Keith Hart on Sun, 6 May 2012 22:06:33 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Why I say the things I say

Brian, saying what you say is an inspiration for many of us. But you ask
for a different perspective, so I will try to fabricate one that stands
separate from all that I share with you.

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?

Second, the US has become a blatant plutocracy. All we need is for Mrs
Romney to say let them eat cake and the parallels with the Old Regime will
be complete (reference to Ed on rentseeking etc). But 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. Here
is the contradiction, the United States is still the only society where
democracy occasionally makes itself felt. the appropriation of old liberal
slogans by the plutocracy is so insidious because American institutions and
people still embody those ideas to some degree.

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? If capitalism's historical mission is to make cheap
commodities and break down the insularity of traditional communities, how
far has humanity progressed down that road, when a third still work with
their hands in the fields and multitudes haven't made a phone call in their

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?

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? The first has become Governments, the
second Corporations. Their unholy alliance-cum-rivalry took the form of
national capitalism (Hegel's recipe), but is becoming something else, maybe
home rule for the corporations (step forward Oliver Williamson and Coase).
And the rest of us, the epeople, what, who and where are we? Could the
digital revolution support th eequivalent of the factory proletariat and
how good an example is that anyway? No wonder karl Marx never finished the
sketch of his big book provided in the introduction to Grundrisse.

Whatever the way forward from your impasse, brian, it has to be grounded in
a contemporary perspective on world history and not just th einternal
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.

Your comrade, Keith

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