Serfdom: From the American Working Class to Global Capital & China

Conservative organizer Friedrich Hayek famously, counterintutitively predicted that democratic Enlightenment and egalitarianism would restore serfdom. However, in our less enthralling, dog-bites-man history, financialized global capitalism restored serfdom instead.

Partly, as the capitalist economic coordination organizations (World Bank) like to point out, that is the cost of recycling wealth to China and India, which have been serving as the global factory. Partly, that is the cost of building up the astronomical fortunes and exclusive sovereignty of a restored, and slightly more global patrimonial capitalist class.

Class War Brings Commodified Life…

8-22-17highered_f9

…Paid for with Credit in Lieu of Income.

not including mortgage debt (presuming mortgages debts converts into private wealth at some point), US data.

debt to income us households minus mortgage

From the 1970s on, Anglosphere Rentier Capitalism Busts Out, EZ Credit Permits Housing Prices to Balloon, and Household Debt Balloons

Blue (below) is household debt, from the 1920s-2010s.

debt life

…Then, Fed on Credit Not Income, the US Working Class Hemorrhages Wealth in the 21st Century

After housing asset inflation, student & car loans expand.

total household debt us 03-16

The American Working Class Lives in Debt Serfdom, Loses Wealth, so that China Can Develop & Global Capital Can Accumulate

Chinese Money on Credit Markets

Suffering and Dying in 21st Century American Serfdom

One way of recognizing the impact of this global capitalist macro social construction is in its effects on working class people’s life chances. As working class people are in the majority, their suffering impacts population health statistics.

Regardless of current racial composition, former slavery counties continue to maintain inegalitarian slavery institutions, facilitating elite prosperity on the back of mass human stunting. The map below shows the bifurcating distribution, in the US, of declining (green) and increasing (pink) mortality in the 21st century. This is to say that life expectancy is declining in the pink zones.

divergent mortality rates, US

The orange and blue map below shows the distribution, within the US, of the “hardest places to live” (in orange). Easier living is found in the darker blue counties. The “hard places” index was constructed from data on each county in the United States on education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity.

hardest places in the US

Index and map by Alan Flippen, New York Times, June 26, 2014.

By comparing the above life-chances distribution maps to the green map below, we can note the correlation between white evangelical Christianity (light green) as a sacralized organization (associated with inegalitarian slavery culture) and crappy life chances. White evangelical Christians are just a-passin’ through this world–all rough ‘n’ tumble-like.

whats wrong with oregon

Women’s health is taking a hard hit with the restoration of class inequality within the US. The chart below shows the high and increasing rate of maternal mortality in the US, compared with other core capitalist countries.

Maternal Deaths per 100,000 live births

propublica-mortality-rates

While life chances have always been distributed by race, gender and class in the US, aggregate life expectancy has begun to gradually decline in the 21st century US. “Life expectancy in the United States has declined for a second year in a row, driven in large part because increasing numbers of Americans are dying from drug overdoses, suicides and chronic liver disease, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A baby born in 2016 can expect to live 78.6 years, which is down from 78.7 years in 2015 and 78.9 years in 2014.”–Susan Perry, US Minn Post.

LifeExpectancy640 US by race

The carceral core

the carceral state 21st c

From Bauman, Valerie. 2018. “Incarceration vs. education: America spends more on its prison system than it does on public schools,” The Daily Mail, 25 October.

Junk Jobs

“(W)e used BLS stats (US) to estimate the extent to which the
structure of the labour force is shifting towards the modern equivalent of ‘lumpenproletariat’ or more contingent and least-paid occupations. Our estimates indicate that its modern equivalent in the US could account for as much as 40%-45% of the labour force; around half of incremental growth and low productivity occupations constitute ~70% of employment.

The same trend is evident in most other developed economies. Indeed these estimates understate the real impact due to lower benefits attached to these occupations; inability to secure jobs in line with qualifications or erosion of job and income stability.

Investors might argue that this is just a reflection of an accelerated shift towards services and that new higher value jobs will eventually emerge. We agree but as societies in the 19th century discovered, eventually could be a very long time.

What are the investment implications? As discussed in our prior notes, we believe investors are entering a world where the pendulum is swinging rapidly in favour of the state, as a multiplier of demand, provider of capital and setter of prices. We also believe that we are entering the age of de-globalization.”

Macquarie Research, “What caught my eye” V. 61.

See also: Citibank’s Plutonomy Report (2005).

 

Scandinavian history in the revolutionary era & Implications

From Barton, H. Arnold. 1986. Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era: 1760-1815. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota

Gustav IV Adolf’s (GIVA) monarchal crusade againt democratic Enlightenment in Europe,
Feat.: Sweden, France, Russia, England, Prussia, and some bit players.

At the turn of the 1800s in Sweden, Gustav IV Adolf (GIVA) succeeded his father Gustav III to the throne. GIVA was determined to restore Swedish prominence in Europe. Prepared to wheel and deal both for territory and his conservative-idealist aspiration to organize and lead royalist Europe against the democratizing French, in 1803 Gustav IV Adolf traveled to Germany with his Queen Frederika, a German princess. GIVA was a pretty good strategist, but he was striving from the geographic margins against the historical tide, and as with his father who had tried in vain to institute pro-aristocratic policies against welling democracy, his elite power strategy was generally underappreciated by his rivalristic, Enlightenment-bedazzled royal relatives.

Cosmopolitanism as Responsible Management;
Disorganizing Rivals via Management

The noble German administrators who managed European kingdoms were well-educated, efficient, and cosmopolitan. Their “cosmopolitanism,” understood as responsible management, did not stop them from keeping the Nordic countries divided (in accord with Russian and British policy), even making clandestine agreements with Great Britain to break emergent pan-Nordic coalition (eg. Bernstoff 1780, see Barton 1986: 118.). That is an interesting aspect of statescraft (and its market equivalent): Providing managers to your potential rivals, to keep them just disorganized enough.

