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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Fluidity, Unchecked

Ideally, the Democrats would acknowledge that there is a real, legitimate and very painful terror of the changes brought by the economic and social fluidity that accompanies the erosion of the nation-state. People are freaking out, and it doesn’t look pretty, but their concerns are valid and need to be addressed. Both major political forces are using the fact that people who are scared of the changes direct their anger against immigrants or anybody else who embodies fluidity (e.g. transgender people). They are using it to strengthen their respective brands – whether through shaming the malcontents for their misplaced rage or stoking that rage. 

I see no evidence of any political force in the US even trying to acknowledge that fluidity should be checked, at least to an extent. Ultimately, if we have no other plan but to embrace fluidity, then, as cynical as it sounds, the only way of avoiding violent explosions is to stun the malcontents into a mute, resentful obedience. This is why, the more I think about it, the more I support Trump’s wall. Let it be built because it does zero harm but at least it will serve as a symbolic bastion against inevitable change. And when those who want it will see that it doesn’t work, they will be stunned into silence until such rapidly approaching moment when fluidity will triumph completely. 

Also, the people who are feeling so darn superior for adapting so well to fluidity and who keep mocking those who are less physically and intellectually fluid, your time, too, will come. And then the younger, the more agile, the more unburdened and the more rootless competitors will laugh at you just as loudly as you are laughing now. Neoliberalism divides and conquers. And it already defeated everybody who celebrates their sophistication and superiority over some other poor schmuck who is simply left behind (economically or philosophically, it’s all the same) two minutes earlier.

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17 thoughts on “Fluidity, Unchecked

  1. What will the world look like after the demise of the nation state?

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    • anon on said:

      I imagine it could look a little like it does in the sci-fi book Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson (it’s not the best piece of sci-fi though – a little scattered and preposterous). The setting is described pretty well on the wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_Crash

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    • There will be less inequality among countries but more inequalities within countries. Many people will get marginalized and pushed out of productive life. How many is being decided right now by all of us. The extent of the problem can still be controlled, which is why I wrote about it so much.

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      • Nicholas on said:

        Bobbitt writes about a possible form of the market-state that will still count the state’s cultural character as important. Do you think there is a chance of states maintaining their own national languages/characters in the public square or will open borders and immigration render peoples ‘cultural minorities’ in their own states?

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        • I wouldn’t worry about languages but the global culture does tend towards uniformity. Even total dictators nowadays pretend they have a democracy and elections. Putin might bitch about democracy all day long and go to great lengths to mutilate opponents (like Navalny last week). But he isn’t canceling elections.

          What is sad, in terms of culture, is the passing of regional cuisines. Take the Chinese, for instance. They are genetically prone to diabetes. But they never had it because their traditional rural diets preclude type 2 diabetes from developing. But once they started moving to big cities and adopted Westernalized cuisines, their diabetes rates exploded. We can blabber on and on about how “race doesn’t exist”, but this thinking actually kills people.

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          • Nicholas on said:

            I was thinking more about Israel’s ability to stay the state in which Jews recognize their right to self-determination. Will ideas like these go out the window in times of liquid culture?

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            • In what concerns Israel, I don’t see how the Israeli government will get anybody but the very religious to stay. These days, people go where the opportunities are. Staying sedentary and missing out for the same of an idea that is becoming outdated even as we speak, simply won’t happen.

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              • Nicholas on said:

                That is quite possible, but for now at least the emigration rate of native-born Israelis isn’t above average for developed countries. Do you believe that nations will have open borders to migrants in the future, as there were before the nation-state?

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              • I don’t remember who said it but it’s true: the mobility of some is guaranteed by the immobility of others. The borders are already non-existent for those who have capital or skills. The rest , unfortunately, will be as stuck as ever.

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      • In other words, a fully globalized economy. I’ve read so many of your posts about these things, but my brain must be asleep at the switch. Please remind me how the problem can still be controlled?

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        • The global economy is changing in the direction of eliminating manufacturing jobs because of robotization. If we don’t want the enormous world manufacturing class to lumpenize and marginalize, turning to drugs and fascistic ideas to compensate for their displacement from productive life, we need to dedicate all of our energy to integrating them into the new economy AND the new culture that is being created. Education, both formal and informal, is needed. Instead of hollering, “how dare you not accept these changes, you are beyond the pale!”, we need to understand there is genuine suffering here and speak to it.

          People say I’m naive and idealistic. Maybe. But at least I want to try instead of writing off millions of people around the world as human waste.

