Sunday, May 3, 2015

Making Sense of Our Smoke and Mirrors Politics

Making Some Sense of the Smoke and Mirrors
P. Schultz
May 3, 2015

“Sometimes the light’s all shining on me. Other times I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it’s been.” The Grateful Dead

            To cut to the chase, the political project that has been aborning for some time, but especially since the demise of the Soviet Union is one that aims at “surveillance, work discipline, and social control.” [p. 128, The Utopia of Rules, David Graeber] That is, our politics is “part of an all-out effort to follow the technological humbling of the Soviet Union with total victory in the global class war: not only the imposition of absolute U.S. military dominance overseas, but the utter rout of social movements at home.” [p. 128]

            And this kind of politics is advanced by those appearing in the guise or, rather, the disguise of “neoliberalism,” making what appear to be economic arguments, that is, “pro-market” arguments, to advance their political agenda. What appears to be an agenda of minimal government is actually an agenda of maximizing bureaucracy, even if not always governmental bureaucracy. And the results are: “A timid bureaucratic spirit [that] has come to suffuse every aspect of intellectual life . . . [while] more often than not, [coming] cloaked in the language of creativity, initiative, and entrepreneurialism.” [p. 137]

            But, of course, this “language is meaningless.” [p. 137] That is, it has no relation to what is actually going on, no relation to the intended goals of those guardians who have power and aim to keep it. This could be labeled a politics of the status quo but it is not simply that. It does seek to preserve the status quo in terms of who actually wields power; but it seeks also to do far more than simply continue or “conserve” the character of U.S. society. It seeks to advance or create a society dedicated to “surveillance, work discipline, and social control . . . thus achieving a decisive victory in what U.S. elites . . . indeed see as a global class war.” [p. 128, 130]

            That this line of argument makes sense is underlined by such bad arguments from these “neoliberals” as, “destroying job security while increasing working hours [will] create a more productive . . . workforce,” an argument that “there is every reason to believe [is] exactly the opposite” of what takes place. “In purely economic terms the result of neoliberal reform of labor markets is almost certainly negative . . . However [this argument] has been spectacularly effective in depoliticizing labor.” [p.129] Meanwhile, there has been “the burgeoning growth in armies, police, and private security services [which] are utterly unproductive – nothing but a resource sink.” [p. 129-130]

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