What Denmark got out of this is not having to follow Sweden’s lead, or lose its Norwegian colony to Sweden. As a more egalitarian country, Sweden was more solidaristic, stronger, innovative and ambitious. Run by Germans, Denmark was the ag-economic market of Scandinavia, at the cost of a stunted domestic peasantry.

So long as the Nordic countries were divided, Bernstorff served as a reliable noble German administrator for Denmark, until he pulled a fast one and, in the face of an agreement amongst the Scandinavian countries and Russia to form a coalition to defeat belligerent imperial England’s control of sea trade, he made a secret deal with England to subvert the coalition.

His betrayal was discovered pretty soon and he was ousted.

How the Holy Roman Empire Ended: A Swedish King Subjugated Pomeranian Aristocrats in 1805

In 1804 Duke Enghien was captured by French Republican forces in Baden. This provided Gustav IV Adolf with the pretext to declare that he was ready to lead monarchist Europe against Republican France.

GIVA spearheaded a royalist Russian, British, and Austrian coalition against the French Republic. “Brutal oppression, French despotism” is how the royalist described democratic France. He took his time negotiating, as he was bargaining for a military subsidy in exchange for Sweden’s strategic bridgehead geoposition, as well as a royal French Bourbon restoration. Finally in 1805, at the Treaty of Backaskog, GIVA won himself command of the troops in Germany, 20K pounds sterling, security of Swedish rule over Pomerania, in an all-in/all-out deal. In the Treaty, there was no mention of a royal Bourbon restoration.

Along with actually commanding soldiers in war, Gustav IV Adolf was an absolutist ruler. The Treaty of Backaskog enjoyed no support from his court advisors, and given that Sweden had long depended on French support, was considered overly idealistic, in the anti-democratic direction. Gustaf af Wetterstedt grumbled that it was “Impossible to speak with the King about commercial interests.”

Prussia was lurking, playing the dozens. It joined the monarchical coalition, only to immediately conclude an agreement with France that promised non-intervention in exchange for Hanover. Prussia’s fancy footwork broke the coalition: England and Russia withdrew from Northern Germany. But Gustav IV Adolf occupied the Hanoverian territory of Lauenberg. He used a legalistic justification to try to restore British and Russian backing and to extort unpaid, promised military subsidies. England and Russia declared GIVA’s position untenable, urging him to abandon the fight. GIVA was relentless: “A Prussian attack on Lauenberg is an attack on Sweden!” he declared, but he quietly reduced his army in Lauenberg to a token 300 men. Then GIVA instituted a naval blockade. Their commerce disrupted, this move deeply irritated his erstwhile allies, England and Russia.

Fortunately for Gustav IV Adolf, France and Russian détente broke, and GIVA returned to occupy Lauenberg. GIVA’s victory in that moment has been dubbed a “Triumph of Obstinacy.” When Sweden’s aristocratic Pomeranian subjects resisted conscription, GIVA dissolved their constitution and their aristocratic privileges, which as a side-effect, dissolved the Holy Roman Empire. GIVA replaced Pomerania’s German legal institutions with Swedish legal institutions, outlawing serfdom. Pomeranian Junkers were pissed.

Prussia declared war on the French in fall of 1806, whereupon the French smashed the Prussian forces. Frederick William, King of Prussia retreated east for protection under the royal Russian wing. Now Swedish Pomerania was behind the front. Napoleon asked if GIVA would agree to peace. How do you think Old Obstinatey replied? That’s right. Absofuckinglutely not. No peace!

Varieties of Modernization;
How “German” Tyranny Propels Migration

The German nobility of the Danish Dutchies, in Swedish Pomerania, and in Prussia were furious about the abolition of serfdom at the turn of the 19th century. But what GIVA’s modernization allowed German nobles to do is steal peasant land and stop contributing to the public. They became fatter cats than ever.

In the Scandinavian territories, as in France (even today, places like Minnesota and Quebec have protections for family farms that jurisdictions under the most inegalitarian policy traditions lack), the nobles were prevented, by enforced law, from stealing peasant land.

But in German lands, together with ‘rational,’ ‘producivity’-enhancing enclosures, the abolition of serfdom just created a small pool of petit-bourgeois farmers (kulaks) and tens of thousands of landless people who were existentially and legally forced into compulsory labor for the liberated kulak class. The resolution to this land theft and hyper-exploitation “modernization” was mass migration.

Capitalism’s robust structure of command

At a minimum, whatever France’s government, Sweden has geopolitically required France’s support, and either Britain or Russia’s lack of opposition.

Between 1803-07, Gustav IV Adolf’s belligerent monarchism produced geopolitical policy failure, as he opposed revolutionary/Napoleonic-phase France.

GIVA’s ideologically-blinded geopolitical failure depleted confidence amongst not only his allies, the British, Russian, Prussian, Austrian and Portuguese anti-democratic coalition, but most fatefully, amongst the Swedish people.

Despite his commitment to monarchism and opposition to democratic enlightenment, GIVA was a nationalist who, like his Danish counterpart, sidelined the Scandinavian nobility, instead working with a rational bureaucracy and freeing peasants in German communities. The foundation of his absolutism was the Swedish free-peasant social model. Monarchy enjoyed political flexibility, but perhaps too much political flexibility.

Sociologically, capitalism’s comparative ruling advantage is an articulated chain of command AND return fealty (though the fealty may skip rungs). Significance: This is not the same as saying capitalism is only about exploitation and not appropriation. Rather, capitalism’s graduated networks of exploitation and rung-skipping upward fealty (It’s okay if you secretly hate your manager, as long as you admire Bill Gates and Michelle Obama.) more reliably secure valuable appropriation.

