Why are Leftists Today Econ Illiterate?

A response to Nick Srnicek’s Disorder of Things blog post “Has the Left Given up on Economics.” Basically, I agree with Srnicek: 1) There is too much economic illiteracy, 2) There is too little economic innovation, and 3) We need to organize. 


My two cents (argued below) is that we would do well to think about the challenge strategically, keeping in focus class’ impact on social networks and the legitimacy and spread of ideas.





Where have you gone Maynard Keynes? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Mrs. Robinson, Lemonheads version

It has been argued here that Marxian economics are stalled because Marxists have not done the work needed to capture the Left’s imagination, which is, according to the blog author, designing post-capitalist transitionary structures and “expanding the variables” in its economic models.(*1) I might support the author of that blog in exploring these projects (Again, I’m all for the proliferation of Marxist work, including packaging old wine in lovely, new, well-written bottles.), but I can’t agree that this (more writing, or adding variables and some tiny academic community’s jargon du jour) is all Leftists need to become political-econ literate. (Although if thinking so motivates you to hit the keyboard, good on you!)


Leftists are political-econ illiterate because 1) outside of social democratic countries, there is no union confederation that employs prominent Marxist economists and disseminates political-economic literacy, and 2) there is no social gravitational force making political-econ literacy a normal thing. For example, there’s no critical mass of political-econ literacy, and unlike earlier eras, there are no Leftist economists from capitalist backgrounds today. 


The Left will readily accept the first explanation without controversy, so I will do my best to elaborate here why I think the second point matters.





The Siren Call of The Fancies


The problem I see for the spread of Left political-economic literacy has partially to do with why Keynes is so influential. Keynes is influential not because he was the most imaginative lefty-liberal of the 20th century (though he was an iconoclast and brilliant), but because he was a very centrally-elite independent thinker. (And even then, Keynes’ most important ideas were not implemented in policy, and they were censored in the economics discipline.) Even Marxist  economist Paul Sweezy was revered and could influence government, develop his work, and support the development of Marxist economics partly because he was a super guy, and partly because he was a hegemonic elite male. 


Wait. Do not go fetal on me here. This is not a love song an identity critique.


(OK, Sweezy was a dick to Schumpeter’s wife in “The Future of Capitalism” 1946-47 debate, so it could be an identity critique, but it won’t.)


There are no radical, square-jawed, econ-literate, white-hero elites anymore. They were methodically wiped out by a campaign organized throughout the Anglosphere by conservative economists and their funders. What  we’ve got left are weak-jawed, middle class, econ-literate heroes,(*2) and that means that de facto they’ve got smaller influence networks. So small Srnicek fails (Really, we fail. I’m just being literary there, blaming it on Srnicek.) to notice a lot of them.

We have fantastic political-economic ideas right now and for a long time (including many from Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, etc. that have yet to be translated into English). But their spread is actively suppressed, first by the assault on unions–which can disseminate alternative ideas about how to run society, and second by the assault on non-neoclassical economists, the political economists. 


For one late example, just at the moment that the neoclassical econ emperor was fully exposed as naked and bereft (post-2007), the last dean here, with the support of mobilized conservative econometricians within the department, destroyed the nonorthodox base of this “N.A. Siberia” university’s holdout econ department and loaded the department up with econometricians and other economic servants of capitalist hegemony. Those marxist economists (eg. John Loxley) spent years strategizing, designing and implementing economic alternatives–including nascent social enterprise networks. They have a lot to contribute right now.

Left political-economy is not dead and it’s not irrelevant. Go into an anarchist bookstore (eg. Viva Mondragon in Winnipeg), and there are shelves and shelves of contemporary and historical books describing and proposing alternative economies. They’re just written by insufficiently-connected people. It’s not their individual fault they’re not Weber’s apocryphal charismatic prince.

Moreover, there are still some of us sociologists who (semi-)self-teach political-econ, as well as great non-neoclassical economists who’ve been forced out of economics, to hang their shop sign in sociology, geography and business departments. The Union for Radical Political Economics, for one, is full of them. Monthly Review folks are terribly proud of their political-econ analyzing record.

The problem right now is that while decent job markets have constricted with decades of neoliberal inequality initiatives–including the campaigns to wipe out working class institutional bases such as unions and social citizenship rights, at the same time, we’ve been assaulted by a concerted, coordinated, funded conservative campaign to ferret the non-conservatives out of the paid-ideas market.  Zombie econ and postmodernism are symptoms of that doxa chokehold, not failures we need to take responsibility for. They are the epistemologies over which elites still cast their heartening, radiant blessings.


