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Posts Tagged ‘late capitalism’

“The rise of Fascism around the world has been happening quickly and it’s a lot to take in. So we wanted to take a minute to review the electoral gains made by anti-immigrant & far-right movements here in Québec and Ontario over the past few months.

It’s only been a month since François Legault’s CAQ won a majority government in Québec and they’ve already made it clear that they intend to decrease the amount of immigrants arriving in the province, make new immigrants take language and ‘values’ tests, ban non-Christian religious symbols in the civil service, and further privatize the health care system.

In Ontario, it’s been over four months since Doug Ford’s PC party won a majority and they’ve already rolled back minimum wage & basic workplace protections, privatized prescription drug insurance, returned elementary & high schools to a 1998 sex-ed curriculum, and threatened to withhold funding from universities that won’t host Fascist speakers.While both these right-wing parties were influenced & supported by far-right movements, neither are themselves Fascist.

 But in the short time since their victories, we’ve started to see more explicitly white nationalist candidates become electorally viable.

In Toronto’s mayoral election this past week, white nationalist Faith Goldy came in 3rd place. She beat the only leftist candidate in the race and received over 25,000 votes.In Mississauga’s recent mayoral election, far-right anti-Muslim candidate Kevin Johnston came in 2nd place, receiving over 16,000 votes. He accomplished this while also defending himself in court over hate crime charges.

Elections aren’t accurate measures of popular opinion. And as Anarchists, we don’t put stock in them as vehicles for the kind of political change we need. In fact, we strongly believe that attempts to achieve state power are not the answer. The reason we’re focusing on elections is because they’re becoming an increasingly possible bridge between far-right movements and the state power they desire.

Now, the Canadian government certainly doesn’t need Fascists at its helm to continue the ongoing genocide against indigenous peoples, to promote imperialism around the world, repress labour in the name of capital, or to continue to impose systems of structural white supremacy, patriarchy, ableism, and cis-heteronormativity onto the territories it stole through colonization. But today’s growing Fascist & other far-right movements are beginning to view the prospect of state power as a realistic horizon. And this prospect represents a mode of state repression that we’re largely unequipped to resist.

It’s also important to note that this isn’t coming out of nowhere. The rapid growth of the far-right has been made possible by decades of centre-right political gains.

While a lot of attention has been paid to the way far-right groups have influenced and supported certain parties and candidates, the lines of support and influence are in fact cyclical, flowing in both directions.

On a national level, you can draw a straight line between the Liberals’ post-911 fear mongering (the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ and ‘Public Safety’ acts, the use of Security Certificates against Muslim men, Project Thread & other baseless cases brought against Muslims), the Conservatives’ mid-2000s anti-Muslim attacks (the ‘Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices’ act, attempts to ban Muslim women from wearing the niqab, the proposed hotline for people to make accusations against Muslim neighbours), and the growth of anti-Muslim groups like PEGIDA Canada or the WCAI. 

 A similar line can be drawn between the anti-immigrant discourse of the Liberals’ border policy reforms (shifting from immigrants to ‘temporary foreign workers’ in the 1990s, the creation of the CBSA), the Conservatives’ expansion of those policies in the mid-2000s (referring to refugees as criminals, vastly reducing new immigrants, increasing ‘temporary foreign workers’, detentions, and deportations), and the recent growth of anti-immigrant groups like the Soldiers of Odin, Storm Alliance, or the Northern Guard.

In Ontario, 8 years of PC attacks on poor and working people, massive transfers of wealth and reductions of social services, followed by 15 years of Liberal Party ‘austerity,’ created public messaging (and a dire economic context) that now undergirds most far-right organizing in the province. 

Over the past 25 years, both parties consistently attacked organized labour, built public support against them, and normalized back to work legislation as a means to end strikes for good. It’s not surprising that workers experience attacks and death threats at picket lines today.

On a more local level, a quick survey of the wards where Faith Goldy drew the most support closely resembles the map of Rob Ford’s support base, built back in 2010 & since expanded by his brother. Again, the far-right’s growth isn’t coming out of nowhere.People have been well primed for Fascism by exposure to decades of racist, nationalist, and capitalist propaganda from the Canadian political mainstream. 