Conservative theorists and organizers including Burke and Hayek understood capitalism’s advantages for elite rule.

 

Salon life is more important to democracy than a Free Press

Is a breakdown in centralized, professional comms the right variable for explaining information quality and political outcomes, as is so often asserted by professional comms technicians today?

In 18th century Denmark the free press was the model for Europe, while Sweden’s press was under strict censorship. And yet what seems to matter much more to information flow and its capacity to support needed, otherwise-blocked reforms was the fecund culture of salons and clubs, wherein diverse, gender-inclusive, but often-homogeneous groups exchanged and debated ideas of the good life and the institutions needed to support that utopic horizon.

Our professional press would say that these salons and clubs were little more than “echo chambers;” but that dismissive characterization would run counter to the salons’ impressive impact–fomenting enlightenment pressure, eliciting elite efforts to preemptively own those enlightenment ideas by implementation, and ultimately producing the democratic social realization that rational reform did not require elites.

Cross-class Legal Consciousness v. the Antistatist Justice of the Exception

“…and this law should, if it is to protect a weaker class against a more powerful one, be given such strength and consistency that the latter shall not be able, through its strength and the other’s weakness, to disturb or hinder its effective enforcement.”

–Norwegian juridical counselor to the Danish government, Christian Colbjornsen, 1783. With the wall of Enlightenment ideas behind it, this viewpoint won the majority on the agrarian commission, leading to reforms and revolutionary advancement.

The aristocrats, as is always the case, complained that this politics of “animosity and grudge against proprietors” would result in transferring too much power to the “petty functionaries” of the state bureaucracy and so result in the society’s “ruin.”

Democracy: Expanding, not contracting, privilege

The difference between emancipation in the Scandinavian countries v. the liberal republics is that privilege was not first abolished in the Scandinavian countries. Rather, they levelled upward. “The privileges thus gained would ultimately clear the way for the peasant’s full integration into national life” (Barton 1985: 173). That’s how you do inclusion. You make everyone sacred, not everyone profane.

The Ideas and Decisionism of the Democratic Enlightenment

The laboring class, which alternately is utilized both by [princes and other classes]…stands ready, with the sword of destruction in one hand and the torch of enlightenment in the other” (Minerva, Sverige, 1798).

The French Revolution put the fear of god into Europe’s aristocratic and bourgeois classes. The Enlightenment was no man’s property. Together, elite fear and intellectual intimidation got shit done.

“Orders and decorations are hung on idiots,
Stars and ribbons go to noblemen alone…

(By contrast) We teach no despotic principles,
It is for equality among men that we strive;
Nor do we, like the Jutland proprietors
Wish for slaves and peasants for us to flay.”

–from a 1787 Danish poem (PA Heiberg). The urban Danes were really getting about the freedom of expression in the late 18th century, in the context of Enlightenment clubs. periodicals,and anonymous pamphleteering.

Jutland, in breadbasket Denmark, was the Scandinavian outpost of hard-core feudal despotism.

The Swedish Female Aristocracy: Sufficiently Traitorous to their Class

Denmark very much dicked around with German princes. In 1765 the amazing and ballsy Dr. Johann Friedrich Streunsee inserted himself in that inbred morass to introduce the first real progressive reforms in Denmark. They were almost immediately overturned by a reactionary aristocratic coup; but Streunsee’s reform model nonetheless served as a policy bank thereafter. Streunsee was executed by the Danish aristocracy, but it was probably totally worth it.

Sweden was systematically super dynamic. I can never recommend enough Barton’s (1986) Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era for anyone interested in the Enlightenment and how that works out class-wise.

Sweden took on the Enlightenment as a political project. The Swedes wrestled straight up with class conflict in the 1770s parliament (The Swedish Riksdag long included affluent farmers, in addition to the royals); and while their king tried to organize their aristocracy as an elite bloc, the country was too influenced by Enlightenment thought, and the aristocratic ladies especially refused to follow the king’s effort at elite political mobilization. This gendered elite refusal to cooperate was one of the major factors that provided room for labor and social democratic organization in Sweden.

Rousseau was a favored theorist amongst the Swedish royal ladies.

Voltaire called Sweden “the freest kingdom on earth” (1756). Mably considered Sweden’s pioneering 1720 constitution the “masterpiece of modern legislation” in its provisions for “the rights of humanity and equality.”

Ideas for Organization

One of the most important things to be done is to– like your life, people’s lives around the world and after you, and the Earth– depend upon it, produce egaliberte Enlightenment ideas and culture, including proliferating in-person “clubs” and salons, which my reading of Swedish history tells me, turn political (as tyrants know and quixotically arrange for their legal and policing apparatus to suppress). The ideas, it’s the fecundity of ideas you produce and share with vigor and confidence that can capture the minds of political-economic elites enough for others to gain strategic organizational footholds.

Sure, no one wants little you to tell them how to think. But if you work with ideas from the master class position, like a servant, you make us all slaves.

Conservative-liberal Enlightenment: Egaliberte as the Enemy of Liberty

Upon Gustav III’s 1772 coup d’etat, overthrowing the formidable, pugnacious, and increasingly egalitarian Riksdag, the king was keen to both improve Sweden’s war-ruined currency on the financial markets and to implement liberal-physiocrat modernizing reforms, including in the first four years, enclosures, reducing guild control over labor conditions, removal of mercantilist trade constraints, outlawing judicial torture, reducing Sweden’s model freedom of the press to mere critique of middle class state employees, and the introduction of a secret police on the French model.