To address the continuing political-econ literacy and innovation deficit, in and out of paid employment, knowing we have no shining elite knights to grant us courage through the long dark night, we need to be collectively committed to honing the work (that is, in a disciplined way, forgiving temporary missteps, forgoing ego indulgences, and pointing out fruitful paths), connecting to past thinkers, promoting, and celebrating the leftist political-economists who have managed to haul themselves through this hegemonic war period, rather than waiting for another Keynes.

We are not Blaine.



Elites aren’t any greater minds or men than non-elite intellectuals; they make mistakes and develop too; they just have head starts and better PRespecially in a high-inequality era. It’s not a deal breaker that non-elite intellectual contributions tend to have to occur later in life. But we need to make up for no PR–Because relentless exposure to oppositional framing can wear away at individuals’ and communities’ confidence and sense of purpose, undermining development and the adoption and diffusion of ideas. 


Advancing ideas broadly is very hard to do without the grease of money and the protective social networks money forges. But as MR’s John Foster reminded us (but hardly practiced) at UO, feminist successes came with promoting their own institutions and networks. Do we need another White Hope (White Emigration)? Why not recognize the special social challenge of a movement that valorizes and champions the working class within a capitalist milieu, and strive to husband socialist political economics to the very best of our social abilities?

(*2) This statement is tongue-in-cheek. Signals: 1) the context: I am saying that “middle” (working)-class intellectuals contribute good econ work that can be more widely distributed if such intellectuals recognize and strategically act upon the knowledge that they are working without the facilitative social status conveyed elites; and 2) I symmetrically apply the complementary “heroes” trope in this sentence to both left elite intellectuals and left middle class intellectuals. These two constructions should be able to indicate to a good-faith reader that I am not actually critical of working class people’s facial features. If this were a real publication instead of an obscure blog entry, I would probably get rid of it, but it’s not and the phrasing is intended to reinforce my point that working class people are not viewed with as much credit as elites are–a social phenomenon. However, I readily concede that as rhetoric, the tongue-in-cheek phrase’s (“weak chinned”) castrating qualities  probably outweigh its metaphorical utility. 


Further clarification:


Building Credit for Non-elite Political-economic Ideas

The point I was making above is that rather than getting frustrated with leftists for leftie social movements’ current lack of access to economic knowledge, we ought to recognize something sociological–that at this historical juncture there is a lack of political-economic leadership– both a lack of union leadership (due to the decimation of unions), and a deficit of critical mass or elites engaged with left political-economics (Compared to the early 20th century. Because of the lack of legitimate communist threat/alternative.), and because of deliberate conservative organizing as well as neoliberal drift, and this means that the spread of left political-economic ideas in the contemporary era is excessively constrained. Without critical mass or the (capitalist elite) leadership that can jumpstart it (example here), the motivation to economic literacy in the left is dampened.



We (Americans, Leftists, scholars) hate to think of ourselves as impressed with elite leadership; but it’s time to face it. We’re human. We’re social. We respond (not necessarily happily or healthily) to social status. Frankly, we are not living in an intelligence meritocracy, and as brilliant as they are, the contemporary editors of Monthly Review don’t have enough capitalist gravitas to impress even Leftists into becoming literate in political-economics. This is a social problem that can’t be beat by simply doodling a bit more upon a gigantic, diverse body of elaborate theory and observation.


Yes. This is quite a conundrum for the Left. It’s a strategic challenge to take seriously.

If we analyze the political-economics literacy deficit and strategize how to combat it, which I agree is important, I suggest what we need is some creative thinking about what to do about the smaller social networks, and especially-contested legitimacy accompanying good work by non-elite intellectuals. 



Screw it. Our work is good. And the only instance in which  a liberal or conservative is going to acknowledge that is for divide-and-conquer purposes. Fuck ’em. Hold up your head and don’t apologize for another Leftist’s work, even if apologizing is an oblique way to flatter your own doubtlessly-, comparatively-superior work, you easily-manipulated psychological weakling.


Discourse, communication is far from simple. Intention is difficult to discern without being able to grant people a certain amount of credit; the elite sense of entitlement and elite social networks help a lot with that. Does the Left have social strategy that can compensate for a lack of elite leadership?


