Elitism & Patronage: The Inegalitarian’s Theory of Justice

Theory literacy & its application

On how theoretical assumptions provide specific foundations producing specific varieties of knowledge:

Methodologically, comparison is a great way of understanding what exists, what is possible, and how alternative approaches and projects function. In the contrasting discipline of Linguistics, theory tends to be based on the distinct philosophical ontological assumption that the knowable world is a projection of human discourse—oral and/or written language. In a world of language, there is no inequality, no violation of shared commonality. There is only difference within language. Thus, in the philosophical linguistic ontology, the diminishment of difference is injustice. Recall Burke from Unit One: Arguing that when democratic Enlightenment theorists reduce inequality, they reduce the beautiful, natural difference that is Excellence, and so they reduce justice, is the conservative social philosophers’ political argument.

Conceiving of injustice as strictly the diminishment of difference, philosophical-linguistic ontology historically emerges from and is built for supporting the reproduction of high-inequality societies. The world-as-text assumption foundation justifies linguists’ disciplinary knowledge, including against the social scientific knowledge that arose within the struggle toward Western Enlightenment.

Social scientific knowledge distinctively assumes that humans exist together in an historical, material, embodied way within a knowable world that exists in but also beyond our linguistic networks. Corrollaries:

  • Social scientific ontology distinctively recognizes inequality, the violation of human commonality, as injustice.
  • Scientific knowledge is not only about what is, but also what can be. Fully specified science is descriptive (identifying trends), predictive (identifying the trajectory of trends), and normative (identifying alternatives we can socially construct).

In linguistic theory, “aporias” are empty spaces, treated as black boxes beyond knowledge, that within language structure the linguistic world, which for linguists is the whole world. Linguistic theory’s “aporias” correspond to the material world in science.

However, in science, the world beyond discourse is not treated as a black box, but is rather the focus of scientific knowledge-seeking. Recall from Marxist historical-materialism: In science, we strive to mobilize across space and time our distinctively human, material capacities to know the world. These capacities include not only our logical and emotional capacities, not only our social communication capacity, but also our hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, and proprioreceptor senses as well. With our distinctive human physical manipulation capacity (manual dexterity), we can build technological augmentations for our capacities, to further help us know the world beyond human language networks. Through scientific method employed across the community of shared scholarship to compensate for our human limitations, this aggregate knowledge will be incorporated in theory, in language according to democratic methodology, changing language in a distinct way. We think the virtue of scientific knowledge for democracy is that science is fundamentally built to involve a diversity of people, including a wide range of non-elites, in continually probing and searching for knowledge beyond elite exceptionalist, strategic interests. Scientific findings thus are not transcendental “truth,” but have validity. The ongoing conflict between elitist philosophy and scientific validity, as between inegalitarianism and egaliberte, is which is more just: transcendental truth, perhaps cherry-picking history, but always secured strictly by righteous power and entitlement, or validity, a provisional truth based on methodically apprehending and collectively interpreting aggregations of knowledge across humans.

How do contrasting ontologies, epistemologies,[1] and corresponding theory assumption bases impact the knowledge we produce?

Consider this case of the equivalence Mill (1869, “The Subjection of Women”) was arguing between slavery and patriarchy.

For a disciplinary Linguist, what is important is that slavery involves race, whereas patriarchy is about gender, and these concepts reflect distinct linguistic networks. A discourse theorist would argue that connecting patriarchy to slavery in terms of their function, as Mill did, creates an injustice against racialized people because it erases linguistic difference. Erasing linguistic difference is the ultimate injustice within philosophical-linguistic theory. You might recognize that this is a type of justice philosophy, the elite, conservative justice of the exception, which is oriented to find injustice where solidaristic connections are made between non-elite majorities and non-elite minorities. German idealism, including its Nietzschean, Weberian, and Ordoliberal branches, developed this approach through the German university system, originally dedicated to training the princely managers of European monarchies.

Perhaps ideally, exception-justice theory could be incorporated in democratic knowledge, could correct for science’s focus on aggregating positional knowledges and finding central trends. However, instead, in a capitalist society of manufactured scarcity, exception-justice theory tends to be deployed as a proprietary antithesis to scientific knowledge. In that context, it relies on righteous moralism.