Within a Swedish social environment inducing him to competition on the grounds of rationality, amongst the European monarchs Gustav was the greatest admirer of strains of Enlightenment philosophy. But he sternly distinguished between “true (elite) freedom” and harmful hoi poloi “license,” “benevolent philosophy” and “dangerous philosophy” which “to dominate alone, overturns all that is respectable.” As a liberal and elitist, Gustav redefined despotism as failing to preserve the executive role as distinct from the legislative, and cited philosophy that supported his incomplete autocratic rule as the kind of philosophy that “clears away all harmful prejudices, all those petty considerations.”

The reduction of critique to a focus on middle class state employees is the signature of the reactionary, elitist, conservative-liberal coup d’etat.

Liberalism: Violence occurs strictly when elites are disrupted. versus:
Socialism: See the continuous slavery and mass killing.

We won’t call those displaced multitudes any form of “slave,” because that would be “un-nuanced” and “uncivilized.” The liberal world is discontinuous. Where socialists see the continuity of slavery, liberals see absolute, progressive breaks in the relations of production, both what they proudly claim as “nuanced” differentiation, and just as the nobility had initially feared.

The liberal world is not only discontinuous, it is flat. Liberals don’t recognize institutionalized and automated violence. For them, as for conservatives (eg. Burke) before them, there’s just an apparent order of civility–a flat world, in which culture is Truth, and networks, institutions, and material relations are not subject to civilized observation. Violence is strictly perceived in breaking that civility, as all the opponents of the French Revolution, and fans of enlightened absolutism (incurious about how it got enlightened) have agreed.

It does no good just to point this out. You have to use it strategically.
If we allow ourselves to think in terms of forms of slavery, then we can think together about how to stop producing the continuous, inhumane rolling modification of slaveries.

To Suppress Democratic Ideas, Appoint Conservatives to Govern Universities

In Scandinavia, the tactic of stifling hegemonic challenge by appointing belligerent conservative aristocrats to head the universities goes back to the turn of the 19th c.

Count Axel Fersen was appointed to Uppsala to throw out the enlightenment democrats. In the Duchies (theoretically incorporated in Denmark, but German, built on serfdom, opposed to both enlightenment democracy and enlightenment absolutism, and an original cesspool of the mysticist German romanticism that would be regurgitated in the Nazi period), Fritz Reventlow was appointed to attack enlightenment thought from the helm of the Univesity of Kiel.

Plus ca change…

 

“(Swedish Hats’) economic policy was rigidly mercantilistic, considering necessary both a small, favored entrepreneurial elite, concentrated mainly in the capital, and a large and growing population, strictly regulated in its economic pursuits and held close to the poverty line to provide cheap labor. Their system of subsidies, protective tariffs, and monetary inflation favored the larger exporters and manufacturers. As war and expansion held out tempting opportunities for officers, bureaucrats, and entrepreneurs alike, the Hats favored alliance with France…To stifle criticism, they held strongly to secrecy in Riksdag transactions and to press censorship…

The faction turned out of power in 1738, which came to be called the Caps, was in disarray, and certain of its leaders were discredited through unseemly intrigues with the Russians to overthrow their rivals.”

 

Cosmopolitanism v. Internationalism

Cosmopolitanism’s Fascist Bogeyman under the Bed v. Internationalism’s Fight against Slavery

Even the LRB (September 2, 2018)  tries to cash in on the fretting over fascism industry. Anglo-Americans are in a terrible place to understand fascism, which they understand as an ahistorical shrek that materializes out of nowhere. England won’t go fascist, nor will the US, because they’re slavery societies. They’ve already been up to something horrible that’s not curable with elite moral cosmopolitanism, and even though foreign leaders and media don’t like Trump’s negotiation and discursive style, it’s all just going on business as usual, drifting and lurching back into the slavery. People fret over fascism because they’re unwilling to acknowledge slavery and the persistence of slavery institutions (police and guard jobs, carceral infrastructure, criminalization of everything, surveillance, war, ***shitty*** public goods and services–shitty because slavery societies, unlike fascist societies, are not pursuing rivalristic regional modernization) and how they’re as awful as fascism, look a helluva lot like fascism, and it’s a nice distraction to imagine a new fascism, a church-and-Clear Channel mobilized army of Midwestern American failed small businessmen and factory workers with German backgrounds following their blood destiny to the endless horror of coastal meritocrats of better ethnic extraction, and as confirmed chiefly by Commonwealth allusions to contemporary Indian fascism. So you have to hold your breath past the hagiographic liberal stylings of David Runciman reporting on latter day Obama propaganda. And then what the hell. I like 70% of what Pankaj Mishra dishes out, but he apparently decided to cash in with a fascism fret book that starts out with the completely invalid, anachronistic premise that Rousseau was the progenitor of Trump or the “Palin People” because Rousseau’s side was losing at the time?, and so he was mad?, and in no way were the artistocratic ladies of Europe all in love with him and citing his democratic Enlightenment ideas, thwarting elite solidarity, which helped considerably to advance democratic institutions?, and to point out that elite liberty is not human liberty is purely an emotional act of romantic resentment as opposed to a clear analysis? Because there is any sense at all in mis-citing Nietzsche–Nietzsche!–as a dispassionate authority on Rousseau, when you can just read Rousseau? So much bullshit. Let me ask you this: If the Palin People and the Brexiteers are the unique source of Untruth, why must liberals champion anachronism?

Capitalist Global Equality

Per Milanovic (2002:52), a direct implication of globalization is “that national borders are becoming less important, and that every individual may, in theory, be regarded simply as a citizen of the world.”

That is the perspective, or rather flattering comms, of capital, not the felt, embodied, epigenetic experience of social hierarchy, which economics has nothing to say about.

It extrapolates Anglo-centric history to presume that states (and their borders) are absolutely, always, everywhere the exclusive property of the capitalist class.