Obviously, we need to organize working-class unions as a long-term strategy. As well, movements such as OWS can help develop the credit needed for sowing political economic ideas and literacy. 



My simple suggestion was that we ought to consider as well whether political-econ leftists could be better disciplined to support each other–to simulate the credit that people give over to elites, which allows ideas and influence to develop and spread. 


A war of position is going on around us. Capitalist conservatives, their conservative managers and hegemonists, and their multiple layers of publicly-funded police are one obvious bloc opposing Left community and ideas development. As well, capitalist conservatives’ ally, liberals (including North American unions, which are not by, of and for the working class) will continue to counter the non-elite credit conditions for the spread of political-economic literacy. 


A bit on their back foot right now, liberals will, for one, simply lie about the content of left or Marxist political economics. Brad DeLong does this. Today he claimed that because of the labor theory of value, Marx opposed Keynesian monetary policy. Yeah, um, WTF? For two, they may invoke Magical Rectitude, reasserting the traditional, elite-sanctioned, pomo de-valorization of political-economic literacy, which in the present case may be boiled down to, “This [Occupy movement] is trivial. Who cares how ‘white Americans’ (contemporary global elite code for ‘working class’) are faring? They’re a mob of assholes. Won’t someone please think of the [insert identity group].” 

The liberals’ Helen Lovejoy strategy



To foster the credit conditions needed to improve Left political-economic literacy, the Left needs to keep liberals on their back foot, by not engaging their opposition directly, but recognizing their identities and cultural contributions, while continuing to build and assert an inclusive working class praxis


The Left has to take a page out of Corey Robin’s analysis of conservatism, successful Occupy mobilizations, Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” model, and Barbara Ehrenreich’s Dancing in the Streets analysis, and create a privileged space for passion–writing with passion, speeches with passion, singing and dancing with passion–and figure out how to link it to economic literacy. Most (though not all) people who live in unequal societies are mobilized with passion. The sign that our own minds have become colonized and crippled by the opposition is when we’re incapable of expressing ourselves with passion. People read (masculine) passion as confidence, and we need confidence in our political economic literacy.


Have and build confidence in our capacity for solidarity. Have and build confidence in our capacity for political-economic literacy. Have and build confidence in our capacity to disrupt the system and, if not overcome it at this moment, at least modify its components.



(*1) The blogger appears to be a student of Alan Freeman and Radhika Desai. His post is interesting in that if you follow comments and links you will find out part of what Alan Freeman is up to intellectually, which I’ve personally found impossible to pry out of him in polite conversation; and you’ll find out that Radhika and Alan are part of an effort to publish a series (including their own writing as well as works by Marx, Keynes, & Perry Anderson) on “The Future World of Capitalism.” 





Actually, over the weeks, I’ve come to disagree a little bit with the “economics-ignorant Left” formulation of the problem. As Nancy Fraser discusses in “The Cunning of History,” 1970s anti-economism met neoliberalism and devolved into excessive mass disengagement with political economy. But that is not all. Economics promoted itself as a capital-serving profession by becoming proudly divorced from, contemptuous of, and unaccountable to Left constituencies and intellectual perspectives. It has been personally hardest on the Left economists, and they are due respect for their monk-like perseverance. For the Left it was a tragedy of separation and cloistering that cannot be resolved quickly with simple exhortations for everyone to submit to the economists. While I argue above for confidence, I think economists could stand to recognize that their oftentimes-prohibitive competitiveness and lack of cooperative humility extend from their deep socialization and  identity within a social-professional group that crippled its own critical capacity.

Well, I’m accustomed to the smooth ride. 
Or maybe I’m a dog that’s lost its bite.
I don’t expect to be treated like a fool no more. 
I don’t expect to sleep through the night.
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Pro Communist

Jodi Dean’s talk “The Communist Horizon” on the necessity of communism/socialism and of challenging bourgeois redirection efforts, wherein the author argues that if we want to oppose neoliberalism, we need to keep our eyes on the communist prize: identify and fight exploitation.

A strong point.

Dean argues, It’s not that “politics is dead.” It’s that “The Left” refuses to engage in the one kind of politics, communism, that can offer an alternative to what we have, which is exploitation. Communism is the opposite of exploitative neoliberalism. According to Dean’s philosophical view, communism is the sovereignty, the collective power of the people.