For example, in a 2018 account of the Nazi construction of Asperger’s as a designation allowing for special socialization of sub-social boys into productive German society, a writer, L. Sheffer, married into Silicon Valley tech wealth, links Dr. Asberger’s cruel Nazi treatment of non-Asberger child deviants to the welfare state, in its social coordination functions that impinge on the lives of the exceptional. The conservative logic and morality are structured to support elite interest: opposing state intervention in market power.

For the conservative wealthy mother of a child on the autism spectrum, justice is a state free of democratic redistributive capacity, a social contract that permits economic elites to retain wealth without redistributive taxation or income and wealth compression, while the responsibility is laid upon presumably-brutish sea of Muggles to adjust, like the servants they are, to the autism-spectrum Silicon Valley inheritors of society’s wealth. To market this elite interest requires a moving–emotionally manipulative–story, ostensibly about Asbergers, connecting and reducing the welfare state to shameful, murderous Nazis…who did not kill boys designated with Asbergers. No matter the leaps and strains in the story (this time, putatively about Asbergers). Painting elite interest as moral crusader for the most vulnerable and marginalized is the feminized half of the inegalitarian conservative social order. In place of egaliberte, elites shall gift us a society of patronage (and servitude). Then when conservatives retell another cobbled, holey, moralism-patched account of why everyone should support inegalitarian absolute private property right, the tale is always marketed (as M. Pridmore-Brown did in the March 29, 2019 LRB) with hype around how brilliantly nuanced and complicated the argument is–That is conserva-code for crookedness and emotional manipulation.

To demonstrate the “truth” of exception-justice theory, a Linguist might gesture to a justice-of-the-exception argument forwarded by a community of African-American philosophers, such as the claim that slavery is an exceptional, incomparable experience of difference. This project argues that 99%-solidarity arguments such as Mill’s are injustice, from within the difference morality of the justice-of-the exception paradigm.

By contrast, a Sociological social scientist would be more likely to understand Mill’s argument about the slavery nature of patriarchal relations within the historical-materialist theory of capitalist development, in which capitalist relations (allocating to a small elite exclusive ownership and control over the means of production) repeatedly rely on and reproduce a “sea of appropriated work” (Jason Moore 2014), such as both slavery and patriarchy, among other kinds of expropriation.

Because it is based in a democratic-justice paradigm, does this mean that social science cannot forward a morality argument like a discursive exception-justice paradigm can?

No. Sociologists can gesture to, for example, Du Bois’ democratic justice arguments finding homologies (similarities) between the development of patriarchy, slavery, and racism (among other injustices, like ecological destruction) in the history of capitalist relations. Today, scholars of color including Angela Davis, Sedef Arat Koc, Glenn Coulthard and Leanne Simpson, et al, forward democratic-justice arguments rooted in social science and other (eg. indigenous) historical-materialist paradigms. Likewise, climate scientists have found their moral voice in recent years.

Moralism is a classic crutch propping up inegalitarianism. Although exceptionalist knowledge tends to be especially defended with moral arguments (eg. Burke), moralism is not an exclusive property of any one kind of justice paradigm or political wheelhouse. As the philosophical materialists, and as Dewey, Rousseau, and Wollstonecraft maintained, democracy requires moral development, toward a capacity to balance goods (or “pleasures”) over a lifetime and across lives. Yet advancing democratic capacity requires us all to learn theoretical literacy and scientific craft, rather than to lean on moralistic discourse.

Feminist social reproduction theorists JS Mill, M Wollstonecraft, V Woolf, and E Clews-Parsons would argue that education for democratic development requires us to rigorously study the theory and practice the empirical skills to move beyond reproducing an inegalitarian, gender-segregated society disposing feminized people to specialize in the moral regulation of segregated private worlds, as a social-reproductive complement to men disposed to be club conservatives bound to exploitation and imperialism.


Historical context: Social science knowledge v. Social philosophy knowledge

In the 20th century, as part of their neoliberal mobilization to reorient liberalism, as it’s centered on private property right, back toward the conservative wheelhouse of inequality and inegalitarianism, conservatives organized scholars around the claim that scientific, democratic social knowledge is unjust and requires correction–specifically correction with the elite-governed justice-of-the-exception paradigm. To make this claim, some conservative scholars depicted science as nothing more than state-subordinated scientism. Others, such as conservative economists, practiced and proliferated scientism.

