obvious fact that a neoclassical economic framework struggles to apprehend. Economists should be troubled to explain why renters vote for public amenities that increase landlords’ property values–But at that point, all of a sudden, we’re in terra nullis outside of the orthodox econ explanatory schema: we’re apprehending capitalism as an imposed, coercively-reinforced framework permitting the exploitation and expropriation of life. So instead we remain quiet and befuddled.

But suburbanites don’t uniquely vote to increase property values. In Political Science and political party theory, suburbanites vote to maximize the inferior goods they share across their little, expensive kingdoms: car spaces, and, with political parties on their side, new public services, including light and airy new public schools. If you recognize inequality, it becomes clear that, not unlike socially-subsidized ranchers, suburbanites (are encouraged by developers to) view urban dwellers as rivals for the public investment that bolsters property value in human communities. The urbanites’ public-goods “head start” thus tends to be repressed and gutted by political parties. Especially in North America, cities without geographic advantages tend to be underdeveloped, endowed with insufficient, skeletal public goods and services, following the slaver-society model, and the built environment is in a constant state of expansionary neglect and rot.

When political parties pander to the developer-orchestrated suburban game of outrunning and outgunning urban development and property values, as they long have, they are privileging wasteful behaviour, in both post-war commercial-White Power and post-1980 commercial-multicultural incarnations. Polity players are redistributing wealth geographically to incentivize not uncertain “Baby Bird” voter imprinting, but to prop a predatory, inegalitarian theory pretending that non-commercial nonelite welfare does not contribute to value, and thus, environmental degradation, de-democratization, and social inequality are moral, fair and just.

Manufactured Political Illiteracy in the US

“The left-to-right political spectrum is a construct born of seating arrangements during the French Revolution.” Whereas in the substantive absence of democracy, the salient “impulse to define oneself in relation to an in-group — and opposition to an out-group — is a survival strategy…(Thus) political elites have enormous power to dictate ideological terms to their rank-and-file supporters. For a healthy chunk of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, the “liberal” and “conservative” position on most issues is whatever their party leaders say it is. Donald Trump’s success at redefining conservative voters’ consensus views on free tradeAmerican policy toward Russia and the relevance of personal morality to effective political leadership offers a particularly vivid illustration of this phenomenon.

When we look past ideological self-identification to polling on discrete public policy questions, America appears to be far more center-left than center-right.” –Eric Levitz, 2017

The Dem Party exists to manufacture popular political illiteracy, in order to herd the public to support FIRE interests.

Foreign Policy & Immigration

The State’s Objective: Racialized population management on behalf of an international network

In the 1950s, UBC political scientist David Corbett compared postwar Commonwealth Canadian and Australian immigration and foreign policy. He started with the premise of the objectives of foreign policy and domestic policy. According to the political scientist, while foreign objectives are satisfied in policy, domestic objectives are satisfied in politics. Racial management from a British perspective played a central role in both foreign and domestic objectives.

The objective of foreign policy is…prevention of a precipitous move into the communist camp on the part of the non-white populations of the world,” while the objective of “domestic politics” is preserving “harmony among ethnic groups, and the economic strength and national patriotism necessary for a nation to meet its international commitments, defend itself, perform its treaty obligations and carry out its proper responsibilities in the community of nations” (Corbett 1958: 115).

While Corbett used language that tended to hide the sociological distribution of duties and obligations within Commonwealth social contract, it is apparent from the Commonwealth perspective that, along with controlling racialized peoples around the world, domestic ethnic management primarily serves the anti-Rousseauian purpose of permitting the Commonwealth country to perform its obligations to external interests. A postwar liberal might specify those interests in relation to some nations, as Corbett did, and a more contemporary observer would specify those global interests as belonging to an economic network or the capitalist class, and carried by states.

[While critical analysts in the US core can often more clearly see the structure and political organization of the capitalist class, the advantage of the tributary Commonwealth perspective is that it can more reliably apprehend the spatial distribution of that interested class’ network, a perspective that the US lost as it became a financial and consumption core tied to an aging oil-based GPT. Together, they may shed light on the distribution of sovereignty in global capitalism.]

Failing to Conceptualize Postwar Australian Policy

Labouring to jam his comparative case study within a Procrustean bed of liberal notions (Realism, Idealism), Corbett goes on despite himself to demonstrate that the Australian Labour Party was able to efficiently parlay its wartime nationalism brand into the capacity to manage the conversion of working-class interest in reducing working-class competition– via immigration– into the working-class interest in full employment. By instituting full (male) employment, the Labour Party was able to institute mass immigration without contribution qualifications–that is to say, not capitalist but humanist immigration, immigration without structured stigma.

It was very difficult for Corbett to conceptualize the postwar institutionalization of Australian foreign and immigration policy from within a liberal framework. From a liberal perspective, Corbett had to interpret full-employment-embedded mass immigration without stigma as “idealistic” policy. However slippery the Realism/Idealism terms, by liberal definition, anti-capitalist policy is not “realistic.” But in fact, in combination with policy supporting universal working-class access to income, stigma-free immigration is a pro-worker variety of nonelite mobilization.

The normalized mobilization, called simply “immigration,” contrastingly tends to be designed and legitimized by economists, capitalists’ think tanks, and consanguine conservative-liberal policymakers to disrupt and constrain nonelite collective action, in service of the governing objectives Corbett described at top.

It was not that the postwar Australian liberal party was simply, craftily using nationalist credibility earned in the war and solidified in a brand to orchestrate exoteric domestic politics imposing the objectives of international capital, but rather that the Australian working class understood its interests and responded not with the irrationality that liberals and conservatives automatically, tendentiously attribute to the working class’ distinct interests, but with rational cooperation.

[Conservatives and liberals influenced by conservative thought (eg. Hobbes’ tendentiously-narrow definition of non-elite liberty as bodily movement) will not grasp the distinction, but with a socialist recognition that labour mobility can come in both pro-labour and anti-labour forms, what the Australian Labour Party instituted is pro-labour mobility, as contrasted to migration as “a capitalists’ proposal, a weapon against labour” (Corbett 1958: 113).

From a liberal framework that simply naturalizes the working class subjectivity as irrational, Corbett was unable to satisfactorily explain the Australian working-class’ acceptance of postwar mass immigration. In wavering language, he suggested that “probably” mass immigration was imposed upon and sold to an unwitting working class with idealistic messaging (Corbett 1958: 115). He offers this weak analysis, lacking any empirical evidence, as confirmation that under unspecified conditions, Political Science’s Idealist hypothesis is as valid as its Realist hypothesis. This framing begs the question of the conditions under which “Idealism” v. “Realism” may operate.]

Postwar Canadian Liberalism: Immigration Policy

Corbett’s comparative case, exemplifying Realist governance, was Canada, where the Liberal Party leader Mackenzie King presided in the postwar period, as before. The ruling Liberal Party did not institute full-employment policy in Canada, and, despite postwar resettlement needs, maintained the capitalist’s contribution-qualified Canadian immigration policy, only expanding numbers gradually.

Over the decades, the Australian right removed the full employment framework, restoring the working-class disciplining variety of mass immigration.

In Canada, the variety of mobilization, the “immigration” that King maintained was eventually expanded, and has become branded not only in Canada but abroad as well as the model for achieving the state’s domestic-politics objective, the objective of ethnicized population management in service of an external network.

The context for the diffusion and adoption of Canada’s model is the neoliberal milieu, conditions in which (we have begun to recognize) liberalism has been widely reoriented to conservative social-ordering principles of inequality and inegalitarianism. But these social-ordering principles are not how neoliberal delegates sell their transitional work. Historically, conservatives have sold their society as a form of divine paternal protection and cultural patronage. In facilitating the transition to greater inequality and inegalitarianism, neoliberal delegates aestheticize, moralize, center, and normalize the marginal experience.

Research Agenda

How does King’s Canadian immigration model continue to reflect and amplify the conservatized liberal consensus? How does it continue to secure the worker-constraining variety of immigration? (TFW.) How does the Canadian model achieve the domestic objective to secure compliance across ethnicity for the benefit of international economic interests? (Multiculturalism.)

With the growth of refugee migration, could the Canadian model lose its glamour again, even for liberals, if pro-worker governments arise elsewhere to institute “idealistic” policy? In that case, it may be useful for the growth industry of Canadian immigration expertise to diversify their portfolio and comparatively consider the virtues of different varieties of immigration policy within distinctive policy packages.

Method: Compare Canadian to contemporary Swedish foreign and immigration policy.

Sweden as Comparator: Immigration & Integration

The utility of Sweden as a comparator in discussions of immigration and cohesion is partially that Sweden is a society that achieved integration, coherence at the turn of the 20th century, though this fact tends to be buried in liberal propaganda characterizing Swedish coherence not as a hard-won social achievement, but as “natural” or “biological.” What is the function of portraying a political achievement as a biological attribute?

Liberal and conservative consensus portrays Sweden as “monolithic,” an inferior or insufficient multicultural model in comparison to “diverse” Canada. While I experientially understand the difficulty of integrating into Swedish and as well Canadian social relations, my analysis is that the Sweden-is-homogeneous framework is an overplayed symptom of global military and economic interests in breaching the country’s democratic-sovereignty boundaries. Any “homogeneity” (cohesion, sovereign democratic boundaries) Sweden has is a hard-won achievement, and those boundaries can be at odds with metropole priorities. Like Canada and Ukraine, Sweden was integrated into the global economy as an extraction (forestry, mining) periphery. Prior to the social democratic reorganization at the turn of the 20th century (not so long ago), it was a highly-balkanized country, in terms of regionalism, elite internal conflict, and relations with global powers–Britain, Germany, and Russia. Capitalist ideology will always paint any degree of working-class sovereignty as an obstructive monolith…a many-headed hydra, as Linebaugh and Rediker observed.

Canadian Multiculturalism: More Than Ethnic Management?

It has been suggested that Canadian multicultural policy serves as a sort of vehicle for deliberative democratic practice, fortifying sovereign democratic development. One researcher starts from the empirical observation (surveys) of dehumanizing and non-compromising attitudes in Ukraine. The idea here is that these attitudes are cultural, not based in ongoing experiences where there are little by way of compromise options. This view sees untapped capacity, multiculturalism not as ethnic management but as Bahktinian carnivale. After all, in the staid old Soviet Union, bureaucrats were also involved in disruptive collectives as critical artists (O. Kulick, 2020). With the addition of multicultural institutions, space could be made within capitalist societies for more deliberative democracy and regional sovereignty, right?

By contrast, I have been viewing multicultural policy as an insufficient vehicle for deliberative democracy in the face of global financial and military interests. I have been living for 11 years in Canada, and, along with studying comparative immigration policy, I am versed in the Canadian and OECD arguments for the virtues of Canadian multicultural institutions–These arguments tend to highlight Canadian multiculturalism as a culturalist vehicle allowing rapid immigrant ownership of the nationality, thus enabling smoother market integration, and as a byproduct, social integration. Canadian multiculturalism is really cultural, taking the form of toleration aesthetics and manners, and food celebrations.

