The Harbinger: What lies beyond the cultural logic of late-capitalism? The revolutionary logic of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
FOR AS LONG as socialism constituted a genuine threat, red-baiting remained a constant feature of United States politics. With the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, red-baiting eased-off. Global capitalism was in a triumphant mood and its celebrants looked upon those who still espoused the socialist cause with a mixture of condescension and pity. In their eyes, at least, the socialists had missed history’s bus. The traditional Left had been left behind.
Taking the place of the old-fashioned, Soviet-style Marxist-Leninists in triumphalist capitalism’s new line-up of people to hate were the so-called “Cultural Marxists”. Their mission was said to be nothing less that the complete undermining of Western Society: its values; its traditions; its institutions.
Exactly why the cultural Marxists would want to do this was never made entirely clear. The traditional Marxists had sought to replace the exploitation and individualism of capitalist society with the co-operation and collectivism of socialism. Highly contentious though this goal may have been, it was also reassuringly rational. Cultural Marxism, on the other hand, was presented as being wholly negative. What the cultural Marxists appeared to want was the utter destruction of the system which had defeated “actually existing socialism” in 1991. It was a nihilistic quest for political vengeance – nothing more.
What the triumphalist capitalists failed to grasp was that the new philosophy they mis-named Cultural Marxism was in fact the ferocious enemy of all grand ideological narratives – especially Marxism. Post-modernism, far from being the enemy of the free market, was its principal protector. In a famous essay, published in 1984, the American literary critic and political theorist, Fredric Jameson, described post-modernism as “the cultural logic of late-capitalism”.
Fittingly, it was Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of The Communist Manifesto, who best described capitalism’s terrifying capacity for cultural corrosion:
“Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”
Post-modernism provides the sort of philosophical architecture in which a ruling-class determined to strip society of its most cherished assumptions can find refuge. The triumph of global corporate culture has, however, left maladaptive conservative intellectuals stranded. To them, the world feels as though it is under attack from their worst (i.e. Marxist) enemies. The conservative mind, which clings so tenaciously to “ancient and venerable prejudices”, simply cannot accept that it is capitalism itself which is dictating the dissolution of moral certainty and the indiscriminate mixing of the present with the past. Post-modernism is the surest means of keeping “late-capitalism’s” opponents – the Right as well as the Left – off balance. People cannot walk on air.
People can, however, “face with sober senses” the “real conditions of life” and the real relationships within which they are enmeshed. And it is precisely at such moments: when culturally and politically people are freed from the myths that have constrained their lives; when the post-modernist Wizard of Oz is exposed for the charlatan he is; when reality shatters the screens onto which late-capitalism’s unrealities have been projected; that the politically impossible happens and a 28-year-old Hispanic woman espousing “democratic socialism” defeats the candidate of the Democratic Party machine in the primary election for New York's 14th Congressional District.
What lies beyond the cultural logic of late-capitalism? The revolutionary logic of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Red-baiting is about to be given a new lease on life.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 3 July 2018.
An interesting post Chris. Socialism is developing.
"Exactly why the cultural Marxists would want to do this was never made entirely clear. "
What's even less clear is how come they are so piss poor at it. You think if they were so dangerous we'd all be under the thumb of communist government by now. Mind you the way the Overton window has shifted some probably think that already.
Hopefully, this is a sign that the Democrats are moving somewhat leftward – after all they can't get much further right without running into Looney Toons territory, and that's occupied by the Republicans at the moment. What I find encouraging is that the role of big money was somewhat less apparent in this election, because she fought a grassroots campaign through social media a lot of the time. I'm not a great fan of social media, but if it manages to get money out of politics I'll probably managed to overcome some of my old people's objections.:)
Their mission was said to be nothing less that the complete undermining of Western Society: its values; its traditions; its institutions.
It seems at a glance, that the above refers to neo liberal economics. Not content with assuming the task of pushing a force of theory, opinion and assumption about money and its use onto the populace as if it were fact and feasible, (and in doing so it ignores the tradition we have accepted that democracy is for the people); the neolibs want to take us over completely, body and mind.
They have an all-encompassing set of moral and behavioural memes they display to us as if showing us an x-ray of our minds taken in a machine like a catscan. When I say this, see how your brain lights up here, they say triumphantly, proving that you can be manipulated to behave so or buy Brand X. (I think I mean Deep Brain Stimulation:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_brain_stimulation).
Values, traditions and institutions all are sullied. We have no values just responses of emotion; our sacrifice through kindness receives a reward of personal goodwill - the giving is balanced by reward. The tradition of anything can be abandoned, it is only a convention. Institutions can be bought; universities which once had a tradition of higher learning and understanding are now unsullied by humanities, philosophy; degrees are supposed to be a ticket to the managerial class, the elite. Religion is a business with a convenient captured community, being sold goodness, heaven, and right living, which converts to a very good living for the Leader.
Communism as delivered has often had much to criticise in its methods. Capitalism wheels out its own propaganda, with communism as a painted stage piece to arrest the eye, while the capitalist magician draws your brain out through your ear.
I think that an illustration of capitalist sleight-of-hand affecting the brain can be found in Fawlty Towers. This is just an example of how we can be hornswoggled by swingeing political movements. We need to retain a fertile sense of humour to carry us through.
The question that will be asked of Cortez by capitalists is, "Who is going to pay?"
The question that capitalists and socialists should be asking is, "What are we going to pay with?".
