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<nettime> The alt-right and the death of counterculture
Alexander Bard on Mon, 10 Jul 2017 10:54:17 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> The alt-right and the death of counterculture


Excellent postings, Brian and Keith, as always!
Could a Freudian-Marxist approach a la The Frankfurt School be the way forward for critical theory here?
I'm working with Jan Söderqvist on a re-reading of Freud's "Civilisation and its Discontents" for the digital age for release in 2018 myself. And I guess the approach then is a Marxist-Libertarian critique based on the assumption that Keith's fundamental question "What does it mean to be human?" could be replied in a Freudian and timeless manner as "The Journey from Childhood to Adulthood". Where Adulthood includes the originally tribal commitment to contribute (it is not about "having a job" as the lowest common denominator for the social, "having a job" is merely the capitalist imperative standing in for the proper "desire to contribute to the tribe").
So a leftist critique would have to start with the assumption that contemprary society in various ways denies its citizen the completion of the journey from childhood to adulthood, it infantilises its citizens on a massive scale by indirectly forstering them into the belief that "they have nothing to contribute" besides possibly "the job they have been rewarded". Even jobs are no longer contributions, "jobs are rewarded" these days to the loyal voters of the extreme right, this is after all both Trump's and Le Pen's most basic appeal, they claim to be "the job-rewarders".
Please note that this critique would involve the education system since the education system is completely focused on "adaption to the job market" and not on "citizens getting help to self-help towards adulthood, contribution and autonomy". But it would also include a massive critique against the consumption society (check hamburger obesity etc) and from a libertarian angle an attack on the current structure of the welfare-state (anything that infantilises people would be a deserving target for critique).
I believe any serious discussion on the introduction of Universal Basic Income (the left's main topic these days besides the fundamental struggle against climate change) would have to start by addressing this issue too. If UBI infantilises large parts of the population, it would amount to an anti-Freudian disaster (a dramatic surge in alcoholism, drug abuse, media additiction etc) .But if it is designed to foster the contributive impulse (way beyond any job market ideals) it would make perfect sense as the leftist rallying call for the next few decades.
Could this then begin to answer the leftist utopian call of "what it could mean to be human"?
Does this make sense? Or do you already include this Freudian critical perspective in your analysis? We are after all fighting the alt-right's and other extremism's  "fake phalluses" wherever we look these days. But what kind of state power do we reply with? What would be the ultimate aim of our state power? Just individual autonomy through financial redistribution? Really? Or the support towards an adultisation of society, away from our current mailaise, its mass infantilisation?
Best intentions
Alexander Bard

2017-07-10 8:27 GMT+02:00 Brian Holmes <bhcontinentaldrift {AT} gmail.com>:
Keith Hart wrote:
 
What does it mean to be human? To be self-reliant and to belong to others.

It sounds like such a simple statement. But it spans left and right, society and autonomy, the whole and radical difference. Having lived among  the French intellectuals, I have enormous respect for the left-leaning approach to the social whole. Having lived in the US (but not so close to the US intellectuals, ha ha ha!) I have also developed quite a bit of respect for the governing philosophy that mediates the relations between individuals.

In the past, the US won a war that allowed it to institute an individualist framework that came to permeate international law and diplomacy, decisively shaping the postwar world order up till now. The "golden age of the individual" (generally known as the age of human rights) was vitiated by the abuse of larger sovereignties, whether the corporations, the national states, or the regional blocs, all of which arrogated to themselves the rights that were supposedly those of flesh and blood humans. Sovereign power gave individualism a bad name, for sure: that's why those French intellectuals complain, and they are right to do so. Despite the abuses, the anthropologist Rene Dumont held that in the last instance the demands of holism had to be interpreted within the individualist framework. He believed that, because in his day (40s through 90s) individualism was undeniably the dominant form: the one that could resolve the most contradictions. Private ownership of currency, and the modicum of individual control that it offered over the quintessentially social construct of transnational money, was the linchpin of the individualist order, as Keith Hart (perhaps in the wake of Dumont?) has consistently pointed out. 

I don't think any country, least of all the US, can win a war anymore. The individualism of both the Kalashnikov and the Internet has put an end to that. The new forms of war therefore ravage American hegemony, ever since Vietnam, and even more intensely today. The suicide belt is a perverse vindication of radical individualism against the abuses of corporate and national sovereignty. Yet each explosion in a shopping mall (or wherever it may be) hides a more integral contradiction, what James Lovelock called "the revenge of Gaia." An explosion in a shopping mall (or in Mosul, or wherever) is nothing compared to accelerated ecological change. The species need to care for the equilibria of biogeochemical cycles definitively vindicates the holist critique of the post-WWII social order.

With all that, the glaringly obvious fact (which is the point of this nettime thread) is that the existing political left has almost nothing valid to say about the epochal crisis we're in. The countercultural anarchists are staunchly individualist, just like the neoliberals (only they've got molotovs rather than atom bombs). The old left holists are stridently disciplinarian, just like the neocon authoritarians (only they've got YouTube rather than Fox News). What we don't have is a powerful resolution of the existing contradictions. What we don't have is a new way to be human.

thoughtfully yours, Brian

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