Class Analysis of Identity Politics
A short text I wrote on Facebook, in August 2019:
How to understand the current extremisation of authoritarian identity politics of the left. Here is a potential narrative of the class dynamics behind this phenomena.
1968 came at the end of a very large redistribution of wealth that had started after WWII, but this favouring of 'demand' , started to create a crisis of supply, i.e. of capital, which would express itself in the great crisis of 1973. According to a book by Luc Boltanski (le nouvel esprit du capitalisme), faced with this combined rebellion of working class and middle class youth, the rulers of the day decided to give in to the cultural demands of the middle class youth rebellion (civil rights and rock and roll), but also decided consciously to start de-industrializing the West, which would be expressed with the Thatcher/Reagan governments in earnest. Thus the ruling coaltion of the post war years, a coalition between capital and the reformist leaders of labour, made way to the neoliberal coalition, ie. financial capital with the leaders of the civil rights movements. It brought great strides in culture, but stagnation in income. In the 70s-80s, a male worker could still manage to feed his whole family (i.e. the return of women to household work in the 50s), by the 90's, without 2 earners, this was now impossible. The stagnation and/or decline was somewhat compensated with the lower prices of chinese goods, but aggravated with real estate speculation. Anyway, the defeat of Hilary Clinton, who more than anyone else represented this neoliberal alliance, and who represents those that were willing to sacrifice the Nation to Empire, lost to those who were willing to sacrifice the Empire to the Nation. Now while Trump is mostly rhetorical and use identity politics to bind the working class to his new coalition, in EUROPE , the right-wing populists have socialist policies that are to the left of the left parties, and they are succeeding in consolidating these new populist coalitions (a hungarian worker with 3 kids gets 700 euro from the state);
The left wing cultural revolt of 1968, which ended in political defeat, saw the actors of this revolt, move to the universities, and , as this was part of the new neoliberal compact, this was tolerated. The ruling class of the period, and this worked until 2016, consisted of the merchant right, the neoliberal social-democrats (Democratic Party) in the US , and the postmodern left in the universities, in charge of demoralising struggles through their ideologies of defeat and fragmentation. As long as they were in the ascendancy, i.e. getting compromises that advanced civil and cultural rights, they continued their long march in the institutions. But with the rignt-wing populist revolt, and the breakup of the neoliberal coalition, their 'children' went into traumatic shock, and this is what weaponized identity politics. People in shock retreat to their more primary identities, for the right, this means the Nation, and perhaps right-wing identity politics, for the 'left', this means the regression to identities of race and gender and other forms of marginalisation.
It is important to understand that the class dynamics have completely changed since the 1980s. There are today, 3 social groups that are in inter-relationship. One is the 'merchant right', i.e. the financial class that controls the world system, but also linked to more localist industrial classes (the protectionists who support Trumpian and right-populist forces); the second force is the cognitariat, what Thomas Piketty has called the 'brahmin left' and that Emmanuel Todd describes in his briliant Lineages of Modernity. While they have often little access to financial and industrial capital, they have access to education. BUT IT IS IMPORTANT to say that higher education today IS NOT LONGER A LEVER FOR EQUALITY, BUT FOR INEQUALITY. Thus, the cognitive class has access to careers, or at the very least to precarious freelance jobs that occasionally pay well; the uneducated are now largely surplus labor, i.e. if they do not find a industrial job with declining wages, or a low paid service job, they are confined to a closed future. Right wing populism is an alliance between the localist industrial class (those who want to sacrifice the Empire to the Nation) and the resentment of the uneducated working class, against the educated elites. From a worker's point of view, a merchant can at least provide jobs, while what they are getting from the educated class, is very often contempt. Nothing less expresses this more than the frequent expressions of contempt from the left identitarians against the habits of the working class, who are not politically correct.
Alex Foti, in his last book on the Precariat, makes a brilliant link between the kondratieff cycles (high and low growth 2-cycle combination of 50-60 years within capitalism), the lib-lab political development as per Polany, and the succession, every 20-25 years of crises of supply (1973-1980) and of demand (2008). High growth favours labour but weakens capital, ending in a crisis of supply, and historically these have been radical and revolutionary); low growth neoliberal cycles, favour capital, and end with a crisis of demand (i.e. labor purchasing power). 2008 was a typical 'lab' crisis, a crisis of demand, which normally leads to left and right populist movements (see Polanly, the Great Transformation); the question however, is, now that capital is so transnational, is there any realistic chance of pulling off a transformation within the nation-state level. I suspect: no. However, due to special circumstances, some countries, like Hungary and Poland, who are the global south to Germany, can temporarily profit from restructurings of capital. This is why they are successful for the moment. The problems we are having now, is that with increasing numbers of the left, even further abandoning the working class for identity politics, there seems little prospects of breaking the right-wing populist coalitions. Literally the last chance we have, is that Sanders/Warren/AOC can stay sufficiently on course, to obtain the popular support of working class voters.
