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Re: <nettime> The insult of the 1 percent: "Art-history majors"
Newmedia on Sun, 6 May 2012 21:53:05 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> The insult of the 1 percent: "Art-history majors"


Armin:
 
> I find that phrase 'let's be honest' highly problematic
> and just like 'complex' it serves a certain purpose of
> cutting discussions short.
Not my intent at all.  In fact, if you look at my "let's be honest" comment in context (i.e. the paragraph you took it from), you will see that it was attached to the work of UCLA sociologist Michael Mann and the need to actually understand the "sources of social power."  That topic is rarely discussed on this list, so perhaps a good way to start our "honesty" would be to admit how little we know and how much we all need to "organize our ignorance."
 
My suggestion is that if we do this -- work hard to understand society (ours, others, in history, through poetry) -- we will find that "elites" have always been an integral part of the story.  So, we need *more* discussion about society, not less!
 
> Even in the USA, Mr. Stahlman, there were powerful
> mass movements of workers and intellectuals who
> faced down the elites and forced them to make serious
> concessions.
 
When I was a graduate student at UW-Madison in 1970, I spent many months in the Wisconsin State Historical Society library, which likely has the most extensive collection of "radical" literature from such movements in the USA (due to LaFollette and the Progressive Party.)  I still have my stack 5x7 notecards.  Then I became a supporter of Rosa Luxemburg.
 
I can assure you, however, wherever there were "concessions" there were also elites.  While it's an admittedly crude and anecdotal analysis, you should be aware that one of the primary motivations behind many Democrat's "social welfare" policy initiatives is to ensure that the "poor" won't burn things down -- or so those *elites* tell me.  The Republicans also worry but they have other policy recommendations, albeit with a similar "no riots" objective. 
 
That has been the "elite consensus" since many cities were (partially) burned down in the 1970s -- which, btw, I see everyday since I live in one of those neighborhoods, where 50% of the buildings on Broadway (two blocks away) were torched back then.
 
At the same time, one of the most enduring effects of Emma Goldman et al were the Palmer Raids, which then became institutionalized as the NYPD "Red Squad" and is now known as the "Intelligence Division," which is actually the US version of MI-5 -- who I first met circa 1973 when their "chief" physically lifted me off the ground and removed me from a protest I was staging in Cooper Union's Great Hall.
 
> So 'let's be honest' there has been maybe always
> a tendency of the elites trying to rule completely
> unchallenged, yet lets work to not allow them to get
> there, because actually they are quaking in their boots ;-)

Actually, the "problem" today is that there ISN'T an *elite* to even do that!  This isn't the WASP-dominated 1930s anymore!
 
Today, all there is are is the POLICE and their outstanding request for more *surveillance* -- which now means domestic drones and total net-tapping and extensive efforts at "infiltration" -- but be clear that they work for themselves.  There isn't anything like a "statistical" 1% with any semblance of "class-solidarity" because, like the rest of us, they have no *coherence* in their lives. 
 
You think you are "fighting" the 1%?  Guess again!
 
So, "let's be honest" and notice that "mass movements" are themselves a *feature* of the society in which they arise.  Elites and movements have always been intertwined.  Understand how *any* society operates and you will understand its mass movements.
 
My suggestion is that we are now in a DIFFERENT society than in the past times, so accounts of movements from the 1930s need to be put into their own context and then related to our own times,
 
Technology changes everything in SOCIETY, so mass-movements that arose under the conditions of *radio* (or television) will be different from movements that arise under the environmental conditions of the Internet.  So, also will the nature of the *elites* thoroughly change.  They are two-sides of the same technology-defined *environmental* coin.
 
Understand society and understand how media/technology changes society and you will be at least able to "honestly" have a discussion about the world we live in -- in which more honest discussion needs to *begin* than to be "cut short."
 
Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY
 
 
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