As far-right media outlets like The Rebel have begun to eclipse more mainstream publications, it’s easy to forget how much groundwork was laid before their arrival.In Québec, over a decade of multi-party anti-Muslim rhetoric laid the groundwork for the growth of far-right anti-Muslim groups like La Meute, Atalante, and last year’s mass murder at the Québec City Islamic Cultural Centre. Between the Liberals’ ‘Reasonable Accommodation’ debate & Bouchard-Taylor Commission, the PQ’s ‘Charter of Quebec Values’, the Liberals’ Bill 62, and the CAQ’s upcoming ban on non-Christian religious symbols, there’s been an anti-Muslim consensus within Québec’s political mainstream.

Politicians in Québec have spent years stoking xenophobia to harness fading nationalist sentiment, now successfully mobilized against Muslims and immigrants on a mass level. This has translated into mass support for far-right groups in Québec, who have been growing rapidly and increasing their influence on (and proximity to) state power.In Ontario, support for the far-right hasn’t reached the same level but it’s growing. And these movements are beginning to use elections to normalize their ideas and expand their base. 

With media outlets like The Rebel and Ontario Proud now reaching wider audiences than most mainstream publications, this growth seems set to continue.

In this context, we need to take the far-right’s aspirations for state power more seriously and understand how elections increasingly fit into their strategy. But responding with leftist electoral campaigns is a strategy doomed to cooptation and failure. 

Only by building popular resistance to the ideas of both the far-right and the political mainstream that paved their way (including false electoral solutions) can we win. Because if the Fascists achieve state power, it won’t matter how good we are at fighting them in the streets.”

– Treyf, “The Far-Right and Recent Elections in Ontario & Québec.” October 26, 2018.

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“Following the 1992 LA riots, leftist commentators often opted to define the event as a rebellion rather than a riot as a way to highlight the political nature of people’s actions. This attempt to reframe the public discourse is borne of ‘good intentions’ (the desire to combat the conservative media’s portrayal of the riots as ‘pure criminality’), but it also reflects an impulse to contain, consolidate, appropriate, and accommodate events that do not fit political models grounded in white, Euro- American traditions. When the mainstream media portrays social disruptions as apolitical, criminal, and devoid of meaning, Leftists often respond by describing them as politically reasoned. Here, the confluence of political and anti-social tendencies in a riot/ rebellion are neither recognized nor embraced. Certainly some who participated in the London riots were armed with sharp analyses of structural violence and explicitly political messages – the rioters were obviously not politically or demographically homogenous. However, sympathetic radicals tend to privilege the voices of those who are educated and politically astute, rather than listening to those who know viscerally that they are fucked and act without first seeking moral approval. Some Leftists and radicals were reluctant to affirm the purely disruptive perspectives, like those expressed by a woman from Hackney, London who said, ‘We’re not all gathering together for a cause, we’re running down Foot Locker.’ Or the excitement of two girls stopped by the BBC while drinking looted wine. When asked what they were doing, they spoke of the giddy ‘madness’ of it all, the ‘good fun’ they were having, and said that they were showing the police and the rich that ‘we can do what we want.’ Translating riots into morally palatable terms is another manifestation of the appeal to innocence – rioters, looters, criminals, thieves, and disrupters are not proper victims and hence, not legitimate political actors. Morally ennobled victimization has become the necessary precondition for determining which grievances we are willing to acknowledge and authorize.

With that being said, my reluctance to jam Black rage into a white framework is not an assertion of the political viability of a pure politics of refusal. White anarchists, ultra-leftists, post-Marxists, and insurrectionists who adhere to and fetishize the position of being “for nothing and against everything” are equally eager to appropriate events like the 2011 London riots for their (non)agenda. They insist on an analysis focused on the crisis of capitalism, which downplays anti-Blackness and ignores forms of gratuitous violence that cannot be attributed solely to economic forces. Like liberals, post-left and anti-social interpretive frameworks generate political narratives structured by white assumptions, which delimits which questions are posed which categories are the most analytically useful. Tiqqun explore the ways in which we are enmeshed in power through our identities, but tend to focus on forms of power that operate by an investment in life (sometimes call biopolitics) rather than, as Achille Mbembe writes, “the power and the capacity to decide who may live and who must die” (sometimes called necropolitics). This framework is decidedly white, for it asserts that power is not enacted by direct relations of force or violence, and that the capitalism reproduces itself by inducing us to produces ourselves, to express our identities through consumer choices, to base our politics on the affirmation of our marginalized identities. This configuration of power as purely generative and dispersed completely eclipses the realities of policing, the militarization of the carceral system, the terrorization of people of color, the institutional violence of the Welfare State and the Penal State, and of Black and Native social death. While prisons certainly “produce” race, a generative configuration of power that minimizes direct relations of force can only be theorized from a white subject position. Among ultra-left tendencies, communization theory notably looks beyond the wage relation in its attempt to grasp the dynamics of late-capitalism. Writing about Théorie Communiste (TC), Maya Andrea Gonzalez notes that “TC focus on the reproduction of the capital-labor relation, rather than on the production of value. This change of focus allows them to bring within their purview the set of relations that actually construct capitalist social life – beyond the walls of the factory or office.” However, while this reframing may shed light on relations that constitute social life outside the workplace, it does not shed light on social death, for relations defined by social death are not reducible to the capital-labor relation.”

