Saturday, November 12, 2016

Eleven theses on Trump

I
As much as my friends are horrified at a Trump presidency with a Republican congress, that's exactly how horrified Trump voters considered a possible Clinton presidency and Obama's actual presidency. Elections are about values, not about policies.

II
Trump and the Republicans are not just about racism and sexism, but racism and sexism are real factors. We don't seem to understand racism and sexism; I myself don't claim to understand them. I definitely strongly dislike racism and sexism, but dislike is not understanding. If we're going to get the white proletariat and white petty-bourgeois/petty-professional class to turn away from racism and sexism, we have to understand them, so we can propagandize and negotiate effectively. Screeching at racists and sexists, dehumanizing them, placing them in the "basket of deplorables," may be emotionally satisfying, but it doesn't seem to be moving racism and sexism back.

III
Clinton and the Democrats, as well as the "traditional" Republicans, are not just about classism, but classism is a real factor. Upper-middle class people do not want to lose their class privilege, which they justify in exactly the same way that white people justify white privilege and men justify male privilege. (I don't mean to say that classism is exactly the same as racism; only the justifications are identical.)

IV
Too many Democrats, especially Clinton Democrats, have nothing but contempt for the working class and the poor; unlike Trump, they do not hide their contempt. Republicans are only a little better, at least at hiding their contempt. I think I understand classism. I don't understand racism and sexism, but I do see racism and sexism as emerging from classism. I don't think we're going to make progress so long as we try to address racism and sexism as divorced from class.

V
Liberalism, i.e. technocratic professional/managerial class rule, is decisively over. Technocrats do not understand values, which are not "rational" but emotional. They do not understand politics. More importantly, it is precisely the technocratic core of the Democratic party that has destroyed the American working class, and who cares if a bunch of ignorant racist hillbillies are suffering. The Republican party too, of course, but the technocratic Democrats supported them, demanded the credit, and are taking the blame. We still need highly educated people, but they (well, we) are unfit to rule.

VI
The Republican party has been running a long affinity con on the white working class, petty-bourgeois, and petty-professional class. These classes have at least begun to wake up, so they nominated Trump. I remains to be seen if Trump actually delivers anything to the white working class or doubles down on the long con. The Democratic party has been running a long affinity con on black people. I don't know when black people will wake up to the con. Some have, but not many.

VII
The Democrats are not as bad as the Republicans, who are not as bad as Trump, but that's the best I can say about them. The Democratic party has not fought against the police killings of black people, they have not fought against assassination and torture, they have not fought against imperialism, they have not fought against the financial, medical, and industrial monopolists, and, most importantly, they have not fought for the working class, white or black. We can condone losing; we shouldn't condone not fighting.

VIII
Only the working class can bring in authoritarianism and fascism, and only the working class can avoid it. The bourgeoisie has shown itself incapable of resisting authoritarianism, and the professional/managerial class is too weak and too stupid to even see it, much less prevent it.

IX
Either the working class has to take over the Democratic party, or they must form a new political party; I don't know which would be easier. The strategy should be first to go after working class Democrats: "Clinton and the party (or party establishment) betrayed you." In a couple of years, when Trump betrays them himself, go after working class Republicans.

X
However one defines "democracy", choosing between fascism and fascism-lite ain't it. We have a republic, so we have to use it, but we must transcend the republic.

XI
We cannot have political democracy without economic democracy. Indeed, economic democracy must precede political democracy.

[Edited 31 July 2017 for grammar.]

21 comments:

  1. I absolutely, positively, did not want to Mr. Trump to win, but on Wednesday morning, as I thought about it, I said, "Thank God Clinton lost."

    I am hopeful that the Clintons and the DNC crew are gone. I certainly did not want to try and defend them for the next four years.

    I'm interested to see what these two parties are in two eyars. probably much the same as they are now, but...

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  2. Larry, I'm willing to try to answer your #2, if you truly are willing to try to understand as you have stated in your post:

    There are actually very few "racists" and "sexists" in the USA as most people (not academics) would generally define those terms.

    However, there's a very real reason why so many people are becoming "edgelords" nowadays. It's because of the incredible hypocrisy, the incredible virtue-signaling coming from the bigtime power-brokers in our society: media, academia, government, the entertainment/lifestyle industry, etc.

    To the extent that "racists" really are "racist", it's mostly because they see the real power-brokers in society leveraging racial grievance groups against them as Middle Americans.

    Also it's the forbidden fruit effect.