‎...And probably we refuse to engage communism because so many of us are cathected to capitalist relations. Then the Left “we” includes all the people who simply desire to be recognized as moral avatars, in compensation for our lack of solid access to power in extreme-inequality societies that many of us mostly accept.

Dean argues that pro-democracy politics in bourgeois societies are a distraction. Democracy cannot replace communism today; it is the “bent shape of communism’s loss.”

“Rather than recognizing that for the Left, democracy is the form that the loss of communism takes, the form of communism’s displacement, radical democrats treat democracy as itself replacing communism. And on this point, they share the neoliberal position regarding the victory of capitalism.

…The repercussion of the sublimation of communism in democratic preoccupations with process and participation is acquiescence to capitalism as the best system for the production an distribution of resources, labor and goods.

…The mistake Leftists make, when they turn into liberals and democrats, is thinking that we are beyond the communist horizon, that democracy replaced communism, rather than serves as the contemporary form of communism’s displacement.”

Dean continuously opposes Zizek’s vision of reinvigorating communism. She argues, I think inessentially, that Leftists should focus on extending the communist critique of exploitation, rather than use the concept of exclusion to critique capital, as Zizek does. “Capitalism doesn’t exclude. It exploits,” she insists. Sure, let’s not lose sight of the fact that capitalism exploits. I don’t think Zizek loses sight of this.

Zizek argues that exclusion creates surplus population that is essential to concentrated capitalist accumulation and use of power. I would say that Dean’s opposition to Zizek is unnecessary, and seems to be motivated by her desire to sell the society-as-“network” metaphor rather than Zizek’s Lacanian psychoanalytical capitalist-whole-constituted-by-the-lack metaphor. Meh. I don’t think this is much more than academic competitive posturing and salesmanship. I usually say that exclusion and inclusion are tools capitalism uses across space and social stratifications to ramp up exploitation, see neoliberal European efforts to improve immigrant “inclusion” via getting rid of labor laws that bolster labor’s capacity to work in solidarity and reduce exploitation. I think there’s a social movement point in surveying capitalism’s tactical repertoire; and it doesn’t require we forget about exploitation.


In a similar way, I think that if we understand socialism historically, as the embattled and so-far-lost effort to expand the Enlightenment, then there are both bourgeois (democracy as a modest, constrained assemblage of political substitutes for equal access to the social surplus, and for equal contribution to decisions about accumulation, distribution, and how we shall live) and socialist (eg. economic democracy, equal access to the social surplus, and equal contribution to decisions about accumulation, distribution, and how we shall live) pro-democracy (rule of the people) politics. Socialist pro-democracy movements are nothing less than the continuing, still-necessary fight for the people’s sovereignty, against the alienation and exploitation that both permit nonstop, concentrated accumulation and limit democracy. I would say that it is important at this historical juncture to distinguish socialist democracy from bourgeois stunted democracy.

…Easier said than done, given capitalist hegemony…Which brings up the importance of recognizing that capitalism always already entails class war…
On the importance of discipline and confidence in committing to change, Dean concludes:

“As Lukacs makes clear, for the Leninist party, the actuality of revolution requires discipline and preparation not because the party can accurately predict everything that will occur, because it cannot, and not because it has an infallible theory, which it does not. Discipline and preparation are necessary in order to adapt to the circumstances. The party has to be consistent and flexible because revolution is chaotic.

The actuality of revolution then is an enabling impediment. It’s a condition of constituitive non-knowledge for which the party can prepare. It’s a condition that demands response, if the party is to be accountable to the people, if the party is to function as a communist party.

The difference between actuality and futurity, the perpetual displacement of democracy into an impossible future, then is a difference in preparation, discipline, responsiveness and planning. The former requires it. The latter seems to eschew it or postpone it. For the Leninist party, to postpone is to fail now.

The actuality of revolution is one cannot postpone a decision or judgment. It means that one undertakes it fully exposed to one’s lack of coverage in history, or even the chaotic revolutionary moment. It means that one has to trust that the revolutionary process will bring about new constellations, arrangements, skills, convictions, that through it we will bring about something else, something we aren’t imagining now.”

The bourgeois cannot trust this creative process. The risk inherent in this process is too great for her, and faced with it, she will collapse communism into a fetishized account of the political sins of a Stalin, Pol Pot or Kim Jung Il.