– Jackie Wang, “Against Innocence: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Safety.” LIES Volume 1-10

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“And that the stupendous proliferation of social codes today into professional and disciplinary jargons (but also into the badges of affirmation of ethnic, gender, race, religious, and class-factional adhesion) is also a political phenomenon, the problem of micropolitics sufficiently demonstrates. If the ideas of a ruling class were once the dominant (or hegemonic) ideology of bourgeois society, the advanced capitalist countries today are now a field of stylistic and discursive heterogeneity without a norm. Faceless masters continue to inflect the economic strategies which constrain our existences, but they no longer need to impose their speech (or are henceforth unable to); and the postliteracy of the late capitalist world reflects not only the absence of any great collective project but also the unavailability of the older national language itself.”

— Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Duke University Press, 1991. p. 17

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On the website for Unicor, the newly renamed Federal Prison Industries — the 84-year-old government-run corporation that utilizes incarcerated people for labor — there’s a section called “Shopping.” There, you can benefit from the fruits of the company’s “Factories With Fences” program, which produces items manufactured by the 182,797 inmates of the nation’s federal prisons: socks, solar panels, goggles, shelving, license plates, office furniture. For $139, you can buy the Chrome Frame Matrix HD Chair for your office or home in ebony, wine, sapphire, or indigo, knowing it was made by prisoners who serve Unicor at dozens of facilitiesfrom Canaan, Pennsylvania, to Atwater, California. If you are looking for labor, prisoners can also be contracted for your company, for services ranging from manufacturing to call center duties. After all, it’s a fantastic deal: The pay rate for inmates ranges from 23 cents to $1.15 an hour. This, partners are told, offers companies “minimized overhead costs to help drive bottom-line improvements. (Seeing this bargain laid out in the crisp, airless language of convenience capitalism both elides the skin-crawling horror of incarceration and somehow underscores it.) Unicor has a capsule history of the federal U.S. prison labor program on its website, which notes that prison work programs originated in the United States with the nation’s founding in the 1700s, and that “despite periods of criticism from detractors, increasingly constrictive procurement laws, misinformation and stigma,” they have “endured.”

The latest “test” to prison labor comes not from outside detractors or procurement laws, but from within the prisons themselves. On August 21, a loosely connected network of incarcerated activists, led by the group Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, announced a nationwide prison strike. One of the ten demands released by the protesters is an end to prison slavery – a demand for a full and fair wage just noting it specifies as based on the prevailing wage in their state or territory for any labor performed while incarcerated.

The strike was inspired by a riot at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina, on April 15, which left seven inmates — Corey Scott, Eddie Casey Gaskins, Raymond Angelo Scott, Damonte Rivera, Michael Milledge, Cornelius McClary, and Joshua Jenkins — dead. Prisoners stated that the surge of violence was due to inhumane living conditions, punitive sentences, and the prison warehousing rival gangs in the same units.

The date was set for August 21, the day Nat Turner’s slave revolt began in 1831. It’s meant to last until September 9, the anniversary of the Attica State Peniteniary uprising, a mass prisoner takeover of an upstate New York prison in 1971 that ultimately led to significant reforms in the New York carceral system.