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  3. Larry, I'm willing to try to answer your #2, if you truly are willing to try to understand as you have stated in your post:

    The proviso is a little condescending, but I'll bite.

    There are actually very few "racists" and "sexists" in the USA as most people (not academics) would generally define those terms.

    Really? First, I actually am an academic, so I'm going to look to academic definitions. But what is the popular definition? How do you know that definition is popular? How do you know few people fit that definition? Why should we prefer the popular definition to the academic or another alternative?

    Please note that employing only your intuition and common sense is probably not a reliable methodology for answering these questions.

    However, there's a very real reason why so many people are becoming "edgelords" nowadays.

    I assume that by "edgelord" you mean something like "A poster on an Internet forum, (particularly 4chan) who expresses opinions which are either strongly nihilistic, ("life has no meaning," or Tyler Durden's special snowflake speech from the film Fight Club being probably the two main examples) or contain references to Hitler, Nazism, fascism, or other taboo topics which are deliberately intended to shock or offend readers."

    Please be careful to define unusual terminology.

    Please note that I don't really address the internet's underbelly in the post, a topic on which I have little interest and less expertise.

    It's because of the incredible hypocrisy, the incredible virtue-signaling coming from the bigtime power-brokers in our society: media, academia, government, the entertainment/lifestyle industry, etc.

    How are you drawing this causal connection? In what sense is today's hypocrisy "incredible"? Hypocrisy has been around a long time. What's wrong with "virtue-signaling", and why should it incite people to vote for Trump, or even drive people to post racists crap on 4chan?

    And what does this have to do with Trump? He is, after all, a media personality and is not only himself a "bigtime power-broker in our society" but also well-connected to them.

    To the extent that "racists" really are "racist", it's mostly because they see the real power-brokers in society leveraging racial grievance groups against them as Middle Americans.

    This point might have some merit, but deserves more thorough analysis. Precisely who is "leveraging racial grievance groups against" whom? Again, if you have a specific answer, how do you know?

    Also it's the forbidden fruit effect.

    Is it? How specifically is the forbidden fruit effect operating, why is it operating in this specific way.

    Please note that there is considerable asymmetry between you and I: I maintain this blog to publish my own opinions, not yours.

    I'm not saying you're doing anything wrong, but if you want to convince me personally to change my opinion, you will have to offer more than just that you have a different opinion. If you don't want to convince me, it makes no sense to comment here: I am probably the only person in the world who reads these comments.

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  4. A few general notes, Dustin.

    I am monumentally uninterested in what a bunch of jackasses post on anonymous message boards. I don't care who they are, what they say, or why they say it. I do not believe they affect anything important.

    It is possible I might be convinced to care, but I would need solid scientific evidence that they did have some effect on something I care about.

    I want to reiterate: the only possible motive for commenting here is to engage with me personally. I don't believe anyone but me follows comments on old posts; I doubt even the other commenter here, Nasreen Iqbal, is reading these comments. If you do want to convince me, you'll have to use sources I find reliable.

    If you simply want to express an opinion contrary to my own, you are probably wasting my time and yours by commenting here. A better method would be to post something more public, and put the link here: I only delete spam links; I never delete links to legitimate commentary. I might even respond in a post of my own.

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  5. Ok, I'll post some links I have found enlightening on precisely this topic:

    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2011/01/let-them-eat-diversity

    https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/walter-benn-michaels-the-trouble-with-diversity-election/Content?oid=24418522

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  6. Good sources, Dustin. I'll have to read them carefully. In the meantime, perhaps you could show me in more detail how you connect these articles to the your opinions above?

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    Replies
    1. In the Chicago Reader article, Michaels says:

      "[The attitude of the liberal left] is to say 'Look, if you're poor because you're a victim of racism, sexism, homophobia—that's a problem because it's an inequality of opportunity. But if you're not a victim of one of those things, fuck you.'"

      "As racism and antidiscrimination have become more central to the moral compass of the country, what you get is an increasing number of white people who are committed and convinced that they're the victims of racism. Among Republicans, it's something like the majority of them who think they're the primary victims of racism. There are two ways to look at that. One is that it's not true. Let me be clear, I know perfectly fucking well that white people are not the victims of racism. They're not the primary, secondary, or even the tertiary victims of racism. But in a world where racism is a central issue, people begin to understand their own genuine victimization through that lens."

      If Michaels is correct, and I believe that he is, there isn't much of a gap between working class whites believing that they are victims of racism, and retaliating with racism of their own.

