“Ars longa, vita brevis”

Archive for the tag “ideology”

The State and Capital in 2020

It has been well over a year since my last contribution to Common Ruin. As ever, prolonged precarity has prevented me from being as active in matters of class analysis as I would have otherwise preferred; but I will spare readers further discussion of my personal troubles.

In the United States, we are currently within an interregnum of administrations. Donald J. Trump has ostensibly lost to Joseph Biden, in an election which was considerably closer than the preponderance of psephologists and media pundits predicted. As I anticipated, Trump was unable to deliver on his foremost campaign promise of 2016, i.e. to erect a vast wall along the Mexican border, therewith curbing illegal immigration into the United States. The balance of class forces and structural imperatives of capital accumulation always condemned any such project to mere rhetoric—which the Republican Party has long utilized as an electoral strategy. As with the war on drugs and poverty, the United States’ geopolitical proxy conflicts, and the liberal and conservative Kulturkampf, the alleged struggle against illegal immigration was never meant to be won, unbeknownst to Trump. His naiveté of bourgeois ideology and the sordid ‘public-private partnership’ of ceaseless commodification attests to his inexperience in the corridors of power. Nevertheless, Trump remained an attractive candidate to his inordinately enthusiastic base because his utility in consistently offending the sensibilities of the technocratic liberal status quo never once abated during his 4 years in office.

Another factor in Trump’s narrow loss was that the political repercussions from COVID-19 were far weaker than most analysts forecasted. Some on the Utopian left[1] absurdly thought the pandemic might prove to be the harbinger of a social democratic resurgence, or perhaps even a revolutionary upheaval; but aside from a pitifully inadequate deposit of $1,200 in the accounts of American citizens, socialism was not to be found at the end of COVID-19. On the contrary, the pandemic coincided with a resounding defeat of left-liberalism/populism, as seen with Bernard Sanders’s failed primary campaign and Jeremy Corbyn’s loss and rapid decline in the British Labour Party. I suspect Biden’s victory in the United States will likely precipitate a fall in interest in reformist sects like the Democratic Socialists of America (a silver-lining, but I digress), because the always laughably hyperbolic threat of “fascism” Republicans allegedly posed has been sufficiently removed for the demographics typically disposed to reformist politics, e.g. students and members of the professional-managerial quasi-class formation.

The presidential election revealed two other interesting phenomena. First, the voter share of non-Caucasians increased for Republicans by a statistically significant margin, including Black males (dispelling identitarian notions of ideological cohesion among racial groups, as well as the idea of there being a racial consensus around radical liberal groups like Black Lives Matter). Racial tensions remain high, but the political capital such sentiments yield is far less clear than identitarians ever believed. Secondly, we witnessed what was effectively a coup d’état within the Republican Party itself. In addition to the technocratic liberal outrage with Trump, large segments of the conservative haute bourgeoisie found Trump’s boorishness, indifference to institutional etiquette, and erratic behavior worrisome, and his supporters disagreeable and potentially threatening. They yearned for a return to “normalcy” and predictability, so their political representatives in the Republican Party thus confined themselves to cynical rhetorical gestures in service of the president. As recent events have demonstrated—notwithstanding a few figures keen to take advantage of the opportunity to grift—they have no interest whatsoever in following through with Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud.

The real movement which abolishes the present state of things remains dormant. To that end, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the underlining contradictions of capital accumulation which have been with us since 2008. Asset values remain artificially inflated, the rate of profit has not recovered, and employment rests on a foundation of sand. Communism will not be the outcome of the immiseration which follows the next economic crisis, however, as there exists no organization capable of adequately seizing the opportunity for counter-hegemony occasioned by said crisis.

The left is dead and identity has killed it. Will an assemble of individuals trained in materialist dialectics, capable of organizing the proletarian mass, emerge in the coming years? There is no telling, but 2020 surely did not inspire much in the way of revolutionary optimism. Barbarism may well be what awaits us after capitalism.

[1] By which I mean, anti-capitalists of an implicitly or explicitly non-Marxist analytic orientation.

The Value of Everything: Dissecting Charlottesville and “Alt” Politics

VoE 130

The absurd spectacle of late capitalism.

I join my frequent podcast partner Charles Owen, once again, to discuss the recent clash in Charlottesville, Virginia between various segments of the so-called alt-right and antifa on The Value of Everything. We also touch on Enlightenment values, economic forecasting, and council communist theory.

Direct download
YouTube stream

The Value of Everything: Rivers of Blood

VoE 119

Populism and the divide between fascist and communist radicalism.

In this episode of The Value of Everything, Charles Owen and I discuss the potential consequences of Brexit, the ascent of Jeremy Corbyn and revival of Old Labour, British populism, and the extensive history of the communist and fascist movements’ mutual hostility.

Download the episode here or stream it on YouTube.

(The entire series of dialogues between Charles and I can be accessed here.)

The Value of Everything: Post-Election Analysis


Discussing the meaning of Donald Trump.

Trump’s electoral victory shocked the liberal establishment and even slightly surprised me (I lost a $25 bet to someone over it, in fact). In episode 113 of The Value of Everything, Charles Owen and I discuss themes from my essay “America’s Populist Moment” and speculate on what might come of Trump’s presidency. We also touch on religion and the “new atheists,” and critique intersectionality and the ever so trendy theory of “structural racism.”

Download the episode here, or stream it on YouTube.

The Value of Everything: Forecasting Trumpism


What might we expect from a Trump or Clinton presidency?

In the latest episode of The Value of Everything, I join my friend Charles Owen to discuss Donald Trump and the future of the United States’ polity.

As Charles explains in the introduction, some of the content is going to sound dated, as a consequence of our exchange having been recorded in October. Nevertheless, the preponderance of our talk remains relevant, and we touch on a number of other topics as well (e.g., “cultural Marxism,” anarchism, and contending theories of capitalist crises).

Those awaiting our debate will, unfortunately, have to wait a little longer. The first half has been recorded, but my increasingly demanding schedule has interfered with my ability to set aside adequate time to finish the episode. But rest assured, it shall happen.

I encourage listeners to subscribe to the podcast’s YouTube channel, if you enjoy Charles’s material.

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