“We are men! We are not beasts, and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such,” said Attica inmate Elliot “L.D.” Barkley, in one of the first public statements made by the protesting prisoners in 1971. Barkley, the most visible face of the Attica uprising, was shot in the back and killed when authorities stormed the prison to quell the uprising, leaving thirty prisoners and ten prison guards dead.

The first demand of the 2018 strike echoes Barkley’s words across decades: It is a call for “immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.” The rest are concretizations of this demand: that the label of “violent offender” should not result in anyone being barred from rehabilitation programs; that current and former prisoners regain their voting rights; an end to racist over-charging of black and brown people; and an end to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which severely restricts the ability of prisoners to file federal lawsuits, among others.

The strike is as sprawling and difficult to track as America’s prison state itself, a system that encompasses some 2.3 million people. Its participants are largely anonymized by the activists who publicize their resistance, for fear of retaliation by prison authorities. By its very nature, it vexes publications, as the incarcerated individuals taking part are purposefully tucked out of sight and kept from communicating with the press. But reports have trickled out — particularly in activist-aligned outlets like Democracy Now! and It’s Going Down — of ICE detainees hunger-striking in Washington State; prison work stoppages in South Carolina; boycotts of commissaries in Florida; and more hunger strikers, in Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, and California. Many groups of strikers have released local demands. These reports are smuggled out like the contraband they are, to whichever ears on the outside are willing to receive them.

At New Folsom Prison in California, 26-year-old Heriberto Garcia, in the tenth year of a fifteen-years-to-life sentence for voluntary manslaughter, recorded himself refusing food in his cell and smuggled the video to a revolutionary press in Chicago, which posted the video to Twitter. “I was introduced to the gang life at the age of 11. I ended incarcerated at the age of 16 and have been down ever since,” he wrote to correspondents at True Leap Press last year. “I’m still evolving with the struggle and will continue as long as I’m alive.”

Sympathizers on the outside have staged a variety of actions to show solidarity to incarcerated strikers. In Minneapolis, protesters set off fireworks outside one of the city’s juvenile detention centers, accompanied by music by the anarchist marching band Unlawful Assembly. In Brooklyn, marchers banged drums while Metropolitan Detention Center inmates flashed contraband cellphones through narrow windows; in other states, activists have participated in banner drops, created solidarity graffiti, and clashed with police in marches.

Inside prison walls, incarcerated individuals who engage in active resistance must contend with a system designed to impose punishment and tighten the vice of privation. Activists have reported retaliatory solitary confinement, transfers, and the deprivation of clean clothes and showers for prisoners who have helped to organize hunger strikes and work stoppages. In America’s prisons — the gray archipelago of warehoused men and women tucked in towns, behind great casements of cement — a great shadow economy moves forward. Every consumer annoyance in the outside world — phone-company fees, health insurance premiums — has a parallel that exists in the prison economy, only contractors are free to exploit a captive audience. Prisoners stripped of their liberty have to further contend with exorbitant fees for outside phone calls; charges for medical care; erratic or extortionate prices in prison commissaries; and perhaps most grotesquely, in 43 states, “room and board fees” for incarceration itself.

Imprisoned men and women are the drivers of this multibillion-dollar shadow economy: its laborers and its prey. The work stoppages and hunger strikes are the weapons of those from whom all others have been stripped. The hands that assemble thousands of chairs and tables and solar panels, that sew socks and table linens, that print and bind books for pennies, have no recourse beyond stilling themselves from that work, in the face of fearful punishment. Over the past decades, prisoners have packaged holiday coffees for Starbucks, stitched lingerie for Victoria’s Secret, and answered calls for AT&T, and farmed tilapia for Whole Foods, among dozens of other blue-chip brands. The small luxuries — cheese, chocolate, soap — of the commissary are all they have to boycott, and those who can are doing so. Hunger itself is the last offensive of the incarcerated person, when the only freedom left for a body is the freedom to devour itself. It’s the freedom once expressed by the poet Marina Tsvetaeva, who wrote, after her husband was shot and her daughter imprisoned by Stalin:

In this madhouse of the inhuman
I refuse to live. With the wolves of the marketplace
I refuse to be. I refuse to swim
with the sharks, on a current of human spines.