While it is tempting in a context of liberal cultural determinism to imagine that we can negate externally-imposed intra-territorial conflict by simply, stealthily instituting cosmopolitan cultural-appreciation institutions, Canadian multiculturalism is not constructed as a vehicle for the deliberative democracy that can build sovereign democratic capacity, that can set boundaries (to some extent) upon imperial interventions. Canadian multiculturalism is an institution cohering for the global market a colonial society comprised of a selected (“chosen,” with all its divine connotations) influx of contributing labour and capital superimposed over a defeated native population. But even were it backed by similar pro-immigration norms and structural factor requirements, multiculturalism is probably not robust enough to overcome ongoing, externally-imposed alienation.

My research in Sweden was with immigrant groups and the political parties (Vansterpartiet), unions (LO), and national and state welfare and research agencies involved in newcomer integration and advocacy. Multicultural policy in Sweden predates Canadian multicultural policy. While this is a heightened moment of immigration in which conflicts come to the fore, Sweden has been a longtime immigration country (including, per LO-led policy, for distinctly different, particularly war-refugee, economic-refugee, and family reunification migrant populations compared to Anglo-American settler countries, including Canada, primarily managing economic mobilizations). As well, Sweden uniquely exercises particularly strong, institutionalized, sociological self-critical capacity, while maintaining (struggling to maintain, but still struggling) the boundaries that allow for the reproduction of substantive democracy (real equality of opportunity and democratic outcomes).

Consequent to my Sweden-Canada immigration comparison, I tend to view multiculturalism as an oblique contributor to market-centered social cohesion, an adjunct to a national order that prioritizes market autonomy, not deliberative democratic capacity. Multiculturalism helps coordinate market actors and so stabilizes the market–an antidemocratic institution. It also can accommodate or reproduce non-democratic dispositions, practices, and skills. It doesn’t require education for democratic development (Dewey 1915), only communications professionals. It is a policy jewel owned by conservatism still under socialist heat, though multiculturalism was not even pioneered by conservatives or liberals, but by social democrats with socialist backbone. Though it has been posited as a integration resource in Eastern Europe, I think multiculturalism has thin capacity to substitute for or create the conditions for deliberative democracy enabling citizens to collectively organize sovereign boundaries and development. It may not be adequate to the social challenges of tributaries riven by imperial rivalry.

Still, perhaps market-friendly multiculturalism is a possible humanistic integration institution for regions, like Canada, that are confined to asserting symbolic sovereignty?* Sweden was able to assert some developmental sovereignty because a) political organizers prioritized cross-national union and working class development prior to polity strategy, and b) it works in a regional alliance with other Nordic countries serving different imperial masters. That may not be an optional development path everywhere. It’s not desirable in the British Commonwealth network.

Because it becomes institutionalized in an expert market, Canadian, American, and UK policy tends to be overhyped and exported excessively and uncritically, including to Canada’s and the US’s own hinterlands. This expertise can often be counterproductive to tributary regions’ political-economic and social development. Yet as a sociologist always aware of the social construction of our world, I am also committed to the collective, comparativist Enlightenment approach to knowledge building. I continue to think there is a great need for well-specified, interregional-comparative and historical-comparative scholarly interventions.


*Note: It sounds like I’m harshing on Canada. I do not think its immigration and integration policies are good export models. However, I do think there is a Canadian advantage, which some other countries share: It doesn’t have such a big population that it wastes incomprehensibly-vast amounts of cultural capital and human life on junk jobs, rentier activities, underemployment, military keynesianism, policing, surveillance, and incarceration, like the national capitalist cores do. It still wastes a lot of life.

However, what makes the Canadian model tick as a class compromise is that it is a pretty simple capitalist tributary–it never had any ambition to mess around with democracy beyond capital-serving political parties coordinated by metropole bond raters and Anglo-American capitalist core political parties (public goods and services are skeletal and mean, information is hard to get, there’s no white collar crime enforcement, it protects global mining rents from taxation, the police exist to remove indigenous peoples from resource extraction right-of-way); its main form of societal reproduction, the immigration pool, is highly vetted, and charged, for its capacity to deliver over cultural and financial capital; the population is low enough that only indigenous lives are systematically wasted; and Canadian virtue is achieved simply via expressions of nationalism, men’s hockey, and charity. Although it’s a neoclassical econ model, it’s not a societal model.


Econ Efforts to Mobilize Factors of Production

“It has become clear that migration is an essential element in the world
economy. Sending countries benefit increasingly from remittance payments
and the return of skilled migrants, receiving countries benefit from younger
workforces, and migrants themselves find new opportunities through their
move to a new country. Migration redistributes wealth at the world level and
plays a central role in development and poverty reduction. Moreover, within
the current globalization process, which favours an increasingly free
circulation of goods, information and capital, it is worth considering including
free movement of human beings as well.”–A. Pecoud, Universite Paris, paragraph 3 in Migration without Borders, 2007.




Social Reproduction Feminism on Worker Citizenship and Expropriation

“Once separated from the means of production and proletarianized, they are protected, at least in theory, from further expropriation.”–Nancy Fraser . 2018. “Roepke Lecture in Economic Geography–From Exploitation to Expropriation: Historic Geographies of Racialized Capitalism.”

In theory, but, yeah, no. Absolutely not. Exactly like masculinity, the Premium Economy status of “free”-individual metropolitan citizen-worker exploitables is always challenged, always has to be fought for, on pain of consignment to the larger class of expropriables subjected to regular state violence. (Knowing your gender theory, see Kimmel 2002, helps with political economic analysis.)

This is what nonelites organized by conservatives know that “progressive neoliberals” serving global capitalists discreetly overlook, in the conduct of their professional duties distancing from and disciplining the mob. Using the White Privilege that “the mob” knows it has fought for, to selflessly usher the Exceptional Deprived under the benevolent wing of protective or symbolic elite patronage, progressive neoliberals appeal to “fairness while extending expropriation” (Fraser 2018: 15). In this sense, are liberal-arts academics the public complement to private lawyers in capitalism–where private law quietly, massively secures oligarchy (Pistor 2019), while liberal arts academics piously, publicly attack unfair advantages accruing within pockets (other than the police) of the working class? Managerial sanctimony for some, little national flags for others.

fight club

Fraser understands that the legally-recognized (cosmopolitan–historically male, European, White, but shifting with the global mobilization of labour, see Fatah-Black & van Rossum 2014, and the rise of global capitalist metropoles) exploited worker has always been a hard-won, probationary status, though the function is required for capitalist value creation. Attaining state-recognized, exploited worker status is probationary because capital also needs a lot more expropriated work. For value to be accumulated by capitalists, exploited workers have to work upon the mass “raw material” of cheap nature and social reproduction, which is supplied by coerced, expropriated work (Fraser 2018; Moore 2015). Unlike capital assets (See Pistor 2019), the capitalists’ state will not protect–fully or durably–worker income achievements or other smallholdings without expensive private law securing it. Where one of Sweden’s innovations was to extend entitlements across the population, “leveling upward” (Barton 1986: 173), antisocialist societies keep the entitlements and rights markets scarce and expensive.

Though as early as the late 18th century, the impossibility of maintaining spatially-segregated expropriated v. exploited labour forces pushed the Dutch Republic to ban slavery (total racialized expropriation) in the European metropole (Fatah-Black & van Rossum 2014), the growth of hybrid exploitation-expropriation status has arisen with “financialized capitalism” (Fraser 2018: 12).

David Abraham (2010) has identified the political mechanism instituting hybrid exploitation-expropriation status: broadened but cheapened citizenship, the dismantling of social citizenship rights and institutions, along with the expansion and intensification of imperial disruption and population relocations, what in “progressive neoliberal” hands becomes the Dem Party’s Open Borders politics.

Like all progressive neoliberalism, Open Borders TM is a late-hour emergency reversal, a pious optical roll back from the deluge of neoliberal policies that have landed at grotesque expropriation visuals: ICE’s concentration camps for immigrant babies. The left hand of the conservatize-liberal Dem party suggests decriminalizing immigrants–great! But the more consistent, dominant right hand of the political party continues to follow Mises’ and Hayek’s Viennese Chamber of Commerce model, replacing national sovereignty with global capitalist sovereignty (Pistor  2019, Ch. 6; Slobodian 2018; Zevin 2019)–that is, diminishing citizenship rights, facilitating expropriation universally: criminalization of the rest of marginalized life (and in capitalism, marginalized life is a lot of life), for-profit slave-labour prisons throughout the Anglosphere, and disruptive, dislocating war abroad. There’s more than one way to skin the people alive. (That said, I wish the Justice Democrats well. May they slap down–and impale with a wooden cross–the dead right hand of the Slaver County-Wall St. Dem bloc.)

Why is N. Fraser so necessary and relevant today? After a three-year application process, I got citizenship in a country where to get citizenship (qualifying for legalized exploitation, as opposed to violent expropriation, but downgraded to hybrid exploitation-expropriation in the financialist restoration) you have to swear allegiance to the British monarchy. Canadian citizenship remains both colonial and Burkean:

Society is indeed a contract…between those who are living (and) those who are dead…So far is it from being true that we acquired a right by the Revolution to elect our kings that, if we had possessed it before, the English nation did at that time most solemnly renounce and abdicate it, for themselves and for all their posterity forever” (Burke, 1790).

Apparently, lots of new settlers aren’t down with this reactionary 1790 social contract, however symbolic (How does this even work in Quebec? Headscarf law, I guess.); so in the official ritual, the Canadian citizenship induction team makes a point of threatening the inductees and then monitoring them to ensure they swear fealty to the British monarchy, instead of mumbling The Internationale or La Marseillaise or even Elizabeth Bishop’s The Moose under their breath.

After a lot of official chit-chat about The Greatest Nation(-state) on Earth and how it requires unpaid labour (voluntarism), a citizenship inductee can volunteer to speak about what Canadian citizenship means to her. A young woman from Africa was introduced, got up, and gave a cheerful speech about how Canadian citizenship means that everyone in that room can now finally avoid Canadians expropriating them. She went over the varieties of expropriation line item by line item.

It was a super-instrumentalist account of what citizenship means, and, since no capitalist could object to it on ideological grounds, but it was a far cry from the conservative-liberal idealist bath we’d just been given, her assertion of imperial reality was kind of a subtly-subversive move. I appreciated the new citizen’s initiative.

On the other hand, it’s hard to be totally reassured: Canadian citizenship policy and Burkean discourse channel the real financialized-imperialism experience of unequal, inegalitarian, and predatory class and state relations into an “I got mine” discourse of individualist instrumentalism. Here’s hoping the liberal exhortations to volunteer and “be friends” with indigenous Canada somehow keep the back cellar door open for the internationalist-organization way out of this global rentier-capitalist, conservative-liberal Forever Home.

Naturally, the same citizenship team that had threatened and monitored us to swear loyalty to the British royalty was a bit nonplussed. “I expect you’ll take my job!” the exquisitely-cast, good-looking, Metis, pompadour-dyke-hair judge slipped out of character, as the new citizen wrapped up her oration and returned to her seat.


Abraham, David. 2010. “America, Germany, Israel: Three Modes of Citizenship and Incorporation.” International Labour and Working-class History 78: 123-128.

Barton, H.A. 1986. Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era, 1760-1815. University of Minnesota.