The Role of Social Regulation in Imperial Expropriation

“(A)t its center, British identity was informed by a critical dichotomy between the ideal of commerce as part of the civilizing process and the actual conditions of commercial growth in the imperial zone…an Augustan order based on politeness, good taste, and manners was at odds with the logic of economic development in the empire, which demanded total control and brutal governance–and slave labor” (Simon Gikandi 2014: 52).

Conservative Idea: Cosmopolitan Citizenship

Martin Prak’s “Citizens without Nations” is about how citizenship beyond cosmopolitanism wasn’t necessary in the pre-revolutionary era. Apparently, he makes the point that the French Revolution disrupted urban citizenship.

In response, I think of:

I) how a) uneven urban citizenship has continued to exist alongside uneven regional and national citizenship; and b) how the mercantilist town businessmen of Norway oppressed the Norwegians in the countryside in the 17th-19th century, to the point where rural Norwegians were forced to join a multi-pronged, strategic, fundamentalist religious movement in order to organize collectively and shed their constraining peasant culture.

II) We need to examine policy and law to validly categorize what KIND of citizenship states protect. For example, the Anglo-American states protect global capitalist citizenship with a suite of private property and negative rights. Anglo-American states, as David Abraham has analyzed, only residually protect territorial residents’ citizenship rights.

 

 

Unfreedom & Slavery

Bibliography

Ali, Tariq. 2018. The Unseeables. London Review of Books.

Choudry, Aziz & Adrian Smith. Unfree Labour: Struggles of Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada.

Larson, Rob. Capitalism v. Freedom: The Toll Road to Serfdom.

 

Private Property Right v. Liberty

“Lundgren, a respected environmentalist and entrepreneur, is in prison for trying to distribute software that extends the life of your computer—software that is legally and freely available online—to people who don’t know how to access it. He is in prison for trying to reduce the amount of electronic waste (e-waste) we produce on a regular basis from not knowing how to access that software. When it comes down to it, he is prison because his efforts to keep people from needlessly throwing out their electronics would have cut into the tech industry’s model of profiting from consumer ignorance, repair prevention, and planned obsolescence.

In the time it will take Lundgren to serve out his prison sentence, the world will produce around fifty million metric tons of new e-waste. And most of that refuse will be shuttled far away from the West’s own backyard, to dystopian, city-sized dump sites in countries like Ghana, China, and India, to the mass graves of our modern world, where it will poison the air, water, soil, livestock, and human bodies.” –M. Alvarez 2018 “The Death of Media,” The Baffler.

Immigration & Slavery

“In the first half of the 19th Century, as the abolitionist movement gathered momentum, states and localities passed personal liberty laws which forbade the use of state and local jails and police personnel from aiding in the capture of fugitive slaves. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act was passed in part as a response to these acts of local resistance. In the 21st Century, we’ve returned here again.” (Jay Driskell)

Charity & Unfree Social Reproduction Labour

I tried to consider what people I know get for all their skilled volunteer labor, necessary as it is to the functioning of Anglo-American organizations and institutions, goods and services both private and public. There’s no apparent reciprocity, other than intrinsic satisfaction (the infamous feminized “love” labour) and some recognition of masculine status. There are no second homes in Phoenix and Belize for you. There is no economically-advantageous networking. There’s no legislative access. You get sales tax, you don’t get a lower tax rate. You must constantly practice deference to class-blind moral police & guards; you don’t have phalanxes of economists, accountants, and comms pros justifying your existence and your cut. You don’t get golden parachutes. You don’t get a hot market tip. You don’t get a bottle of beer comped. You don’t get buildings and parks in your honour. There’s no community barn raising in exchange. In one case I know I reasoned, well, maybe by contributing massive hours of volunteer labor, year upon year, other people permit this person’s highly skilled wife to not herself have to serve any more successive decades of indentured servitude. In effect, most skilled working class people’s volunteer, slave, and grossly-underpaid labour in liberal societies makes all these institutions work, and the incentive seems to be almost purely negative, like mules outrunning whips.

 

Slavery’s impact on associational life in the US

 

As we plunge into the patrimonial capitalist restoration era, and a new turn in expropriation, research into the impact of slavery is more vital and central than ever. Political scientists and geographers have been researching historical slavery’s deleterious impact on public institution development in the US and Latin America. But all working class Americans are victims of slavery, imposed disorganization:

“(I)t is not the case that the influence of slavery on civic participation and associational life is limited to the South, for it extends, in fact, to the entire (US) nation…This cleavage is stronger in the former slave states, but it is present elsewhere and translates into both greater economic inequality and lower social capital” (Portes & Vickstrom 2011: 469).

..

Middle Passage: Between Slavery and Unfree Migrant Labor

‘The history of how indentured servitude transformed into racialized chattel slavery in America provides a particularly vivid example of this vicious cycle. In theory, colonial Virginia’s intense labor scarcity ought to have meant favorable terms for migrating workers. But as Jane Dickenson learned, the men who governed the colonies changed market dynamics by imposing harsh laws that allowed them to control and capture laborers in new ways. Whereas contracts of indenture for agricultural workers in England typically ran to only one year, in America they stretched out to seven. And colonial authorities routinely punished servants who tried to escape—or simply displeased their masters—with whippings, split tongues, sliced ears, and extra years of service. As the late American historian Edmund Morgan put it, even before slavery took root, Virginia’s masters were moving “toward a system of labor that treated men as things.”–Ron, A. & D. Norwood. 2018. The Atlantic.

Protecting capitalist sovereignty

“There is an ethical and logical consistency to interventionism: a moral common sense that, just as borders shouldn’t divide markets or capital, they shouldn’t protect repressors and illegitimate governments. The world should do something to stop barbarism. The rhetorical consistency of such common sense only amplifies the hypocrisy and double standards – not to mention the often disastrous consequences – of its application. Economic globalisation promised a prosperous, borderless world, even as its promoters signed a raft of treaties that freed capital but effectively criminalised (while forcing) labour mobility. Humanitarian interventionism justifies itself by a universal ideal morally superior to the concept of national sovereignty, but then picks its targets – Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and now Venezuela – according to criteria that have to do with something other than universalism.” —Greg Grandin, 2019, LRB February 8.

