The Bernie Sanders Moment: Brought to you by the generation that has no future

by Corey Robin on March 29, 2016

Last week I met with a group of ten interns at a magazine. The magazine runs periodic seminars where interns get to meet with a journalist, writer, intellectual, academic of their choosing. We talked about politics, writing, and so on. But in the course of our conversation, one startling social fact became plain. Although all of these young men and women had some combination of writerly dreams, none of them—not one—had any plan for, even an ambition of, a career. Not just in the economic sense but in the existential sense of a lifelong vocation or pursuit that might find some practical expression or social validation in the form of paid work. Not because they didn’t want a career but because there was no career to be wanted. And not just in journalism but in a great many industries.

The future was so uncertain, they said, the economy so broken, there simply was no point in devising a plan, much less trying to execute it. The best one could do, one of them said, was to take whatever came your way, without looking more than six months ahead of you.

They even dreamed of the Chilean example, where an activist a few years ago burned what he claimed was $500 million in student debt. Sadly, they pointed out, that option wasn’t available in the US, where all of the debt is up in the cloud. (How strange, I thought to myself: once upon a time, utopian philosophers had their heads in the clouds; that was where they found a better world. Now it is the most dreary and repressive forces of society—drones, surveillance cameras, debt collectors—that take up residence there, ruling us from their underworld in the sky.)

I obviously had some sense of this millennial experience of futurelessness from reading newspapers and magazines, and have even written about it myself. But still, it was jarring to be confronted with it, to hear a dispatch from a generation that was so completely different from my own. (Perhaps the single most important marker of the difference between Gen Xers like myself and the millennials  is that we thought we could make a career; if we didn’t, it was because we had chosen not to.)

For a moment, my mind drifted back to those reports of Edmund Wilson from 1930-1931, first gathered in The American Jitters and, later, in The American Earthquake. There, the sense of vertigo is palpable, as the economic bottom suddenly drops out from everyone. All of society is shocked into a catatonia of mass unemployment and systemic deprivation, interrupted by periodic fits of anxiety and explosions of violence.

But then I was snapped back to today’s world, where there’s no shock.

For the last 40 years, we’ve been preparing for this generation without a future. We’ve weaned and fed them on the idea that life doesn’t get better, that there are no plans to be made, no futures to be had. So that when that reality actually hits, when they inherit the world they’ve now inherited, they’ve been readied for the nothing that lies ahead. There’s no shock of recognition, no violent recoil from the new. There’s just this slow descent into systemic immobility and unreliability.

Strangely, this is the generation that is now making the Bernie Sanders moment. Which, whatever else it may be, is a bid on the promise that the future can be better. Radically better. For the millennials, this is not a promise born from any economic experience. It is a purely political promise, distilled from the last decade and a half of failed protest against neoliberalism and austerity, and some strange phantom of socialism conjured from who knows where.

Progress is an idea that has died a thousand deaths, none more permanent, it seemed, than the one it suffered at the hands of There Is No Alternative. Yet here it is, brought back to life by a generation that has the least reason to believe in it.

We desperately need a chronicler, or chroniclers, of this eruption, an army of Edmund Wilsons and Martha Gellhorns to send us news from the front, to give us the deep reports of the texture and feel, the sensibility, of this completely unexpected revolt of the new.

{ 595 comments }

1

Ptor 03.29.16 at 6:05 am

“Si l’on ne croit à rien, si rien n’a de sens et si nous ne pouvons affirmer aucune valeur, tout est possible et rien n’a d’importance. ” ~Camus

economically speaking

2

djr 03.29.16 at 6:12 am

“We desperately need a chronicler, or chroniclers, of this eruption…” as long as they are willing to work in exchange for occasional seminar invites, rather than a regular salary.