Burke, Edmund. 1790. Reflections on the Revolution in France.

Fatah-Black, Karwan & Matthias van Rossum. 2014. “Slavery in a ‘Slave-free Enclave’?: Historical Links between the Dutch Republic Empire and Slavery, 1580s-1860s.” Werkstatt Geschichte 66-67: 55-73.

Federici, Silvia. 2019. “From Crisis to Commons,” pp. 175-187 in Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons. PM Press.

Fraser, Nancy. 2018. Roepke Lecture in Economic Geography–From Exploitation to Expropriation: Historic Geographies of Racialized Capitalism.” Economic Geography 94(1): 1-17.

Kimmel, Michael S. 2002. “Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame, and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity.”

Meiksins-Wood, Ellen. 2014. “Capitalism’s Gravediggers,” Jacobin.

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

Slobodian, Quinn. 2018. Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism. Harvard.

Zevin, Alexander. 2019. “Every Penny a Vote.” Pp. 27-30 in the London Review of Books, 15 August.



Roaming Rights Now!

Over the last couple of years there have been books and bills introduced to establish Roaming Right in Anglo-American jurisdictions. Roaming Rights were denied in the colonies on the grounds that indigenous people had to be cleared from the land to make way for colonial extraction. As contested as they were and are, Roaming Rights were established for indigenous populations in treaties between colonial and indigenous governments, however.

The racist, colonial denial of universal Roaming Right in Anglo-American law produces an unjust conflation between private land required for living, such as a house, a yard, and a garden, and mass-acreage land privately owned, for example in land speculation, for the accumulation of social power over other citizens, rival rentier capitalists, and global markets. In Marxist terms, this (im)moral conflation reflects the power-blind liberal conflation of capitalist use value–profit–with general use values, which legitimates sovereign-consumer and consumer-market choice arguments, private monopoly and collusion, corporate deregulation, inequality, and general capitalist Best of All Possible Worlds assumption/argumentation. Under this ruling and codified conceptual conflation, even homes have been used in apartheid settler societies not for shelter (use value), a necessary minimal condition of health, enjoyment and development, but as assets (capital) permitting Whites and global economic victors to claim intergenerational wealth over, power over, and capacity to exclude Blacks and smallholders.

This conceptual blindness is the vehicle through which inequality produces inegalitarianism, despite liberalism’s formal subscription to the former and proscription of the latter. While it brings liberalism to coalesce with conservatism, liberalism’s formal separation of inequality and inegalitarianism keeps liberalism able to co-opt the exhausted portions of its egalitarian opposition, and better able to maintain law; in this way, while it’s less immediately appealing than conservative exceptionalism, liberalism can ultimately outcompete raw conservatism, devoted to inequality, inegalitarianism, and exceptionalism. Or, liberalism and conservatism together create a system-stabilizing oscillation of strategies that pragmatists and true-believers alike can insert themselves into.

Because of this lack of conceptual distinction, for a long time, the incapacity to recognize a public interest in cross-population, sustainable use of land and water supported an inegalitarian elite-settler coalition dedicated to absolute, exclusive private property in liberal societies. This institutionalized blindness to public interest, this inegalitarianism can be observed every day in financial apartheid advertisements for gated rural and suburban property and Poor Door urban real estate property, in excluding curtains and punitive air travel policies corralling most travelers, and in the enduring public goods and services poverty of historical slavery counties. It sustains a socialized inability to distinguish depletion activities on land and water from sustainable activities. This apartheid-society conceptual incapacity was useful for establishing colonies as premier global sites of unfettered resource extraction and unfree labor exploitation and expropriation.

Restoring Collective-action Capacity and Freedom in Rural Tributaries

In the latter-day context of global monopoly capitalism, with its institutionalized wealth cores and tributary peripheries, these conceptual incapacities, codified in law, strongly undermine the freedom and reproductive capacity of non-elite, smallholder settlers. It is another case where in the multi-generational run, non-elite settlers would have been better off in coalition with peasantified indigenous people and enslaved workers than serving as grunts for elite colonial interests, under the hope that their own patrimony would be protected, not by a politically- and socially-constructed status such as citizenship, but by a magical, mythical identity conferred only at elite convenience–White Ownership.

To start off with, as discussed above, smallholders’ interests–in securing living space and life enjoyment in balance with others–are not reducible to or stably, largely compatible with mass-property owning rentier-capitalists’ interests in mining wealth for the exclusive, advantageous accumulation of social power and control over other citizens, over rival rentier capitalists, and over global markets. Whiteness politics are the result of a naive, excessive belief in the munificence and durability of economic elites’ instrumentalist marketing campaigns. But as the recent mass primitive accumulation of New Zealand, the Canadian West, and particularly the US West demonstrate, even Christian Texan billionaires–raised as Masters of Whiteness sacralization and politics–will not maintain White coalition in all those places where non-Whites have already been cleared from the land (Turkewitz 2019). If you cannot count on even Evangelical Texas oil-extractionist billionaire patriarchs for White protection, do you think it’s a good social contract option for you to buy into?

As a mystical moral exclusion, a promise of inclusion in an exclusive coalition with ruthless, teeth-baring elites, the White political construction was always designed to be land-owning elites’ paw of control over a traumatized, fearful population, for elites’ own political benefit, if variably distributing lesser resources to a malleable “White” “police” force. The broad Whiteness elite-“police” coalition is easily scrapped–in England, but just as well in the militarized, surveillance-embedded settler colonies–in favor of the narrower elite-police employer relationship in Nightwatchman societies. Today’s capital-intensive, tech-addled Nightwatchman policing relationship with exclusive, absolute, mass private property severely curtails non-elite freedom and enjoyment–from snowmobiling to fishing to hunting, to cross country skiing, mushroom gathering, forest bathing, walking, clean-water swimming, stargazing, fresh air, and so on–outside of capitalism’s expensive urban metropole commodity market.

Roaming Right & Freedom of Movement, Right of the “Starving” Man in an Excluding, Privatized World Economy

In Europe, Roaming Rights were codified in law in the mid-20th century (In England, they were codified in liberal law in 2001). They distinguish the exclusionary space needed for living–the yard, garden, house, barn, garage–from the larger, decommodified space required for people, the public, to both modestly supplement private life and enjoy sustainable use of the political-territory’s land: hiking, fishing, swimming, boating, horse watering, berry gathering, and camping rights, etc. Roaming Rights assume that people are living, reproducing, developing Earthlings, and therefore the public needs to traverse–move freely–and enjoy life in a social, balancing, non-depleting manner. This assumption is not shared by property right law, built for perpetual conquering (See the influential, founding formulations of property right and its underlying assumptions, forwarded by liberal-conservative theorists including Hobbes, Grotius, and Burke’s later reconciliation with capitalist liberalism, etc.). Roaming Right corrects property right and its antihuman excesses.

Organizing for Roaming Rights is important in the settler colonies today because inequality has grown to the point where settlers are financially excluded from global rentier capitalism’s metropoles, while at the same time they are losing access to the dispersed resources required to live and enjoy life in the tributary regions. In this context, tributary settler-indigenous coalition is vital. After all, and all pretty mystifications aside, how are indigenous people made? Indigenous people are not another, animal-like species or colorful otherworldly visitation, as political discourse has predominantly constructed them. Whatever their history and culture, the indigenous have been repeatedly constructed, and will be made out of the raw material of people again, by imperialists prohibiting indigenous people’s free movement and access to the necessities and enjoyment of life outside of inaccessible, commodified, commercial cities. Race is network boundary construction, and it’s not been as tight or class-distinguishing a boundary as wealth accumulators prefer. Today’s FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate industry) and surveillance and military tech do the exact same function, tighter.

Every capitalist elite is afraid of working class settlers and smallholders recognizing that they can be made indigenous or enslaved. To some extent this is an honest, liberal fear, because many smallholding settlers have, with but a little elite threat/encouragement, moved from that sociological, historical realization to “Better you than me” imperial warfare against indigenized people, the enslaved, and descendents thereof (See Wilson 1976).

But that honest fear has always been in coalition with the much more self-interested elite fear that other smallholding settlers will coalesce politically with the indigenized, the enslaved, and their descendants. By suppressing non-elite organic intellectuals, we have hardly come to terms with this liberal-conservative elite coalition, the imperial “civilized” bloc, and its ravaging effects.

Instead, apartheid society is fed a nonstop stream of conservative and liberal high and low cultural enforcement, cementing us apart along the difference-justice telos: Whites must know only their unjust, isolated historical place. Reified, stylized, Black positionality, Black Exceptionalism will carry difference justice (as that is reduced to liberal Dem Party political rentier strategy). In the UK, this quasi-historical (permitting recognition of heritage, but prohibiting recognition of ongoing social construction, social reproduction) cultural pseudo-speciation is further reinforced through regional class distinctions.

The Primitive Accumulation of the US West in the 21st Century

From Turkewitz 2019: “In the last decade, private land in the United States has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. Today, just 100 families own about 42 million acres across the country, a 65,000-square-mile expanse, according to the Land Report, a magazine that tracks large purchases. Researchers at the magazine have found that the amount of land owned by those 100 families has jumped 50 percent since 2007.”

The fracking-lord Wilks brothers “who now own some 700,000 acres across several states, have become a symbol of the out-of-touch owner. In Idaho, as their property has expanded, the brothers have shuttered trails and hired armed guards to patrol their acres, blocking and stymying access not only to their private property, but also to some publicly owned areas…The Wilks brothers see what they are doing as a duty. God had given them much, Justin said. In return, he said, “we feel that we have a responsibility to the land.”

“Gates with “private property” signs were going up across the region. In some places, the Wilkses’ road closings were legal. In other cases, it wasn’t clear. Road law is a tangled knot, and Boise County had little money to grapple with it in court. So the gates stayed up.

…The Wilks family hired a lobbyist to push for a law that would stiffen penalties for trespass…

The problem, said Mr. Horting, “is not the fact that they own the property. It’s that they’ve cut off public roads.”

“We’re being bullied,” he added. “We can’t compete and they know it” (Turkewitz 2019).

As well, financial institutions started dispensing with land titling a few years ago, so in the post-2007 property grab, claims on property are going to fall to might rather than right. It’s a new mass primitive accumulation offensive.

Climate Crisis, Unproductive Capital, & Elite Rentier Strategy

While they let their Republican henchmen lull the peasantry with squeals of “No climate crisis” for decades, billionaire rentier capitalists shifted quietly into land-capturing overdrive.

“Brokers say the new arrivals are driven in part by a desire to invest in natural assets while they are still abundant, particularly amid a fear of economic, political and climate volatility.

‘There is a tremendous underground, not-so-subtle awareness from people who realize that resources are getting scarcer and scarcer,’ said Bernard Uechtritz, a real estate adviser” (Turkewitz 2019).

The Persistent Role of Moralism in Expropriation

Moving into extractive fracking from a Texas religious franchise, the Wilks Bros provide a strong example of how extractivism and expropriation is buttressed by moralism.

While buying political and legal cover, they continually assert that their antisocial land speculation offensive is mandated by God, sacralizing their self-interested conflation of smallholder living space with their own, exclusionary mass capture of land.