Published on Facebook. In this 'rant', written as a stream of consciousness, I do 'essentialize' the current extreme form of identity politics, so it addresses different aspects of it, concentrated as one underlying model.
Start of the text:
"if it doesn't concern you , don't get upset by this, it doesn't concern you ; those to whom it is addressed, they will be offended, as they perhaps should; if you are not in that mindspace, I am so happy for you, this is meant as a warning, and I pray that you don't go there
and so, since I'm on a roll after my 2 earlier rants,
the next time anyone feels the need , yes you know exactly who you are, to use cishetero and old white male on this forum,
the very language you are using deeply offends me,
and I will tell you once again , and this time more clearly, in your face,
there is nothing wrong with being old, there is nothing wrong, absolutely nothing wrong with being cishetero, and it is okay to be a white male; this is how we were born, get it, we didn't choose it, and neither did you
if you can't respect people based on their age and gender orientation, you have no place in this forum,
if you think you can built up your identity by dissing mine , then you have absolutely no idea what peerness means, and you are absolutely useless for co-creating commons
if you are still wondering why Trump and other right wing populists are winning, look no further, look into your own mirrors ; they are you, just in another order, but they share your hate and disrespect and preference for fixed group identities which regulate what their members can think.
I want an absolute break with anyone even remotely holding such ideas,
you are not one ounce better than the alt-right and the fascists, in fact, you are one and the same already,
this is exactly what fascism means; they broke up demonstrations from groups they dislike; you are deplatforming and harassing dissenters; you are actively campaigning for these people to loose their jobs and livelihoods; this is despicable and wrong
they burned books, you are saying that we should stop reading books from old white men (goodbye plato, marx, and 3,000 years of human history); they banned books and closed theaters, you are banning fairly tales from public libraries and closing down greek tragedies because people were iron masks;
they said jews couldn't speak, and banned jewish science; you are saying biology is patriarchal and that such science is worthless and that theology is white;
you ban people from twitter for merely saying that men and women are different, for pete's sake, let lifelong feminist activists have their opinion; they fought for the freedoms that you take for granted
you see yourself as exclusively victims, blaming others for your life difficullties; you see your own emotions and fragility as the yardstick for other's rights of speech
and do you realize that throughout history, it is those groups that claimed victimhood, that have carried out the greatest massacres; do you know that the victimhood narrative has always been the prelude to the massacres that followed, carried out by the very same victims ? can we please study history again, in our great schools ??
You want to police how we dress at Haloween, what hairdos we are wearing, and what music we can or cannot listen to; you want to stop milleniums of cultural exchange and make culture a property and monopoly of certain groups .. you are advocating pure capitalism, do you realize that ?
You want to reinstate segregation, after your forefathers fought for generations to abolish it
You are constantly offending the dignity of the working class, and telling people who need to work two jobs every day that they rule the world; wake up please, they don't, a nd they will hate you forever for you having said it ; as I child of the working class myself, I acutely resent your disdain and class hatred; your attacks on the weak and vulnerable; I despise it with whole my heart
You think that you are the left ??? You have lost any link with the wroking class a long time ago, and you work and study in the most expensive universities, where there is all kinds of diversity, except social diversity; you are not victims, you are the next elite !! Afther the dead of the hegemony of the political left, in terms of marxism, in 1989, and after the relatively useful postmodern period (let's call it the Senile period, but as I said, there is nothing wrong with being old); we have entered the period of Alzheimer, of know-nothings that unlike Saint Foucault, don't know anything than the self-referential literature you are made to read; Mind you, this is not the end of the expression of class, just the end of the ideology of the working class of industrial society; as sons and daughters of the elite, I cannot fault you this of course, but you could be expected to minimize the damage , instead of inflaming it
You are the christian mobs that destroyed the intellectual freedom of pagan Rome, destroyed the temples and statues and killed Hipatia ; you are the iconoclasts ; you appear in times of societal stress, a symptom of massive trauma. and because you are powerless, you lash out to those who are weaker than you, pretending that white street cleaners and precarious journalists are privileged and rule the world; from your own position in the elite institutions of course ...
You hate me for saying that men and women should be brothers and sisters, I hate you for disagreeing, we are even; I am no longer afraid of your hate, of your lies; and in your insanity (you know who you are) you think that means that my ideal in life is to maintain the supremacy of the European male, as the Patriarch of the Commons .... PLEASE LADY, GET REAL !!