In America, our gulags are run not just to punish, but for private companies’ profit, for the sake of the smooth and ugly Chrome Frame Matrix HD Office Chair and its buyers, made in prison. The act of striking is a rebuke not just of individual prison conditions, but of the grinding, predatory march of the prison economy itself. America is punitive — we have the largest number of incarcerated individuals in the world — and it is harsh to those it punishes. It is not a coincidence that those subject to the abysmal conditions of the carceral state are disproportionately racial minorities. Black Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites across the country, and at ten times the rate of whites in some states. Modern prison slavery, as criminal-justice reform advocates have pointed out again and again, is an extension of our nation’s original sin, the forced labor of black bodies. The acts of defiance smuggled to our eyes and ears from within the system are necessarily small, necessarily isolated from one another, necessarily borne of the cramped and violent framework in which they are contained. It is on us to amplify them to their appropriate enormity, to let the fire of that fierce, noble hunger rise in us, and turn insatiably to justice.

– Talia Lavin, “#Prisonstrike: A Rebellion Inside America’s Profitable Gulag Archipelago.” Village Voice, August 31, 2018.

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“Calling someone a “hipster” is a license to spew all kinds of demented hate. Since the term carries connotations of slackers and trust funds, the image of “hipsters on food stamps” is designed to provoke the conclusion that someone is lazily taking advantage of the system. Certainly that was how things played at the blogof the libertarian Reason magazine, which mocked the notion that someone might both deserve economic assistance and make art and wear odd clothes.

One wouldn’t expect any better from libertarians, who have built an entire ideology around the worldview of twelve-year-old boys. But they aren’t the only people who react to stories like this with rage or contempt rather than empathy. Consider the following comment, left under my friend’s response to the article about him:

I’m sorry but you are a selfish, whiny leach. I can say this because I a middle-aged woman and have been trying to find work for two years without success though I have a masters degree in a fairly desirable field. I have dwindling savings and two kids. Because I stayed home with them for a few years I don’t qualify for unemployment and that has also damaged my marketability in the job world. Despite all of this I have never resorted to public assistance and will not. In addition, I have a back problem that surgery did not correct so I am in physical pain 24 hrs a day. Still I have taken temp jobs and we have cut back in many ways. I am proud of my fortitude and resourcefulness, because we will make it through this time and my kids will learn valuable lessons from me about self-reliance.

Here we have a person who has been marginally employed for two years and suffers physical pain twenty-four hours a day — and rather than demanding something better for herself, she demands that other people suffer more!

Vicious and unhinged discourse is widespread on the Internet, but this example is worth noting because the sentiment it expresses is by no means unique. This attitude — a petty and mean-spirited resentment — is depressingly common even among the working class. It sometimes seems to amount to no more than the sentiment that justice consists in everyone else being at least as miserable as you are. At one level, it’s an attitude that reflects diminished expectations, and can be partly blamed on the weakness of the Left and the defeat of its historical project: when you don’t believe any positive social change is possible, there’s little left to fall back on but bitterness and resentment.

This resentment is also at the heart of a lot of hating on “hipsters.” People see others whom they perceive to have lives that are easier, cooler, or more fun than theirs, and instead of questioning the society that gave them their lot, they demand conformity and misery out of others.

But why? The false (but not without a grain of truth!) intimation that hipsters are all white kids who are subsidized by their rich parents legitimizes this position, but even if it were accurate it wouldn’t make the attitude of contempt any more sensible. For even if creative and enjoyable lives are only accessible to the privileged, that’s not a damning fact about them so much as it is an indictment of a society that has so much wealth and yet only allows a select few to take advantage of it, while others are forced to waste their lives chained to their useless jobs and bloated mortgages.

The rage directed at the figure of “a hipster on food stamps” is only intelligible in terms of the rotted ideological foundation that supports it: an ideology that simultaneously glorifies the suffering of the exploited and vilifies those among the dispossessed who are deemed to be insufficiently hardworking or self-reliant. It treats some activities (making art) as worthless and parasitic, and others (working temp jobs) as totems of “resourcefulness” and “self-reliance,” without any apparent justification.

This is what we have learned to call the work ethic; but the vociferousness with which it is expressed masks its increasing hollowness. For just who counts as a hard worker, or a worker at all?

The work ethic is a foundational element of modern capitalism: it assures the overall legitimacy of the system, and within the individual workplace it motivates workers to be both economically productive and politically quiescent. But the love of work does not come easily to the proletariat, and its construction over centuries was a monumental achievement for the capitalist class.

