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?”

Conservative Soc Mov Module: Muslim "Honor Killing" Criminals

The thing about conservative political strategy is that it is modular. Conservatives have got a playbook, and it’s not that elaborate. So if they do it to Sweden, they will do it to the Anglo world:

Canadian media sells “Honour Killings” as indication of “natural” Muslim seditionist tendencies.

Political strategy question: How do you get a people who see themselves as super-civilized liberators to support anti-liberatory conservative policies?

It turns out, this is easier than a level one Soduku puzzle. Start with flattery, and then they’ll turn on their own righteousness nozzle. Nationalism + defensive, instable, cul-du-sac liberalism  =  conservative-pliable mass psychology. Think of how conservatism has bloomed in contemporary Sweden, France & Canada.

On the advice of a elder feminist, I went to Sweden to study how their welfare state repressed immigrants. What I found there was a full-blown conservative campaign to destroy labor rights in Sweden, using the double-barreled politics of describing immigrants as both criminals and victims–criminals who make having a welfare state impossible (Because they can’t be trusted, and destroy civilization.), and victims of a welfare state thats de-commodification policies don’t let them “express” (sell) themselves. The conservative-fed media conclusion was that if you got rid of labor protections (and so by extension the labor confederation and social democracy), immigrants would be good and thrive, just like they do in Austria and the Anglo countries.

The Swedes were in complete denial about the potency of immigration politics in Sweden–Despite the legislative meetings and bills; despite feminist galvanization against the cruel, cruel, racist state and the cruel, cruel anti-Swedish civilization Muslim fathers; despite the massive media coverage of these conservative themes (and a very few, although of course always tragic, instances of violence within Muslim households) and simultaneous neglect of contextual data clearly showing that patriarchal violence is common across “civilizations” and hardly monopolized by Muslims; and despite the fact that Karl Rove was there in Sweden strategizing with a new conservative political coalition about this conservative campaign. One year later, the conservative coalition was the ruling government, and it has been ever since.

Now the exact same political trope is being used in Canada. Why now, eh?

You have to know your audience. On the other hand, there you have your data. Are you going to tell some unreconditioned, decades-old tool story about how the immigrants are super oppressed by the state and their fathers? Sure some of them are, sometimes. And they are oppressed by “authority” in a broader sense. So look, there’s something else going on here as well. Something rather pressing.

As Nancy Fraser has argued, people need to strongly consider that the contemporary incapacity of pro-liberation liberals to apprehend conservatism and conservative strategy is decidedly non-trivial. That incapacity decides labor policies and capital regulation in favor of capital. It feeds state-based working class institutional breakdown and reinstitutes full human commodification. It allows capitalist elites to confidently delegate to altruistic liberal managers the diligent pursuit of the task of imposing proletarianization, irrational and ideological privatization, and austerity. In an era of declining growth, it fuels capitalist expansion via primitive accumulation, rather than allowing humans to decrease our throughputs while rationally redistributing accumulated surpluses. Not really ironically, it exacerbates racism and sexism. It promulgates vicious war.


What I’m talking about is this problem: People can be very nice. People can be anti-authoritarian. People can be pro goodness and they can be all about extending moral consideration. Not conservatives, but liberals to lefties. (Though conservatives can champion  elaborate decorum. Order, you know.) 


All that fails to solve this problem: Without an adequate, socially-embedded theoretical framework (eg. Marxist), even self-identified progressives’ work (in the broad, materialist, Scarry sense) can be readily co-opted by conservatives to advance the conservative goal of shrinking moral consideration, monopolizing surplus and stunting human development. This is the problem of directive hegemony (Therborn. As opposed to legitimation — Habermas).


(Discuss Desai, Hall on the historical Thatcherite construction of conservative hegemony, around here.)


If structure is the accumulation of collective action, then conservative collective action creates the pathways that convert altruistic intentions and beliefs into dehumanizing hierarchy and tyranny.





Political-economic engagement (intellectualism, to use Perry Anderson’s term) is not just for conservatives or property-owning white men. Political-economic literacy and engagement matter. A lot. To everybody.

To illustrate this point further, I will discuss how the summer 2011 Winnipeg Rebelles gathering unfolded. Hint: To work together–to express our humanity, even feminist, multiculti lefties/progressives need to be able to distinguish conservatism. And in my personal experience in the technocratic, anti-Big Questions, anti-macro theory Anglo world, this has been an unmet need for over a quarter century, at a minimum.

We’ll see what happens to the Honour Killings conservative strategy in Canada. If Canadian feminists and the judiciary can avoid getting sucked in, if they firmly assert that violent patriarchy is not the exclusive property of Muslims (Obviously, in Canada there is already wide recognition that Aboriginal women are killed by their male relatives.), then maybe they can keep the neocon anti-Muslim “Clash of Civilizations” politics out of courtrooms and out of currency. And just maybe it will not justify, in the minds of Canadians, both Israel bombing Iranians (Yes, partly on behalf of Anglo-American geopolitical/energy strategy.) and domestic austerity measures.