You are not the victims, you are the new oppressors, you are the witchhunters ; you are grooming to become the new ruling class, but if you succeed, you will be the worst that has ever existed; you are no longer even properly educated. I look at the damage you have done to the unhappy youngersters at Evergreen and I cry, because it is not they who are responsible for this nightmare, but you, their teachers and administrators; of all you which either look the other way when dissenters are disenfranchised, or actively look the other way. .Yes, you are destroying these hallowed institutions of open inquiry, turning them into what exactly .. I wish I knew ...
and your culture war, which is obliterating the social war, is driving millions of people to the side that mirrors your own; what you are fighting is your own shadow; your very activity is creating the enemy you claim to be fighting
You say you are for diversity, but any dissent offends you
you destroy and fragment the places where people are trying to work and struggle together ; everything you touch is destroyed; activism and commoning implode wherever you come near to them;
while capital is destroying the planet, you are destroying our minds, Bravo, but perhaps you think you are Shiva, and that Beauty will be reborn after you have levelled everything ? It rarely works out that way, if you had read at least some history during your studies, you would have known!
you are nothing less that the death of a beautiful emancipatory tradition, that lasted 200 years, and gave a decent life to a large part of the working class; this is an absolute tragedy; you are playing a very important role in that process of destruction ...
you have been traumatized, I get it, and the world is going to pieces. So get therapy, learn the classics, and learn egalitarianism which means respect of everyone; irrespective of their colour or gender, get it ? Putting yourself on top is not Emancipation , get it ? then come back, and work with us on the commons transition; until then, you will just be a burden, why waste each other's time ? You dont think you can change ? Let me tell you a secret. I was once you, I know exactly how you feel. And then I changed resentment into construction. But I must admit, seeing my old self in you makes me very angry, you are re-awakening my own trauma.
When you pour your hate over me, I really really want to fight back, against my better judgment; my hard-won wisdom disappears. But perhaps you should realize that I am not the only one to whom you have such effect. Plenty of people are traumatized, and your aggressive tactics are making it worse for everyone. Hate creates more hate, destruction creates more destruction. Again, why has nobody taught you that ??
You think this is just a game do you, perhaps a video game; Yes, I saw you giggling every time you hurt someone, it's all there out on video, filmed by yourselves because you are so proud of it. But is living breathing people you are deslroying, careers you are destroying. Harming beautiful and learned people, who have given years of their lives to teach you something!!
it's not your fault, you are the product of a long history that you don't control, but what you are is the death of the left, after two hundred years of creaing a viable world for workers; you will be it caretakers. Of course, you did not cause the problems we are now facing, but what you are actively doing is undermining the resistance against it, and that is also a grave sin. I really hope you get Woke about this to.
I know why you did it, i asked for a fair evaluative and critical treatment of Jordan Peterson, and pointed out your fake citations and distortions, and you were too lazy to listen and read, so that you could critique the real person, so instead ou critiqued the demon of your own creation ...
The solution for a punishment was simple, you Jordan-Petersoned me; after all it's logical, since in your eyes I defended the Devil, I must be a demon myself. Logical, but wrong, and you know it. I am just a human being, but trained in an age, where we read and cited the people we meant to criticise. We are not cardboard characters, but human beings, and we suffer. And it is you who did it, that is a sin. There is nothing heroic about ganging up.
So strike one for you. But perhaps one year is enough ?
sp perhaps, despite our mutual dislike, we can come to an agreement ?
it is rather simple, leave those that want to work on the new world that we need, in peace
'fight out your ugly conflicts in your own safe spaces
that way, you and I need not lose any more time on this !
Really, in the grand scheme of things, the forces of destruction and creation need each other
So while you go out hunting the people with the wrong skin colour and genitalia, who are having 'wrong' thoughts, you can perhaps let us work here ?
If you can't restrain yourself, can't you do it somewhere else ?
A little addendum, because I believe I have been too harsh.
Make no mistake, I critique you but also also deeply admire you. You went from a small cult that was considered insane even in 2014, to a near global hegemony on the academic left in the Anglo-Saxon world. I don't think such a memetic takeoveer has been seen in any period of human history.
Your strategy has been brilliant, and makes Steve Bannon look like an amateur. He has't been nearly as succesful in creating such a rapid invasion of the body snatchers. Only Ron Hubbard comes to mnd as a possible forerunner.