Expropriative, Gilded-Age Restoration: Separating Out Global Rentier Capitalists’ Interests from Smallholder Interests


The Urbanite’s Interest in Roaming Right

Why would an urbanite care about Roaming Right? After all, urbanites are precisely the people who have forfeited Roaming Right in favor of obtaining all their life reproduction needs and enjoyment through the concentrated commodity market of the city, and by proximity to self-interested elite infrastructure. As Mike Davis and Cedric Johnson (2019) clarify, the cosmopolitan eschews the public. Relatedly, the condition of inequality-restoration urbanity, the engine of global monopoly capitalism, is the denial of capitalism’s reproductive dependence upon its sea of expropriation. A city is built on legalized, overlapping claims on future wealth creation, but the ingredients to that wealth creation are not exclusively to be found in the city.

Urban intellectuals and social workers recognize that denial extremely partially, as “gentrification.” Those who cannot live on 100% commodified life, the poor, are removed out of sight from the metropole. Yet at the same time, within and across borders, the tributary countryside is enclosed by global billionaires, and the people in that periphery are shoved to the smallholding margins, left without wealth, without access to fully-commodified life (which affordability, which wage-consumption urban economy depends on rural decommodifications, cheap inputs), or access to non-commodified life reproduction or enjoyment. They are expelled, set marching, set reeling. We admire how they’ve chosen us when they alight amongst us to serve us. Or we demand to speak to the manager. As in past Primitive Accumulation offensives, itinerancy is criminalized, and imperial militarization and an international for-profit carceral industry rages like a climate-crisis Firenado.

In this context, wouldn’t it be more natural, an efficient division of political labor, for urbanites to focus on getting Democrats (or Liberals or NDP) elected to office? Meanwhile urbanites can wait for deprived, low-density rural populations to organize their own solution to their desperate lives. After all, in those moments when those rural folks were organized and slightly-patronized by big owners (See Wilson 1976), they should have seen the limits of the inequality coalition…like wage-earning urbanites do? Something seems to be impeding organization. Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s that massive surveillance, policing, and carceral apparatus (Johnson 2019).

Cities depend on tributaries for most of the raw materials of life bought on the urban market. As well, they depend on using the countryside as an urban waste sink. A pervasive lack of recognition of the non-autonomy of the city, urban commodity fetishism, including imagining the enjoyments–museums, libraries, bars and restaurants, dance venues, art galleries, theatres, orchestras, ballet troupes, poetry nights, etc.–as the sui generis private-collective property of the city, the lack of  conceptualization of how the cheap raw-material market goods come to appear in the city and how wastes disappear from the city, leads to pervasive political mis-analysis.

If cosmopolitans around the world want to stop being ruled by Donald Trump and like politicians, if they want to enjoy the free expression of their cosmopolitan merit, they need to use their geographic concentration as an organization asset to break down the marginalization, the peasantification of the countryside domestic and international, the remnant alignment between rural -tributary smallholders and global rentier capitalists–particularly in an unfree time in which those rentier capitalists are aggressively excluding rural settlers from enjoyable rural life and yet inequality, including tight metropole police exclusion of indigents, prohibits mass rural-urban mobility.

museum display

Artwork by Fernando Garcia-Dory & Amy Franceschini

As beholden as their enjoyment and their identities are to FIRE (Finance Insurance Real Estate capital) patronage and cheap commodity inputs and waste sinks, urbanites need to organize, to reconstruct a smallholder Red-Green alliance traversing the urban-rural divide, and taming private property right, as Swedes did at the turn of the Twentieth Century to establish an effective, semi-independent social democracy. Roaming Right is a great coalition vehicle for such a democratic realignment and legal revolution. City people should use their structurally-superior communication and organization capacity to reach out and help rural people–across race and gender–to secure–but not mine–the non-commodified world they need to live and enjoy themselves, through universal Roaming Right. Recognizing that the past half century of rural expulsions transcends national boundaries, Red-green political coalition could be the “close to home” foundation of internationalist capacity, rather than mere consumption cosmopolitanism.


You Are What You Enjoy: Identity, Alienation, & Inegalitarianism in Capitalism





Greens of British Columbia. 2017. “Weaver introduces Right to Roam Act.”

Ilgunas, Ken. 2018. This land is our land: How we lost the right to roam and how to take it. Plume Press.

Johnson, Cedric. 2019. “Black political life and the Blue Lives Matter Presidency.” Jacobin, February 17.

Turkewitz, J. 2019. “Who gets to own the West?The New York Times, June 22.

Wikipedia. “Freedom to Roam.”

Wilson, William Julius. 1976. “Class conflict and segregation in the Postbellum South.” Pacific Sociological Review 19 (4): 431-446.

The Canadian Right-wing Academic Argument Against Environmental and Social Justice

A McGill historian of science, looking as much like Foucault as he can, in 2018 published an article, with a fellow conservative holding physical science credentials, in which he makes an argument that epigenetics should not be linked as a rationale to egalitarian policy change.

After a two-paragraph intro to epigenetics, Canadian Foucault-Latour coins three neologisms, three sins, to package his argument for prohibiting a bridge between physical science findings and egalitarian social policy:

1) “Mischaracterization”: This is the (dubious) problem where the Historian of Science doesn’t agree with findings–for example, that epigenetic information can be transmitted intergenerationally, and he selects those particular epigenetic findings to dismiss as inconclusive.

2) “Extrapolation”: This is the problem (for Canadian Foucault-Latour) where scientists bridge the physical and social sciences, particularly including social epidemiologists, to suggest that with the theory-backed, mechanism-identified evidence of correlation and time-order, we can make a scientific claim that the material world and institutionalized social relations impact human health, and thus changing institutions, design, and infrastructure can reduce the socio-material harm.

Canadian postmodernist doesn’t say here how he defines science, but it’s probably commercial laboratory science, per postmodernism’s capitalism-accommodating idealist reduction. Along with positivists, discourse-totalizing postmodernists are a Cartesian Praetorian guarding the sacred boundary between the human, idealist world(s) and the base, material projection.

The article is basic, and extremely light on the empirical evidence. Yet with masculinist aesthetics, it presents errant pedantry as technocratic rigor. The McGill third arm of policing–not particularly well supported– is to attribute to mostly-unidentified other scholars a lack of his own fine appreciation of the connection between genetics and epigenetics. He decides this is the 3) “Exceptionalism” sin. This is raw crank. Even in pop culture accounts of epigenetics, the historical relation between the Human Genome Project and the growth of epigenetics is emphasized. The authors need to spend more time reading other people’s academic work, and less time in the patio party conversations.

It is a very thin article evincing a cursory familiarity with the substantive topic–which is not a survey of epigenetics. It is how epigenetics are being approached by anti-cartesians. Extremely thin on data, the article is only justifiable by an overinvestment in either positivism or in the postmodern, idealist, theoretical reduction of science to the commercial lab. It is a “textbook” recent case in reactionary “critical” idealism. It is the embodiment of the institutionalized Canadian settler-extractivist theoretical approach to reconciling private-property-reifying liberalism with hierarchy-reifying conservatism: effacing the inequality while censoring the inegalitarianism.

The basis for this authority’s institutionalized expertise is that while he was a grad student, he had to work with an indigenous community, as most Canadian social science and humanities academics did by the second decade of the 21st century, and that required him to write an article denouncing the association in medical studies of Canada’s First Nations with health problems due to the colonial relationship. I know this, because that is what I was being commanded to do then. You were told, by indigenous leaders in institutions, that you had to write stories about how there is no problem. Obviously, indigenous people outside of power were not clamoring for academics to amplify this particular voice. It became a theoretical specialty to argue that the material world is radically divorced from, inaccessible, and unknowable to humans–unspeakable.

Then McGill had a short burst in 2012 of trying to set himself up as an authority on how the biome is just imaginary and a bad discourse, because its metaphysics connects the material to the social–social design, institutions, and infrastructure overdetermine human health– and so its justice telos is about reducing social, economic and political inequality. He analyzes surveys, which is what he uses to back up the idealist social science theory.

In idealist thought, human health is not a thing. Health is just a holographic projection of bad Minds. Some physical scientists twiddle around with health because the tyrannical state. In idealist thought, design, institutions, and infrastructure are not recognized to create different kinds of social relations oriented to distinct justice teloi. Their discursive ontology only permits them to recognize difference, and they reject the idea that inequality is a thing, let alone a problem. The only problem, for which idealist humanities and social science academics are the official police, is reduction of difference–for example, state policy changes that reduce social hierarchy. Reducing inequality is the ultimate injustice from the idealist position. They believe the historical-materialist justice telos competes with the idealist justice telos–to proliferate difference, including inequality.

Inegalitarianism is difficult for postmodernists. Like good imperialists, and against all historical and concurrent evidence, they believe we can have moral, tasteful, polite inequality, reconceptualized as playful, fecund difference, without the discursive rudeness of inegalitarianism, which they typically project outward upon Americans, because of the brutish conservative culture of slavery-backed capitalism that feeds the US global imperial role, or another geopolitical Other–Nazis or Russians.

Canadian Foucault-Latour also sprinkled an article in his CV about how “contagion” is really financial crisis; wholly within discourse, that was a less-reactionary effort.

When critical idealists can keep within texts, they do not necessarily support capitalist and capitalist-state efforts to repress egalitarian, developmentalist design, institutions, infrastructure, and relationships. A postmodernist, like this McGill Man or Latour, may instrumentally play with a conservative, positivist physical scientist–they share the inclination to denounce inequality recognition and egalitarian redistribution; they both bury metaphysics; and they are both keen to reduce science to the commercial lab.

Yet the alliance between postmodernists and positivist commercial scientists of course contains an inner crack. Postmodernists as idealists are distinct from physical scientists in that they abject recognition that the world we live in transcends the textual. The Postmodernists reject an ontology material and historical and social. There are only words, which is the hermetically-sealed flat universe of the social, and when the textual ontology is imported into the social sciences, the lacunae–through which, in proper discursive philosophy, the historical-material world enters–is papered over. Thus postmodernists reject expanded, scientific methodologies, rather than just authoritarian bluster (“Meritcratic” decisionism, eg genealogy, and associated speculative idealism). When they use their idealist hermeneutics against the Earthly and human material world, it is all reactionary conservatism and it has been for a long time.

McGill ref: Huang, JY & NB King. 2018. “Epigenetics changes nothing.” Public Health Ethics 11  (1): 69-81.

Note that the Swedish Universities by contrast are immersed in studies linking epigenetic difference and health effects. Canadian idealism v. Scandinavian historical-materialism. University of Washington has an anti-cartesian epigenetics lab.

Policy Proposal: Develop Alternative Paths from University for Immigrants Who Aren’t Scholars

Political Economic Context for the Policy of Immigration through Universities in the Anglosphere under Financial and Military Rule

Population growth is a requirement in societies dedicated to aggregate (undistributed) economic growth. Much as Anglo-American societies place far less emphasis on fostering developmental conditions than attracting, hosting, and taking a cut of wealth from around the globe, Anglo-American Settler societies continuously reproduce vulnerable, disrupted labor via import, immigration, not biological reproduction, which risks a working class with contributory claims on the wealth global elites are trying to amass and store. Functionally self-perpetuating, the Anglo-American empire requires continuous mass-disruption and dislocation of populations in strategic regions; thus, the US military functionally produces via war that traumatized migration central to the liberal Anglo social model’s growth objective. Culturally, liberal Anglo societies discount the reproduction of human capital in favor of reproducing working classes with weaker contributory claims; they discount human capital’s role in technological innovation, and they discount technological innovation as an engine of growth, in favor of raw, mass wealth accumulation and the capacity to dismantle rivalry and upstarts (See Gordon 2016).