Yet arguably, the neoliberal project to demonstrate that the elite-interest-governed justice-of-the-exception best represents the interests of the most marginalized non-elite peoples tends to be a co-optative reaction to democratic justice approaches and projects. Along with scientism, restoring justice-of-the-exception theory is part of a “neoliberal” conservative restoration project explicitly formulated to disrupt, dismantle, and replace democratic knowledge development.

[1] Ontologies: philosophies of what exists. Epistemologies: philosophies of how we know.

Queer-constructionist Political Economy?

Seriously, though, I don’t get the promotional friendship between Melinda Cooper and the US East Coast-networked leftists, their combined attempt to mischaracterize and discredit Nancy Fraser, as if she were an opponent of queer constructionism.

Where Fraser, as a philosopher, did a philosophical analysis of how neoliberalism co-opted the antimarxist liberal and postmodern feminism that developed upon a conservative philosophical tradition championing the justice telos of difference against the justice telos of egaliberte, Cooper just appropriates some of the 1990s family sociology and political soc work, tosses in a couple superficial gestures to Marx, and tacks it onto a hatchet job on Fraser. Australia has the worst academic production incentives. Maybe it would seem fresh and necessary if you were a Political Scientist and thought queer social constructionism was birthed in the 2016 H. Clinton multijurisdictional campaign. Cooper’s latest is the most manipulative, orchestrated, bad-faith academic work I have seen coming out of the social sciences in recent years. Because the empirical history retelling is so derivative, it seems like it was done just to sell the denunciation, maintain the conservative elite + patronaged-exception political coalition.

Every time I see a reviewer scratch “Masterful” or “Magesterial” next to Cooper’s cheap appropriation smacked onto a wildly-bad faith denunciation, I grow curiouser and curiouser. Is this about Political Science just co-opting Political Sociology work, and Political Scientists rallying behind that? After all these years, I finally worked out how much the tenured Arts academy (not just commercial science faculty) is a collection of people seeking patronage from (or contributing to the campaigns and interests of) political parties, foreign states and defense industry, banks, etc. Is this a security institutions thing–some attempt to hush down the political, antimarxist role of academic poststructuralism in the academy? Why is Cooper so well networked into the Anglo-American Atlantic–to the point where a quick ‘n’ dirty, basic, redundant lit review is hailed as “magesterial”? Usually, Australians are networked into the Commonwealth. Curiouser & curiouser.

Maybe Cooper gets carte blanche for some reason after “Life as Surplus”? Maybe she just earned publishing house-backed credit as someone who can crank out books. Again, quality is at issue.

For obdurate reasons of ontological difference, Queer social constructionism is not a logical fit with political economy. Micro constructionism (discursive essentialism) and macro-constructionism (political economy) can make space for each other, but they cannot fuse. All Cooper did to bridge the ontological incompatibility was fake a shared epistemology–by appropriating it. This is clearly not sustainable, because it required not producing knowledge but stealing the work of and then denouncing all the people who did the empirical work, the social science social reproduction feminists, whom Cooper dismissed by reducing and subsuming them under their philosophical-interpretive ally,  Fraser. This is not scholarship; it’s gaming. While I understand that ambition’s at play here, it’s really not going to work to demand that older feminists in particular submit like good cis-het girls to queer-careerists humping their leg, because to be a mature female feminist is also to work with being existentially queered, and it always has been. It’s not a choice. It’s not a strategy. It’s not a brand.

For leftists, it is not worth selling out all the socialist feminists who do the social reproduction empirical and theoretical work, have done it since Kollontai (1915), just to try to fake like there’s a viable, hybrid queer-constructionist political economy tradition or agenda to market. Don’t force it. If you need a queer path to political economy to fill out the cocktail party or to compete with a Coca-Cola commercial, some slightly-less-mercenary queer careerist can plagiarize Stephanie Coontz and Sarah Diamond (not queer enough 4 U ?) without profoundly disrespecting all the sex-heterogeneous socialist feminists and their work.

By contrast…The great things about Fraser are that as a philosopher she pays attention to the empirical, craft work of feminist social scientists without appropriating it. She does her own work. And b) her work is rigorous, reflective, coalitional and politic, informed by experience, and a reorienting, politically-necessary intellectual intervention that guides and clarifies ideas. Like a philosopher is supposed to. It’s not just a weathered French academicism–pre-scripted, delegated, conservative imperial market-state reproduction strategy–slap-dash and slathered with bluster, a la Cooper.

