Fear

Why are people afraid of me? Both of my trainers at the workout program seem afraid. I’m not the oldest, or the most heavily accented, or the most immigrant of the bunch. I don’t rant or wave my CV in people’s faces at the workouts. I just pant quietly in the corner. Other ladies there are a lot louder and aggressive. If anything, I’m downright mousy there because working out is not my scene and I’m self-conscious about being fat and unfit. Although, at least a third of people there are even more fat and unfit, so I don’t stand out in that way either.

I always hear that I’m scary and I understand how I can be intimidating in the classroom or at a conference. But at a workout? It’s very tiresome because I’m not trying to be scary.

I once decided to find out how people perceived me and I asked people I knew to describe me in 3 words. The first one everybody used was always scary or intimidating. Which is incomprehensible.

Reproducing Human Capital

Here is an important quote from Wendy Brown that I want to put here separately:

In their newly economized form, neoliberal states will shed as much as possible the cost of developing and reproducing human capital.

Reproduction, which is an activity that is notoriously resistant to economization, is substituted as much as possible with the very economic activity of importation. Remember how the argument for inviting the 1 million migrants into Germany was very openly that Germans didn’t reproduce enough? That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.

As for developing, that’s obviously public education, healthcare – the welfare state, in short. The state doesn’t serve you. And it definitely can’t make capital serve you. Which means the fantasies of “let’s tax’em and pay for healthcare” are quite silly. Sixty years ago, sure. But today? The best you can expect from the whole arrangement is that everybody else will be terrorized into respecting your million and one very individual, very lonely identities. And you’ll have every gadget and every drug at your disposal to numb yourself into thinking that it’s exactly what you need.

Book Notes: Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos

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.