There’s a fine line, when you encounter work close to your own, between the excitement that someone else considers your little area worth working on, and the worry that they might already have written the work that you are struggling to put together. This happened for me most recently when reading Kevin Anderson’s Marx at the Margins. As I’ve been trying to write about ways in which class reductionism misrepresents Marxism, Anderson’s detailed investigation of Marx’s writings on race, nationalism, and non-Western societies looked like it might render my gestures in that direction irrelevant. Luckily for me, Anderson’s book is actually the best sort of work to encounter, as it contains a huge amount of material on which one could build, while leaving enough theoretical space for others to do that building. Indeed, it is this combination of Anderson’s great aggregation of material with his comparatively sparse theorization of it that leads me to some thoughts about methodology for those of us attempting to construct theory through close dialog with particular texts and authors. Read more↴
Walter Benn Michaels has recently been partying like it’s 1988 and engaging in a critique of identity politics. Lenin has already done a good job dismantling Michaels’s simplistic view of race, but what’s so frustrating about Michaels is that the economically-focused politics he prescribes is as deeply embedded in neoliberalism as the politics of diversity he rejects. Michaels criticizes a certain employment of “diversity” to promote an image of equality that does not challenge the fundamentals of economic inequality. This is true, although hardly new, and Michaels’s presentation is particularly simplistic. What he fails to realize, moreover, is that the sort of economic equality he champions is just as neoliberal.
Michaels puts forward a common but quite false presentation of neoliberalism as being unconcerned by economic inequality. Read more↴
Christ, this is repulsive. An organization focused on ending classism by “bridging the class divide.” Actually, I wonder if it wasn’t set up by some old lefty to demonstrate the limitations of the theraputic model of identity politics. I’ve sometimes been worried that certain discussions of, for instance, white privelege, end up being about allowing white people to feel good about themselves, but surely this is the nadir: “because of intense class segregation in the U.S., we don’t benefit from each other’s strengths and grow past our limitations.” Oh yes, because that’s the problem with class society; we don’t get to “grow” from the splendid diversity of poverty. Read more↴
A while back, I was re-reading Isaac Asimov’s series of novels about robots. There’s something faintly uneasy about them, which I’d meant to blog about at the time. The underlying theme of the books is the effect of robot labor on society; and the key thing which distinguishes robots from other types mechanization is that they are sentient, which makes the situation uncomfortable like slavery, a similarity which is always present in the books, but is not dealt with explicitly. This does raise a question for cybernetic communism, though: the usual assumption is that mechanization will abolish, or at least minimize, necessary labor, but what if this depends on an unjustified humanism, an assumption that we can simply farm our work off onto dumb machines? But shouldn’t a sufficiently complex assemblage of machines have some kind of say in its own future? Read more↴