“Hull – who, according to his adviser Ernest Gruening, spoke a born and bred Tennessee gentry lisp, dropping g’s and wrestling with r’s – objected to the idea of Latin American sovereignty: ‘What am ah goin’ to do when chaos breaks out in one of those countries and armed bands go woamin’ awound, burnin’, pillagin’ and murdewin’ Amewicans?’ Gruening says Hull asked him. ‘How can I tell mah people that we cain’t intervene?’ ‘Mr Secretary,’ Gruening answered, ‘that usually happens after we have intervened…

(Hull announced to the Latin American leaders) that the United States would henceforth ‘shun and reject’ the ‘so-called right-of-conquest … The New Deal indeed would be an empty boast if it did not mean that.’”

“In its 1917 constitution, Mexico was the first country in the world to adopt the principle that absolute sovereignty over natural resources belongs to the state. Venezuelan policymakers had pushed for national control of its petroleum reserves since at least the 1930s. The United Nations accepted the legitimacy of resource sovereignty in 1962.”–Grandin

In the 1970s, some world leaders openly entertained the idea of repatriating what were called “excess profits,” to support the democratic distribution of sovereign agency. That got them assassinated by the US global police.

what’s happened to sovereignty:

“Luigi Einaudi, the US ambassador to the OAS, explicitly reclaimed for the United States the right to intervene in the affairs of another country because it considered the quality of its sovereignty unworthy of recognition. ‘Today, we are … living in historic times,’ he said, ‘a time when a great principle is spreading across the world like wildfire. That principle, as we all know, is the revolutionary idea that people, not governments, are sovereign.’”

But which people, Einaudi? Aye, there’s the silent rub at the black heart of all liberal abstraction. The capitalist state exclusively protects that sovereignty distributed globally by market power, with discretionary allowances for useful justice exceptions on the left tail of the distribution. The “New Constitutionalism” Stephen Gill and Isabella Bakker called it back in the 90s. The imperial JS Mill liberal state.

It’s time to talk about the maldistribution of sovereignty across people. That is the way that we will get back to recognizing what Latin Americans recognized: A democratic distribution of sovereign agency requires a state, embedded in a regional coalition, that can both protect citizenship and facilitate working-class (peasant/indigenous) internationalism.

The justice distinction has to be whether and to what extent border controls and citizenship rights turn immigrants into a disadvantaged underclass, or continue to provide them enabling, if graduating positive rights. We need to clarify, in the case of European countries, whether there is a distinction between the treatment of European migrants and semi-permanent immigrants. Like usual, there’s no appreciable analysis of this central distinction in Jacobin’s recent mystifying reporting on Denmark. Just an assumption that if we aren’t centering the justice of the exception (eg. capitalists, migrants, etc.), we are committing injustice. It takes a real conservative to believe that the justice of the average has to exclude the justice of the left-tail exception.

‘Hostile attitudes toward multiculturalism are presented as legitimate concerns (by the Danish Soc Dems): “you are not a bad person because you don’t want to see your country being fundamentally transformed.”’

Was this written for Jacobin by a Laclau-Mouffe Gramscian or by a moonlighting Davos PR staff member? No one could tell, and that’s a problem. Why reduce resistance to the absolutely-undeniable accretion of top-down transformation to nothing more than a “hostile attitude toward multiculturalism” unless you’re an already-co-opted part of a deep bullshit problem? There is something truly, deeply, madly wrong today with our 100% elite-position/interest understanding of internationalism strictly as cosmopolitanism.

Why is no one concerned about working class reproduction? Why are we directed to pour our charitable hearts like a blessing of syrup over capital reproduction via population disruption and mobilization? If the Danish government can figure out that Africa is biologically reproducing, then it can be pushed to figure out how to circulate wealth to solidaristically support working class reproduction in Africa.

Don’t tell me physical movement is the greatest freedom, Thomas Hobbes. I have never met an African immigrant would wouldn’t prefer to return to and live in Africa if non-elite social reproduction were not being essentially fucked with there by our governments, economists, militaries, and bosses. I meet way more African immigrants, and listen to them, than most other people. They don’t want our junky lives. They just want to be in the calmer eye of the storm. Founded on conservative European philosophy centering the justice of the exception, culturalist interpretations of state border politics magnify political symbolism, fail to contextualize politics, misidentify immigrants and migrant interests with capitalist interests, and misplace egaliberte solidarity.

Voting rights for non-residents is not a great achievement for democracy. A great achievement for democracy would be if residents had the right to vote, which they do not have in Canada. Democratic countries, like Sweden, protect voting rights for residents, not for expat capitalists.

Voting rights for non-residents is a great achievement for financial metropoles and Treasure Islands, global capitalism, or, technically speaking, Herrenvolk democracy, which is only democracy in the thin, dubious sense that property rights for slavers is “democracy,” and political patronage = “free speech.” This is what you would expect out of a liberal country, where the sine qua non is absolute private property right.

“The combination of exclusive union representation, mandatory agency fees, no-strike clauses and “management’s rights” (were) the foundation of (the peculiar and now dismissed) American labor laws…

“It reward(ed) the unions with a guaranteed right to exist and a reliable base of fee-paying membership. But it reward(ed) employers with the far more valuable guarantee of the right to direct the uninterrupted work of the enterprise while union leadership has to tamp down rank-and-file gripes and discord for the length of the contract.” –Shaun Richman. 2018. “If the Supreme Court rules against unions…” The Washington Post, March 1.

The US Constitution no longer applies in the areas in which 2/3 of the US population resides. –ACLU, “The Constitution in the 100-mile Border Zone.”

