Tuesday, 17 May 2016

When The Speng talked about the West's "exhausted metaphysical soil", even he couldn't have predicted how barren it would become:

Hereford Films’ Jonathan Sothcott, alongside Carry On Films, is to produce a slate of brand new “Carry On” films, started with “Carry On Doctors,” which will be written by Tim Dawson and Susan Nickson, the writers of hit BBC sitcom “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps.”

“Carry On Doctors” is the first of a slate of “Carry On” films planned by Hereford Films, with the second instalment titled “Carry On Campus.” The films will be executive produced by Brian Baker of Carry On Films, owner of the rights to the new “Carry On” pics.

The original “Carry On” franchise is the most successful British comedy film series of all time. It ran from 1958-92, encompassing 31 movies, all on low-budgets. The films, produced by Peter Rogers, were known for their double entendre and outlandish plots, and became an institution in the U.K., where they are still regularly shown on TV. “Carry On” historian Robert Ross is attached to the project as an advisor.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Paul Mason defines Neoliberalism:
“Neoliberalism is the doctrine of uncontrolled markets: it says that the best route to prosperity is individuals pursuing their own self-interest, and the market is the only way to express that self-interest. It says the state should be small (except for its riot squad and secret police); that financial speculation is good; that inequality is good; that the natural state of humankind is to be a bunch of ruthless individuals, competing with each other.”
But that's not Neoliberalism at all, is it? That's Austrianism, or Randian Objectivism.

Mason goes on:
“I think there are two belief systems inside the neoliberal elite. The one they converse with, tempered by social responsibility [and the one they use in private]. Blair and Clinton were neoliberalism: the pursuit of financial profit, combined with the trickle-down of some of the surplus down to the poor.”
Ah, right, so it's a bad faith argument, then.

I mean, I do realise that I spend a lot of time ribbing the Left these days, but all Mason is displaying here is the habit of defining what you oppose as the wickedest most wicked thing that wicked people might do.

I also think that it's fairly obvious that the utopian beliefs endemic to Neoliberalism are sincerely held. It's a common trope that, for example, the Neoliberal preference for removing restrictions on the movement of people, and consequent high levels of migration, are purely enacted to provide labour competition. They certainly do do this, but I also think that the Neoliberal conception of a common global culture, and its explicit opposition to racism, are genuine. This is the paradox of ideology - it tends to be both self-interested and idealistic at the same time. What's good for me is good for you, right? Of course, it's also the case that Neoliberalism is exploitative, that it embodies the fundamental contradiction of seeking to raise all boats while paying the lowest possible wages, but again, utopian ideologies tend to be the most exploitative largely because they need to pretend that hierarchy, which is endemic to sedentary societies, doesn't exist.

I've been wondering why the Nationalist Right seem to have all the energy these days, and one reason might be that they have an honest, accurate conception of what they are actually fighting. They are opposing a specific canon of ideas, many of which are inherently more noble than their own, and in some sense they even concede this. Unlike Paul Mason, they are not engaged in a Manichaean battle of Good versus Evil.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Actually, a slight amendment to the post below - the church of Neoliberalism is Davos, innit?

I should've also emphasized the point that Brexit in concrete terms makes little economic difference. This applies even to immigration, as contrary to what the Brexiters state, the current levels have very little to do with a lack of border controls, and are more to do with the fact that the British economy is structurally reliant on immigration.

So Brexit is more than anything an existential issue, and what the Nationalist Right seems to implicitly understand, and the Left doesn't (because it keeps caving in e.g. Syriza and the EU bailout, Corbyn backing Remain) is that it's at the existential level where Neoliberalism is most vulnerable. The first occasion when globalisation is definitively pushed back, the whole thing is likely to collapse like the proverbial pack of cards. Also, I think the Left were hoping to inherit what they saw as the good bits of Neoliberalism (open borders, supranational institutions, diverse populations) while reforming the worst bits (financialisation, corporate welfare etc.), so they appear a bit tame compared to the Nationalists, and a bit too close to business as usual.

Finally, the death of Prince reinforces what I said at the time of Bowie's death - there's a weird feeling that the cultural decks are being cleared, that the media stars that helped shape the global economy, and the global culture that inhabits that economy, are being buried so that a new sensibility can emerge. One that is considerably less polymorphous and alluring.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Religion Of Neoliberalism

Earlier in the life of this blog, I had a bit of fun outlining the religious element of Austrian economics using Bertrand Russell's perenially handy guide:

"The Jewish pattern of history, past and future, is such as to make a powerful appeal to the oppressed and the unfortunate at all times. Saint Augustine adapted this pattern to Christianity, Marx to Socialism. To understand Marx psychologically, one should use the following dictionary:

Yahweh = Dialectical Materialism
The Messiah = Marx
The Elect = The Proletariat
The Church = The Communist Party
The Second Coming = The Revolution
Hell = Punishment of the Capitalists
The Millennium = The Communist Commonwealth.