With the restoration of financial leadership in the Anglosphere and the militarization of American society, financial and militarized policing interests have increasingly come to determine who will deal with the process of immigration to minimize the costs of migration and immigration to financial accumulation and the US’s other main work– surveillance, Military “Keynesianism,” and warfare. It is financial metropoles like the City of London and New York City that produce the accumulation-focused policy templates replicated–often irrationally–throughout its tributaries, from repurposing housing and urban infrastructure into a real estate repository for global elites’ surfeit wealth, to repurposing Trente Glorieuses social citizenship institutions like the build-up of university infrastructure from mass human development to commercial R&D and direct business subsidy, as well as immigration processing.

Universities as migration institutions is a policy and institutional incentive system that looks like it might make sense from a distance, but has a lot of fundamental structural flaws that the “front-line service workers” (as Anglo policymakers construct professors) are left to jury-rig in the 100-hour workdays (in the alternate reality of policy-makers’ minds) of teachers and professors/researchers and other atavistic remnants of democratic institutions. In Commonwealth regions that adopt the finance-oriented City of London’s policy models, including processing immigration through universities, professors can manage neither their own departments (This is optimal from the professional management interest.)–nor their own workloads (This incapacity to be accountable is suboptimal even from a professional managerial perspective). This dysfunction operates to the extent that the material professors are provided to evaluate students for admissions has been found to be mostly fraudulently produced, and inaccurately represents the students’ actual capacity or propensity for education and scholarly work. In such regimes, there is little fit between immigrants and universities. Nonsensically, the responsibility for this lack of fit is downloaded onto individual professors; perhaps it will eventually drift to departments or university management, who will doubtless attempt to implement more surveillance software on employees.

Should professors be saddled with the responsibility for making universities fit immigration, since universities are generally about finishing up adult newcomers, polishing them up for market and social contribution, and this is a many-faceted task? From the professor’s perspective, undergrad education is something of a gong show; but universities have always played an adult-transition “governess” role, among the many functions that have been delegated to universities. This great social contribution, like any such indispensable, feminized, developmental social reproduction work, is readily discounted in liberal Anglo culture–particularly as it reproduces non-elites and their work, versus directly reproducing elites and wealth. So by undertaking this important, complex work, professors, educators and researchers consequently can be portrayed as doing nothing in Anglo liberal cultures. But it is in recent years that Anglo-American politicians and university managers have coalesced to fill professors’ imaginary work “gap” by expanding the en loco parentis tradition into En Loco Department of Immigration.

In addition to their other responsibilities and contributions, now professors are saddled with processing population growth for aggregate economic growth. Professors are left holding the immigration bag for no logical reason, but simply because they are not that organized or powerful a constituency. Already internally riven by professional schools divorced from scholarly purpose and married to commerce, scholars are incapable of organizing and articulating how scholarship contributes to society. In lieu of clarifying scholarship’s contributions, disciplines simply competitively market their wares while giant university administrations fund-raise and manage the help.

The US Working-class Risk Model in Credential Consumption and Immigration-via-University

The distinctive institutional resource that allows universities to manage this prescribed misdirection of migrants and migration workload transfer in the US is that, in contrast to the British system, graduate students in the US are not guaranteed the services of professors. Advising, mentoring, working on graduate students’ committees is completely up to professors’ discretion in US universities. In the US system a strong percentage of graduate students unceremoniously fade away from the academic departments where they were accepted for study–They have to individually develop a new strategy and leave academia–because they cannot secure the faculty members to sit on their committee or get faculty to continue serving on their committees. Grad students in the US have the typical American individualized high-risk contract for workers, rather than the more favorable contract that the British tradition provides students as consumers.

On the negative side, this US model allows for plenty of personalized and institutional abuse of graduate students. On the more functional side, in the US the burden is not on professors, but on graduate students to demonstrate through their own work, to their professors, that they can do the more independent work that I think employers and communities should expect of someone with a graduate degree. This virtue is currently not true of graduate students in the British Commonwealth.

But I think that in the Commonwealth, you could retain the better treatment of graduate students while making a graduate degree a signal of the holder’s capacity rather than a reflection of her or his professors’ capacity. This reform would provide stronger information, a benefit, to employers.

Anglo Immigration through Universities, A Reform Proposal: Not Just the Boot But Settler Chutes for Immigrants

US-style professor discretion allows the on-the-ground “migration agents”–professors– to evaluate students as they do work rather than be forced into overwork connecting university education and research with the incongruous expectations and needs of a migrant pool, people already under high adjustment demands and often unwilling and unable to take on graduate-degree work expectations. Those of us who think that universities contribute massively to society without taking on the huge sideline of immigrant-processing work may suggest alternative departmental, institutional, regional or Anglo policy we could find from within the British traditions that would permit us to best preserve core university work within the Commonwealth. An alternative to that American student-risk model that the Anglo tradition has foregone is policy that provides alternative “chutes” stemming off from an academic immigrant entry point.

This chute approach has strong precedent in English policy. In Anglo countries with indigenous populations, policy has institutionalized “ladders” for indigenous people to enter the social work, childcare, and teaching job markets from Community Schools that serve as poorly-funded neighborhood welfare hubs. Anglo approaches to working class motherhood institutionalize chutes from the delivery room to surveilled, socially-subsidized, low-wage, unskilled labour for businesses, a policy called Workfare. Such Poore Lawes policy, while extremely coercive, exploitative, and multi-generationally handicapping, is embedded in the Anglo tradition, and squats squarely in the liberal Anglo ideological wheelhouse. Institutionalized chutes are quite naturalized and legitimate in Anglo management and political cultures and not regarded as contributing to policymakers’ shame at all. Chutes policy should not be a hard sell in an Anglo region.

While chutes can be mainstay Anglo fare, they need not be Anglo-vampiric. The chutes from university for those immigrants without current scholarly capacity could serve as an alternative to the catastrophic deportation default, and avoid the political and litigation frenzy that the British government has incurred in going to extremes to avoid professors evaluating immigrant students’ work as academic work. And institutionalizing chutes does not have to be as carceral and debilitating as class-warfare Poore Lawes policy is. British Commonwealth jurisdictions do not have to reinstitute indentured servitude for immigrants. After all, the Anglo-American growth model depends on mass immigration, and in competition, Anglo regions need to continue “pulling” in a working-age population. Tweaking the concept, the chutes could be called “bridges.”

More substantively, building such connections for failing student-immigrants between universities as the immigration entry point and a number of secondary immigration paths–remedial education, vo-tech education, labour markets, and small-business supports–and investing in the on-the-ground university departments the discretion to direct immigrant-students to these bridges–to transfer immigrants to other settlement options rather than giving them the boot, rather than (unsuccesfully) treating failed students as if they were criminals because they try to game universities, could help correct migrant incentives and settler enculturation, including to fraud and inefficient distrust. Institutionalizing chutes can reinforce university standards, incentives, work, priorities, and credentials, rather than undermine them as current, underconceptualized, underdeveloped immigration-through-universities policy does. Moreover, by ending Commonwealth professors’ institutionally-enforced obligation to credential accepted students by hook or crook, restoring to professors the capacity to evaluate and credential students upon the student’s performance as a semi-independent worker, employers in the Commonwealth could count on advanced academic degrees to signal work skills and capacity.

Assessing Barriers to Productive Reform: The Reproduction of Financial Fraud & Rentier Grab-n-Go Cultures in Late Monopoly Capitalism

It looks that at this point in history, important underlying socio-economic priorities are mitigating against reform that preserves education and research integrity. I’m sure you saw that the British government conducted a review a few years ago, after the BBC blew the whistle in 2014, and found that a majority–tens of thousands– of migrants within their university system had cheated on their university English-language entrance exams. This fraud lies behind the massive redirection, across the Anglosphere, of professors’ workload into dealing by hook or crook with illiterate immigrants, innumerate immigrants, and immigrant-“students” who have little to nothing to do with scholarship, but quite unsurprisingly, just want to immigrate and not be bothered by extraneous stuff like university. Because they’re immigrants. And to be clear, it’s neither that immigrants corner the market on illiteracy, innumeracy, and socio-intellectual apathy. Nor is it that there are no scholar immigrants. It is that business-driven politicians and management working together to demote scholarship as the university priority helps legitimize general colonization of the university by interests that oppose scholarship, philosophy and science. When scholarship is marginalized at the university, we have renounced both democracy–which, yes, Anglo societies have renounced–and economic growth–which we have not yet admitted.

After attempting unsuccessfully to hit the emergency expulsion button, UK policymakers are unwilling to do anything about fraud and university colonization. No one has admitted that, in institutionalizing and normalizing cheating and falsification of qualifications, converting universities into a main migration institution is not only overloading and degrading the scholarly, citizenship, and even commercial development work that is simultaneously presumed to be done at universities, not only debasing professors’ capacity to administer and evaluate the progress of students to some level of adult, citizenship, and work competency, but also actively incentivizing fraud and gaming behaviour in the growing population.

It must be easy and quick for finance and defense industry interests to construct universities as needing to contribute ever more to financial accumulation. Far too easy. And yet, regional policymakers and business organizations need regional scholars to remind them when regional development interests diverge from the much-flogged interests at the financial metropoles that design and sell policy in support of metropole wealth accumulation and storage.

Even in this specific case of universities converted into immigration institutions, it’s obvious that there is a lot of work to do in coordinating Anglo-American cities and provinces– their Chambers of Commerce, developers, and policy makers– to incorporate a new generation of migrants in a way that allows newcomers–permanent and temporary–to align their own goals and welfare with regional development, to develop their best selves, work, and communities, to get the most out of the settler region that they can while re-creating a cohesive, vibrant, and capacious society.


Canadian semi-public health care

The problem with Canadian health care is not that it is too socialized. It is that it is too capitalist. It places too high a priority on delivering profit to doctors and hospitals. Indirectly, this works out pretty well for those consumers who have pronounced medical-intervention requirements, and thus can serve as profit-delivery vehicles to doctors and hospitals.

In the US, by comparison, only rich people can serve as profit-delivery vehicles to doctors and hospitals, so the advantage of the US’s extreme, conservative-liberal medical market regime is that rich consumers deliver the fattest profits to the doctors, so that some doctors in the US, the ones with the richest medical consumers, can get FAT rich. On the other hand, the Canadian system controls pharmaceutical rents. US policy favors pharmaceutical sales reps’ power over doctors. And HMOs take rents and provide another layer of market domination over US doctors.

However, this is not to say that Canada’s is a fully-developed health care system for humans. It’s medicine, triaged for capitalist requirements. Because Canada is liberal.

