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Re: <nettime> Keynesianism is IN
Brian Holmes on Wed, 12 Nov 2008 03:23:46 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Keynesianism is IN


Alex Foti wrote:

> Polanyi is superrelevant (wish had studied him more) and i think the
> self-defence of society to shape and mould the emerging pattern of
> regulation is what will determine whether this return to keynesianism is
> to the left or to the right. union struggles are in the ascendant, new
> unionization will occur. we'll have to start thinking organizing millions
> of unemployed. the shift to the right, in europe especially, is an
> imminent danger, you're right. but ideas especially today, in times of
> historical bifurcation when ideology affects the emerging makeup of new
> institutions for macro and microregulation, are the ones that determine a
> dramatically polar political outcomes.

This is the basic point for the next 5 years, and I think the general 
trend will mostly be decided in the US in the first year of Obama's 
presidency, and also in China under conditions which very few of us will 
even be able to understand, let alone influence. Society is rather 
seriously in danger right now. The logic which guided it for some thirty 
years has proven insufficient to the task. This neoliberal logic is at 
its most visible in the financial markets, but as Foucault shows in his 
two courses of 77-78 and 78-79 (thankfully available in English now) 
that same logic extends deep into subjectivity, it forms a calculus of 
the individual and his/her life decisions. The neoliberal idea is you 
calculate for your personal chances on the market and basta. For 
decades, fools like Giddens accepted this logic and taught us how to 
abide by it. But today it is broken and almost no one is prepared for 
that. Today we have no calculus of society.

What should union movements call for? What should environmentalists and 
cultural critics contribute to a crisis situation? I think the first 
thing is to make it clear that we are facing a historic crisis and that 
this means a general change in the social deal will occur, like it or 
not. Given the kinds of racism that any surge in the unemployment rate 
could so easily fuel, this overarching change is gonna be on the order 
of a socio-political crisis, pitting the generosity of the left against 
various kinds of middle-class and rightist self-interest, rapidly 
verging on security-panic and national-fascism. Extreme leftists may not 
like to work (I don't either by the way) but a lot of the crisis is 
going to be about the kinds of work that government can offer and to 
whom. The green rhetoric of the new job programs has to be intelligently 
criticized and improved, that's what Alex means when he says let's 
struggle against green capitalism. This is the voice of someone who has 
thought long and hard about every option, and worked on them with 
concrete struggles. Politics is not just reacting with the prejudices of 
your own identity, it's about foreseeing possible futures and weighing 
in where you can for the best of outcomes. The real struggle is the one 
that makes changes in reality!

The other major issue, in my opinion, is for regional codevelopment. In 
every rich country, the work is increasingly done by immigrants. The 
alternative to poisonous racism is a pattern of regional ecodevelopment 
that eases the economic divide on both sides of the borders and gets 
people ready to collaborate on surviving and thriving in the 
twenty-first century. To open up such possibilities means solidarity 
with other laborers, the regional horizon of a global New Deal. It won't 
happen tomorrow but struggle for regional social justice (US-Mexico, 
EU-North Africa and Middle East) can be a beacon, a regulatory principle 
for every political platform and labor philosophy. Only the left has the 
generosity to conceive this, and that should be our historic mission, 
not some foolish disaster-mongering, some idea that it will have to get 
worse before it gets better. The possibility of disaster is now obvious. 
The easiest thing is for it to get much much worse.

Let me dot the i's and cross the t's. It is possible that none of this 
latter-day Keynesian stuff will even see the light of day. If our 
governments were allowed to go on pumping up a dysfunctional financial 
sector, the only way to pay the social price would be through extreme 
repression of all the protest and desperate acts that are sure to 
follow. The capacity for a super-police state is out there, and it is 
the most likely extrapolation from current trends. In the face of that 
likelihood, the position that refuses any compromise with social 
democracy is not the one that I would support. Such a position 
guarantees that you will be in a total minority, facing a state of 
terrifying power whose abuses you will help justify. You can see this 
scenario coming on in France right now, with the sabotage of the train 
tracks. Sarkozy and his police will become immensely stronger that way! 
What we need now is not that kind of extremism, but a principled 
Ghandian extremism with a deep economic, ecological and ethical 
understanding that can actually shift the majority viewpoints. Anything 
less is the narcissism of the powerless and it is not on my agenda for 
the upcoming years.

solidarities, Brian


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