Economic Leadership Today: A Report from the Trenches

 The tiny bit of progress in elite thought on institutionalized, socially-subsidized banking failure and Western working-class economic decline: Conservative economists and policymakers are finally acknowledging inequality, and vaguely entertaining the Occupy-introduced notion that inequality might not be all they fantasized for us after all.

Unfortunately, they have no conceptual tools or will to address it. Stale, refried 1991 Robert Reich (Such as is presented by the elite economic consensus in the OECD’s “Divided We Stand“. Yeah, that’s not a typo. Remember for capitalist conservatives, inequality is thought to create stability–by diversifying economic preferences and market niches.) aint going to do it.

I attended and wrote note notes last night at a panel on Canadian business’ relationship to inequality and Occupy protest, provided by the business school for the benefit of the business community in a Canadian city.

Businessmen in the audience said they wanted to stay with the “globalization makes inequality necessary” line. They like that, know it, don’t want to abandon it. Feels good.

 But it’s killing off your consumer market, and there can only be a few Walmarts in monopoly capitalism, replied the business profs. Can you businessmen at least think about maybe taking some of your profits and investing them in local charity works, or in Living Wages?

The progressive business profs tried to introduce the idea that inequality has costs, to human health,  to human capital, and economic costs in the form of consumer market decline.

The idea that inequality has human and economic costs did not appear to register with the businessmen and business students in the audience. On the one hand, the audience managed to respond that they expect the Chinese to replace failing Americans as the consumer market to the world; on the other hand, they expect to still keep super-exploiting starvation-wages Chinese labor. Cake; eat it too. So that’s the quality of plan you get from the leaders of a high-inequality regime.

The business school dean authoritatively lectured on how Canada should respond to economic inequality. He cribbed the OECD’s “Divided We Stand”. His takeaway OECD message? Stay the course; Occupy will fade; the problem is simply that some people just aren’t techno-skilled enough–ergo Canadian businesses should engage in more in on-the-job training. 

 It’s good to read this OECD report so you know how your elite are failing.

 The business dean refused to acknowledge parasitic over-financialization’s relationship to unyielding Western economic gout. Over-financialization, at the root of economic destruction and political sclerosis, is not on elites’ radar as a problem.

You might be interested in knowing that the business dean and business profs said that elites are hoping on securing the continued loyalty of the top 30-40% income earners, at least within Canada, to help maintain their order. Is that you?

 …Because I know 30-40%ers who are having their incomes actively suppressed right now by the neoliberal machinery in place. They’ve got big and growing education debt and housing debt–or they don’t live middle class in significant ways/aren’t bought off. Neoliberalism has a life of its own. The  middle class buy-off is in decline, and that means that the discipline that the middle class enforces is  slated to follow… and though they are still purportedly relying on it, this decline is off elites’ radar! Good thing they’re still over-“investing” in guard labor.

 Their leadership is not as irreplaceable as their money leads businessmen and their technocrati to believe they are.