Fight Over Freedoms (excerpt)

The post-WWII Anglosphere, to which so many migrated, was full of the notion that whatever redistribution was going on after all that sturm und drang, it must mean an increase in unfreedom, servitude.

We cherish that criticism. Some of those Austrian Empire diaspora thinkers’ ideas were the product of conservative resolve, cast in the cauldron of European class conflict. Others, including Frankfurt School exponents, were moving out of a Marxist background. As Polanyi pointed out in “On Freedom,” “Marx saw still something more, and this constitutes his historic greatness. He understood that capitalist society is not just unjust but also un-free.”
Counter to Marx’s perception of unfreedom in capitalism, the shared conservative conceptualization of freedom arrived again on Anglo-American shores and integrated into the 20th century heart of capitalism, reinforcing slavers’ institutions and culture. Conservatism has always argued that true freedom is absolute sovereignty, based on exceptional masters wrestling for dominance atop a society of bent and broken slaves. The democratic Enlightenment exponents, by stark contrast, pursued materialist philosophy’s ancient insistence that freedom is egaliberte, requiring strong education and other associational institutions socializing citizens –including newcomers, both youth and immigrants–into exchanging ideas, information, and grievances for democratic development.


Democratic Enlightenment exponents argued that it would be possible to build egaliberte, as an inclusive, developmental human freedom distinct from both conservative Herrenvolk freedom and the transitory revolutionary moment of universal absolute sovereignty. But the undertaking would always suffer heavy opposition. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762) rightly worried that in the context of the complex society, the democratic alternative to the imperial Hobbesian protection racket would not work if collective action capacity were distributed unevenly, as it is systematically in capitalism, nor if external organizations—such as contemporary trade agreements–could eviscerate the legally-institutionalized decisions arrived at through the democratic General Will.  Adam Smith (1776) recognized that capitalism and capitalists’ states would always excessively organize capitalists’ collective action capacity, and disorganize workers, requiring a welfare state ballast to maintain productive capitalism. Charles Fourier (1808) argued that societies need to replace private property law with law recognizing capitalists as conditional trustees of the social wealth, while Friedrich Hegel (1820) dared to argue briefly for the Right of the Starving Man as a state-protected corrective to private property right in an already-owned world. In the late 19th century, Marx and Engels launched from Hegel, philosophical materialism, and Smith to analyze how capitalism’s hysterical, incomplete recognition of working classes’ human capacities and contributions leads to characteristic economic-incentive breakdown, capitalist crises; they further analyzed how capitalist collective action capacity redirected and extended those crises.  Viriginia Woolf’s private, clandestine, “anonymous and secret Society of Outsiders” formulation (1938) of what egaliberte could look like proposed a cleft habitus of entitlement and feminized dehumanization. Social reproduction feminists, starting with Alexandra Kollontai (1915), pushed states to increasingly protect “social” citizenship rights to balance private property right and might, in an attempt to distribute sovereign agency and supervene the probationary status capitalism had tentatively allowed workers.

Today the post-WWII conservative hybrid reformulation of the egaliberte approach still resonates when we reify revolution, as if wildfire mass organization were pure and final and tending toward freedom, and when we deny all the ways–including their constraints and limitations–that people in different times and places have organized and fought to not just capture but broaden the distribution of recognition, wealth and power, though their victories could be swamped and redirected, more or less aborted.

Revolution is precious and necessary, no doubt. Not just as youthful consumers, we yearn for successful wildfire re-organization, for the overdue break with unfree delegated agency, and for the universal, decisionist assumption of sovereign agency that we assume can, in superhuman speed, break the bulwarks of inegalitarian surveillance, policing, comms, and institutionalized and network-secured compliance incentives. Such revolutions spread the contagion of hope, as Kant observed and Nietzsche condemned. In his 1798 Conflict of the Faculties, Kant argued that the virtue of revolution lies in inducing global recognition that we are all human, and that sovereign agency can be shared. Yet for all the blinding light they emit—universal decisionism!, revolutions do not solve our inherited anxiety over the distribution of sovereignty, nor elite entitlement to exclusive sovereignty and absolute power. Neither can mass killing.  As with Kurtz in the Congo, we carry those problems with us conceptually and emotionally.

