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Re: <nettime> "talented" women, minorities, and gays
Brian Holmes on Tue, 7 Mar 2017 05:02:57 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> "talented" women, minorities, and gays


This is absolutely brilliant, kudos to Morlock for posting it.
Nancy Fraser:

--"In its U.S. form, progressive neoliberalism is an alliance of
mainstream currents of new social movements (feminism, anti-racism,
multiculturalism, and LGBTQ rights), on the one side, and high-end
"symbolic" and service-based business sectors (Wall Street, Silicon
Valley, and Hollywood), on the other. In this alliance, progressive
forces are effectively joined with the forces of cognitive capitalism,
especially financialization. However unwittingly, the former lend their
charisma to the latter. Ideals like diversity and empowerment, which
could in principle serve different ends, now gloss policies that have
devastated manufacturing and what were once middle-class lives."

Does that sound familiar? It's what I have been trying to describe for
20 years. Because what is the flexible personality if not [quoting
Fraser] "a 'progressive neoliberalism' that mixed together truncated
ideals of emancipation and lethal forms of financialization"?

This article overcomes the weaknesses of Fraser's earlier reading of
Polanyi and the supposed "triple movement" of emancipatory forces that
she identified there. Here she is admitting that any progressive
response to capitalism cannot only be measured by its emancipatory
capacity (or its fulfillment of identity politics). It also has to
include solidarity with all those suffering economic oppression.
Otherwise it can be easily coopted into a capitalist hierarchy.

That's what Angela Mitropoulos categorically refused to see in our
mega-debate over the meaning of Trump's election. For her, Trump won
because white males are sexist racists, full stop. This is the
equivalent of saying "We are pure and radical and good, while they
[just shy of 50% of the US population] are hateful sick ignorant
dangerous slobs." Well, I feel pretty alienated from Trump voters too,
and I can understand the revulsion. But such a position asks no further
question about the political forms that brought us to the current
situation. It completely exculpates what Fraser calls progressive
neoliberalism. And it shows total blindness to the character of
capitalist society in the wake of 1968 - in particular, to the way it
integrated selected representatives of oppositional movements into its
hierarchy as well as its ideology.

To be sure, I do not repudiate emancipatory politics. I agree with
Fraser:

     Rejecting globalization, Trump voters also repudiated the liberal
     cosmopolitanism identified with it. For some (though by no means
     all), it was a short step to blaming their worsening conditions on
     political correctness, people of color, immigrants, and Muslims. In
     their eyes, feminists and Wall Street were birds of a feather,
     perfectly united in the person of Hillary Clinton.

     What made possible that conflation was the absence of any genuine
     left.... Rather than accepting the terms presented to us by the
     political classes, which oppose emancipation to social protection,
     we should be working to redefine them by drawing on the vast and
     growing fund of social revulsion against the present order. Rather
     than siding with financialization-cum-emancipation against social
     protection, we should be building a new alliance of emancipation and
     social protection against financialization.

This is the key, and it has been obvious since Boltanski and
Chiapello's book on The New Spirit of Capitalism (even if it wasn't so
obvious to the authors themselves). The progressive left - not just the
"more radical than thou," but the whole mainstream current - needs to
show some solidarity, for cryin' out loud! That's all it would take to
get rid of neofascism forever. We don't need to go back on what we have
gained. We just need to demand equality *along with* the right to
difference.

There is one finer point here: Financialization should not only be
understood as bankers and traders like Goldman Sachs. Financialization
is a form of management inseparable from just-in-time production and
the precarious condition of spatially fragmented laborers spread out
along global supply chains. Flexibilization is the real vampire squid.
That's exactly what oppresses people in the rural red zones.

In recent days I've been reading about Tyson corp and what's
colloquially known as the "chickenization" of the entire US livestock
industry. This has occurred under incredibly tough forms of flexible
production contracts that turn nominally independent farmers into the
indentured servants of the global meatpackers. Very many of those
people voted Trump and they were dead wrong to do so, because he
operates in favor of the very system that enslaves them. In fact, the
contract farmers have more in common with the immigrant slaughterhouse
workers who are exploited to the bone by those same global
corporations, than they do with the Republicans in government now. But
all the sociology to this date says that the impoverished rural and
small-city Trump voters still identify *us*, the supposedly radical
emancipatory left, with their financial managers. And the fact is, they
do so for two good reasons, as well as a whole bunch of bad ones.
First, they do it because so many of us work uncritically for the
showiest institutions of cognitive capital (from Silicon Valley and
Wall St to Hollywood and Madison Avenue and the Ivy League
universities, it's cognitive all the way down). And second, they do so
because many of the causes we did take up were instrumentalized by the
Democratic party.

Nothing obliges us to learn from our mistakes. We can go on despising
the populist right and cozying up to our sugardaddy financial elites,
ensuring the continued rage of much of the population. We can also
proclaim we're the most radical of all radicals, disclaim any
responsibility for the present and turn heroically toward total anarchy
- an excellent formula for self-neutralization, with the added chance
to spark a few street conflicts legitimating police violence and a
sweeping deputization of the gun-owning right, which is a growing
possibility. Or maybe instead we can try to force a change on the
Democratic party, which appears to be the only realistic way to move
anything to the left in the USA.

"Forcing a change" designates a pretty wide sphere of activity. I am
not saying shut up and vote for your betters. Strikes, demos,
blockades, and radical symbolic acts are still on the menu. But the
constitution of majorities is ineluctable, and the one we were
half-unconsciously part of has been washed down the drain. The strikes,
demos, blockades and radical symbolic acts of the left are not the
harbingers of total revolution. They are better understood as ways of
shaping a new majority. And that has to be done through coalition
building, not infinite breaks and splinters. The political question is
how to create a new center-left where solidarity joins hands with
emancipation - or, to put it more crudely, where the expression of
difference does not become a mask for the grinding "chickenization" of
the fragmented working classes. Without a new majority that can
recognize itself in the mirror of a transformed cultural left, the way
is clear for an incredible intensification of oppression under the
triumphant auspices of the most reactionary social formation since the
European 1930s. So let the political rethink begin, dear comrades. Or
better yet, for most of you, let it continue.

best, BH

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