After years of struggle, discipline was imposed on pre-capitalist people who rejected regimented “clock time” and were prone to take a holiday on “Saint Monday’s day” whenever they had been too drunk the Sunday before. In America, a Protestant ethic equating work, salvation, and moral virtue arose in an economy full of artisans and small farmers, and was maintained only with great difficulty through the transition to more grueling and alienated forms of industrial labor.

In the twentieth century, perpetual war and labor’s Fordist compromise with capital provided a moral and material justification for the work ethic: during wartime (hot or cold), work could be equated with the patriotic struggle for national preservation, while the postwar golden age rested on an understanding that if workers submitted to capitalist work discipline, they would be rewarded with a share in the resulting productivity increases in the form of rising wages.

Today, the work ethic still serves as a guiding value from one end of the political spectrum to the other. The Right, including its latest Tea Party iteration, presents itself as the defender of the hardworking many against the slothful and indolent. To take just one recent example, a Republican candidate for governor of South Carolina has proposed mandatory drug testing for recipients of unemployment insurance, echoing an early proposal from Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

On the Left, the rhetoric of “working people” and “working families” is ubiquitous; indeed, in the wake of Clinton’s assaults on the welfare state, it seems that the poor can only justify their existence and their access to benefits and transfers if they can somehow be portrayed as “working.” So New York State’s social democratic quasi–third party calls itself the “Working Families Party,” and the union-led One Nation march in Washington promotes the slogan “Putting America Back to Work.”

Such appeals to the moral superiority of work and workers are often rooted in producerism: the notion that the fruits of society’s wealth and labor should return to those who directly perform productive labor. Producerism is hostile both to parasitic elites at the top of society and to the allegedly unproductive indigents at the bottom, hence its relationship to the political left and right is ambiguous.

But in post-industrial capitalist society, “work” has come to be disconnected from any conception of directly producing something or contributing work with any specific content. Work is increasingly defined formally: as whatever people do in return for wages.

With this elision, the material foundation of the work ethic is gradually undermined, and today the absurdity of the work ideology becomes readily apparent. For while it has never been the case that labor was rewarded in proportion to its contribution, it is now quite obvious that wage work is not identical to productive activity, and that the rewards to labor have lost any connection to the social value or desirability of the work performed.

Indeed, it sometimes seems that the distribution of wages is, to a first approximation, the exact inverse of the social utility of work. Thus the workers closest to our most fundamental needs — food and shelter — are non-unionized residential construction workers and migrant fruit pickers, lucky to even earn the minimum wage. At the same time, bankers are given millions for the invention and trade of sophisticated credit derivatives, even though most of their work is equivalent to — and as we’ve now discovered, quite a bit more destructive than — betting on the outcome of the Super Bowl.

This perverse reversal of values has a fractal quality, as well, so that even within individual occupations the same inverse relationship between wages and social value seems to hold. Plastic surgeons have easier jobs and vastly greater earnings than pediatricians, and being a celebrity pet groomer is more lucrative than working in an animal shelter.

Whether his art is any good or not, my artist friend on food stamps contributes more to society than the traders at Lehman brothers, by simply not wrecking the global financial system. He may well have contributed more than our anonymous commenter in her temp jobs, if they were anything like some of the temp assignments I’ve had: entering rejected applications for health insurance into the insurance company’s computer, for example, a tiny step in an inhumane decision made by an industry that should not even exist.

Note, moreover, that the commenter’s defense of her worth was based on her temp jobs and refusal of public assistance, and not on one of the few activities that is widely agreed to be valuable and necessary human labor — raising children.

In this context, it seems impossible to speak of the value of hard work without questioning both the equation of useful work with wage labor, and of high wages with high social value. But the ideology of the work ethic is nonetheless powerful, because it reassures people that their lives are meaningful and valuable, so long as they participate in waged work.

And ideologies can stumble along in zombie form for a remarkably long time, even when the historical conditions that gave rise to them have completely disappeared. The work ethic, in all its morbid forms, may have already degenerated from tragedy to farce, but that alone will not be enough to abolish it. We need an alternative to erect in its place.

The threads of a different ethic are all around us, if we begin to think of all the subtle ways in which our activities contribute to social wealth outside of paid labor.

