The Progressive Alternative

The consensus of the progressive thinkers is that the erosion of the nation-state is no big deal and is actually a good thing because instead of it we’ll have “the model of open cities rather than sovereign bordered states. This means viewing citizens less as homogeneous natives than as nomadic residents whose identity remains flexible and plural” (the quote is from Richard Kearney who is summarizing the terms of the consensus).

Yip-dee-doodle. Of course, it is of no interest to anyone what happens to those who don’t reside in the cities (fuck that low-density flyover country), or those who can’t become nomadic or bear the sacrifices required by nomadism, or those who can’t deal with the psychosis produced by the fragmentation of “flexible and plural” identities. 

That’s the extent of it: if capital wants us fragmented and nomadic, let’s oblige and be chipper about it.  


10 thoughts on “The Progressive Alternative”

  1. The problem with this progressive view is that it only recognizes a certain type of mobility and flexible identity, and there are others that need to be recognized as well for this to succeed. In terms of identity fragmentation, our identities have always been fragmented, and the nation state was just a convenient veneer, as I’m sure you know. I think the better progressive solution is to face what our ideologies hide (elitism and a cosmopolitan veneer) and to focus on the real challenge of coping with the uncertainty stemming from our fragmented, liquid identities. If we can live with this uncertainty and liquidity in our identities, there’s actually a real power in it (that’s not just based on consumption either).


    1. There has never been anything like the current identity fragmentation.

      And yes, of course, those who manage to adapt do very well. But this is a tiny minority. What happens with those who can’t? We shuffle them to the trash heap of history?


      1. I think the reason many people aren’t adapting is because there is no recognition of the actual problem and thus no help whatsoever for it. I don’t think it’s because they can’t adapt. So my solution would focus on recognizing all of the types of mobility and fragmented idientities that exist, look at successful adaptation techniques, and figure out how to share those with people who need them while also recognizing that this is a structural not just individual problem, and how to address these structures.. Obviously this is incredibly difficult and complicated, and there’s no one solution, but It’s better than leaving them for a trash heap or attempting to return to the nation state. In my opinion anyways…


  2. It sets my teeth on edge when progressives go on about everyone needing to move into cities, because it’s so much easier to manage everything from a city. Probably because I work for a county government.

    Budgets are much more forgiving in a city, because the county manages several essential services for citizens who live anywhere in the county, including in the cities that the city doesn’t have to worry about. For example, my county runs the election services, recording services (legally documenting marriages and land purchases, records which have to be maintained forever), the assessor’s office, the jail, the courts, the medical examiners office, and local licensing services (on behalf of our state).

    Every time the city annexes land (usually in business districts) the county’s budget takes a hit. Every population boom in the city means that the county has more citizens to provide for, while barely seeing an increase in income (the county only gets 1% of the sales tax in the city, and 0% of the housing tax) the county I work for had massive layoffs in 2008 and has still not recovered. In the meantime, the city has loads of tax money to throw into development projects.

    Working in the government, I’m hardly anti-tax, but I also have a better understanding now of why property taxes in the county continually rise, while services get worse.


  3. Why do you think capital is staying in the cities? Perhaps understanding this might help us figure out a way to keep capital within national borders?


      1. Example: when Amazon finally decides which city it wants to grace with becoming its headquarters, it will go there and collect every benefit and tax handout it can. And what’s to prevent it from then leaving and pulling this trick again someplace else? Absolutely nothing whatsoever. That’s liquid capital. It goes where it wants and takes direction from no one.


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