3

kidneystones 03.29.16 at 7:05 am

Kudos. Recc’d for the title. These are interesting times. To me it looks like Bernie, or Donald. Check this out Standford grad for Trump – http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/03/28/donald-trump-immigration-trade-jobs-column/82071844/

4

liveoak 03.29.16 at 7:12 am

I’m having trouble parsing the whole millennial thing. I have 3 daughters in that cohort. We never had much money – when they were little my husband was a social worker and I just worked part time and patched together some degrees in between tending 3 little ones. We were thrilled when we pulled in $30K one year- what’s that now? Not poverty, but they weren’t privileged kids that way.
They all have modest careers started or nearly established – two teachers and a psychologist. Their friends are all launched as well, a few somewhat dazzlingly, some in non-prestigious jobs, but they all tracked in college and actually chose work that they felt good about, and it worked out. My daughters married white collar guys. They’re all saddled with awful student loans and their lives are more harried than mine ever was and they work hard, but they have kids, two have modest houses, they’re rooting for Bernie (we all are) and want a lot of social changes, but I just haven’t witnessed the listless ennui I keep reading about in that generation. They’re actually pretty happy campers, the ones I know.
It’s not that I think it’s not real – the statistics are grim. And I certainly don’t mean to be triumphalist – it’s not just my own kids, it’s a lot of their peers who actually seem to be doing OK. Maybe my standards are low – my own family was intellectual and creative and I had a great childhood, but we had very little money. I see that I’m tilting toward saying that maybe this generation is miserable for wanting too much materially, and I’m uncomfortable saying it, it messes with my politics, but my grandmother, who weathered a depression with her own armful of babies (she had a 5th grade education), and who had more character and irrepressible optimism and good cheer than I could ever lay claim to, wouldn’t hesitate for a second. I dunno. I wonder what others think?

5

RNB 03.29.16 at 8:13 am

have in the office an essay on how Japanese youth are facing the future by Anne Allison “Precarity and Hope” in a volume she edited with Frank Baldwin. She uses Lee Edelman’s concept of “reproductive futurity” to indicate how for many youth the present is not made sense of in terms of the rearing of children in the future. Not having met what Bourdieu would call a certain threshold of income, many youth cannot make a plan for life, which would include how many children to have. Also seems like in Bourdieu’s language we could say that the future is not something that is simply to be endured where the present beyond monthly debt payments is endlessly repeated. Nor is the future something to be controlled and conquered. There are no realistic hopes, only hope full of dreams. Drawing here on Richard Swedberg’s essay on Bourdieu’s economic sociology.
At any rate, I think Anne Allison’s work on precarity and hope in Japan would add to this discussion. Haven’t yet quite finished the essay.

6

novakant 03.29.16 at 8:25 am

lievoak, it depends on where you live of course, but in England the crisis of the “millenial thing” really is a thing:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/borrowing/mortgages/11584347/Average-first-time-buyer-needs-41000-salary.html

First-time buyers in London have the toughest time getting on the property ladder. They need to earn a whopping £77,000 in order to buy their first home. In reality the average worker earns just £28,000.

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/jul/16/tenants-in-england-spend-half-their-pay-on-rent

London tenants pay 72% of earnings on rent

7

novakant 03.29.16 at 8:26 am

that should be:

the “millenial thing” really is a thing

8

RNB 03.29.16 at 8:34 am

For those interested about Anne Allison’s study of the condition of Japanese youth, just found this very helpful review
Japan Forum

Volume 27, Issue 3, 2015
Special Issue: Excavating the Power of Memory
Precarious Japan, by Anne AllisonDuke University Press, Durham and London, 2013, 248 pp.

Book Reviews
Precarious Japan, by Anne Allison

Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2013, 248 pp.

Roman Rosenbauma*
pages 424-427

9

engels 03.29.16 at 9:16 am

Nice piece, and interesting references RNB.

10

Ze K 03.29.16 at 9:30 am

Is it possible that ‘Bernie’ is just a phony candidate supplied by the establishment for Clinton to run against and win? I read somewhere recently (don’t remember who it was), that in his speeches, while he comes close to attacking Clinton for corruption and militarism, he’s being very careful to never actually directly accuse her of anything. All very collegial. Kabuki theater.

