Neoliberalism wants people to stay out of politics. Politics becomes something that the Twitters and the Googles of the world decide among themselves. People, with their needs, demands, thoughts, feelings and expectations, get on their nerves. Neoliberalism really dislikes people.
Here’s what neoliberalism does to push us out of politics:
1. Identities. Pronouns, endlessly proliferating gender identities, lists of sexual preferences, and the anti-racism that pits people against each other – all this aims to convince us that we are so unique that it’s impossible to find anything in common with anybody else and that nobody fully shares our interests and needs. Politics is all about people putting aside their individual differences and uniting around a common goal. If they can’t do it, there’s no politics.
2. Trauma. Micro aggression workshops, trigger warnings and the habit of seeing every minor inconvenience as trauma teach us to perceive other human beings as a threat. Any contact with others can wound. Once again, you won’t be able to get together and put forward a political program if you are terrified of human contact.
3. Fault. The idea that everything is always your own fault and every mishap that happens is of your own making turns politics into an exercise in futility. Instead, people compete who’s a better manager of his or her life, posting boasty and highly curated social media narratives.
4. Both Sides. Once we decide that there are no meaningful differences between political parties or individual politicians, our goose is cooked. We are not going to participate, and this leaves the field clear for those who do.
5. Rigged. The idea that the system is rigged against you is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If it’s rigged, we don’t need to participate. If we don’t participate, we have rigged it against ourselves by our abstention.
6. Feeling Good. In absolutely no other realm of our existence does neoliberalism let us privilege feeling good over producing results. Try telling your boss that instead of fulfilling your sales quota you’ll let him repeat the words “huge sales” many times. Crazy, right? But in politics we easily accept that all we’ll ever get is feeling like good, virtuous people. Our standard of living will go down, crime will rise, schools will deteriorate, roads won’t get fixed – but we won’t care as long as we get regular injections of feel-good slogans.
7. Anti-personality Cult. In neoliberalism, everything is about personalities. It’s all about who has the best personal brand, who attracts the most followers, who is most accomplished, most worthy of admiration. This works in every area of life. . . except politics. Our top politicians are all extremely physically unattractive, old, unwell, with unappealing personal lives, shady and skanky family members, and, invariably, some physical disfigurement or defect. There are no interesting stories, no great personalities, no history of admirable achievement among them. Everything that neoliberalism teaches us to treasure is very conspicuously absent.
What other ways of devaluing politics are you noticing?
6 thoughts on “Pushed Out of Politics”
“1. Identities…Politics is all about people putting aside their individual differences and uniting around a common goal. If they can’t do it, there’s no politics.” This applies to political identities too. People become very attached to a niche political microidentity and they become unwilling to coalition with people who are even a little different than them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for fighting for what you believe in within your chosen political party, but this goes one step further to the point where you can’t join with others because it threatens your identity.
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“wants people to stay out of politics”
This is very similar to what Vlad Vexler says about the political bargain between putin and the russian public from the public’s point of view it might be summarized as “Don’t ask anything of us and you do politics” which is one reason he can’t really do any kind of real open mobilization (though he clearly wants to). Moscow (the only part of the public that the government can pretend to care about) is fine with Buryats and hicks going off to be cannon fodder but his doing politics is not supposed to affec them….
Believe I’m caught in the spam filter again
I think you nailed it.
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You have yet to see one of the more interesting academic attacks responsible for further destruction of knowledge.
The attack has a political aim, which is to attack by making its referent literally nothing, and so there’s nothing to grab on to in order to push back against it.
The root of the stance and the problems it poses involve a corrupted ontological argument.
If you would like to see this very weird “scholarly” attack against knowledge for the sake of politics in action, check out the book on “ontological terror” published through the Duke University Press.
That this exists at all (since 2018) will be your first surprise.
Politically it’s a construction for “X wouldn’t exist without Y” where instead of showing the historical basis and facts, someone abused the academic system and frameworks of knowledge to produce what was believed to be plausible sounding insanity.
Quite obviously Y existed independently of X and did so for a considerable amount of time, as you’ll see from the specific facts involved.
But this grand attack was made possible by deliberately forcing the argument into a framework and then insisting that a “modal collapse” exists in which “everything exists necessarily”, and so you can make up anything.
Allow this to happen enough and the stores of knowledge become so corrupted with misuses of logic and reason for purposes of intellectual violence that some people will rightly realise that the best way to do away with it is to do away with it by fire.
I’ll leave the discovery of the specifics of this way in which politics have been devalued to you.
That Duke University Press put its imprint on this mess should point to the intended future.
These people aim to devalue politics by making it impossible to agree on terms with which the arguments may be presented and debated.
Tying this back to the neoliberalist viewpoint, the goal of neoliberalism is to stamp itself on every possible resource, every possible way out of the problems we face, in such a way where it cannot be ignored as a meaningless referent inserted into problems where it was never needed.
As you have noticed, it produces a disfiguring ugliness in everything it touches.
And as an anti-intellectual movement which has literally stolen everything it has, there are no moral or ethical problems for it to consider to be outside it because neoliberalism demands that it must hold the center and that the worlds revolve around it.
This includes the “possible worlds” of Searle that are at the root of the singular major flaw in this “ontological terror” approach, in which old mathematical theories are corrupted so that they can produce reasonable sounding nonsense.
Let’s do this last bit the Italo Calvino way: imagine a giant global map, but instead of showing the lands, seas, countries of the world, and so on, it’s a Hayakawa-esque map of the territories of mind.
Then imagine “defenders of the real” who are outnumbered by the infiltrators who slowly occupy these territories, taking them over before stretching out their hides as clothing so that they may walk around with them as trophies of the conquered territories.
They can’t win without destroying everything.
While I could go further, the specifics of such attacks are of a mathematical and philosophical nature that requires a considerable bit of expertise, and while I’m mostly OK with the philosophical parts, I haven’t actively considered the mathematical ones in nearly a half century.
I’d rather preserve knowledge than plot clever ways to make it eat itself so that a group of infiltrators can feel good about themselves.
BTW, ask N what NP-completeness means.
You’re going to find the subject overly complex, but you’ll like the destination: there are problems so hard that we don’t even know for sure how hard the problems are.
We used to keep saboteurs at arm’s length because we knew such difficulties existed without chaos actors making the accumulation of knowledge even more difficult.
“There are no interesting stories, no great personalities, no history of admirable achievement among them.”
Are you deliberately invoking Hobbes’s “Leviathan”?
DO THAT IN YOUR WRITING … seriously.
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This is a brilliant manifesto, thank you!