“The communist horizon is what we must focus on and use as a guide if this redirection is compelled by the force of the common rather than by the speculation of the few.”

It’s interesting that that this need for discipline is not immediately apparent to many academics. Perhaps the absence of an understanding of the benefits of discipline from academic analysis of social movement and political change is the result of the rise of idealist elaboration and the Saramagian blindness to historical-material exploitation. Perhaps its absence belies academics’ unprocessed piles of regret at “succeeding” as disciplined academics in the neoliberal era.

What I think is interesting right now (December 2011) is that, given Occupy critical mass, democratic process appears to facilitate coalition bloc discipline. I still think, however, that Dean’s critique of the 1990s post-Marxist fetishized glorification of empty-signifier “democracy” as a substitute for anti-exploitation was looooong overdue. 

Bye Bye Miss American Empire

“We are a country born in secession against a distant colonial power. The Declaration of Independence asserts that ‘Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed,’ and that ‘whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.’ This does not imply the perpetuity of established states; should a government commit ‘a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations,’ the people have not only the right but the duty to throw it off. To secede means to withdraw. It is not self-effacement; the seceding party does not disappear. It simply removes itself from an arrangement it no longer finds satisfactory and sets up another” Bill Kauffman. 2010. Bye Bye Miss American Empire.

Kauffman argues for the Left to embrace seccession in the US. Yes, a big structural problem behind the intransigent problems of the global economy, US militarization, and global imperialism, is that the US is a leviathon.

But given not just the domestic but also the global elite interest in maintaining the US as a large market and center of high resource and profit extraction, and given the massive level of police militarization in the US, I think the Left should strategically consider its position in the natural geographic faultlines of the US.

Strategic Secessionism

First, let us acknowledge that in the United States, the Left today is not just balkanized, but atomized. The Left in the Anglosphere has for much of the past several decades been deactivated, disoriented, and sometimes reduced to a puppet–Without philosophical coherence, solidarity, and multipronged, wide-view strategic vision, its adherents are only capable of implementing prefab conservative policy–as long as they’re enunciated in an altruistic or fatalistic way, not building progressive policy.

However, in the early 20th century, a small number of Leftists cohered to mobilize people. They influenced policy, including the framework of the thinkable. If some dedicated, mobilization-oriented cohesion were to again emerge within the Left (From a basis in OWS?), collective Left strategy could be pursued again, and humane and economically and environmentally-facilitative Leftist ideas could influence North American societies again.

Cohesion does not mean undifferentiated identity. Successful social movement strategy requires different groups of people engaging in distinct tactical “prongs,” under a framework of guiding ideas and long-term goals. This allows a coalition to take advantage of different kinds of people’s strengths and meso/micro-philosophies.

As necessary as it is, the multi-pronged movement is vulnerable to individuals’ and groups’ lack of discipline and perspective; different coalition groups and actors must be disciplined to recognize and be tolerant of the mid-to-long-range strategic necessity of multiple, different tactical prongs that superficially “clash” in the short-term. For example, social movement requires both within-establishment work and independent outside disruption. Two coalition prongs are needed in Left  movement.

1)
The majority of the Left coalition, including Left-liberals, social anarchists, anarchists and Leftists who are primarily interested in prefigurative politics can, for example, engage movements such as Transition Town, where they plan, mobilize, and organize to wean communities off their vulnerable dependency on highly-extractive, capital strike-prone, financial-military elites’ political-economy.

2)
Strategically-minded Leftists could take a page out of the FBI Cointelpro book. They can organize to pose as Right-wing commentators on-line and as community members in churches, urging the Right wing to press for seccession. This approach would strategically use frame resonance, a social movement concept which Snow & Benford tend to lean too much on (because usually it’s impossible for Leftists to mobilize for Leftist goals). Encouraging the American Right to take up its traditional, localist version of conservatism, however, is a real framing opportunity for the Left.

Right-wing average Americans have historically taken and would take to a seccessionist movement. They could put their money, their energy, their communal passion behind it, and in creating a threat to governmentality, they could bear the brunt of police and military repression. [Discuss: Obama Presidency as time-delimited political opportunity for activating Imperial Apartheid social contract framework, mobilizing American Right populists around secessionist movement.] At the very least, this could force a useful split between the organized capitalist Right and the populist Right in the United States. The limit of this strategy is that at this point in history, capitalists are highly cohesive, across geography. That could change.