11

novakant 03.29.16 at 9:33 am

Actually, I think it’s Trump who is the phony candidate supplied by the establishment for Clinton to run against and win.

12

engels 03.29.16 at 9:36 am

Bernie’ is just a phony candidate supplied by the establishment for Clinton to run against and win

No that was Jeremy Corbyn. Who won.

13

Lee A. Arnold 03.29.16 at 9:41 am

Bernie Sanders may suppose that Hillary Clinton is not corrupt, and, within the discourse and exigencies of US foreign policy, is not militarist.

14

Faustusnotes 03.29.16 at 9:54 am

I was going to say, wouldn’t happen in Japan. There is a sense of predatory here that previous generations lacked but there is definitely a strong culture of getting a career out of uni. It’s weaker than it was before and the companies are doing what they can to make it less rewarding but it’s still very real, there are more jobs than applicants and the corporate job is still designed to be relatively secure. Everyone blames the increase in temporary and casual work on the 1990/ks shock but I see simple bloodymindedness by companies as the cause. In an aging society there is no reason for unemployment and if you follow the basic rules it’s not hard to make a career here.

I do get a feeling thouh that millennialist here are sick of the lack of change. They haven’t given up on a career future but have given up on any political future . Many want change but it isn’t coming and they don’t know how to get it. It’s become a society of workarounds and cover ups for young people (literally – they cover their tattoos). This is a bit scary because Japan changes by revolution and if there is an appetite for unmet changes maybe something will come.

But at least in terms of career, it’s still a reliable society.

15

Lee A. Arnold 03.29.16 at 9:55 am

I want to read chroniclers from within the younger generation.

16

Lee A. Arnold 03.29.16 at 10:11 am

Faustusnotes #14: “In an aging society there is no reason for unemployment and if you follow the basic rules it’s not hard to make a career here.”

Currently this is pretty much an unspoken tenet of US economists, too. You can almost hear them breathe a sigh of relief that the “baby boomer” generation was old enough to accelerate their retirement schedules during the last 8 years. Just a stroke of luck in the generational timeline (plus personal acceptance of poorer dotage), relieving some pressures in The System. If the boomer-bulge had NOT been near retirements yet, the US “unemployment rate” would be sky-higher, and god knows what the politics would be like right now…

17

novakant 03.29.16 at 10:14 am

And it’s not only millenials:

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/29/teachers-abroad-packing-recruitment-crisis-losing-staff

Nurses and other key workers are also affected en masse. The same government that is kicking them out according to an arbitrary threshold of £35k isn’t paying them enough to stay and all this during a recruitment crisis – it’s completely absurd.

18

Lee A. Arnold 03.29.16 at 10:24 am

Brett Bellmore #16: “As long as he plays his part in the farce, making it look like a competitive election…”

Oh nonsense. Bernie wants to be President. This year his lead in the Sanders/Trump matchup polls has GROWN STEADILY from 2% to 17%. Over the same time, Sanders has averaged 10 points ahead of Cruz. If Bernie knew a way to knock Hillary out of the race tomorrow, he would do it.

Are you guys all Republican campaign strategists? It is hard to imagine that your divorce from psychological reality is not feigned.

Let’s stay on the topic of the post, for once.

19

Gavolt 03.29.16 at 10:24 am

I very much doubt that, Ze K. If I had to guess, I would say Sanders believes laying off the personal attacks will have two very positive effects for him. The first is that he will be perceived as a very different kind of candidate, and a Washington outsider. The second is that Sanders wants to make this all about policy and ideals. He wants people to look at his, then look at Clinton’s, and make a choice. I suspect that is how he wants to win, and the only way he thinks he can win. Attacks would only confuse things.

20

faustusnotes 03.29.16 at 11:04 am

I’m interested in the economics of the Japanese job-hunting scene. Apparently there are 128 positions for every 100 applicants, but people go through this incredibly arduous 1 year long process to get a job as an entry level staffer at a company where they will work for years as just a drone. I have a 29 year old gaming friend who went through this route and appears to be currently earning about 200k yen a month – a salary anyone in the west would baulk at at that age (but he gets free accomodation, so I guess he’s a millionaire in London). How is it that demand can outstrip supply but it’s the people selling labour who have to go through the arduous process?