 

US Constitutional Dissent Briefs Toward Positive Liberty and Citizenship Rights

How the US might move, constitutionally, from formal-negative liberty to substantive-positive liberty is argued in the dissenting briefs of San Antonio Ind School District v. Rodriguez, 1973.

Universalized Private Property & Mobility: Symbolic Domination Duo

Marketing the “universalized private property” non-solution to the problems of inegalitarian unfreedom has been the worldwide political organization “stock in trade of mercantilists, capitalists, and the jurists and politicians beholden to them ever since the Roman republic” (David Abraham. 1996. “Liberty without Equality” Law & Social Inquiry 21(1): 7, citing Moore 1966 and Mayer 1971). Rousseau once argued that through obeying the General Will, we would all have property, in the state, iff no one had associational capacity (such as private property allocates). Capitalists argue that we have property in our alienable labour. Jefferson tried to define citizenship as a patrimony of 50 acre land ownership. Bourgeois revolutionaries from France to the US South have argued for the universalization of private property. It’s an idea that’s stunting and killing us. By Bush II, the “Ownership Society” was reduced to a requirement to obtain credit, or debt in order to access the conditions of life…universalizing the company mining town model, smallholder slavery to the capitalist class, prioritizing the social reproduction of the lending class, in its internal billionaire rivalry to own and direct the world.

The opposite of exclusive private property is inclusive public property, vilified by conservatives as the True trajectory of injustice, which they define via idealist philosophy, and its impoverished conceptualization of change, as decentering exception. Abraham traces the domination of the marketed non-solution in a history of US ideas and law. With this co-optative discursive strategy, “America’s greatest libertarians could be slaveholders, just as Europe’s were political-economy free marketeers,” Abrahams observes (11) in accordance with Losurdo 2011 (2006). Occasionally, usually after wars, equal protection/fundamental rights jurisprudence “chips away” at the negative-liberty polestar. “The logic and politics that each time ended the progress: a politics and logic” of universalized private property (9).

we-all-declare-for-liberty-lincoln

How can libertarianism remain twinned with slaver interest in the US? Abraham identifies geographic mobility as the necessary, co-optative factor greasing the relentless, little-challenged marketing of absolutist private property right as universal interest within the settler US (13). Yet in capitalism, private property is exclusive, accumulative, unequally allocating sovereign agency and collective action capacity, enhancing economic, social, and political inequality and unfreedom. Cosmopolitan mobility for the few, the ideal, rests upon the imposed, disruptive, depleting mobilization of the many—often war discharging people from citizenship and sovereign socio-material networks–home, Bourdieu said, where you are culturally literate, and by that able to navigate to your own interest, or through which you are symbolically dominated.

But a settler society, wherein freedom is allocated by market power and yet marketed as universal private property and glorified expulsion from home, is a society of vast and pervasive symbolic domination. We are required to black-box capitalism to presume, as political-economic elites have marketed since Cato the Elder in the 2nd c. BC, that citizenship rights, positive freedom, are irrelevant to non-elite liberty. Black-boxing capitalism, we can sink into the familiar, if degraded lullaby of Ownership Society marketing, aided by a sleeping pill: freedom’s idealistic reduction to physical mobility, as proposed by that original conservativizer of liberalism, Thomas Hobbes (1651). Enjoy the institutionalized Enclosure sweeps, and give my regards to your banker, your Master.

us-intervention-before-after

Liberal Fart of Freedom: Mobilizing populations

bank pwnd

Liberal Fart of Freedom: Debt as Universal Private Property Ownership

Mobility freedom is subordinated to the Mill state’s global private property right protection obligation:

“But, then, in the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act passed on March 23, President Donald Trump not only reinstated the full amount but also added an additional $60 million, for a total of $510 million for the prison project.”

Mass incarceration:
“With 2.2 million people behind bars today and 11 million cycling through jails every year, the United States incarcerates more people, and at a drastically higher rate, than any other country in the world.

Building 1,200 more prison beds reflects our dependency on this system of racialized social control, revealing not only deeply held assumptions about crime and punishment, but also what we believe is possible for, and deserved in, rural America.” –Sylvia Ryerson & Judah Schept, 2018, “Building Prisons in Appalachia,” Boston Review.

Notes on Redoing Abraham:

  1. Writing in 1996, Abraham did not yet realize how hard a Catholicized Supreme Court would be restoring absolute private property right in upcoming years. That can be updated.
  2. His analysis of the poverty of negative liberty’s version of “autonomy,” choice, can be improved by contrasting choice, as delegated agency, to sovereign agency.
    1. We fear dependency (37) in absolute private property right regimes not because it is “entwined with collective action,” but because dependency is the denied condition within which all (except self-aggradizing property owners) make unfree choice. Within a law by, of, and for capitalists, most of our choices are non-sovereign, and we fear being called out. Anti-dependency discourse is a terrifying game of hot potato; the stakes are credit and cooperation.
    2. While the Pro-choice movement (footnote 120, p. 37) has conspicuously played by the pragmatist’s losing game, and, update, has lost massively by it within capitalism’s automated class warfare context, a subtle, thorough, and non-sexist analysis would also observe that social democracies and communist societies have, far more securely than liberal and of course conservative societies, recognized women’s right to reproductive sovereignty (see Baker & Ghodsee), because they recognize, behind the reproductive right, the societal value in the development of the woman, threatened by the high consequences of reproductive work for women’s lives in particular, particularly in commodified economies.
  3. Analysis from his comparator case, West Germany, can be improved. Instead, to grasp socialist-influenced, positive-rights constitutional law, use Sweden.
    1. While the West German constitution excerpt (38) is a fine example, point out how the positive rights constitution is sociological, where the Anglo-American liberal negative rights constitution is anti-sociological.
    2. Attack the (rather-Jewish) reduction of social democracy to merely the reproduction of “homogeneity” (per Abraham, Friedman, etc.). See my critique of Jantelagen decontextualization and fetishization. Ethnic “homogeneity” (reduction of the salience of ethnicity) is socially (not discursively) constructed by an inclusionary sociological definition of society (per Dewey 1916), as where ethnicity is converted into political subcommunity, eg. in Vansterpartiet, or political-economic variation is incorporated, as with the Sami in the Swedish Constitution (Basic Laws). There’s a reason (genetic diversity, including incorporating some isolated, genetically-distinct communities–analogous to Ashkenazi Jews) why long-traveling Swedes “look weird,” as the idealistic Germans like to say. Swedes’ national ethnicity is an historical project of inclusion. Like non-ethnic difference and inequality, ethnicity is also a construction, one that extends outside a multicultural society; it isn’t just subcommunity. It is an alternative society, sometimes (particularly when in relation with capital) functional, and otherwise often ascribed, isolating, somewhat functional (capitalism outlaws working class organization) but not very. Universal celebrations of ethnicity in liberal, negative-liberty regimes are about abstracting functional ethnicity as the universal, non-White condition, and denying the functional servitude assigned to ascribed ethnicization within capitalism.
  4. Ipsum lorem.