If you are not regularly sick or requiring physical relief and readjustment, then you are excluded from the Canadian health care system. You can’t deliver steady money to doctors and hospitals, then you are likely to not be able to access a doctor. You have to rely on continuing exercise, good food, luck, and, if you’re an adult with a little income or wealth, affordable physiotherapy. This is not too much different from Americans, though the adult access to effective, affordable physiotherapy is superior in Canada, and is an okay skeletal (ha! see what I did there?) health care system for usually-healthy adults.

However, normally-healthy Canadians often do not have access to doctors for health monitoring (eg. through childhood development or changes through aging) and consultation, nor for treatment of unusual, fleeting, or minor diseases and injuries, however much these may impact the body’s structural integrity and development. Thus, without exposure in their practice, Canadian doctors are not as adept at identifying health issues that crop up amongst a generally-healthy population. Canadian doctors tend to become experts in cancer, heart care, and broken bones. Neither liberal subject, Canadian or American, has decommodified access to dental care. This is to say that bodily structural integrity and development is never a right nor a priority in a liberal-conservative regime.

But if your luck runs out in a way that is a fast, explosive emergency (broken bones, cancer, heart events), then unlike most Americans, Canadian citizenship includes social protection in those emergencies, as access to medical treatment. And because the sick and differently-abled have access to medical intervention regardless of their own private wealth, Canada has better control over infectious diseases.

The Canadian Ideology, or Capitalism’s Innocent Extractive Rentiers

Canadian finance & extractivism:

Canadian banks loaned $71 billion to extreme fuel extraction, mostly tar sands oil extraction, between 2015 & 2017.

–Mark Hudson & Katelyn Friesen. 2019. Finance, Fossil Fuels & Climate Change.

Around about the same time, we can call it the Trump Era, the CBC launched the show “Now or Never” and killed the show “This is That.” Where “This is That” gently but firmly and repeatedly lampooned the shallower seas of Canadian excesses, as they’re expressed through corporate media, “Now or Never” exudes excess, producing show after show of painfully sincere interviews with Canadians bravely, optimistically laboring to overcome adversity and odds. It’s a less-conservative brand of positive psychology, and its 30-something hosts have clearly been processed through years of psychotherapy. They’re here to demonstrate that through caring listening, we’re all going to have a good cry and everything is going to be okay, particularly as everything is backed by an upbeat soundtrack.

Goldilocks in Canada, or how Canadians learned to stop worrying and love the haul truck

john a macdonald

Innocence the Canadian I

What’s Just Right capitalism? In the Canadian nationalist brand narrative, Once upon a time the British ran roughshod over the world, not listening to everybody. Americans fought,  imprudently, to throw the British boors off. The Americans probably should not have fought, but just waited for the British to mellow, like Canadians do. For inevitably, one day out of the blue, the Twitter account of Donald Trump arose to encourage the flowering of assholery amongst Germanic Midwestern Americans, specifically, and not the better, more successful ethnics living la moralism liberal at the coasts (Southerners are simply conceived as black victims and not discussed).

There is a strong, fabulously-idealist Canadian belief that by circulating a Canadian-brand counter discourse of positive  psychological caring, and politesse, as exemplified in “Now or Never,” civility can be restored. But Canadians are aware of their numerical disadvantage and anxious that such upstanding Canadian modeling may not be enough to counteract Trump Twitter account’s magical capacity to transform people in the U.S. and around the world into ruined orcs. Canadians, like neoliberals everywhere, suggest that in addition to Canadian socio-psychological management expertise, social media should be regulated, or outlawed, so that the corporate communications professionals who once successfully monopoly-managed mass thought on behalf of the capitalist class may be restored to their rightful place in the celestial order. Canadians, extractive rentier capitalism managers to the Anglo-American empire, believe that affective management can heroically save capitalist civilization. Where have you gone, Maynard Keynes? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Coo-coo-ca-chew.

[This summary of the Canadian ideology was brought to you, via me, by Canadian mansplainers on the XMas holiday party tour circuit. Did you know that if you patiently listen to a full grown man monologue about his work for half an hour or more at a party, he might get around to inquiring what you do eventually, whereupon he will listen for 2 minutes before launching into what he has learned about how the world works from listening to proper corporate communications in the broadcast media? I know that the mansplaining is being presented as an opportunity for me to affirm our (his) shared nationalist identity, but I lost the will to confirm that I too have a radio that receives CBC comms.]


We’re all impressed by Canadian Virtue

The Canadian imagination is self-congratulatory and idealist–willfully political-economy-blind, emerging from and camouflaging Canada’s function as the remote manager of mining in the global Anglo-American empire. While Canada has the normal, excessive Anglo-American load of junk jobs, these are foisted upon the disrupted populations that are relocated to Canada when the Anglo-American empire bombs out their homes. For older waves of settlers, Canada offers economic opportunities managing extractivism, including managing disrupted populations. That sub-specialty imparts a managerial social work guard labour habitus. It is what Canadians use to imagine and sell themselves as having figured civilized capitalism all out.

Americans love it, because stuck American settlers love the idea that capitalism is somewhere truly felt as something other than the belligerent, unfulfilling, inegalitarian, contradictory, carceral casino shitstorm that they experience in the belly of the beast. So Americans feel tenderly toward the  Canadians. The fact that Canadians secure moral cohesion by obsessively sharing jackass affirmations reducing Americans to a ruined orc race doesn’t bother Americans, who are confident that the Anglicized people stationed up there in good old Canada will continue to diligently execute their job, digging up oil and other minerals, generally directing a flow of carbon slaves, and upon that, a more important pipeline of rents to Wall Street and the City of London… All the while of course managing young women to, at the margins, grab the “Now” and serve up donated meals, afterschool care, and photovoice trauma processing as an ad hoc symbolic substitute for any viable social reproduction of the massively-fucked indigenous and immigrant populations within the core capitalist country.


Canada’s ubiquitous hymn to itself: All the comms to all the problems, All the liberal moral exclusion, All the sublimely-oblivious sanctimoniousness.

And it seems that Americans’ measured confidence in that flow from Canada is well placed. Perhaps Americans’ imperturbable confidence in Canadians can even serve as a model of rational civility.


What if you couldn’t control the capitalists…er, “Americans”…with professional middle-class messaging?

Foucauldians explain why we can’t have nice things

My hypothesis is that the liberal idea that there is a ruined orc race of Germanic Midwesterners occupying Flyover US, who are ruining everything, is resonant in Canada for related (liberalism) but slightly different reasons than why it’s resonant in the Meritorious part of the US.

Foucault makes tons of sense to Canadians, because Foucault’s socio-philosophical project was to show that social construction is not macro or micro, but meso, accomplished by a mob of state workers and other illegitimate, crude, working-class  aristocrat-pretenders, whose paid work can only construct unfreedom–not because they are working within a macro-constructing capitalist context, but because any organized attempt to commandeer the state and extend sovereign agency to the naturally subordinate (democracy) only creates an illegitimate, perverted power, and suffering. For liberal Canadians, this is a perfect anti-socialist framework for explaining a) why we need to accept capitalist sovereignty, b) why reforms need to target and regulate state workers, devolve working class state supports to private charity and PPPs, and c) why indigenous people in Canada have a hard time.

When liberal Canadians try to imagine what is wrong with Americans, they rely on Loyalist beliefs and they extend the liberal Foucauldian imagination to the US, where they imagine hinterlands Germans in the amorphous role of the meso social-construction mob, fucking up everything.


Proceduralist policing: The fine art of Canadian integration

Power is demonstrated, social, economic and political incorporation is managed, and scarce quality, developmental work is allocated by imposing asymmetrically upon people peripheral in Canadian networks a substantively-irrational system of step-wise rules of service and payment requirements. Only through a protracted, even depleting process of remitting reproductive service and payments, policed by a centrally-networked gatekeeper, may the newcomer access cooperation, credit, and the quality labour market. National and local social, economic and political network centrality is the defining condition of credit and cooperation, and all other qualifications and demonstrated capacities are systematically denied.


Example 1: A mature student has a 20-year old undergraduate degree in the Humanities from an Ivy League school, a JD, and professional, international (Commonwealth) experience as a litigator. Due to personal interests, she wants to be an academic criminologist researcher and she wants to immigrate to Canada. In addition to her extensive formal education and proven scholarly abilities, she has Anglo Empire (Commonwealth) cultural capital. Her professors recognize her as an “excellent student.” But she is female and ethnically ambiguous.

In Canada, her considerable qualifications are denied as material, she is required to undertake an undergraduate degree in criminology, a semi-vo-tech field with no bar to entry. She performs at a graduate level in these courses. She is prohibited and re-routed from building upon her substantial scholarly skills base, practicing graduate-level research or taking graduate-level courses. The only possible function of this re-routing is to preserve such experience and networking opportunities for far less-qualified birth-Canadians.

In this way, Canada ensures that it never need devote sufficient resources to social reproduction. It can skimp on early-years family supports, housing, health, and education. Safe behind proceduralist policing, Birth-Canadians can coast on their family networks while the newcomers who Canada imports must flip burgers, tend to the babas, and pay Canada to retake welcome-to-university courses.

This waste of human capacity is a normal example of Canadian proceduralist policing, seen prominently to function in the mismatch between requirements for immigration and immigrant relegation to the large liberal junk job labour market (Esping Anderson 1990: 207). It is reminiscent of the gendered labour misallocation in Canadian STEM. Such anti-immigrant, discretionary but also institutional gate-keeping is reinforced by a nationalist culture rooted in colonial Anglocentrism. Regardless of pro-immigration policy and a business-led pro-immigration culture, proceduralist policing on behalf of nativist-biased skills and contribution misallocation contributes to the perpetuation of structural racism and imperial colonialism.

Canada’s is a version of meritocratic culture where boundaries (borders) are enforced at the micro-level, along regional and national social networks and along national status, via recognition refusal, proceduralism, and a deprioritization of substantive rationality. Nativist qualifications recognition and nativist labour management permit Canada’s exploitation of high levels of reproductive labour undertaken in sending countries–Canada’s labour market reproduction. As well, nativist-chauvanism feeds overqualified immigrants to the perpetuation of a high load of marginal businesses and junk jobs (a value-circulating brake on productivity). Politically, this pro immigrant-exploitation nativist coalition may be the structural foundation for widespread conservative-liberal political consensus in Canada.

In nativist Canada, the use of imported social reproduction to suppress productivity innovations and social reproduction infrastructure development (beyond elder medical care), results in low cultural capital and low cultural-capital requirements for natives across education and decent work. This may be associated with Canada’s global economic niche, managing extractivism.

In contrast to the US, suppressed cultural-capital Canadian natives retain collective coordination capacity, are not isolated and funneled to the same extent into military, policing, and surveillance organization and work. This means that in the US, the same use of imported social reproduction results politically in more fascist politics. In Canada, imported social reproduction results in a conservative-liberal coalition to keep immigrants vulnerable and the immigration tap flowing.

So conservative-liberal v. fascist politics. This is a far more objective way to explain political difference and political stability/change today than middle-mind conservative-liberal political science’s piss-poor “populism” critique, which asserts that conservative liberalism = democracy and civility, decreeing in unblushing partisanship and raging empirical invalidity that all anti-democratic and incivil actions are confined to the repertoires of rival political frameworks.

