Brian Holmes on Fri, 18 Aug 2017 00:26:38 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Who said the US is boring?

-- Frederic Neyrat wrote:

"The important point for me is to affirm that Strategy T is not democratic. The goal is to find a way to suspend democracy/civil rights/freedom/next elections etc. Whatever the means. War, "terrorist" attack, financial crisis, etc."

--> I think the hypothetical "Strategy T" exists for the President as a kind of inchoate drift toward the very real potential of armed rising by the far right. There are small militias all over the country, there are radical libertarian groups who want to decisively change the social order, and there are lots of armed nut jobs waiting for an excuse to get fighting mad. Hans Herman Hoppe and other liberatarian Occidentalists describe their strategy quite explicitly: wait for those dependent on the largesse of the state to take to the streets to reclaim their vanishing benefits, and then in the face of rising violence, provide security to the middle class and affluent population by means of self-designated or locally deputized vigilantes. Given the systematic neglect of far-right violence by Homeland Security, as well as what seems to be the deliberate infiltration of police forces by the same extremist groups, that is a real scenario for the suspension of civil liberties. But what's happening now is not some barbarous explosion of the ghettos, from which vigilantees could somehow protect law-abiding citizens. Instead it's the unprovoked upsurge of fascist and white supremacist forces whose ideology is so despicable that no one in power except Trump himself appears able to condone or instrumentalize it.

I'd say the dangerous passage is not over. As Trump's presidency fails, the two last-ditch cards he can more or less instinctively try to play are 1. go to war and 2. foment civil unrest, with the hope in both cases of finding a reason for authoritarianism. He's trying option 1 already, and watch out for option 2 coming up soon, perhaps with the support of false-flag operations or other forms of calculated violence from the far right. Yet it already looks as though these strategies will fail, because they have not gained any visible traction within the state, in addition to being completely unviable at the urban level (no mayor of a large urban area in the US, however segregated it may actually be, is going to promote overt racism). To wrap it up, we really could see some chaos in the US or the upcoming months (or even weeks). But Trump has already lost the political power to turn that into something bigger. In my view, his disgrace presents a real opportunity to go beyond the repetition-compulsions of postwar US empire, toward a fresh assessment of present realities. But it's only an opportunity, and it will take a lot of forthright and far-seeing people to make good on it.

-- Keith Hart wrote:

"Market fundamentalism is at the crossroads. We are entering a global paradigm shift comparable to that of 1979/80, when a world revolution led by development states after 1945 was overthrown by a neoliberal counter-revolution that is itself now under threat... Responses to Trump’s reactionary white supremacy, along with the surprising French and British elections, suggest that neoliberal hegemony may be cracking and a swing back to state intervention, whether fascist or Keynesian, is now more likely than at any time in the last four decades."

-- And David Garcia countered:

"We must be wary of seeing 'public ownership' as an unalloyed -good-. State (or public) entites can  quite easily become self reproducing interest groups, lobbying on behalf of themselves as effectively as any corporation. Anyone who has had to deal regularly with public institutions will know that they do not always serve the best interests of the public."

--> I think it's crystal clear that the neoliberalism of the 1990s "Washington Consensus" (or Tom Friedman's "The Lexus and the Olive Tree") is over. That was clear financially with the meltdown of 2008, geopolitically with the Arab Spring, and sociopolitically with Brexit and Trump's election. What's unclear is how to replace it.

The resolution of a major crisis needs a multi-pronged strategy that can be worked out technically by the specialists even as it is internalized as a new common sense by the citizens. For the specialists, I would recommend Jeremy Rifkin's recent books. He is practically the only one who is proposing a coherent new social model, and he has real influence on tho the EU and China so it is quite serious (I was totally wrong to criticize him once on nettime, as I subsequently discovered by actually reading his work in depth). As for the common-sense version, it could go like this:

- We need a concept of employment-creating economic growth that is not based on the trickle-down from surplus financial profits, or on the conquest of export markets at others' expense, but rather on the productivity of citizens, regardless of their levels of education or their inherited social and money capital.

- We need a concept of security that is not focused on violent responses to violent events, but rather on the accumulating threats of infrastructural decay, institutional decline, financial uncertainty and environmental damage which plague people in their daily lives.

- We need a concept of democracy that is not limited to spectacular elections but instead recognizes multiple forms of citizen involvement, oversight and critique, and makes all of those inputs productive of social change.

- We need a concept of pleasure that does not turn an envious gaze toward the exploits of those at the top of the pyramid, but instead allows everyone to enjoy the fruits of their labor, the amenities of their locale and the sociability of their neighbors.

I agree simultaneously with Keith's assertion of the new statist turn and David's caution against it. The problem is how to do better than neoliberalism. The doctrinaire left just treats it as anathema, without recognizing how many of the good ideas of the Sixties and Seventies were folded into it. One of those good ideas is a healthy suspicion of state bureaucracy. "Healthy suspicion" is not the same as "drowning in a bathtub."  The fundamental societal challenge of the present is how to integrate the chaotic forces of directly democratic communication and competitively individualistic entrepreneurialism, which were both unleashed by the arrival of networked technologies. The current age of Twitter-wars is not succeeding.

But we really can do better, Brian

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