Extractivism & Universities

The late 20th century was full of analyses of the growing post-secondary education market. These analyses came to the simple conclusion that the role of the university in society was growing and so with it, opportunities for good careers in scholarship. Democrats imagined a world of increasingly-civilized middle class people.

But scholars are not very organized. Meanwhile, financialized capitalism does organize managers and surveillance software commerce. Organization, it turned out, was the relevant variable.

Fast forward 30 years and now post-secondary education budgets, derived from both states and individual families, serve many economic purposes, from hosting the managerial labour market to the marketing labour market to the accountanting labour market, to construction industry and the surveillance software industry, and on to immigration screening and prep.

To accomplish this reorganization, most of the unorganized people undergoing the extensive and intensive education regime to become doctors of philosophy and scholars were converted into cheap, just-in-time, deskilled front-line service workers.

As conservatives identified, universities were in the business of rent extraction. The problem is where the rents come from. With neoliberalization, rents would be extracted from students’ families and scholars, rather than the tax-paying public, identified as the Trente Glorieuses source of rents in conservative economists’ shaky political revision of the rents concept.

This conversion to mining scholars makes lots of sense in a financialized era: As food pulp becomes an underlying commodity market securitizing financial rents on ag land, post-secondary education was converted into a commodity market undergirding managerial, marketing, financial, software systems, and construction rents.

In addition to securitizing financial and other rents, universities are also managed to provide auxillary services in support of capitalist social reproduction. From their traditional low-key side role supervising young elite men working through the often-rough early transition to adulthood, professors have been saddled with more and more extreme, unpaid, consuming social reproduction job responsibilities. Extreme odd jobs foisted upon professors in the neoliberal era include: 1) serving as an unpaid part of immigration gatekeeping, by helping attract, weed and secure skilled labor; 2) serving as an unpaid part of the university front line “accommodating,” AKA insufficiently providing caretaking services to young people with mental illnesses and sometimes suicidal tendencies. This additional responsibility requires reconceptualizing not only the professor-student relation as a form of crisis comms management, but also the classroom–not as a collective learning environment, but as an optional venue for amateur psychological and social group experiments;  and 3) grant writing for public scholarly resources in order to both fund university rentiers and deploy young female students in symbolic support of the blasted, tattered social reproduction of dis-organized, racialized and poverty populations.

All this semi-official, multi-layered, inefficient and inappropriate redeployment of scholarly workers within the neoliberalized university is of course a symptom of core capitalism’s incapacity to simultaneously foster economic growth and the life conditions of economic growth. The borders have been militarized. The public mental health institutions dismantled. The students are supposed to take on debt to do post-secondary education work full time while doing remunerated junk jobs full time while lurching into young adulthood. The welfare state has been hacked back down to Nightwatchman Poor Laws. O, the abstract/elite liberty. Professors are serving as free immigration guard labor, amateur psychologists and social workers, and amateur social-work managers, and they’re doing that on top of their academic responsibilities simply because they have been identified as a remnant capable population of workers. Tenured professors are still capable because they’re getting paid just enough to live with only the crisis of overwork, while the rest of working families are drowning in crisis.

This proletarianization of a disorganized people who deferred income, and took on debt, in order to attain semi-sovereign and self-developmental work, is the function of management and surveillance software firms, which tend to be integrated. The proletarianized scholars tend to come from poorly-networked social backgrounds, such as working-class families, or they are female and subject to reduced credit and cooperation within the decent-compensation, semi-sovereign labour market.

Immigration and university privatization culturally cement this top-down-led reorganization. The internet abounds with triumphant stories, in extremely non-proficient English, of international students who were “friends” with the Anglo or American university chancellor or president (A friendship only possible above a very high wealth bar.), students who declined to do the work for a class, got a grade that inconvenienced them, and summoned their class network to kick the professor’s “ASS out into the gutter.” Global consumers clearly perceive this to be a global upper-class mafia age.

Scholars who study academia have reminded me to never forget that administrators see scholars as strictly “peasants.” That labour-disciplining, aristocratic entitlement culture, the expectations of servitude and expropriation, trickles down to the credential consumers, aligning them with the university’s internal and external array of gape-mawed rentiers in management, marketing, construction, finance, R&D, intellectual property rights, and surveillance software (including course/immigration skills-evaluation and testbank software, accounting software, classroom-allocation software, performance metrics and evaluation software, and consumer satisfaction metrics).

The culture is further amplified amongst those competitive academics with a system-gaming orientation.