The terms on the left give the emotional content of the terms on the right, and it is this emotional content, familiar to those who have had a Christian or a Jewish upbringing, that makes Marx's eschatology credible. A similar dictionary could be made for the Nazis, but their conceptions are more purely Old Testament and less Christian than those of Marx, and their Messiah is more analogous to the Maccabees than to Christ."
However, the bizarre hysteria that has surrounded the Brexit debate has brought me to the conclusion that Neoliberalism is also a peculiarly religious phenomenon, so I thought I'd try and nestle it within the Russell formula:

Yahweh = Globalisation
The Messiah = Steve Jobs*
The Elect = World Leaders and Economists
The Church = The OECD, the IMF, and the United Nations
The Second Coming = The collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall
Hell = Nationalism
The Millennium = The Integrated Global Economy

(* One of a host of candidates, e.g. Richard Branson, Bono, Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair, Bob Geldof etc.)
I suppose I should have realised this earlier, and award myself low marks accordingly. At the end of the day, all Westerners are Christians, no matter how much they might consider themselves otherwise, and if they don't worship Yahweh, they will almost certainly worship a Yahweh substitute that disguises itself in secular clothes. The key to spotting a pseudo-Yahweh is in its unbending, implacable inevitability, and it is this aspect of Globalisation that is the giveaway. After all, we are constantly reminded that Globalisation is an impersonal force, not bidden to human control, that will have its way no matter who might try to defy it. Just like Dialectical Materialism. Just like The Market. Just like Yahweh.

In all practical terms, Globalisation is God.

What made the religious element of Neoliberalism difficult to spot is that its eschatological moment has already happened, as opposed to the usual pattern of it being in the future. In this way, it is like the religion of Scientism whose eschaton was the Enlightenment, and which is also difficult for people to identify as a religion. In fact, what may make both Neoliberalism and Science appear unusually "objective" and "realistic" is the very fact that they place us in a post-eschatological moment. For both Neoliberals and Scientists, this is paradise on Earth. I also suspect that the futile chafing against Neoliberalism that characterizes the "Radical Left", which results in a superfluity of theory but very few actual deeds, is simply an epiphenomenon that derives from a hankering for an eschaton placed in the future.

But I digress.

What is fascinating about Brexit is that if it were viewed rationally, it should really be no big deal. If all interested parties were acting in their own best interests, then if the UK voted to leave the EU, it would be allowed to adopt a relationship with the remaining EU members similar to that adopted by Norway and Switzerland. This would be a trade-off with both advantages and disadvantages. In principle, the UK would be subject to less EU legislation, but would have far less influence on the EU-drafted legislation that it had to comply with in order to trade with the rump EU. Although there would therefore be pros and cons to leaving, they should be able to be debated reasonably calmly.

So why are so many proclamations of doom emanating from such august institutions as the Treasury, the OECD, the IMF, and the President of the United States, to name but a few? I would suggest that the reason for this is because, at the religious level, Brexit represents a heresy. It is a sin against Globalisation, whose power lies in its inevitability and irreversibility. For the UK to become less globalised must by definition be an impossibility without unleashing the most fearful, dare I say Biblical, consequences. It is also notable that the more eloquent advocates of Brexit find that their most persuasive line is to suggest that Brexit will in fact facilitate greater globalisation, by expanding British trade with the rest of the world, and indeed, some of them even seem to believe this. I suspect that in the unlikely event that the Leave campaign win the referendum, it will be because they have managed to persuade the laity that Brexit is what Globalisation really wants, and that the High Priests of Economics have lied to them.

Adopting Russell's scheme also sheds light on one of the most intriguing aspects of Neoliberalism - its punitive loathing of the sin of Nationalism. It is quite clear that Neoliberalism fears Nationalism far more than its other two major opponents, which are Socialism and Islam. In fact, Socialism is more of a pseudo-opponent, and I have no doubt that the Left will be forced to shore up Neoliberalism against the increasing Nationalist incursions that are starting to undermine it. The ambivalent position of Islam is crucial here, in that its (real or perceived) resistance to Neoliberalism has to be played up by Nationalists in order to prove that Globalisation is not the infallible universalist cause that it portrays itself as. Similarly, the Neoliberals have to draw attention away from a purported "failure to integrate" on the part of Muslims, either by stifling debate, or by adopting the narrative of a radicalized fringe, or even very occasionally, by repeating the Leftist narrative of marginalisation via poverty and racism, which at least has the advantage of offering a secular explanation.

But anyway, the pattern for the next couple of decades is now visible, in which Neoliberalism, which is an inherently self-terminating ideology purely on the level of its resource inputs, will be increasingly assaulted by Nationalists armed with weaponized Muslims, with the Left begrudgingly shoring up the ramparts of global capitalism in order to fend off something worse.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

This is an interesting development from France - an attempt to amalgamate the mainstream neoliberal parties around a young, dynamic leader:

The French left: Liberty, Equality, Seniority

I'm surprised at this, as it tends to suggest that Neoliberalism is already entering its ghost dance phase, even before it has received its first decisive body blow.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Donald Trump Magically Explained

Briefly, Trump's charismatic appeal is anchored in sympathetic magic that revolves around his name - with its connotations of having the upper hand (look up "trump" in a thesaurus) and its lexicographical similarity to TRIUMPH.

His whole rhetorical schtick of "winners" and "losers" pivots on his name (because winners trump losers, no?). So does his tendency to brand dangerous opponents as being liars or incompetents (because The Joker is a trump card, and so Trump can brand other candidates as jokes). At least until he beats them, at which point they become losers - like many of the residents in his hotel in Las Vegas, a town very much associated with winning and losing.

In this respect the name "TRUMP" is itself being used as a magical symbol (his swastika, as it were). It plants the subconscious messages "WIN" and "TRIUMPH" in the minds of both his followers and his opponents. This is how he can keep beating (trumping) the odds.

I think the GOP establishment need to find an opponent called something like "BIG DICK" if they want to stop him.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Been meaning to do a post about Trump, Brexit and populism, as there have been some good articles written about the former at least. But first, treat yourself to this incredible "Let them east cake" moment: