Brian Holmes on Fri, 3 Aug 2018 17:37:02 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> What does Trump get right?

On Fri, Aug 3, 2018 at 3:14 AM, Keith Hart <> wrote:
For some decades, usually behind closed doors, the corporations have been designing a world society in which they would be the only effective citizens. They disparage the old political model of nation-states (corrupt), national laws (no reach) and citizenship (lazy and irresponsible), evoking a weird version of Kantian moral law instead. The two planks of their existence -- limited liability for debt conferred by Elizabeth I and elision of the difference between real and artificial persons in economic law (Santa Clara County vs Southern Pacific Railroad 1886) must occupy centre-ground in any mobilization against them. Corporations ability to claim the human rights of individual citizens not only guarantees them permanent legal immunity, but by collapsing the distinction between persons, ideas and things, political responsibility and action become unthinkable.
Keith, I agree with your global economic perspective, and would add that the remarkable capacity of the corporate order to deliver the goods to world populations (which you've always insisted on recognizing) is the social relation both hidden and expressed by the commodity fetish. It is a cult of power, offering a spectrum of personalized deities that far outstrips the multivariate gods of the late Roman Empire. While the cult is celebrated in the field of representation, aka "spectacle," the machinic power of capital (those non-financial corporations you mentioned) continues to rip materials from the ground in some places while covering the earth in steel and concrete elsewhere -- with Canada's Tar Sands and China's "One Belt, One Road" providing devastating examples. It was ever the job of intellectuals to identify these processes and analyze their structure, a role I have increasingly taken on in recent years as a cartographer.

Agreed, too, that we in the old centers of capital accumulation cannot imagine the revolts of tomorrow. However, I think the decline of democracy in those old centers has a greater negative influence on the rest of the world than you suggest. This is directly connected to fintech (the fusion of finance capital and internet technology). My post was provoked by the news of Apple's $1 trillion valuation, but also by a remarkable interview with Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy”:

He points out that India, with 250 million users and growing, is the largest global market for Facebook, outstripping the US itself, and that Narendra Modi may be considered the best, or rather worst, exponent of government by social networks, effecting that marriage of the surveillance capitalism and the liberal state to which I referred in the post. Vaidhyanathan shows in detail that political polarization is the primary way social networks operate in democracies, but he also explores the development of WeChat in China, compares and contrasts it with Facebook, and thus establishes a non-parochial assessment of this mode of governance, which has brought us Trump, Brexit and, I suppose, the Five-Star/Lega government in Italy as well.

You're right that the obsessive insularity of the US is both repulsive and intellectually crippling (I would even say spiritually or cosmologically cripppling). But the problem is, if you want to act politically you have to deal with the situation in which you are mired. In this regard, Alex Foti who wrote me on the backchannel has got it totally right: I want to stand with the youth of this country and throw every punch I can for socialism. This is a revolt I can imagine, it's the very one I and so many others have been pushing for over the last twenty years -- but the difference is, we were theory and the kids are fact. It's incredible: in the US (and seemingly also in Britain) very large numbers of people from liberal backgrounds are now calling for socialism, and getting candidates elected on that call, with the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) providing both the intellectual platform and the forms of solidarity that support the wider trend. What all these people are describing as a possible political outcome is in fact social democracy, but they use the word socialism to insist that we will not accept another hypocritical liberal compromise with the powers of debt and limited liability.

It's an amazing phenomenon, though a fragile one for sure, not the be-all and end-all of a progressive response to the global crisis of capitalism, but still, a promising element of that response. What I mean to say is that this constructive push, and not the mindless reflexive polarization of obsessive anti-Trump movements on Facebook, is the kind of movement that we fading dinosaur intellectuals should support in the present.

Because Heiko Recktenwald is right: AI is coming with unbelievable speed, and probably the last chance to act politically is right now.

yours from Chicago, Brian

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