Neoliberal qualitative research

How neoliberalism works 101, capillary dynamics unit, 
or What will only be admitted to 50 years on because this is how people earn their meat: 
 When, supplicating to Our Dead Hero Frederick Winslow Taylor, you won’t trust and pay (value) qualitative researchers to research, and instead you’ve efficiently confined all the research management power in legal and Human Subjects Research Ethics bureaucracies that in turn force the development of an attendant managerial class specializing in billowing human subjects and grant applications–as well as in, priest-like, enforcing dogmatic incantations (“Research is all about relationships!”) in defiance of reality, then you won’t have any money left over to pay researchers to develop those qualitative research relationships; and they are by definition parachuting in and grabbing interview data (slathered with a soothing slime layer of desperate blather about how it’s all about the subjects, as cribbed straight out of Nescafe and Best Buy consumer marketing), which empties qualitative research of its validity, even as it keeps some people (managers) floating in middle class waters, while others must scramble together proletarianized research contracts.
 Corollaries to this neoliberal capture of qualitative research: 
1) It encourages one to appreciate the comparative integrity of other research methods, such as historical, documents, quantitative, etc. 
 2) The only people who can do valid qualitative research are unproletarianized, semi-independent researchers with ample time and access to subjects, eg. a dissertator, a professor at a liberal arts college.
3) These neoliberal qualitative research practices are consistently defended with:
a) The assertion that it is the research organization that has relationships to the research subjects, not humans. This is alienation. If it were true, it wouldn’t be difficult for the researcher, a mere representative of the dear organization, to interview the subject. But parachuting is difficult, and the results have validity problems.
b) Emotional references to academic management’s historical personal and professional ties to subaltern victim groups. This rhetorical strategy–in which the manager wraps herself/himself in the flag of the oppressed–is supposed to compensate for and justify the labor ethics and validity deficiencies of the neoliberal research management approach.
c) The claim that they facilitate the research training of unskilled students. That happens to a limited extent, but it’s the best case scenario. Because the neoliberal system promotes managerialism, it also, conversely, propels mass proletarianization. We know that this has happened in academia. Qualitative work can be done independently, professionally and ethically by almost everyone who used qualitative research to earn a Master’s degree; they were educated, trained and disciplined and evaluated for precisely this. In a top-heavy neoliberal system, legions of highly-qualified researchers are forced into deskilled research labor; and since it’s deskilled labor, it doesn’t pay enough to survive on; the proletarianized researchers must amass multiple research contracts that do not permit him or her the time to do pro-bono “relationship”-building work. Rather than facilitating students’ training, neoliberal qualitative research practices by and large do just the opposite–they facilitate the deskilling proletarianization of highly-skilled labor.
4) Human Subjects Research Ethics protocols have metastasized malignantly, and are currently grotesquely misapplied to qualitative research to research’s diminishment. In favor of creating expensive administrative overhead in academia, they ruin qualitative research validity, as well as deskill scholarly labor, to no compensatory ethical advantage. Human Subjects Ethics protocols should be imposed solely upon research in which the researcher will not have an ongoing relationship with and be accountable to the research subjects, as in for example physical science experiments, behavioral experiments, and parachute qualitative research.
Now, the above neoliberal qualitative research practices are not confined to feminist researchers, but feminist researchers are a significant force in their propulsion. Neoliberal qualitative researchers such as feminists do not, however, have a monopoly on sacrificing good (valid, valid assumptions, non-trivial, reliable, generalizable) research upon the alter of career survival in the context of the lack of capitalist market and state support for good research. The systematic diminishment of the validity of qualitative research in favor of imposing “efficient” neoliberal managerialism upon scholarship is the feminist social science researcher’s answer to the male quant social science researcher’s careerist war strategy: exclusive male professionalization, in which male social science quants aggressively, competitively define quantitative work–even and especially trivial quantitative work, and quantitative work elaborating upon untenable assumptions of ideological utility to capital–as the limits of “professional” work in the discipline, as per the conservative economics model. Both these sub-communities’ (academic gangs’) approaches sacrifice good research and the integrity and development of other people’s scholarly work in an individualistic (although pyramid-scheme network-dependent) dog-eat-dog fight to survive neoliberalism.
I’m not done with the irrationality of Human Subjects Research Ethics systems that propel administrative (lawyers, managers) expansion at the expense of both good (valid) qualitative research and researcher integrity and capacity. Such systems also consume tremendous institutional and scholarly resources, a crippling distraction from academia’s failure to curb or discipline the main scholarship problem of our time: trivial research based in untenable assumptions, on behalf of the highest-paying patron, as per zombie economics. In this resource misallocation, and this top-heavy institutional diminishment of the importance of evaluating research for its extra-market non-trivialness (Does this contribute to understanding: What is good living? What collective institutions contribute to its development?), Human Subjects Research Ethics institutions today also contribute to the irrelevance and overgrown legitimation function of academia.

Parallel testimony on how lawyers (trained in capitalist property law) ruin the role and healthy functioning of demi-capitalist (here church) institutions. Capitalism doesn’t always create state legitimation crises; sometimes, through domineering colonization, it creates institutional legitimation crises. In either case, some institutions precede capital accumulation, and are not made to function by capitalist goals–even if they orthogonally support a capitalist system and capital depends on non-capitalist relations (Not all the house’s beams can run the same way). It creates enough havoc that capital outsources its crises to these supporting institutions (Eg. ‘Banks fail’ is efficiently converted into ‘welfare states fail.’); but also, as in the university, when the distinction between the goals and procedures of capitalist firms and of demi-capitalist institutions is lost under a shitload of business management (and by the red right hand of warped-Calvinist anxiety to demonstrate election via status and income inequality), the demi-capitalist institution loses its functionality, even its capacity to support capital. This is a good example of contradiction unfolding into crisis.

Out with FPTP

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

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

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

Ahhhh Sanity

Tragically, a Canadian teenage pop star was killed by coyotes while hiking in the Nova Scotia wilderness.

In an awesome, unexpected burst of human wisdom, her mother asked that the coyotes not be killed.

“We take a calculated risk when spending time in nature’s fold — it’s the wildlife’s terrain,” she wrote. “When the decision had been made to kill the pack of coyotes, I clearly heard Taylor’s voice say, ‘Please don’t, this is their space.’ She wouldn’t have wanted their demise, especially as a result of her own.”

Although Canada Parks and a local police officer had already killed two coyotes in revenge for young Ms. Mitchell’s death, Canada Parks did acknowledge that mother Emily Mitchell had a point. ““We really have a lot of sympathy for her perspective,” the Canada Parks rep said. “We’re not out here conducting a general cull.”