      I'm not defending racism, I'm just trying to answer your #II that you have written.

      Delete
    2. I'm not defending racism, I'm just trying to answer your #II that you have written.

      I understand. You're fine! :-)

      Delete
  7. While I'm reading the articles you linked to, I strongly recommend you read
    Trump's Past Light Cone, which examines causal fallacies and general problems inferring causality.

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  8. Really terrific articles, Dustin; I'm grateful for the recommendation. Michaels is saying a lot of stuff I've been saying.

    But I don't really see the connection between Michaels and your initial comment.

    I read Michaels as saying that first, the PMC is focused on racism in a way that attempts to erase class distinction and class discrimination. The goal is to have the PMC and capitalists class racially representative (and representative of women and other minorities). Equal representation in the ruling classes is not per se bad, but it is not addressing what socialists and communists see as the fundamental problem, which is having a class society in the first place.

    And, of course, working-class white people, even those in the labor aristocracy are left without any critique of their own exploitation and insecurity.

    I agree with Michaels, and I've said much the same thing myself. But I, and I think he, sees it differently from you.

    First, this problem is structural, and not the result of superficial things like hypocrisy and virtue-signalling (which are both so pervasive that it is difficult to find variation in either that could have causal effect). Hypocrisy has been present in every society after we created class divisions soon after the invention of agriculture and cities.

    If anything, the material contradictions of society is just making hypocrisy more noticeable.

    Also, the capitalist class is locked in a fight to the death with the PMC. It is in their interest to highlight, exaggerate, and in many cases simply fabricate PMC hypocrisy.

    To the extent that "racists" really are "racist", it's mostly because they see the real power-brokers in society leveraging racial grievance groups against them as Middle Americans.

    That might be what they believe, but why do they believe it?

    I don't think it's actually true. I do not see evidence that the PMC is using anti-racism specifically against the white working class. They are, of course, generally committed to subordinating the working class — white and black, male and female — but the Michaels' any my own critique against PMC anti-racism is not that it is inherently oppressive, but ignores class issues. The PMC erases a class critique of the working class's own oppression.

    Which is, of course, the whole point of reproducing capitalism: a capitalist society must have a working class, that working class must be subordinated.

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    Replies
    1. Let me add that a lot of the white working class racializes their own oppression not because of PMC anti-racism, but because of capitalist propaganda intended to undermine the PMC.

      Delete
    2. Larry, I remembered about an even more telling article than the Michaels articles, written by someone very much on the other side as me.

      It is called "It's Time for the Elites to Rise Up Against the Ignorant Masses", written by James Traub, a regular columnist for the New York Times Magazine who has written for many other prominent periodicals and who is also a member of the prominent Council on Foreign Relations. This guy is pure PMC, to use your lingo.

      Traub's article refers to the white working class, among others left out of globalism's beneficiaries, as "the mindlessly angry", "the fist-shakers", "the ignorant masses", etc.

      It calls, for one thing, for a political coalition "includ[ing] the beneficiaries of globalization and the poor and non-white and marginal citizens who recognize that the celebration of national identity excludes them." in order to protect the interests of globalism's beneficiaries, a group which conveniently includes Traub himself.

      The article was written shortly after Britain's vote to leave the European Union and about 3 months before Trump's election as US President.

      When people open up their newspapers and read articles written by the PMC that literally call for people's elites to rise up against them when life is already more than hard enough for them, articles that literally refer to them as "the mindlessly angry", "the ignorant masses", "the fist-shakers", etc., is it any wonder that they become resentful?

      Delete
  9. Don't get me wrong, Dustin; I'm no fan of the PMC. My point is not to justify the PMC, but to put the struggle in context, which is that populism, which is in fact undermining the PMC, is a tool of those far worse: the capitalist class.

    When people open up their newspapers and read articles written by the PMC that literally call for people's elites to rise up against them when life is already more than hard enough for them, articles that literally refer to them as "the mindlessly angry", "the ignorant masses", "the fist-shakers", etc., is it any wonder that they become resentful?

    Yes, the PMC has its share of buffoons. But keep in mind that it is the capitalist class that has made the people angry, mostly by lying to them.

    The idea that the elites should control the masses is not an invention of the PMC; it goes back to the founding of the Republic (for "factions" read "the working class").

    The point is not: the PMC is inept, therefore laissez faire capitalism. The point is that both laissez faire and Keynesian capitalism are impossible, therefore socialism.

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  10. Oh, and Traub's article is beyond terrible.

