Felix Stalder on Mon, 14 Nov 2016 10:45:32 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> What is the meaning of Trump's victory?

> Way back in 1944, Karl Polanyi defined both Axis fascism and
> Stalinist communism as self-protective movements of society
> against the damaging forces of capitalist exploitation. The forms
> taken by these self-protective movements, he said, could be more
> damaging than the problems they initially tried to address. This is
> definitely happening again now, in a big way.

I think this is precisely it. Neo-liberal policies very deliberately
destroyed social solidarity and increased competition and
exploitation. The effect was a massive rise in social inequality,
economic insecurity and total lack of any sense of collective destiny
(aka what's the greater purpose of all of this?).

The center-right version of these policies offered as a substitute
a narrative of self-responsibility in the language of Christian
Evangelism, whereas the center-left version offered self-empowerment
in the language multi-cultural globalism. Both versions used credit as
kind of anesthetic, either as consumer credit or as student debt.

This worked remarkably well for thirty years. People were either
discouraged/disenfrancized to participate or reasonably willing to
accept either substitute as long as the economy was not doing to badly
and inequality was not too extreme, that is, the anesthetic worked.

The eight years of crisis following the great recession undermined
both right and left wing versions of neo-liberal consensus. More
quickly on the right, because they could revert more easily to a
language of nationalism, racism and sexism (latent in different ways
depending on local/national histories), whereas the center-left fell
into apathy. For years now, nobody could get very exited anymore by
figures like Hillary Clinton, Francois Holland, Sigmar Gabriel (as
they could for Clinton, Blair and Schroeder), and there is no left
populism to revert to so easily. Both Sanders and Corbyn are trying
though. Tsipras was trying too, but he was very deliberately and
explicitly crushed. This will haunt Europe for a generation.

> The challenge of emancipatory-egalitarian politics is to create
> a social and cultural world where frightened and disoriented
> and angry people cannot be lured into the easily manipulated
> positions of racism, sexism and nationalism that were first laid
> down by the European colonial capitalist project. When people like
> myself now criticize the Democratic Party for failing to address
> the scared and dangerous white working classes of the ruined
> industrial cities and desolate rural zones, they are not denying
> the existence of other, far more progressive, mixed-race working
> classes, certainly not. What we are saying is that in a period of
> economic breakdown and unleashed oilgarchical greed like the one
> we are living through today, a true political ecology that gives a
> whole range of constructive roles to a broad majority of a country's
> inhabitants is the only politics that can hold off a misguided
> "self-protective movement of society" that brings to power the kinds
> of dark and cunning interest groups that are now going to take at
> least momentary control of the US, and maybe other countries in the
> near future. The open question is how to effectively counter those
> forces.

I think there can be no emancipatory politics without solidarity,
without some recognition of a shared destiny that can only be improved
collectively, rather than individually. The two contenders here, it
seems to me, are ecology and the city.

The battle, however, is extremely uphill. Not just because there
will be a lot of damage done over the next couple of years by
the victorious far right, but also because we swapped a media
landscape that promoted the neo-liberal consensus (old media) with
one that thrives on creating filter-bubbles or flame wars as modes of
high-energy, manic engagements.



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