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          • Thank you Clarissa. I agree that robots and artificial intelligence will soon displace many more workers. I’m simply not persuaded that a new economy and a new culture are being created. Therefore, what are we educating people to do or to be?

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  2. The future is already in America from what I understand.

    The market state in its purest form will be roughly…. all big successful cities will be like New York or London or Paris with the original culture displaces by a crazy quilt of different ethnic and religious groups and languages (and the state will steadily disengage from trying to educate them or settle disputes between them)

    The rest will be like the rustbelt with populations devastated by purposelessness and drugs (and again the state will do its best to disengage from them).

    One of the ironies of globalization is that to be a winner you have somehow crowd into one of the few winner-places, that is globalization coutner-intuitively makes where you are more important than ever.

    Didn’t/Doesn’t have to be this way, it’s what people are voting for. Both Clinton and Trump are into this model, Clinton couldn’t even pretend an interest in flyover states (why she lost so many of them) while Trump though incompetence or design simply doesn’t come close to addressing any of the real problems..

    Related, I recently had a chance to (organically) describe Bobbit’s description of the transformation of the nation state into the market state and the risks involved. Students were kind of freaked out but also getting it (you could almost see lightbulbs turning on as things that puzzled them started to make sense).

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    • Things are changing so fast in this model that even the state of things you are describing is outdated. People who have sacrificed so much to claw their way into these hubs are discovering that it doesn’t work. They need to be on the move, not crawl into a supposedly stable hole and crouch there. It’s constant movement, constant.

      I’m not managing to turn on any lightbulbs among my students with this material, even though I just taught a whole course on it.

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      • “I’m not managing to turn on any lightbulbs among my students with this material, even though I just taught a whole course on it.”

        Well Poland has never been too far from fluidity….. I remember the psychological adjustment in having to proceed with plans knowing that they might at any moment become defunct and living with uncertainty for weeks at a time about fairly important life issues… it’s nerve wracking to get used to but it is a very useful skill (that they get from birth). It’s no accident that fluidity was described by a Pole, I think.

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  3. Shakti on said:

    OT:Sanctuary Bills in Maryland Faced a Surprise Foe: Legal Immigrants

    Some of this stuff echoes a lot of what I’ve heard from other immigrants.


    Mr. Salazar dismisses proponents of sanctuary as liberals living in areas that are insulated from the potential consequences. He believes politicians “are using us like flags,” casting immigrants as blameless victims.

    But immigrants are people with flaws, he said. They need a way to gain legal status, not a safe space to remain here illegally.

    “We are not unicorns jumping over rainbows,” he said. “We are people. This is life. And life is hard.”…

    Gregarious and sharp-witted, Mr. Pal talked with Indian friends about the Howard County sanctuary bill. They did not like it.

    Some told of sacrifices like missing a parent’s funeral back in India, because traveling home could jeopardize the yearslong pursuit of a green card. With so many people waiting in line for years, the idea of providing sanctuary for those who had broken the law left a sour taste.

    The more pressing priority, they told him, should be improving legal immigration.

    “You see the Indians get very angry because they have suffered so much to get a green card,” said Mr. Pal, sitting at a table laden with Indian sweets. “They think a country with one-sixth of the world’s population should have more slots. But instead, everybody is fighting for illegal immigration.”

    Mr. Pal got his own green card in just a few months, as part of a special category reserved for inventors and researchers. His company makes software that tracks the functioning of factory equipment…..

    Perhaps legal immigrants should be more understanding, Mr. Pal said, but that might be asking too much.

    “Frankly speaking, each immigrant has their own little story of how they struggled in the United States,” he said. “To tell the truth, illegal people have suffered 1,000 times more. But people only see their own suffering.”..

    Though she opposes sanctuary, Ms. Zhou said that immigrants in the country illegally should be given a chance to gain citizenship, not be deported. But that is a nuanced position, and these are polarized times.

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    • “With so many people waiting in line for years, the idea of providing sanctuary for those who had broken the law left a sour taste.”

      • I don’t feel this way myself but I can’t blame people for feeling sore that they have to go through a lengthy, onerous and expensive process and support somebody who chooses not to do that.

      A small correction: I don’t feel that way about Mexicans or Indians or the Chinese. But I just remembered my sister’s childhood friends from back home who is living illegally in LA, and yes, I’m deeply resentful against him. So yeah, I’m just like the people in the article.

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