|Brian Holmes on Sun, 6 May 2012 22:05:54 +0200 (CEST)|
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|Re: <nettime> Why I say the things I say|
Hey Keith, good to hear from you. On 05/06/2012 05:50 AM, Keith Hart wrote:
The first thing that stands out to me is that you identify your own role with that of a critic. There are other ways of engaging society and perhaps we should start with that. Which critics in history do you think made a difference? Cicero? Milton? Rousseau? Poe? Adorno? How did they do it?
I think there are tons of writers who have made a difference, and it continues today. Your list is pretty literary - and literature is a strong force, much stronger than people usually give credit. I'm also interested in more humble sociologists, economists, philosophers, and of course... art historians. But you know, critic is just one part. I like to be part of social movements and also experimental art-and-politics groups that come to grips with territorial realities. There are few Adornos and less Poes. Baudelaire and Rimbaud are pretty rare too! No use wishing to be a world-historical genius. How to be part of a grounded community that lives its critique and breathes its alternatives? It's a very good question. That's why a bunch of us go around asking it in the Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor!
the American left, from its strongholds in New York, Chicago and LA, rarely identifies other social forces that might help to make things budge, choosing rather to demonize the popular majority, their culture and politics, as dupes.
What the left is, and what the popular majority is, is a real question in the US (but also France or Germany for that matter). Dan Wang shows in his last post that a broad electoral left has come into existence again through conflict in Wisconsin. That could be a growing tendency nationally, but it isn't yet. In Chicago I still see a big split between a popular, grassroots left that comes out for a primarily Latino immigrant march like Mayday (and for a thousand other everyday causes) and a middle-class liberal left that frankly doesn't know what to do in the face of a police-state, finance-friendly, austerity-enforcing Democrat like Rahm Emmanuel (former Obama chief of staff and now our mayor). Who's the popular majority? There isn't one, there's two or three or more. It's as useless to call people dupes as it is to deny the use of vast machineries for influencing behavior. Proof enough of the latter is the success of the "Kochtopus" -- ie the huge multi-headed apparatus that the famous two brothers help to fund, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) whose program Scott Walker has tried to carry out in Wisconsin.
Third, all economies combine plural principles and, when the Pentagon is the largest state-run collective in world history, we should think twice before describing the US economy as "capitalism". Ours is an age of money (Locke and Marx) which is transitional to a more just society, but where is the world in that trajectory today, when for the first time capital has gone geneuinely global?
Keith, you are more confident than I that capitalism's mission has been to bring cheap commodities to the masses. We're looking arguably at some kind of transnational state capitalism, in which the state itself warps beyond recognition. If the crisis of the 70s produced a trilateral governance ("Triad power" as Kenichai Ohmae said back then) we now see an attempt to widen the hegemony (or stretch the management of "hege-money") to include the BRICS. The locus of this attempt has been the G-20 finance ministers meeting. But the hedge funds aren't really cooperating. Moishe Postone has pointed out that under neoliberalism, the classic inability of capitalists to coordinate their efforts globally has returned to plague the whole system. And he said that before 2008 and the Greek debacle! Postone argues for some specific consideration of the greatest critic of Lockean bourgeois property conceptions. I.e. Marx. As a critic I still want to be part of a collective rewriting of Marx for the 21st century. In my view, transnational state capitalism is still failing to deliver the goods we need.
Fourth, the Europeans are in worse shape than the Americans and nowhere more depressed than in Britain and France, the empires the US had to displace in order to build their own. If your constituency is the West in decline, why would you expect to locate progressive social forces from populations who live beyond their means because they have the world currency and most of the weapons or another that shelters behind that power to derive unearned income from the rest that is fast running out?
Pretty darn good question! I just happen to live here in the "Heartland." Where a buncha climate-change deniers, the Heartland Institute, are meeting, hopefully to general scorn, this weekend.
Finally, but not really, this is just the beginning, the political economists identified three classes based on property in Land, Money and Labour, landlords, capitalists and workers. What has happened to those classes by the early 21st century?
Well, they have become intertwined for better and worse, I'd say. Crucially, the formation of socialist and social-democratic states in the 20th century has confused the working classes with both the territorial nation-state and the money-wielding transnational corporations. For us, the big alternative is, do we fight back to regain power over monetary flows within some territorial container called a nation-state? Or do we go for Exodus and try to create a new formation, "the missing people" or "le people qui manque," as Deleuze and Guattari put it? I think you have to do both at once. The corporate-state nexus is too powerful and ugly to ignore, and we can't yet fight it effectively outside the nation-state. At the same time, the national culture it has produced -- with workers' cooperation -- is too deadly to make it one's own. Is it really possible to do both at once? Not for nothing did D&G write about capitalism and schizophrenia!
Whatever the way forward from your impasse, brian, it has to be grounded in a contemporary perspective on world history and not just the internal whingeing of western populations condemned already to the dustbin of history. I don't expect this idea to take root soon. After all, the British haven't woken up to historical reality despite being on the skids for a century. I have made my second home in South Africa and I look especially to Brazil and India rather than China, as well as to the rest of Africa, for progressive social movements. Africa laready has 7 out of the top ten fastest-growing economies; its share of would population will be a quarter in 2050 and over a third by 2100. Now there is a revolution to contemplate in our racist world society, one where the value of black, brown and white will be reversed.
So you go for Exodus! Here in the Americas, there is infinitely more to be learned from the South than the North. With all due apologies to my good friends in Canada. Y muchos saludos a los demas! Thanks for the inspiration, amigo. Brian # distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission # <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism, # collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets # more info: http://mx.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l # archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: firstname.lastname@example.org