Stage One of your strategy was to create a cult. Step One, make vulnerable students feel guilty because of the wrong colour of their skin and their wrong genitalia, an inescapable physical proof of their collective guilt for all the sins of all their forefathers, past, present and future. It is your version of original sin and it cannot be escaped, your body is the proof. Step 2: give them the opportunity of confession in a struggle session. Install the fear of God, i.e. the judgment of the community on their level of purity. Step 3: Redemption, you can become a subservient ally of the new priesthood, it only requires obedience and ideological conformity. Step 4: offer them rewards for loyalty. That is of course Stage 2, the march to take over the institutions, and you have already succeeded. Give your followers a path to an academic career. Create an alliance of weak scholarship in the soft sciences, funding by woke capital, guilt-driven philanthropic organisations, and the diversity bureaucracy, and Bingo, you have created an almost unassailable hegemony in the shortest possible time, by feeding on the extraordinarly levels of trauma of the youngest cohorts. We must congratulate you. And of course, all this was then rapped up in the language of social justice, suitably distorted but enough to be totally unrecognizable to my generation, but done in such a way that any progressive movement could not mobilize its immune system. After all who can be against what you say our are against ?
For the rest of us though, it comes at a price. You have driven the U.S. working class to elect Trump, because as you know, it has been an important factor in their choice. Second, you have created a global star like Jordan Peterson, as your abuse has created a wave of revulsion amongst those that are most directly targeted by your policies.
Fortunately we still have the Sanders and Warren's of the world, who still know how to build progressive working class organizations. But I admit, the likelihood that you will destroy their chances of winning are quite substantial and I know you are busily working at undermining them. Strike one was the destruction of the anti-Trump women's movement, well done!. In any case, congratulations on your memetic takeover. For the political left that is still organized and sometimes even growing, the choice will be stark. Give in to your siren song and implode, or resist and thrive but under constant accusations by your attack squads. You have conquered the Anglo-Saxon world, and the European continent is next, but perhaps a bit more difficult, as your culture war is a bit more alien to Europe." (https://www.facebook.com/groups/p2p.open/permalink/2579308055446691/)
Rant #2, on being a progressive conservative
If you critique Group Identity Theory, you are invariably branded a being on the right side of the political spectrum, which is course entirely not the case, as there are many progressive and feminist critiques of the phenomena. Being on the receiving end of such critiques, I wrote this 'stream of consciousness' rant on Facebook in August 2019. I hope you understand the partial irony in this text.
" I'm old enough to remember the struggle sessions of the Chinese Cultural Revolution which were practiced by a number of ultra-left and feminist movements in the seventies and early eighties, when I was active in them.
So I thought, that a proper confession might be in order, in what sense am I a conservative, or do I sympathize with their positions ? I'm purposely leaving out my anti-capitalist critques of these issues, as well as my post-capitalist propositions.
So here we go, I guess these are my conservative talking points then, that you have mentioned so often..
First of all, as you know, I agree that free speech is a vital achievement, and that while not absolute, infringements must be minimal and based on clear dangers. So I oppose deplatforming, except perhaps in very rare cases of real an self-avowed fascism. I think it is clearly wrong to deplatform people merely because they hold different opinions. It is especially wrong to deplatform progressives and feminists based on the logic of the narcissism of small differences. As a conservative, I need these un-conservatives to exist as a contrast. So please do not deplatform my political enemies.
I agree that the family is a good and important institution, the most basic form of human solidarity, a barrier against loneliness, and a vital form of inter-generational solidarity. I am for public policies that support humans to form and maintain families and care for children and elders; as I am for support for those that do not wish families and for institutions that can keep everyone safe and healthy., To realize equalities of opportunity, there must be equalitiy of access to the resources that enable these opportunites. Hence as a conservative I support free education and free healthcare.
I agree that fathers are vitally important for children, almost as important as mothers. Therefore, like the conservatives,I think the Canadian APA's guidlines about toxic masculinity are fairly misguided, compared to the huge and well supported research pointing to the role of fatherlessness in generating problems for the children and the young. Long live girls and mothers, long live fathers and boys, we need all of them to conserve society and civilisation. As a conservative, I want to get rid of the system that creates these problems in the first place.
I believe that women still have issues, but that there have been many advances as well, which should be recognized, and furthermore, that societal transformations have created extra problems for men and masculinity. It is in no way endangering female progress to point out that men and boys have problems and that society should mobilize around these issues as well. As a conservative, I want to conserve everyone, of all creeds, colours and mental and physical abilities.
I believe that universities should promote and protect free speech and open inquiry, and that research should be pursued freely. Therefore, standpoint diversity in universities is a good thing that should be promoted, including the honouring of conservative voices and scholarship. Ideological closure and monopolisation of the right (neoliberal economics) and the left (intersectional feminism crowding out the other forms of gender studies), similarly so. Deplatforming should be combatted and its victims protected. The spread of the politics and institutions of fragility (safe spaces, microagressions) should be halted, and replaced by practices of anti-fragility, restoring the capability of students to deal with divergent speech and dissent. Stop the inquisitions of the type we have seen in Laurier University.