The Left can facilitate, or refrain from opposing–and take advantage of– a populist Right-wing secessionist movement, to gain strength in particular territory, and to mobilize the progressive public around labor- and environmentally-friendly ideas, policies, and institutions.

Geographic Mobilization

Because being pro-US seccession will activate the massive police and military apparatus, for the Left this should be about the basic tactical consideration of geography. The strategy should be about mobilization, laying down a left organizational foundation in regions and cities that have not been irrevocably overdetermined by slavery, military bases, and financial institutions, and therefore have not been heavily, deeply influenced by conservative theory and culture.

Securing territorial contiguity between the Atlantic and Pacific has always been a vital interest of American elites. Even Jefferson sacrificed his vision of the good society to attain that continent-spanning territory. Lincoln engaged in domestic war to secure it. It would probably be most strategic for Leftists to plan to organize in northern territory that would leave to the conservative capitalist elite a strong territorial corridor between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Order in One Basket: The Comparative Vulnerability of Pro-democracy Socialist Systems
One of the fundamental advantages of a capitalist system is that the capitalist market (characterized by concentrated effective demand and thus the social dominance of its elites) is a ubiquitous, depoliticized institution that effectively constrains freedoms, thereby maintaining system stability. Capitalist places of production, workplaces are totalitarian and depoliticized, and they dominate the capitalist societies’ institutional landscape.
The problem for socialist systems is that in socialism there is no equivalent, total, depoliticized, extra-state institution (comparable to the capitalist market) to constrain freedom. Socialism is about recognizing that economics are political. Opportunities for authorities to take advantage of depoliticized relations are rarer. This lack is what makes socialist systems much less robust than capitalist systems in the face of oppositional networks and their oppositional ideas.
Political-economically democratic systems are more sensitive to oppositional pressures to change than capitalist systems are. It’s no coincidence that whereas it was relatively easy to dismantle communist and social democratic societies at early signs of systemic global capitalist trouble, capitalist societies only become more so with the proliferation of crises. Socialist systems break too easily at anti-socialist opposition; capitalist systems are too insensitive to non-elite needs and do not permit essential deliberative change under the common conditions of system failure.
Beyond figuring out how to counter the pathological over-robustness of capitalism, as rooted in the totalitarian workplace, another problem for leftists to solve is how to foster democracy while also fostering a ubiquitous, depoliticized institution (analogous to the inegalitarian capitalist market) that sufficiently constrains oppositional demands for systemic change. This institution should be less constraining than the capitalist market, but it should still provide robustness to the socialist system. Anticapitalists should not assume this problem away. What massive, depoliticized social arena can stabilize socialism, at least transitionally in the long era of contest with capitalism, if we do away with the totalitarian workplace or the patriarchal church or the patriarchal family–given that part of the goal is to relieve humanity of excessive, rigid, stultifying social control, and to enable people’s capacity to regulate the flows of pleasure and pain (as per the Greek materialist tradition)? This problem is why so many Marxists come back to the importance of culture and cultural institutions.
Consider: Isn’t a version of this problem being handled badly by the Enlightenment society of Europe–France? Eg. Their use of state legal constraints on the public symbolic display of Anglo-American-activated anti-Enlightenment, oppositional Islamic fundamentalist patriarchy. To begin with, Islam has fundamental Western Enlightenment tradition–Why do the French not put energy into activating that–via depoliticized cultural institutions? At this point in history, it does not advance an Enlightenment tradition to make the politicized state the institution imposing order.
Left External-relations Considerations:

To maintain less-obstructive external relations, the Left should take a page out of capitalism’s book and facilitate a broad (but not infinite) range of symbolic cultural concessions–eg. “celebrations”: pride parades, carnivales, ethnic food and culture fairs, recognition awards, artistic tolerance, free speech and academic freedom, a degree of self-funded religious networking tolerance, some personal private property– to identity-liberation groups–but never at the price of undermining a permanent campaign of labor-focused economic literacy and advocacy. Never at the price of giving up the war of position.

Conventional Wisdom on the Hegemonic Battlefield

“What I have seen during more than three decades in Washington is that many truths remain effectively hidden, even if technically they have been revealed. A rare moment of truth-telling can be easily overwhelmed by a steady barrage of falsehoods and an infusion of well-calibrated doubts.

Before long, it is the oft-repeated faux reality that is remembered. It becomes Washington’s conventional wisdom and then the official history. [See Robert Parry’s book Lost History.]