It’s as if the economics we are routinely fed by our political masters is wrong, or something …

21

Doug Weinfield 03.29.16 at 11:06 am

kidneystones at 3:

Charlotte Allen has zero relevance or credibility on this issue; why are you even referring to her? Sure, she’s a Stanford grad, but I think it’s the class of 1965! In the linked article, she’s been practicing journalism for 30 years! If she’s a Millenial, it’s not for this millenium.

Oh, and did I mention that she regularly writes for the Weekly Standard? I’m shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you, that she voted in the Republican primary…..

Was that an innocent mistake, or do we need a better class of troll around here?

22

Doug Weinfield 03.29.16 at 11:09 am

Corey-

What are the many industries the students were referring to? It makes sense to me to see it as difficult to make a career in journalism/media, but what are the other industries? Education, health-care, food-service, business management? Plumbing, carpentry, construction?

Not to thread-crap, but I think the usefulness of the kind of assertion you’re making here is going to depend on the industry.

23

Val 03.29.16 at 11:10 am

@15
I want to read chroniclers from within the younger generation.

Well I don’t suppose you’re likely to find them here, unfortunately …

I’m certainly not one, but my youngest child is of that generation, so I’ll venture some thoughts. It seems like there should be some important provisos around the OP – interns in journalism (surely one of the most precarious professions at the moment), and in America. Dangerous to generalise too much, though I guess since you are talking about a Bernie Sanders generation, it is America-specific.

The situation you’re talking about doesn’t seem to apply here (Australia) – my daughter and her peers have jobs and career prospects and have started families – buying houses is hard, but that’s largely or partly because they want to live in the inner city. They do seem non-political or cynical about politics, unfortunately, but that’s rather different from the phenomenon you are talking about, so I won’t go into that. I also think the situation is similar in Germany, another country I know a little about on a personal level, but I will only talk about Australia here.

What intrigues me is why it is so different here. I know that, superficially at least, it’s to do with things like the mining boom and exporting to China, plus stronger financial regulation, more trust in the state, and a Labor government that made a strong Keynesian response to the GFC, that meant we were not as damaged by the GFC as most other nations, and that while neoliberalism has been influential, it’s not as hegemonic, if I can put it that way. But I feel there’s more to it than that – it feels as if we exert more control over our politicians than people in America – not enough, but more – as if the democratic project has been weakened but not lost here (I hope). I think much of the world now seems to be watching your Presidential election with a feeling that something has gone terribly wrong – so maybe this is what you (Corey) are talking about in a way – but it’s still not entirely clear why. How did Americans lose control of their politicians to the degree they seem to have?

Sorry, bit of a rant, bit OT – I think it’s connected but it would be even longer if I tried to tie it back clearly to the OP.

24

Soullite 03.29.16 at 11:37 am

There is no cloud. There are only servers. Destroy the servers, destroy the back-ups, and you’ve done the same thing as burning the paper.

25

novakant 03.29.16 at 11:40 am

Doug @23

Just look at the data in my links @6 and @18 – if career is supposed to mean being financially self-sufficient and not living close to the poverty line, then a lot of people in England are affected.

26

David 03.29.16 at 12:08 pm

You can have such a thing as learned helplessness, which is also to say that helplessness can be taught. And it has been taught.
Worth reading on this topic is Franco Beradi with his concept of “The End of the Future”. He doesn’t mean literally there will be no future, but rather that the idea of the future as different and better from the past has been officially abandoned. The future is not something to be looked forward to but something to be feared. Also worth reading, and from a younger generation, is Mark Fisher’s collection of essays “Ghosts of My Life.” My generation (born in the 50s) would sometimes say “why bring children into the world if we are all going to die in a nuclear apocalypse.?” Now, it’s why bother making plans for a future which will be worse than the past? So long as people think that there is no hope of improvement, all they will do is fight each other for the scraps. It’s notorious that revolutions take place at times when change seems possible.