Our inherited aestheticization and attachment to the divine moment of absolute decisionism—whether universal as in revolution, or, as in conservatism, sociologically rare and exclusive, has too often convinced us to discount and dismiss the conceptual and materialized footholds, not just the identified traps, aborted egaliberte organization has built. Our societies have started to construct, but we have not usually prioritized or sustained, the institutions and associations required for democratic development. We haven’t been able to. As conservative-liberal thinkers back to Hobbes and Burke have recognized, capitalism, with its vacillating, degenerating recognition of the contribution of labor, is a property structure of elite hyper-capacitation and vast delegated agency, a Shock and Awe organizational machine for dominating and replicating a Hobbesian world.  It proliferates the antithesis of human development.

So revolution and mass killing have not yet proven effective means of durably overcoming elite entitlement and reinforced collective action capacity. Revolution is but a countervailing shocking moment of universal decisionism & sovereign agency. As much as revolution–breaking out of mass delegated agency—has a moderating function and is overdue, the even tougher social change question will continue to be the democratic Enlightenment one: How do people organize away from our habituated conceptualization of freedom as exclusive sovereign agency and decisionism, toward a broadly-distributed sovereign agency and capacity to exchange ideas, information, grievances, and upon that basis rebuild toward universal human development in ecological context?

Our contribution to knowledge of what happened to class, institutions, and politics in the US, from the exceptional era of social liberalism to neoliberalization, the conservative-liberal restoration, will be undergirded by our analysis of the contentious politics of freedom across social fields. Which kind of unfreedom are Americans haunted by, the conservative or the democratic? Is their vision of this unfreedom based on conservative or democratic assumptions, including conservative or democratic distributions of misanthropy and anthrophilia? What role do the knowledge techniques of democratic scientific knowledge v. elitist scientism and decisionist logical abstraction have to play in supporting Americans’ impactful moral economy of freedom?

Why Genealogy is a Decisionist Fave

“If you are searching for your own noble blood, genetic research has both good and bad news for you. If you follow a pedigree, with all its forkings, back to the eighth century, you will trace over a trillion forks—an impossibility, because that is more than the number of people that have ever existed. When Joseph Chang developed the first statistical model of heredity in 1999 to explain the paradox, he established that many forks disappeared if our ancestors were closely related to one another, and that if you go back seven thousand years, “you reach a point in time when all the individuals who have any descendants among living people are ancestors of all living people.” So you might have pharaohs in your ancestry, and possibly caesars and Holy Roman emperors as well. Yet because of the swapping of DNA fragments during sexual reproduction, the DNA of our ancestors becomes diluted very quickly. Only 1 percent or less of an ancestor who lived four centuries ago is present in your DNA.

None of this, of course, was understood before the discovery of DNA in the 1950s. ” –Tim Flannery, 2019. “Our Twisted DNA,” New York Review of Books, March 7.

This is also to say that any story you already want to make about the past v. present, you can make with the pseudo-social science “technique” genealogy. It’s made to subvert the reason of democracy with the reason of Great Men. Just as Nietzsche prescribed. Psychology and Criminology are mostly the refuge of scientistic frauds, and Economics is the discipline of scientistic knavery. Eschewing scientism, Anthropology is mostly dedicated to turning youthful romanticism into a tool for binding the righteousness of the global peasantry under global elite interests. Sociology has put in plenty of effort monitoring poor men of color, and marketing for anti-democratic liberal parties.

But I’m glad we have statisticians and scientists to call bullshit on philosophy, the queen enterprise of hyper-abstracting elite interests.

Making us see

“I truly believe that our societies work by a constant effort to not see reality. There is another scene I often recount: it was when Jean-Luc Godard was receiving an honorary César in the 1980s or in the 1990s, during the Césars ceremony in France. Godard was invited to go on the stage set for the ceremony, in order to receive his César, given that night by Isabelle Huppert. So he went on the stage. All the people in the room, dressed in tuxedos and expensive dresses, were expecting him to deliver a speech in which he would thank his producers, his screenwriters, eventually his mother, as people always do in this kind of situation. But instead, Jean-Luc Godard said, more or less: I would like to thank the telephone operator who works for Gaumont, the cleaning women, etc. And suddenly, the audience laughed. If you thank a screenwriter, everybody thinks it’s moving, but if you thank a cleaning woman, people think it’s funny. Godard was making an important statement about the system that sustains the art milieu; he was underlining the fact that, when you make a piece of art, a movie, there are some people who clean the studio for you, some people who stay ten hours a day in an office to answer the telephone for you.