I believe that gender differences are real, partially rooted in biological forces, partially socially constructed (I personally believe in emergentism, i.e. each layer predetermines the next one, which has it own agency and can hange the underlying layers in certain circumstances but not in any real sense). I am not in favour of gender erasure. Sex and gender are real, and only partially movable through social engineering. I think it is legitimate to talk about the problems of men and boys. It is not a zero sum game. It is legtimate to have diverse viewpoints about gender issues; it is legiimate to cite facts, statistics and arguments in favour of divergent viepoints on these matters. Talking about gender differences are no excuse for verbal abuse and accusations of sexism and misogyny.
I am radically opposed to those forms of identitarianism that include intersectional ranking in the core of their processes and demands. I very clearly believe that it is wrong to judge any human being on the basis of their biological markers. Sexism and racism are structurally related to the class system, but are not located on the human skin and the genitalia; they cannot be combatted by targetting people based on their biology. Racism and sexism cannot be fought by introducing even more of it. I am totally opposed to the weaponizing of such racism by those that declare that only white people can be racist. I am absolutely opposed to allocating resources and speech rights on the basis of such criteria.
I love old people, I love male people, I love white people, I love cishetero people, I love female people, I love lbgt+ and transpeople, I love blackness, whiteness, and rainbowness. I see no reason to hierarchise my love for diverse human people. I love animal people and plant people, and the people of the subtle realms, if they exist. No , dear friends, there is nothing wrong in being old, there is nothing wrong in being cishetero. Wake up to the wonderful diversity that needs to be conserved. Replacing one form of oppression by another is progress, and as a genuine conservative, I am against that progress.
As a conservative, I must defend my right to defend conservatism, therefore, I must insist on my speech rights. Therefore, any reduction of my individuality to my group identity is wrong, and anythng that reduces my speech rights to the opinions held by my group, are wrong. In fact, I think this whole business of groups is wrong; I want to belong to multiple groups, and I want to develop my identity in a unique and proper mix, chosen by me to the extent that it is possible.
As a conservative, I want all beings to have their natural rights, including that of expression, and this everywhere, in the home, at work and in the centers of learning. Therefore, I am opposed to corporations expelling any person for expressing their point of view.
My conservative side tells me it is capitalism that is the most destructive process that undermines conservative and traditional human forms fo scial life.
As a conservative, I want to conserve natural resources and the planet and its beings. Since capitalism and consumerism are the greatest culprits in this, they must be minimized, and perhaps ultimately, replaced.
I want to make conservative talking points, and I want to be able to make progressive talking points, if I conservatively want to. I want to chose my box, leave my box, and go out of the boxes altogether. Because I choose to, when I want to, and I want not be harassed when I do so. I conservatively want this same freedom for everyone, and want the conditions to exist which make this possible.
LONG LIVE CONSERVATISM, let's conserve this planet and all its many beings.
As a conservative, I want liberals to continue only to read liberal papers, as I don't want them to get too smart. So fellow conservatives, please forgive me for having shared a tiny number of non-liberal articles, though I am sure it made you happy that it upset them so. They are oh so so fragile.
I also want to deeply apologize to the identarian friends that i made feel unsafe. I once said, 'I want men and women to work together and be friends', and one of you responded 'that I could not be more wrong'. It was of course my closet conservatism that had escaped then, unconsciously. I am now out of the closet, and you helped me do it. I now thank you for this. w
One more wish, expressed to our (AMERICAN and other) FRIENDS, stop exporting your culture wars; facebook is not the USA!! Let us be conservative when we want to be, and progressive. Please don't get upset when we share an opposing viewpoint. Sharing is NOT agreeing, don't you now ?? It is meant to make you think, to open your mind, to make you SMARTER. Stop harassing the poor curators who spent hours adjucating diverse material, FOR YOUR BENEFIT, and for zero pay. If that makes you so unhappy, can you please get off my back, and go to a safe space of your choice, if diversity and dissent really offends you. I Unlike you, I am not at war, but busy with millions of others to build a new world, we really have no time for this sh.t. But better, read diverse content and appreciate that diversity, this is probably the best thing you can learn from conservatives, who are already doing just that.
I hope this will satIsfy you somewhat dear Jon Sundell. now tell me where the 'struggle session' will take place, and how I can atone for my sins." (https://www.facebook.com/groups/p2p.open/permalink/2579138382130325/)