Redoing the Demos? An Interview with Wendy Brown
Theory, Culture and Society, June 8, 2017
Question 1: In Undoing the Demos (2015), you address the impossibility of radical or emancipatory politics whilst the market is the only source of ‘verification’ and its fiction, the Homo Oeconomicus, is the last figure standing. In order to grasp this problem, you develop an interesting triangular space between Foucault, Marx and Democracy, which proves to be fruitful, yet also finds opponents in each corner. Could you elaborate further on this theoretical space you have created? Why is it important, and how can we best tackle the critiques arising in each corner?
Brown: From Marx, we learn to think about political economy and learn to think about capitalism in its various iterations. Of course, we had to do some updating of Marx to grasp first Keynesian and then, more recently, neoliberal capitalism and now finance capitalism. But from Marx, we learn to think about our world in terms of the organization of the mode of production and what some have now called ‘the mode of prediction’ (that is, finance capital). We learn to think about it in material ways, and that seems really important for thinking about both where power and domination and exploitation are, and points of resistance.
From Foucault, we learn to think about how we are governed by orders of reason and, what he has come to call in later life, forms of ‘governing rationality’ or ‘governmental reason’. And, for Foucault, those cannot ever be reduced to modes of production or political economy and, importantly, become our common sense: the modes through which we are produced as subjects and also the modes through which we are governed as subjects. So, Foucault teaches us to keep our eye on the principles of common sense that any particular order of governing rationality generates and think about how to resist those: how to develop alternative principles, alternative discourses… but also how to think about resisting the subject that these modes produce. And that’s a very difficult practice but I think a really important one.
Now, for me, the problem is, those two thinkers are very powerful and very important in thinking about political resistance; but neither one is much interested in ‘democracy’, its institutions or its imaginary (Marx a little more than Foucault). But why do I care? Because the other thing that seems to me that’s been happening through neoliberalism is that we live in what Foucault would call a ‘governing rationality’ that has quite materially assaulted the institutions of democracy, the practices of democracy. Its turned democracies into political marketplaces, Plutocracies and Plutonomies, but also challenged the political imaginaries that democracy and democratic rebellions count on.
Time is on our Side, 30 page introduction
by Anna Coote, 2013
On Shortening the Work Week
The New Economics Foundation, UK
Have you ever wondered why you’re so busy, where your time goes, or how much your time is really worth?
This book will radically alter your understanding of the nature and value of time. Authored by leading experts in social, economic and environmental sciences, it explains how moving towards shorter, more flexible hours of work could help tackle urgent problems that beset our daily lives – from overwork, unemployment, and low well-being, to entrenched inequalities, needless high-carbon consumption and the lack of time to live sustainably.
Gar Alperovitz talked about his book Principles of a Pluralist Commonwealth, in which he argues that the U.S. needs an economic and political system that departs from both capitalism and socialism.
BookTV.org is a treasure going back more than ten years! Enjoy the feast!
The US and NATO have troops at the Russian border. Russia has no troops at the US borders with Canada or Mexico. Who staged the 2014 coup in the Ukraine? Who promised Gorbatchev there would be no NATO expansion to the East? Who is the stabilizer and who is the de-stabilizer?
Orwell warned war would become a domestic necessity to divert the people from economic contradictions. At the end of July 2017, Spiegel Online published statistics showing Russians are living longer (to 71 on average) and fewer Russians are mired in poverty since 2000.
“Limits to Growth” Published Forty Years Ago
by Larry Rasmussen and eco-socialist pamphlets
The MIT scholars under Dennis Meadows came to four core conclusions: 1) there are limits to economic growth on a finite planet, 2) the economy and population are now growing exponentially, 3) exceeding the limits will lead to a collapse of industry, agriculture, and the population, and 4) an orderly withdrawal is possible and a collapse could be avoided through a radical turning away from the growth course.
More raw materials were used up in the first 20 years of the new century than during the entire 20th century. According to Meadows, global food production will peak in 2020. The production of one food calorie in this system requires an average 10 calories in fossil energy. The talk of energy- and resource efficiency is a pure ideology. The way can only be taken against capitalism, not with capitalism.
Video: After Words with Naomi Klein
June 15, 2017 c-span.org, 57 min
Naomi Klein talked about her book No is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, in which she discusses shock politics.
All the Lonely People
Narcissism as a Subject Form of Capitalism by Peter Samol, 2016, krisis.org
The narcissist knows only two states: the absolute sense of powerlessness given the foreign determination of his existence and omnipotence fantasies together with the illusion of absolute individual freedom, independence, and unconditionality.
Socialization cannot be left to an unconscious process since society’s underlying values are increasingly dysfunctional. No automatism leads to a liberated society.
Janet Twenge, “The Narcissism Epidemic,” 2009, booktv.org,
Tax Avoidance: Drastic Consequences for the Public
by Philipp Gerhartinger, Nov 6, 2014
Taxes are the most important foundation of all governmental activities and public services. Tax sovereignty is the heart of nation-state sovereignty. The economic activity and profits of multinational corporations cannot be clearly assigned to individual nation states anymore.
Founding offshore partnerships is child’s play. Many fiscal problems would be solved if business tax avoidance and tax fraud were made difficult or prevented.
more at http://www.taxjustice.net
Happy O Canada Day (July 1), the 150th birthday of our great friend to the North!
“When the state trusts citizens, citizens trust the state” (Justin Trudeau).
The 26 community centers in Vancouver B.C. could represent a third way beyond the state and the market. The centers have a cushioning and multiplying effect as surrogate counseling and classroom opportunities. Anyone can use the computers for three hours a day and caserolle dinners are only $4. The Canadian spirit, the thankfulness of being protected from cradle to grave, is encountered everywhere. Do we have anything to learn here?
The Sky Train, the Canada line, and the Evergreen line in Vancouver B.C. are computer-operated light rail lines connecting the whole city, magic trains running every four minuters some since 1986.
When will the US recognize and congratulate Canada and Vancity and break out of its insular, exceptional hubris?
How the World Heads for the Next Crash
by Yves Wegelin, 2017, woz.ch
The greed for money seduced bankers to take greater and greater risks. So they granted mortgages to destitute Americans that they sold as securities to other greedy bankers all around the world. That was the conclusion of the official US investigation of the financial crisis.
Governments secure the money of the rich. State debts have grown in nearly all countries of the world since 2010. Ten years after the outbreak of the financial crisis, the economy is again in a standstill or mired in crisis. Trump wants to cancel the most recent bank regulations and cut taxes for corporations in half.