The situation is the same when you are a writer: you are invited to give a lecture, your publishing house pays for a hotel room for you, and someone in this room cleans your bed, cleans your bathroom. It’s all a system. So when Godard pointed out the way this system works, people laughed as if it was a joke. I saw their laughter as a kind of physical, bodily response in order not to be confronted by what Godard said. Their laughter was a strategy to escape reality, to not see a structurally violent situation.So when I write, I ask myself, How can I prevent people from escaping what I’m trying to show?”
–Édouard Louis



“Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault taught me something very important: that there is no truth without anger. That anger is a key to understand our world(s), that it’s maybe even the most scientific tool human beings invented.

If I take a concrete example, my mother had to face, during all her life, extreme difficulties: poverty, precarity, male domination, and male violence. She wanted to wear make-up but my father didn’t want her to; he would say that make-up was for sluts (sic). During twenty years of her life, she endured this masculine violence, but most of the time, when she was talking about herself, she would say: But my life is OK, it could be worse, I cannot complain. Why so? Because her mother and her grandmother before her, and her daughters endured the same violence. This violence became so systematic, it was so present around her, that she ended up thinking that it was «normal». That’s a tragedy; how can you change the world if violence is so systematic that people end up not seeing it anymore?

Only if you are angry you understand that this violence is not normal. Anger is what allows you to take a step back and to understand the social structure you are stuck in. Bourdieu’s and Foucault’s books are full of rage, and so are my books, I hope.” –Édouard Louis

The 20th Century French Empire’s Philosophy Project: Derrida Thinks of Justice in Slavery

Kierkegaard said that, philosophically, it is impossible to escape regret. Alain Botton told this to a Google executive crowd. The point of philosophy, Botton added, is to let people down gently. In the 20th century French Empire, as its elites, consolidated through its elite universities, were mobilizing under the Marshall Plan to direct France through industrialization, winnowing out rivalristic global capitalist champions, its imperial philosophers were tasked with gently letting down democratic aspirations. Democracy, as a logic optimizing the average condition, was profoundly regrettable. It would not be missed. The global restoration of patrimonial capitalism would also be a little regrettable, but there was to be consolation in its privileging justice at the margins.

In Typewriter Ribbon (1998) and Without Alibi, Derrida worked over the possible relation between the singularity and “inorganic, dead universality,” mechanical repetition, the machine. He concluded Without Alibi arguing that the project of his cohort, the mid-20th century French Empire philosophers, was to imagine how singularity and the machine could coexist in a relationship Derrida called differance.

You could also say it like this: In the 20th century, elite-trained empire intellectuals from Philosophy to Economics pursued the long-standing dream of substituting out incorrigible, far-from-incorruptible humanity for an ownable, self-reproducing, perpetual-motion work machine realizing the delegated agency of the sovereign, a True because absolutely-free humanity.

The idea has been that this True Humanity will be liberated from responsibility for engaging the complex, artful/intuitive pleasure ‘calculus’ prescribed by materialist philosophy, by being able to reliably delegate their agency on such a self-reproducing, perpetual-motion work machine. Then it will be free of duress, and able, under the counsel of idealist philosophers, to produce reason deduced from singular interest, and just because attuned to the exception.

Yet it is also clear that repeatedly the global capitalist aristocracy (per Burke) has achieved this state of True Humanity, reducing humans to self-reproducing automatons–economically, a substitution. Most recently, while philosophers (via a “Modest Witness” service ethic) and capitalists’ states (via scientistic positivist service) have effectively reconstructed citizens and other humans into “service workers” within the machine,  realizing automaton self-reproduction, True Humanity has proliferated as an oligarchy of millionaires, billionaires, trillionaires. A wholly-owned world is a world made for the relief of suffering oligarchal. We may never reach the asymptotic transition into perfect utopia, but the world remainder is, percentage-wise, insignificant, not enough to dissipate sovereignty in democracy. As in other slavers’ societies, the idealist utopia is achieved again. A True Humanity is liberated to dispense justice at the margins, at its decisionist discretion, in perfect harmony with its interest.

