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A Perversion as the Norm

This quote from Dardot and Laval is perfectly applicable to the father of the neo-Nazi we’ve been discussing:

“The perversion that is clinically characterized by consuming partners like objects, whom one chucks when one finds them inadequate, has arguably become the new norm of social relations”

This father is even more perverse because it’s not a partner but an actual child he chucks off the second he no longer pleases. This is the pinnacle of neoliberal subjectivity.

Book Notes: Dardot and Laval’s The New Way of the World: On Neo-Liberal Society

This is one of the books I have read on neoliberalism, and I loved it. If somebody ever told me that it’s possible to find French theorists who wrote an accessible, easy to read book, I’d ask what they were smoking. But this stuff is good, folks. If you are looking for material to offer your students to give them an introduction to the history of neoliberalism, this book will be perfect. I can see students actually enjoying this. Highly, highly, highly recommended.

You know how I’m only excited about stuff that tells me things I disagree with. It annoys me to waste time on authors who say shit I already know and agree with. Dardot and Laval are all how there is no collapse of the nation state and no retreat of the state at all. And it’s not dumb disagreement. It’s a powerful argument on how the state fakes retreat while simply changing its function yet remaining as strong as ever.

There are, of course, limitations to the authors’ argument. What I found to be deficient is the insistence on competitiveness as the only defining feature of the neoliberal subjectivity. I don’t have my own answers about the way neoliberal subjectivity is constituted but I think that it’s a lot more than just competition. The New Way of the World: On Neo-Liberal Society is a huge influence on Rendueles, the author I talked about recently, so if you are choosing between the two, pick The New Way. Seriously, it reads almost like a mystery novel, not because there is a lot of mystery but because it’s reasonably easy to read.

And keep clicking on the book that really matters.

Your Real Brothers and Sisters

Also, I have to say this: dear Jewish brothers and sisters in America! If – and it’s not going to happen, it’s not, I can’t think it will – but if it did, if these swastika-wearing, torch-bearing pieces of vile trash started goose-stepping in your direction, who would stand between you and them?

Would it be the people who are ranting against “those Palestinian animals” and egging you on to “just raze this vermin to the ground”? Or would it be the people who are yelling “end the occupation, remember that Palestinians deserve to have their human rights respected”?

This is not a hypothetical. This question has already been answered. Most recently, it was answered on Saturday in Charlottesville. How much sense is it making to vote Republican “because of Israel”? Don’t you see that they are “for Israel” only because they want to get your Jewish asses as far away as possible from here? They are not for you. They are for you going away. And if the plan to make you go away of your own free will doesn’t work, you know what happens then. You know this from history. 

You know who your real brothers and sisters are.

You know.

Help Promoting the Book

OK, folks, I need a favor re: the book.

As I said before, the price is exorbitant, so I’m not urging anybody to buy it. Unless you are rich and want to be a patron of good scholarship.

But it would be super cool if you could click on this link that will take you to the publisher’s website for the book.

If you are willing to go an extra step to promote the book that has you (a reader of this blog) in the acknowledgments, please consider retweeting, re-Facebooking or re-Goodreading it. There are icons right at the link for doing that easily.

If you are a faculty member or an academic librarian, it would be fantastic if you could consider prodding your institutional library to purchase it. 

The book is very beautiful, by the way. Shiny hard cover, thick high-quality pages. All of which I would happily ditch in exchange for a bearable price, but what can you do?

Forget the Statues

God, people, let’s not make it about the statues. Didn’t you see what happened at the presser yesterday? Trump didn’t want to denounce Nazis so he slid the discussion onto the terrain of statues. I thought everybody understood that this was manipulation. But I’ve looked at my news feed and on FB, and people seem to have bought into it completely.

It’s a great idea to discuss statues. Statues are part of nation-building, and they should be discussed. But not with Nazis. It doesn’t matter if Nazis are right or wrong about the statues. It matters that they are Nazis. Even if they were 100% correct about the statues, or anything else, it doesn’t change the shameful, intolerable fact that there were people with swastikas and torches marching around a peaceful town in the United States. Tomorrow they will pick a subject that they will be clearly right about, like the impoverishment of the working classes, so what, they will become ok?

It’s like this ancient argument of “yes, but Hitler defeated unemployment.” So he did. And he was also right in that the economic situation of the Weimar Republic was bad. So what? Haven’t the people of this planet already paid an enormous price to not have to debate with Hitler? 

Please, let’s keep the discussion on point. Nazis are unequivocally bad. If everybody just accepted it, we could move on and discuss something else. But tragically, not everybody accepts it. Let’s not allow those who can’t accept it distract us from this egregious fact. What happened in Charlottesville is not about statues, the BALL, the Antifa, or the make and color of the Nazi murderer’s car. It’s about the rise and strengthening of Nazis who are supported by the sitting president of the United States. 

A New Language

Inequality is not a useful measure of anything and discussing it serves no purpose. 

The USSR was exceptionally equal in terms of income. Especially since those in power had everything but actual cash. At the same time, the US was exceptionally unequal among developed nations. So what? Any Soviet doctor in, say 1981, would slaughter to have the lifestyle of a US supermarket cashier. 

So does this mean that inequality is good? No, of course not. It’s simply not a useful category for the analysis of anything. The reason why inequality gets discussed is that there’s hope that the sense of injustice attached to it will light a fire under people’s bums and  they’ll become politicized. As we have seen, it doesn’t work.

People don’t think in terms of classes. They (we) have interiorized the neoliberal mentality that is highly individualistic. You can only cure like with like. Talk to neoliberal subjects in their language. Not in the language of an extinct population of the denizens of the past. 

An entirely new language of progressive activism is needed. It should be the kind of language that introduces a space to question neoliberal dogma but from a position of engaging with the future, not the past.