Moreover, while the political marketing of the critique of populism prohibits credible specification of the mechanism between regime stability and transformation, relying simply on crass dehumanization of the domestic dispossessed and mystification of the imported dispossessed, the political-economic framework by contrast has the virtue of distinguishing mechanisms of political stabilization and destabilization. Political stabilization hypothesis: boundary management via enculturated, proceduralist educational and labour market discrimination. Political destabilization hypothesis: Militarized boundary policing. Stabilization and destablization would be engineered around economic accumulation requirements.



Dean, D. 2013. “75% of the World’s Mining Companies are Based in Canada.” Vice.

Desai, R. 2017. Canadian Capitalism & Imperialism.


Conservative Social Reproduction via Social Media


Social media and capitalist dispositions

Another medium for classic conservative social reproduction strategy

I don’t like engaging with liberal wonk and pop culture fetishes, including neophilia, but where I work, there’s a lot of both engagement with and promotion of their baby, psychologist Jordan Peterson. So I’ll mention this as a case of how social media is crude and stupid, and entwined with crude, stupid professional comms. So, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Jordan Peterson is a successful academic psychologist whose academic years are mostly behind him. When I say that, you may key in on “successful,” so I should underscore that the framework here is: he is a psychologist. His scientistic theory of natural human inequality is founded on his belief that humans = invertebrates (to be precise: lobsters). As Zach Beauchamp (2018) has helpfully clarified,

The relationship between human and lobster brains is outside Peterson’s area of academic expertise. Experts in the field who have evaluated his claims have found them lacking, as lobsters’ and humans’ neurological systems are radically different. One important distinction is that humans have brains and lobsters (technically speaking) do not.”

It seems to be absolutely standard in Psychology, the belief that human dispositions are both fixed by nature and best represented by random animal behaviours. I can never get over the Psych PhD dissertation defense I guest chaired where the data on human motivation came from intermittently observing four (4) goldfish. That is just the stark, raving insane way that psychologists understand human behaviour. I think they feel such equivalences are scientific? Because animals are natural? Only through anti-liberal arts disciplinary siloing can a discipline get away with such validity-trashing scientism. The crass, anti-biological illogic makes you want to stab yourself in the eyeball. Science: Humans are vertebrates, have brains, and those brains are big because we are radically social, and humans have mostly lived in egalitarian relations.

Peterson has produced psychology studies of personality. He went into Psychology from undergrad Political Science because he felt political mass movement was pathological, and he was interested demagoguery, which he seems to have studied as a how-to guide. His affinity with academia is that he is drawn toward the organizing, civilizing work of the minister, which has gelled into political ambition at this late point in his working life.

You’ll recall that at the turn of the 20th century social-psychologist Emile Durkheim’s big project was to advocate for capitalist churches to organize people in liberal capitalist societies. Little did Durkheim imagine that this would not be a problem. Peterson once wanted to buy a church, before realizing that young people use Youtube as a church. Low, low fixed capital costs.

Like most psychologists, he has expertise in how to manipulate people, and he is an ideological extreme individualist and conservative. As a productive, professional, heterosexual family man, his flamboyant and domineering personality was given a very long leash in Psychology, a profession infamous for its long leash. And who could believe a Canadian is a fascist? Give that man-with-a-plan all the credit in the world, has been the reliable response to Jordan Peterson.

growls playfully

Like all conservative attachés to economic power, his conservative individualism is about advancing himself as a Philosopher King. He harvests status and wealth by delivering to the doorstep of socio-economic power a corralled and disciplined consumer, servant, and political constituency, young men.

While he is recognized for exclusively expressing (sometimes tearful) compassion at the plight of young men, advising them to sit up straight to be competitive, modeling for them both coldly interrupting and trolling and screaming explosively at opponents, Peterson organizes a constituency by manipulating a crowd’s anxieties and narcissistic defenses. The classic, proven conservative marketing pitch and collective platform, to men and youth in liberal societies is:

You feel your birthright entitlements are inaccessible; but you can get your shit together and be the ubermensch, like me, by joining my exclusive pyramid scheme of credit and cooperation, subordinated only to economic power.

Outside of this collective, we do not act in good faith; we do not extend credit, and we do not cooperate.”

Although this conservative sales script is dog-eared, a new generation of surprised-to-be-challenged-in-dear-old-capitalism proto-patriarchs arises repeatedly, ready to buy. Peterson himself was one of these, at an early age steered by Alberta librarians and teachers toward Ayn Rand and Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago inter alia, top sellers among the voluminous anti-egaliberte young-adult fiction hallowed in the English-language tradition, in the imperial, capitalist-slaver Anglo-American empire.

Conservativism’s patriarchal individualism works as exceptionalist flattery and a membership password signal; but the method is organizing a ‘password’-protected, ‘gated’ collective. It is a pyramid scheme, not unlike Tupperware or Avon, but not for busy, isolated 1950s housewives. This is for busy boys and young men, rightly terrified by the commodified competition and instrumentalism marketed through the corporatized university, and anxious to Get Theirs. Joining the network is for recognition, maybe cooperation and credit once you’re in. So continuing male socialization, abjecting the network’s abjected, feminized outside plays a much more important role than even at Amway.

Because the guru Philosopher King, Peterson, is fundamentally the organizing principle for a pyramid network, his various opinions on things outside his limited expertise–personality and the manipulation thereof, as well as navigating academia as an institution–do not have to be, and are not informed, consistent or coherent. This allows him to extend and retract radically inegalitarian conceptualizations here, civilized-comportment principles there, never providing the respect of sincerity, coherency, and consistency, never providing cooperation to interlocutors outside his church. You join his church, you buy and sell his pyramid-scheme commodities (Youtuberie; books; Patreon donations), you hoist his flags. Hopefully your new Peterson-brand friends will hook you up with exclusive financial opportunities at some point.

You know, because they’re rightfully gripped, young men are really hopeful in this regard. I used to watch my brother for years, desperately convinced that his young, pothead, Jewish scion golf-and-drugs buddy would at any moment hand over his family’s wealth so my brother could use it to make a dream bar. I hate to give away spoilers on what eventually transpired there, after years of immovable faith and diligent planning on my brother’s part, but No. No. Nope. Never. No. Capitalism. You can search high and low, but no transgender politeness ever intervened to cause the inevitability of my brother having to settle for a respectable if not blingy career with UPS.


Dude: “We had so much in common: Soup, pot, golf, contempt for women. Why didn’t he open his trustfund to me? To this day, it is a baffling mystery.”

Capitalism: “Dough$ before Bros.”

Peterson is a conservative, and that’s not just about stepping into the Philosopher King ideological organizer role. He’s also a Canadian from oily Edmonton, Alberta, selected for by Anglo-American immigration policy and raised to base all his ideas on a toxic, facile, historically-invalid equation of genocide with egalitarianism. He’s a psychologist, so his political ideas and historical and biological knowledge are on the same level as your average Engineering or Econ 101 student, but he tells a beautiful, familiar tale for such primed audiences, reassuring them that everyone is compleat in conservatives’ eyes, there is never any need for human or intellectual development, just male hardening.

Male hardening. Psychologists sure understand markets.

Peterson’s captivating tweak on the Classic Conservative Marketing Script: ‘In this, our magical land, inegalitarianism is biologically natural; we know because lobsters = humans. Then communism came along to deaden everyone who was otherwise living peacefully in a natural, inegalitarian daisy field. After we bravely, heroically disappeared the communists and thereby buried in Davey Jones’ Locker the unnatural notions of human development, egalitarianism, and democratic social construction forever, “Underground Communists,” AKA postmodernists oozed up to disseminate the devilish notion that (non-class-based, capitalism-compatible) equity and social construction (or at least transgressive textual interpretation) are still legit. RALLY TO ME (Specifically: my Patreon account, political warchest), JUNGIAN WARRIOR IDEAL-TYPES, AND WE SHALL RID THE UNIVERSITY OF TERM PAPERS! In their place, you shall have a totally-gameable, purchasable test bank from a major textbook sales firm in which I have a not-inconsiderable financial interest. ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR!’

Peterson sashays this conservative conspiracy slur in the face of the empirical fact that the post-1968 poststructuralists and postmodernists have nearly all been avowed Commie Hunters, like him. The communists were not disappeared by conservatives working alone, much as conservatives are in fact deeply, madly into mass killing, and would love to take the credit. All those pomos ever wanted was to choose and be chosen by (free-ish market) meritocracy. But even that is, in the last instance, another ancient enemy of conservative entitlement.

So Peterson is another Commie Hunter, but since his Cold War youth, the commies have been successfully hunted down in Anglo-America (Yay, elite/objective freedom!), and he’s reduced to hunting capitalism-compatible ladies, transfolk, and people of color in universities, as the scapegoat cause of young white males’ anxieties. Not the Chamber of Commerce seated on the university Board, nor the parasitical university administrative management and marketeering overhang, all redefining the university as a commodity mine, and students as Tuition Units. No, for those obvious sources of anxiety are powerful, and thus existentially right in the conservative mind. No, the scapegoat for the grand conservative politics of fear will be scholars, professors and fellow students. Peterson’s branded Lobster Crusade no doubt seems deeply relevant to 19-year-old undergrads and their dealership-owning Chamber of Commerce dads.

Okay, compared to hunting Real Commies, this may be a bit of a pitiful hunting ground, more drone practice than WWI trenches, but, dammit, it’s where the boys of summer are at, and–take heart!–there is a respectable market for the hunt. For there are Sexual Enemies who have gone through university civilization, and (though professional men of course generally only reliably provide income-generating professional opportunities to other men) these lady-pretenders have snagged some decent-paying jobs, and potentially could be shot, bagged, and cleared out, so that…ah…so that the youthful members of a special frat collective should forever be free of education for democratic development (“Democracy is hard!”–Ken Doll.), leaving the struggle through adversity to the Weak, and (this is where we make another brave, brave logical leap) instead may be restored to easy, exclusive ownership over that income stream that ideally should be theirs by patriarchal and slaver social contract…if not actual capitalist relations, where dividing and playing workers off against each other is the name of the game. Surely, all the conditions for the Petersonian Longleash Utopia are coming into place–Soup, pot, golf, contempt for women! Psych! Let us wait with ‘bated breath for the Treasure Island bank vaults to spill open for the Lost Boys, while Jordan Peterson nets himself a fat Tory sinecure.

The usual suspects–conservatism’s target congregation/army of energetic, competitive, anxious, entitled men, hugely frustrated on capitalism as it is founded upon the private property principle of scarcity, and thrilled to be urged to scapegoat to avoid a real fight with  men of truly exclusive power and their armies (So hard, the lobsters.)–these are Peterson’s devoted congregation.

Similarly, a wider liberal media and audience beckons, catches, and hangs on, fascinated over bits and snatches of Peterson’s whirling, hodge-podge opinions, much as they catch and fetishize the floating values that occasionally attach to liberalism–toleration and inclusivity, civilized comportment and politesse, self-actualization, professionalism, Merit and Competence, entrepreneurialism, equity, commodity scientism, accountability, etc.