The empirical problem for idealist philosophy is that their real utopia does not result in liberty or justice, or even in much liberty and justice. It results in empirical ecological devastation and human stunting (though we now conceive of that humanity as a sub-human or non-human machine of delegated agency). Positing positivism as the True extent of science, valorizing the structure of thought, its priesthood, and its justice centering the exception, we can try to retreat from the empirical world into the text or the shadowy thought cave, but, contra Kierkegaard, some forms of decisionism are more regrettable than others. Justice centering the exception and reviling the bulk of humanity can only produce reason in the imagination. It cannot realize it in the world.



Note that this analysis relies on a critical realist-type perspective that does not reduce scientific knowledge to positivism, as for example Canguilhem was not able to dismiss democratic knowledge by using genealogy to relativize physics, but French philosophy had to wait for Foucault to reduce science to professionalized (state-serving) Criminology and Psychology as social science.

Writing Plan:

  1. First refute the reduction of science to positivist scientism.
    1. Recover Toulmin & Goodfield’s historical-comparative account of science.
    2. Go back to Canguilhem?
    3. Then go forward to show how Bourdieuian and critical realist approaches work to transcend positivist reductionism, as an alternative to the reduction of social science to cheap Modest Witness service in a surveillance political economy context.
  2. Redefine positivist science as partial or incomplete scientific method that is historically undertaken when scientists either wish to contribute to a political  Risorgimento or are coerced into it.
    1. Give Perry Anderson’s example of early 20th century Italian communist positivist science, as well as contemporary privatized commercial science.
  3. Prometheus Unbound: Discuss how science escapes its bounds, though the sovereign market tries to tie it down. Use the development of epigenetics from the Human Genome Project as an example.
  4. ipsum lorem

France’s “Socialist Party,” that (like the MB NDP) only had ties between party heads and teachers’ union managers, dissolved into “liberalizers around Fabius for whom Silicon Valley was the model for a modernized tech-driven market society’ old-style social democrats and social Catholics like Delors who drew the lesson that national Keynesianism was dead and the PS should put itself at the head of a renewed project of European integration; and the remnants of the deuxieme gauche for whom the turn to the market could be interpreted as a radical, liberatory break from a statist past” (Howell, 2019, Catalyst).

In which it is clarified that France was run by conservatives, for the advancement of France’s patrimonial oligarchy, for the whole 20th century. They were not liberal. They were not socialist. They were capitalist, but capitalist aristocrats, per Burke. They were conservatives managing continental capitalist catch-up. People, they sponsor and circulate philosophy and theory to support that interest. I think it is time we get really critical about the ways that we ingest that interest.

In England (compare to Bourdieu’s Social Structures of the Economy analysis):

“Hamilton-Paterson sees the destructive impact of the ‘money men’ on industries more clearly. The catastrophic and unnecessary fate of ICI (which broke the hearts of some of my own chemical-engineering relatives) came about as men and women with long shop-floor experience and technical qualifications were pushed out of management by newcomers who claimed to be financial wizards. They weren’t. They played the great corporation for short-term stock-market gains, and they lost.

Hamilton-Paterson adds the example of Network Rail’s bungled electrification of Great Western (its cost rose in two years from £874 million to £2.8 billion). ‘That’s privatisation for you: layers upon layers of managers and accountants who know nothing about railways. The old British Rail alternative was layers upon layers of experienced railwaymen who knew nothing about accountancy but who did know exactly what electrifying a line entailed and simply got on and did it.’ Later in his book, he attacks the notion (‘holy writ’ today) that a college degree in management enrols one in a portable profession in which it hardly matters what a company does.” –Neal Ascherson, “As the toffs began to retreat” LRB 40(22).



Distinguishing Marxism from Conservatism

At first I thought JB Foster was rebuking Davos. But then I realized he was only aiming at social democracy and social citizenship, which he/MR conceives as the barrier to the world simply recognizing that MR’s monopoly capitalism framework is correct and from that collectively deducing the revolution.

Let’s focus on this bit, which is not true:

Many of the symptoms of the failure of capitalism described above are well-known. Nevertheless, they are often attributed not to capitalism as a system, but simply to neoliberalism, viewed as a particular paradigm of capitalist development that can be replaced by another, better one. For many people on the left, the answer to neoliberalism or disaster capitalism is a return to welfare-state liberalism, market regulation, or some form of limited social democracy, and thus to a more rational capitalism. It is not the failure of capitalism itself that is perceived as the problem, but rather the failure of neoliberal capitalism.