27

engels 03.29.16 at 12:14 pm

Are you guys all Republican campaign strategists?

The generational issue may be a contributing factor to the CT comments section’s cluelessness re the contemporary left.

28

LH 03.29.16 at 12:38 pm

Soullite@25
so are you proposing a Mr. Robot style of f-society action? Unfortunately I have no computer skills or I’d join up. What Corey describes isn’t just true for millennials. Late Gen-Xers I know (including me) who thought it okay to go off track for a short time, even (especially) those with recently completed PhDs, and even from top-tier universities, are screwed. An ABD such as myself, finds little motivation to complete, and there’s a large dearth of desirable plan Bs or Cs to turn to. I adjunct when possible and take on even more demeaning teaching roles, but mostly try to imagine how my part-time, boring, mostly clerical, $18/hour job will ever get me close to paying off student loans or the mere semblance of financial security (I was funded in grad school, but what the university thought was enough to live on and what it really costs to live bear no relation to one another). The academic job market being what it is, even if I had more time and motivation to write, I don’t think finishing the degree would change my situation much. It’s not just millennials who have no future.

29

Ze K 03.29.16 at 12:54 pm

…as for the future, the future is already written. “…the idea that life doesn’t get better, that there are no plans to be made, no futures to be had” is exactly the right attitude: no disappointments.

30

jake the antisoshul soshulist 03.29.16 at 1:07 pm

For my generation (late boomers), at least for middle class whites, a career seemed inevitable. And choosing to not take that path was seen as radical (tune in, turn on, drop out). But, for the first time, many did see that as a viable option.
Now, many don’t even have a real career option.

31

liveoak 03.29.16 at 1:10 pm

Ze K, that’s a wise place to be positioned philosophically and every good Buddhist will agree with you, but we’d better not let our governments in on the secret.

32

bob mcmanus 03.29.16 at 1:17 pm

The generational issue may be a contributing factor to the CT comments section’s cluelessness re the contemporary left.

Allison and Fisher are both good. Guy Standing’s The Precariat is also good.

The “contemporary left” is if not huge, fairly deep, and I would include many 80 year olds in it.

1) I presume a large portion of the front page posters and commenters are teaching academics, so have some contact with the twenty-somethings.

2) I also guarantee the twenty something Left is connected, has a presence online, and shouldn’t be difficult to find, although the formats, styles, and languages could be challenging to olds.

3) But to be honest, the US, Britain and Japan are probably not the places to look for the dynamic hopeful active Left, whatever current form it is taking. MENA, East Europe, South and East Asia, China and the cosmopolitans, the Finn taking or teaching classes in Beirut.

33

reason 03.29.16 at 1:24 pm

Val,
as an ex-pat Aussie (interestingly from what you write living in Germany) and I can tell you that what Australia has that is precious is compulsory (well sort of) voting and STV (single transferable vote or preferential voting). Hang on to them! Both of them keep the Pols in line.

It also has inherited from the British a properly independent Public Service (including electoral commission) and an independent Judiciary. The lack of the latter two is among America’s greatest problems.

34

b9n10nt 03.29.16 at 1:41 pm

35

bob mcmanus 03.29.16 at 1:42 pm

Glancing back at Wedel’s Shadow Elite, she focuses on a Bosnian who traveled to Malaysia, got a degree in political science from the Int’l Islamic University there, moved to Beirut, got a Masters in ME studies, moved back to Sarajevo in 2001.

Who are Corey’s interns at a major American magazine, likely with 5-6 figures in student debt from a ranked university, seeking a career in existing? I see them as credentialists, seeking to leverage the existing system and their comparative advantage in it. Nearly conservative.

This is unfair, but history does lead me to look for the interesting Left in expatriates and exiles. Not that hard to travel, and much cheaper than a six-figure Ivy League degree.