Not so sure that this is about Classic Socialism making a comeback as it is merely the continuing development of its great bete noir, Identity Politics:
Oh God, here we go again with the pseudo-pejorative "identity politics". As if white people don't play identity politics. Particularly conservative white people. As if minority's experience of government is exactly the same as the majority's. As if fewer white males in positions of power wouldn't be a good thing on the whole.
Good riddance to the cis-gendered, priviliged white male wankers, eh? Excellent, excellent....
A shock poll by Reuters/Ipsos reveals that the Democrats are shedding millennial votes, with support dropping by nine percentage points since 2016. This shift is most pronounced among white millennial men, who now favour Republicans over Democrats by 11 percentage points. In 2016, Democrats led Republicans in this group by 12 percentage points. There has been a staggering swing of 23 percentage points in just two years.
Of course the majority culture is privileged.
Identity politics is based on victim culture. Coloured/trans/disabled = 5 stars. White middle class male ["pale, male and stale"] puts a target on your back. What's more Brett Wienstien (of Evergreen College) argues that the left is eating itself and
"what is taking place is that the left has a bad actor problem that arises out of some of the fundamental assumptions of progressivism and I don't mean to strike a negative note, I do think it is possible to structure a left that would be more or less immune to a bad actor problem but what I'm witnessing in the present are bad actors that have control over the entire dialogue and that is a very dangerous situation So the first thing that I recognized a bit before things went haywire at Evergreen, or at least went haywire publicly was that the people I was talking to and most of the
population at Evergreen is pretty far left, but I recognize that there was a hidden dichotomy between two populations within the left. One of those populate earnestly wishes equality and there can be some debate over what it is that is being equalized but virtually everybody on the Left would say that they are for equality of opportunity then there is another population that does not wish equality of opportunity what it wishes to do is to turn the tables of oppression
Oh God, here we go again with the pseudo-pejorative "identity politics"
Pseudo? Not "neo" or "crypto"? I love the way the Left uses those terms; it makes things sound more sophisticated than they really are.
Obviously more work is needed from the Left to make Identity Politics completely pejorative and toxic, as "Liberal" has been in the US, or in the way "Fake News" has been turned around on its creators. Anyway, I thought the following appropriate for "Guerilla Surgeon" and "pejorative":
The great problem with identity politics is that it takes as its focus a series of factors for which the individual is not responsible, and over which he or she has no control. Our race, gender, sexuality, etc are attributes we inherit – they have nothing to do with personal choice, and, for the most part, they are factors we can do nothing about.
This is less of a problem when, in terms of socio-economic, cultural and political status, you’re on the debit side of the historical ledger, because then the world can be forced to make good the discrepancy. If, however, you’re not black, female, or gay, life can get pretty rough. White, heterosexual, males, in particular, are expected to pay, and go on paying, until the scales are evened-up.
But, twenty-five years on, it has become painfully clear that the application of identity politics has benefited no one so much as the social strata which promoted it in the first place: middle-class, university educated professionals.
"Identity politics is based on victim culture...... White middle class male ["pale, male and stale"] puts a target on your back. "
Have you not just provided me with a classic case of victim culture? :)
"A shock poll by Reuters/Ipsos reveals that the Democrats are shedding millennial votes, with support dropping by nine percentage points since 2016"
Ironic considering that their main reason seems to be that the Republicans are allegedly the better stewards of the economy. Somewhat counterintuitively, the economy has always done better under the Democrats. I guess this just shows how stupid millennials are maybe?
here can be some debate over what it is that is being equalized but virtually everybody on the Left would say that they are for equality of opportunity then there is another population that does not wish equality of opportunity what it wishes to do is to turn the tables of oppression
What is really needed is equality of understanding about the differences between people. Some get more chances because they are comfortable middle-class or upper, but are brought up in a narrow, competitive, success-seeking and materialistic home and environment - some would say
they are poor spiritually and lack a spirit of co-operation or connection, an association with humanity,.
The idea that some have about equality of opportunity is hypocritical.
They do not want all to be equal, and are happy to be well financed, and housed, then receive the same treatment as others who are significantly lower in resources and less able to take up opportunities.
It is just a form of selfish, self-centredness of the comfortable. For example, someone in a wheelchair may not be able to move up to a table with food, which in theory is available to all. The right thing is to ask what they would like and take that food to them along with a plate, so enabling them to participate. People with disadvantage, need extra consideration from providers to enable them to achieve equality.
"The great problem with identity politics is that it takes as its focus a series of factors for which the individual is not responsible, and over which he or she has no control. Our race, gender, sexuality, etc are attributes we inherit – they have nothing to do with personal choice, and, for the most part, they are factors we can do nothing about."
Unfortunately, it is these things that we can do very little if anything about that mark the difference between various groups' experience of government and power. And that is the reason for identity politics – which was meant to be pseudo-intellectual pejorative rather than pseudo-pejorative by the way but never mind. If only you weren't discriminated against because of your colour/gender/sexuality, there wouldn't be any need for identity politics.
And as I have said before, old white males play identity politics to the max. Not to mention playing the victim card these days as their privilege is eroded by an increase in equality. You can sort of get tired of the constant whining of "us white males are being victimised/discriminated against........ blah blah blah, simply because their privilege is being eroded. Time they all grew a pair, manned up, and stop whining. :) FFS, you're still in charge of everything.
And as I have said before, old white males play identity politics to the max.
Meh - go argue with the old white male who made the comment... https://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2009/07/our-common-heritage.html
I think you'll find I have.... Numerous times.
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