Snatching at and clinging to these unmoored bits, loving them because they are optional, elective, all about the virtues of choice and taste, liberal communications professionals adore the conservative Philosopher-entrepreneur King, because he has a market locked and loaded, because he is a proven, credentialed meritocrat (because he has a market and institutional credentials), and because he talks to them not of his expertise, or even his message of a capitalist patronage settlement for young white heterosexualish men, but of uninformed, incoherent, politicized opinions on random but sexy topics.

Experts on Canadian law said that Peterson was misreading the bill — that the legal standard for “hate speech” would require something far worse, like saying transgender people should be killed, to qualify for legal punishment. This is an early example of what would become a hallmark of Peterson’s approach as a public intellectual — taking inflammatory, somewhat misinformed stances on issues of public concern outside his area of expertise” (Z. Beauchamp 2018)

Legal opinion? Hey, let’s talk to the chatty Ayn Randie with a PhD in Personality Psychology! He comes with his own market of vigorously-typing/rape-threatening youth! My oil-industry-sponsored Wednesday lunch club at the Palm Room tells me that he’s the next Rob Ford.

Comms Pros hate and avoid scholarly experts talking about their expertise, because so often that expertise is not carrying the Chamber of Commerce’s brand message. Comms Pros’ job is to sell shit to a pre-manufactured market, and therefore they elicit insincere, scattershot opinions flying out of a middle-aged white male maw atop a shiny row of institutional brass. Incapable of distinguishing between liberalism and conservatism because clinging to the inessential bits of liberalism as evidence of their civility, incapable of admitting the conservative-friendly, but distinct, anti-democratic taproot of liberalism, absolute private property right, liberals accommodatingly provide conservative entrepreneurs venues to organize the conservatives’ own private Church of the Steep and Immobile Hierarchy. They beckon these conservatives to join them in conversations in which conservatives will not participate in good faith. Their Chamber of Commerce bosses smile on wanly.

The Youtubes overflow with reposted interviews between liberals and the conservative Philosopher-entrepreneur King, invariably labeled “Watch [conservative] Destroy Leftist Ladies.” No lefist has ever been permitted within 8,000 miles of a corporate teevee talking head job, what with that glorious Commie Hunt that perhaps you’ll recall. Never in the interviews is anyone actually ‘destroyed,’ because no one is ever talking about the same thing, or anything at all consistently. To non-congregationalists, the conservative misdirects and dissimulates. That’s what counts for conservatives as ‘destroying’ their opponent.

And it’s all win-win. Liberals love it because liberals are those people who are deeply opposed–for reasons of market and personal interest, and incentived and socialized disposition–to pursuing and advancing radical–rooted–informed and coherent ideas. Across the Pro Comms media, liberals celebrate Peterson’s yogi guru advice to the youth: “Harden up, lads, but don’t develop, and most of all, don’t change society. Leave it to the bosses.” Do you hear that? It’s the smell of paid liberal Loyalists creaming their pants throughout the land. God Save the Queen.

And so society will continue to oscillate between our dumb twin poles of, on the one side, dudes who’d rather punch girls (who won’t carry the dude’s own private genetic stock) than ever get serious, organize, and fight the actual capitalist manufactured scarcity and worker competition that is dividing and riding us all, and on the other side, the comfortable, networked liberals guarding absolute private property right with a whipped cream topping of meritorious taste and choice. For joy, all the livestock are lowing in their pens, and there is past & future wealth to be privately, exclusively extracted to the apotheosis of social and environmental irrationality!

Won’t someone please think of the children?

See also:

Peterson is a conservative organizer, by Bernard Schiff.

Pankaj Mishra’s critique of Peterson’s mystical “self help” youth conservative mobilization programme. Self-educated Mishra is sometimes an insufferable colony Anglophile snot; but Peterson’s mysticism is properly historicized in this critique.


The darndest things you find in social media

  1. Mobs of guys bitching about some moment’s published analysis.
  2. Mobs of rightwing guys shitting on some woman with a published analysis.
  3. Mobs of leftwing guys in the Instagrams or Reddits shitting on some woman with a published analysis.
  4. Rightwing guy snipers in the Youtubes comments section, announcing their intent to rape some woman who has given a speech.
  5. Young Darlin Brand Princess intellects promoting their brand whilst shitting on other intellectual women outside their promotional collective.
  6. Young male professional photographer Brand Princesses on the Instagrams anxiously defending the sanctity of their brand.husky convo
    Online conversations, but with more attractive, loving creatures


Findings: Social media engagement is for 2.5 purposes

a) Professionals with established markets hawking wares, enlarging their market.

b) An outlet for mental health problems.

c) Pack male sociality, which usually looks like mental health problems.


Update April 2019

I am in the processes of slightly reevaluating my view of the political impact of Jordan Peterson. While I have not changed my mind on either conservatism or psychology, which is basically conservative, I am moving toward viewing Peterson as playing a necessary role. This is almost to say that I can see a role, a marginal role, for conservatives in society.

Today, at the end of another long term in which I worked my ass off for students, and spent way too many hours on serving them, when I should have been applying for grants and researching, doing adult things, thinking adult thoughts, like an adult, I unfortunately happened upon a student coming from a makeup test. The student was a Linguistics major, not a major from my department, and she was a senior student. There, within the span of a few short minutes she conveyed to me: 1) the test was too easy; 2) she shouldn’t have taken my 2nd year class because she found its coverage of Enlightenment controversies over the good life to be “boring,” 3) I violated and made feel unsafe the African students in the course because I didn’t say that contemporary African-American moralists denounce the 19th century equation of women’s oppression with slavery, regardless of the fact that those are African students and thus are more likely to be descended from slavers than slaves–a fact she perhaps did not consider since she is not African or African-American; 4) she wasn’t sure if I was going to go “All Jordan Peterson” on her.

I replied in cheerful but kindly, measured tones that since the course–not a seminar but a larger classical theory foundations lecture course, which she took because she thought it would be a slide–is about classical theory and we really couldn’t stop and have a seminar discussion about every thing a contemporary moral authority has objected to about 19th century thought, I wondered what prevented her from raising her hand and mentioning in lecture this crucial, morally-rectifying literature she had learned in her contemporary linguistics theory courses. She replied that she couldn’t formulate her thoughts in time, but that it was my responsibility to convey her discipline’s theory material, cuz it’s objectively moral, the most moralest.

She wrapped up these pleasantries by musing that I could Go All Jordan Peterson on her, to which this this was my immediate reaction: “Get the fuck away from me, you little SJW shit.” It came in the passive-aggressive form of big smiles and a firm, “Well, have a good summer! Good bye,” whereupon I turned and left.

Now two things: 1) I will be discouraging upper-level undergrad Linguistics students from all my classes in the future. My experience is that they are all trained to be disrespectful, snotty little morality-policing SJW shits. Whether introductory or advanced, my courses are not about discursive morality policing, which I do not regard as democratically liberating, so, they’re not for undergrad Linguists! 2) Jordan Peterson? Fine. Fuck it. If he’s out there priming asshole young white men to go to battle with asshole ethnically-ambiguous undergrad girls who insist that scholarship = discourse-determinist moral regulation, just like Good Ol’ Mom made back in her Linguistics philosophy courses, that is fine by me. Enjoy your classically-gendered division-of-labor, kids! Just keep reproducing conservative liberalism amongst yourselves, as is done.

Distinguishing social democracy

Distinguishing social democracy:

Under left-liberal (as opposed to soc dem) regimes, organized labor does not participate in mid- to longer-range socio-economic planning. However, left think tanks can contribute mid- to long-range planning analyses.

Conversely, there are a variety of ways in which business leaders contribute to public policy formation, because business (public and private, but not cooperative) is regarded by the lib-left govt as the engine of growth.

This exclusion of cooperatives from the field of perceived contributors to growth indicates that lib-left govts may also be distinguished from social democratic govts by an assumption that growth is a product of “efficient” social-hierarchy-inflating organizational forms.

In lib-left regimes, labor views its role, and the liberal government views labor’s role as (often obstructive) ballast to economic growth initiatives that are seen as the natural concern of business. That’s labor’s negative role. It’s not a leadership role.

Labor’s positive role in capitalist democracy thus largely devolves to delivering votes to the left-liberal govt, because although the lib-left does not regard labor as a central social or economic policy resource, as opposed to conservative govts the lib-left govt will not actively try to break organized labor and it may implement those modest proposals of labor that do not impede the business-driven growth planning.

Hence, with a range of ruling (capitalist) political perspectives that always preemptively block information from labor (except what little leaks obliquely through the market), we repeatedly sink into crisis cycles–crisis of profit begets > capital deregulation and overmobilization, working class overregulation, demobilization, and dispossession beget > speculative bubbles/primitive accumulation beget > underconsumption crisis begets > further primitive accumulation, repeat. We fixate on the speculative bubbles moment in the midst of all this autistic failure, hoard wealth, and laud ourselves endlessly for being such top-notch managers and philanthropistes.

This is why for Rawlsianism to work, socialist politics and the communist horizon must be more highly valued, and even defended– by liberals.
As far as I know, this seeming impossibility has only been (temporarily) accomplished in Scandinavia and Minnesota. (While Latin America leftists tried to forge a left-lib coalition from scratch, the US destroyed this effort and enforced conservative rule in Latin America, see Greg Grandin.)

In “Right-wing Rawlsianism: A Critique” (forthcoming in Journal of Political Philosophy) Samuel Arnold argues that if liberals agree that agency is the essence of justice, then liberals have to pick which side they are on–because economic democracy fosters more agency than Trickledown provides.

Arnold’s is a clever detonation of a bridge from liberalism to conservatism, using some of the bridge-builders’ own ideal theory tools. (Particularly with respect to Rawls’ difference principle: A liberal justice-maximizing directive to choose the political-economic system that maximizes the least-advantaged group’s expectations for an index of primary goods that include income and wealth, but also status (qua capacity for agency in the workplace and self-respect in society).)

Upon deriving the optimal realization of liberal justice (agency) in workplace democracy, Arnold concludes (p. 32),

Milquetoast liberal egalitarianism is unstable: liberal egalitarianism must move far to the left in order to avoid being jerked far to the right.”

We need to keep heaping on the demonstrations that economic democracy fosters more agency than GDP/GNP tumescence.

For one example, insofar as political-economic systems can be said to have intentions, how plausible is it that capitalism does not intend to support social pathologies (Arnold, p.29)? Studies of primitive accumulation, the WEB DuBois tradition, socialist feminists, Harvey et al have a lot to say about how capitalism “intends to” (is built and maintained to) and does depend upon and support social pathologies. This approach apprehends the connection between economic (eg. workplace) tyranny and racism, sexism, colonialism, etc., for a powerpunch assertion that inequality is both fundamental to capitalism (even if it is shifted around across some social groups, over time and space) and fatally (from the perspective of justice) undermines agency (power to).

…& on the matter of historical-materialism’s putative incapacity to deal with difference (from a postmodern POV), from Arnold (p. 29):

Patriarchy, discrimination against the weak or the different, pressure to conform, and countless other social practices that prevent people from realizing their full agential potential: how long can these pathologies withstand the countervailing winds of a social democracy, with its democratic workplaces, its flattened division of labor, its robustly egalitarian public institutions?”