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  11. Larry, the problem is that Traub is not some isolated crankish buffoon. He is part of a growing chorus of voices within the PMC that are calling for overt PMC rule over everybody else.

    Take a look at another article: "Brexit, Democracy, and Epistocracy", written by Princeton Professor Jason Brennan (Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. This is yet another guy who is pure PMC.)

    Brennan's article was written and published the day after Britain's vote to leave the European Union, and was prompted by the results of that vote. It advocates a revocation of political democracy and its replacement with a new form of government called "epistocracy" in which 'political literacy tests' will be introduced to screen out the "ignorant" from voting, tests that will be written presumably by high-flying members of the PMC such as Brennan himself. Brennan's concluding paragraph really says it all:

    "All across the West, we’re seeing the rise of angry, resentful, nationalist, xenophobic and racist movements, movements made up mostly of low-information voters. Perhaps it’s time to put aside the childish and magical theory that democracy is intrinsically just, and start asking the serious question of whether there are better alternatives. The stakes are high."

    The PMC is attempting to skillfully play the ends against Middle America in order to achieve power. They are invoking the specter of "angry, resentful, nationalist, xenophobic and racist movements", in Professor Brennan's own words, and offering the rule of their class as the "solution".

    But this time, people saw through it. But guess who came in and co-opted that "seeing-through" of the PMC strategem: Donald Trump. I remember vividly begging and pleading for people not to vote Trump, I remember pleading with people to please, don't let Trump co-opt and steal this from you, from us. But to no avail, sadly.

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  12. Of coursed, Dustin. The PMC is flailing about, trying to regain its power. It won't. It can't. Guys like Traub and Brennan aren't writing to try to regain power; they're writing to maintain their own position in an increasingly irrelevant class.

    It's sad, really: the PMC is so inept that the capitalists look like champions of the common man. But of course capitalist "populism" is not any kind of democracy: it's becoming more and more just a new kind of fascism (or "fascism" if you must: not 1930s Mussolini or Hitler, but its own kind of violent authortiarianism), which does have a degree of popular appeal.

    It should be an interesting 10-20 years. With all good luck, I'll be ensconced in China when the fewments hit the windmill.

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  13. Remember too there's a strengthening pro-worker wing of the Democratic party -- Sanders, Warren et al. -- who are not quite so nakedly elitist. I don't think they stand much of a chance, but if anyone can save the Dems and PMC, it's them.

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  14. Larry, I'm just wondering in general about the phrase "Professional Managerial Class".

    I don't like that term, I think it misses the heart of the matter.

    A plumber is a professional, so is an electrician. But these are more like petty bourgeoisie, don't you think? And a Walmart manager is a manager, but still I don't think that gets to the heart of the matter.

    I think that what we really are trying to get at, at least what I am really trying to get at, is a group of people that tends to deal in "cultural capital". They're the members of the "commentariat", they write for prestigious, opinion-shaping periodicals like the Washington Post, New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Time Magazine, etc. They could be career journalists like Traub or professors in prestigious positions like Brennan. They have access to the "opinion shaping" organs such as prestigious periodicals and the prestigious universities themselves who educate the students who are going to have the "doors open" for them in life. They have tremendous ability to shape these students at age 18-22. They deal in that kind of cultural capital.

    That's a lot different from a plumber or an electrician or a Walmart manager.

    I really like the term "New Class" better, even though that term is kind of vague.

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    Replies
    1. "New Class" is not my term, btw. I picked it up from other places such as "The Future of Intellectuals and the New Class" by Alvin Gouldner, a sociologist (whom I think is as sharp as a whip, his work is definitely worth a read).

      Delete
  15. Oh and one last thing before I forget, Larry, since I probably won't be able to post here again for a while. I agree with the gist of what you say about the capitalist class. None of my criticisms of the PMC is meant to shield the capitalist class from criticism themselves.

    I am not a socialist, yet I share many sympathies with your concerns about capitalist exploitation of the desperate, and how the ultra-rich are running away with an immeasurable amount of money.

    I hope that even though we don't agree on everything that you can continue to be the "Accidental Tutor" of me and others.

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  16. <shrugs> I'm not that interested in fine-tuning names. As I have written elsewhere, I define the PMC to be those who by virtue of educational credentials see to the reproduction of capitalism, especially ensuring that the capitalist class does not destroy society. The people you refer to above are certainly part of the PMC.

    I probably won't be able to post here again for a while.

    I hope you'll be able to return soon.

    ReplyDelete

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