In contrast, the Marxian tradition understands neoliberalism as an inherent outgrowth of late capitalism, associated with the domination of monopoly-finance capital. A critical-historical analysis of neoliberalism is therefore crucial both to grounding our understanding of capitalism today and uncovering the reason why all alternatives to neoliberalism and its capitalist absolutism are closed within the system itself.” –John Bellamy Foster 2019

That is just MR branding and sales.

The difference is about the strategy for dealing with an entitled, sovereign, fortified global ruling class, and its differential capacity to colonize, direct, or regulate state managers and police/militaries. That is what different kinds of Marxists are really arguing about.

That sets Marxists apart from conservatives and conservative liberals, who are instead arguing that centering the justice of the exception will structurally, logically inscribe all the liberating discursive and institutional change that is possible.

The threat posed to others by capitalist-organized nations is real. What can be done? The conservative-liberal answer is to follow the US’s or France’s (Marshall Plan-funded) elitist paths of top-down orchestrated industrialization, winnowing out the capitalist mega-winners while supplying co-optative trickle-down supports for a smallholding guard class, launching those megacapitalists into the global capitalist class, and turning the state into an international protector of capitalist property and negative rights (See Howell, Chris. 2018. The French Road to Neoliberalism. Catalyst 2(3)).

Social democrats are focused on the importance of organizing workers first, to colonize the state second. Social citizenship is the effort, via positive rights, to institute state accountability to the working class. Neither strategies are incompatible with revolutionary strategies, given the global ruling class will not fade away politely once everyone adopts the monopoly capital framework. No one imagines we can just have social democracy or social liberalism back without revolutionary organization and some (probably spectacular) levels of violence (violence that happens and will happens anyway). JBF’s enemy is a projected chimera, a symptom of a theoretical framework thats broadness (global monopoly capitalism) makes some things visible (finance-driven inequality, economic crisis, ecological destruction), and hides others (the boundary between Marxism and the justice of the elite, the diversity of Marxist organizational and institutional strategies for dispositional democratic development, the primary need for organizing sororite/fraternite–egaliberte dispositions, expanding (democratizing) human capacities). JBF has long been a symbolic patron of the anarchist hippie trust-fund psychological cases, Dixie & California emigres to Oregon. How is that a more noble alliance than recognizing the socialist-founded materialists who fought and built egalitarian and internationalist institutions in actually-existing social democracies? It is not. Plus, patronage is no fraternal recognition. JBF either lacks insight into his own theory’s limitations, or he excessively prioritizes marketing his brand.

MR’s own strategy is doubtful: It’s certainly not about organization. It’s definitely not about coalition. It is simply to insist that the condition of overthrowing capitalism is ideological fealty to the research agenda forwarded by Paul Sweezy and carried forward by John Bellamy Foster, analyzing capitalism as monopoly capitalism. That’s a fine hypothesis for spurring theorization at MR as a small, funded organization requiring more funding. But, given the vast real (in critical realist terms), it cannot substitute for the range of Marxist approaches and strategic hypotheses and experiments, and the need to be able to distinguish, for organization’s sake, historical-materialist contributions from antithetical, conservative contributions, perhaps to create a path back to Enlightenment egaliberte justice for moralists currently caught up in a justice of the exception approach compatible with augmenting inegalitarianism and inequality.

Foster himself shows what is at stake, in terms of coalition, in his overview of the history of the neoliberal ideal:

“Neoliberalism, as it first emerged from Mises’s pen, was thus viewed by Marxian critics in the 1920s (and even by some figures on the right) as an attempt to rationalize a monopoly or finance capital far removed from the precepts of classical liberalism. It was designed to provide the intellectual basis for capitalist class warfare against not only socialism, but all attempts at social regulation and social democracy: a no-quarter-given attack on the working class.”

Internationalism is not a sacred affect, boundless pity and self-abnegating service for the Infinite Less Fortunate. It is sorority/fraternity. It is strategic. It involves organizing. It is not people dissolving positive rights in order to bind displaced people to excessive, disorganizing competition in shit jobs and shit convenience store businesses. It is organizing across borders to help people build homes and society in places they know on Earth. Under capitalist conditions of disruption and primitive accumulation expropriation, Internationalists are pro-immigrant, not pro-migration.