In the United States today, there is a massive infrastructure for spreading lies and distortions–a right-wing media machine that reaches from newspapers, magazines and books to cable TV, talk radio and the Internet.

By simple repetition, this machine can transform any crazy theory or bald-faced lie into something that many Americans believe.”

Robert Parry, 8/16/2009, quoted at FAIR.

The 2 justifications for Capitalist Absolutism

The Bush regime is a simple aristocratic executive. As far as I can tell they only have two (2) rationales for every despotic and destructive piece of policy, legislation, rule, and executive order:

(1) Terrorism;

(2) Reduce Dependence on Foreign Oil.

It’s such a simple mantra, used to justify eveything from anulling habeas corpus to helping mining robber barons blow off the tops of mountains, that the Two Universal Justifications are even conceptually related. The Two Universal Justifications are so simple, all Communications Professionals can repeat them for every single fucking piece of schlock they pump out, as if they were stating reasons for policies and mandates. Thus all discussion and explanation ends, nowhere, and the holy Capitalist Absolutist era may shine on in all its rapacious glory.

US hegemony and belligerance

Ruminate on this: In the new, comprehensive worldwide Pew poll of public opinion, a majority (42%) of Israelis think that America’s Middle East Policies “Favor Israel too much”.

Glenn Greenwald (2007) writes in Salon.com that “Finally, it is worth noting one fact that is indisputable yet frequently denied in American political discourse, except when it is ignored altogether — namely, that America’s blind support for Israel in its disputes with its neighbors plays a key role — not the only role, but a key role — in why America’s moral standing has collapsed.”

Here is Greenwald’s article (“The Tragic Decline of America’s Standing…”) on how he thinks the US’s slide ever downward in world public opinion matters. I don’t love the article, but it’s a start. Here is the link to Mr. Greenwald’s article, and follow-up articles:

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/07/05/

Here is the Pew Global Attitudes Project site:

http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=256.

neoliberals dictate new working class consciousness

Inequality has skyrocketed in the U.S. over the past few decades. Social mobility has come to a grinding halt. Democracy congeals at a rudimentary, formal, political level, and crumbles–from stolen elections to secret prisons. The creative human energy that pushed capitalism, as the Marxists tried to tell us all along, was only a small step partway out of feudal relations. Despite the successive, glorious proclamations about the End of History, greater emancipatory effort is needed before the widespread development of human potential can be a prospect. This is all becoming obvious–painfully for some, uncomfortably for others. Facing the irrefutable, no longer able to dismiss the evidence as a narrow problem of racism or the South or poorly-bred Midwestern hicks or underdevelopment or bad apples not trying hard enough at capitalism, no longer needing to lie to save Cold War face, the New York Times has set upon itself the leadership task of developing its own liberal discourse on class in America.

As usual in the U.S., a land where anyone can be an expert if someone will pay him for it, scholars, usually among the least well paid in the overpopulated shouting chamber of expertise, are painted in the new hegemonic project as the villains, with their data-based insistence that people will do better by each other when they are informed—not just that class is a matter of tastes and habits, but that class is mostly a matter of high-stakes political and economic conflict, institution-building, organizing, and social movement.

The NY Times hired Paul Tough to present the argument that “elite” scholars bully goodhearted motivational speakers who are paid big checks to remind teachers to have sympathy for their working class students. Nobody objects to Ruby Payne popularizing Bourdieu to help teachers relate to poor students. Many, many kind-hearted people—called scholars—often working class, often middle class, occasionally an upper class sympathizer, have worked their whole lives, together studying, listening, comparing, experimenting, communicating about how class and caste work and hurt in America and beyond. They are trying to tell us about the crucial requirements found to make effective more than a few show-pony individuals’ tactical adjustments. They’re saying that in order to help people caught in U.S. class inequality better their lives, there’s a big piece of understanding required, much more salient and much more demanding than the entertainment, instruction, and discipline that a few personable liberals have ever been and will ever be able to give to middle class educators.

Paul Tough’s “The Class Consciousness Raiser” in the NYTimes (June 13, 2007) retreads the old standby American elite tactic of silencing scholars’ voices by painting them as the mean “elites”.

Yet it also makes one wonder how secure the NYT editorial staff feels about their ability to both acknowledge and contain working class consciousness and politics through crafting stories.