Feminists were the pioneers, showing how all of capitalism, and all of human history, was predicated on a vast and invisible structure of reproductive labor performed mostly by women, mostly not for wages. The rise of new ideologies of communal production, like Open Source and Creative Commons, have revealed how much is possible without the wage incentive. Even the great new robber barons of the digital age, Google and Facebook, are instructive. Their value rests, on the most basic level, on the work of millions of users who provide content and information for free.

If it is increasingly impossible to disentangle the productive and unproductive parts of human activity, then we can reconstruct the old producerist dogma in a new way: everyone deserves to be provided with the means to live a decent life, because we are all already contributing to the production and reproduction of society itself.

The kind of social policy that follows from this position would be very different from the narrow, targeted, programs like food stamps, whose very narrowness make it easy to demonize one group in society as parasitic — whether the demonized group is welfare queens in the nineties or hipsters on food stamps today.

Rather than the “deserving” or “working” poor, with its connotations of moral judgment and authoritarian social control, it is time to begin speaking the language of economic and social rights. For instance, the right to a Universal Basic Income, a means of living at a basic level that would be provided to everyone, no questions asked.”

– Peter Frase, “Resenting Hipsters.Jacobin, January 1, 2011. 

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“It is at the same time that the State apparatus appropriates
the war machine, subordinates it to its “political” aims, and gives it
war as its direct object.  And  it is one and  the same historical
tendency
that causes State to evolve from a triple point of view: going from
figures of encastment to forms of appropriation proper, going from
limited war to so-called total war, and transforming the relation
between aim and object. The factors that make State war total war are
closely connected to capitalism: it has to do with the investment of
constant capital in equipment, industry, and the war economy, and the
investment of variable capital in the population in its physical and
mental aspects (both as warmaker and as victim of war). Total war is
not only a war of annihilation but arises when annihilation takes as its
“center” not only the enemy army, or the enemy State, but the entire
population and its economy. The fact  that this double investment can be
made only under prior conditions of limited war  illustrates the
irresistible  character of the capitalist tendency to develop total
war.

We could say that the appropriation has changed
direction, or rather that States tend to unleash, reconstitute, an
immense war machine of which they are no longer anything more than the
opposable or apposed parts. This worldwide war machine, which in away
“reissues” from the States, displays two successive figures: first, that
of fascism, which makes war an unlimited movement with no other aim
than itself; but fascism is only a rough sketch, and the second,
post-fascist, figure is that of a war machine that takes peace as its
object directly, as the peace of Terror or Survival. The war machine
reforms a smooth space that now claims to control, to surround the
entire earth. Total war itself is surpassed, toward a form of peace
more terrifying still. The war machine has taken charge of the aim,
worldwide order, and the States are now no more than objects or means
adapted to that  machine. This is the point at which Clausewitz’s
formula is effectively reversed; to be entitled to say that politics is
the continuation of war by other means, it is not enough to invert the
order of the words as if they could be spoken in either direction; it is
necessary to follow the real movement at the conclusion of which the
States, having appropriated a war machine, and having adapted it to
their aims, reimpart a war machine that  takes charge  of the aim,
appropriates the States, and assumes increasingly wider political
functions.

Doubtless, the present situation is highly discouraging. We have
watched the war machine grow stronger and stronger, as in a science
fiction story; we have seen it assign as its objective a peace still
more terrifying than fascist death; we have seen it maintain or
instigate the most terrible of local wars as parts of itself; we have
seen it set its  sights on a new type of enemy, no longer another State,
or even another regime, but the  "unspecified enemy"; we have seen it
put its counterguerrilla elements into place, so that it can be caught
by surprise once, but not twice. Yet the very conditions that make the
State or World war machine possible,  in other words, constant capital
(resources and equipment) and human variable capital, continually
recreate unexpected possibilities for counterattack, unforeseen
initiatives determining revolutionary, popular, minority, mutant
machines. The definition of the Unspecified Enemy testifies to this:
“multiform, maneuvering and omnipresent… of the moral, political,
subversive or economic  order, etc.,” the unassignable material Saboteur
or human Deserter assuming the most diverse forms.”

– Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, “1227: TREATISE ON NOMADOLOGY—THE WAR MACHINE” in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism & Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. pp. 420-422

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brand-upon-the-brain:

HyperNormalisation (Adam Curtis, 2016)

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