I don’t rely on Wendy Brown as much as I do on others in my research because she’s interested in the political aspects of fluidity and in how fluidity destroys democracy. And I don’t like discussing democracy because the word means everything and nothing. But she’s a great writer and I’d say the most accessible of all who have written on the subject.
Every aspect of our lives is economized, says Brown. Unlike in the previous eras, we are all
little capitals (rather than owners, workers, and consumers) competing with, rather than exchanging with each other.
But why is it bad, though, for each of us to be a little capital entity? It’s bad because, among other things,
when everything is capital, labor disappears as a category, as does its collective form, class.
If this sounds confusing, consider that there can be class solidarity and there can be a labor movement. But little capitals can’t have any of that. They only compete with each other all the time and ridicule the losers without realizing that each of them can easily become a loser at any moment. No solidarity means no real opposition to capital. Note, for instance, how the inane “Resistance” bends over backwards to promote the goals of capital. There’s no will of the people because there is no we, the people. It’s just me, a lonely entrepreneur of my self. The mushrooming identities and invented pronouns are aimed at reaching the true neoliberal bliss, which is creating a completely separate, walled-off identity group of exactly one dumb, lonely fuck for each of us*.
As a result, dog-eat-dog mentality becomes the ultimate in progressivism. Just ask whoever is today’s target of outraged Twitter radicals.
This vision of the self as a form of capital doesn’t aim strictly at wealth generation. Obviously, wealth generation is part of it but it’s not all it is:
As neoliberal rationality disseminates market values and metrics to new spheres, this does not always take a monetary form; rather, fields, persons, and practices are economized in ways that vastly exceed literal wealth generation.
The political sphere becomes completely subservient to the deterritorialized, highly fluid economic elites. These elites found it incredibly offensive when the people who still see themselves as workers and citizens (such outdated terms!) try to stop them by using the outdated methods of voting (e.g. Brexit) or protesting (e.g. yellow vests). These elites control the media, the technology, and the economy, so who do you think is going to win?
* Everybody understands that everything that comes between the quotes is not my retelling of Wendy Brown but my own argument, right? I don’t want anybody to think that Brown expressed any opinions on the Resistance or Brexit in the book. The book was published before either but I’m sure Brown is completely pro the former and anti the latter. She didn’t call anybody a dumb fuck either or condemn any exalted ultra-progressive Instagramers.