36

bianca steele 03.29.16 at 1:47 pm

We desperately need a chronicler, or chroniclers, of this eruption, an army of Edmund Wilsons and Martha Gellhorns to send us news from the front, to give us the deep reports of the texture and feel, the sensibility, of this completely unexpected revolt of the new.

Bob McManus seems well on track to providing this for us.

37

Ronan(rf) 03.29.16 at 1:52 pm

The fact that 10 media interns might be unsure about what to do with themselves is hardly either surprising or generalisable . Some things might be true (1) there is more labour market volatility, particularly for certain jobs or demographics (2) house prices and rents are inflated in urban areas (3) there might be less opportunity for meaningful employment in certain careers or for certain demographics (4) certain sections of the youth might perceive (rightly or wrongly )that they have few prospects or that the future is bleak.
None of that implies that a generation have given up on careers or that their experiences are literally incompressible to someone born 10-20 years prior to them.

38

JeffreyG 03.29.16 at 1:57 pm

Who is included in the set ‘millennial’ here?
Wiki (probably from Strauss Howe) includes people born in the 1980’s in the cohort. liveoak above sounds like they are talking about individuals born in this decade (having not just a career, but also all married, some with kids & houses). I don’t think that is the proper set for the OP’s argument. Consider someone born in 1980 vs 1990. The latter has no experience of the Cold War, comes of age during the debacle of the Iraq War, and is turning 18 when the financial crisis hits. The former comes of age during the affluent and optimistic 90’s, and by the time of the financial crisis – at 28 – should be settling in to a career already. Incidentally, many born between the late 1970’s and late 1980’s do not consider themselves millennials, but instead a ‘grunge’ (or plain ignored) generation.

For transparency’s sake, I was born in 1990. Sometimes here on CT , engels’ comment at 28 really rings true. Lengthy arguments in debates that – from where I sit – are long dead and worth neither the focus nor the ill feeling aroused.

39

anon 03.29.16 at 2:12 pm

40

Lee A. Arnold 03.29.16 at 2:16 pm

Been reading Holly Wood! Very entertaining writer.

41

LFC 03.29.16 at 2:27 pm

Is it possible that ‘Bernie’ is just a phony candidate supplied by the establishment

Is it possible that Ze K is a phony commenter supplied by the CT establishment to ‘liven up’ comment threads?

Is it possible that the moon is made of green cheese?

Is it possible that Putin is an alien in a human body?

Etc.

42

MPAVictoria 03.29.16 at 2:37 pm

I concur with Anon that Holly Wood is excellent. She is also worth following on twitter.

Matt and Elizabeth Brueig are also worth reading. They are both young, active writers and extremely sharp.

43

idarth 03.29.16 at 2:37 pm

I want to read chroniclers from within the younger generation.
There are few if any who can give a good sense of the generation as a whole. Most millennial writers seem to have a hard time transcending their personal experience, possibly because there’s not really a larger context in which they can do so. Reading a lot of different writers and then trying to generalize is probably a more fruitful approach than trying to find some sort of voice of our generation.

44

David 03.29.16 at 2:47 pm

@36. I can’t remember the exact unemployment figures for Bosnia, but the last time I was there the situation was catastrophic, and you stood little chance of getting a job outside the government, the international community or tourism. Skilled, ambitious or simply ruthless individuals will always get jobs, but by definition many such people will have to compete for the few jobs that there actually are, and most will be disappointed.
More than a generation of recession, high unemployment, rising housing costs and incessant reductions in public service have created an environment of hopelessness which goes far beyond the feelings of a bunch of interns from wherever. In most major cities in the world, large numbers of people in their twenties and thirties are becoming resigned to never finding a place too buy, or living with their parents, or renting forever. Few know any more if they will have a job in six months’ time. If you are a call-centre droid waiting for your job to be expatriated, what is the point of planning for the future?

45

bruce wilder 03.29.16 at 2:53 pm

Holly Wood: There have never been as few Democrats as there are right now.

A big vote for Sanders amidst a small vote. Both political parties are in deep trouble; one Party knows it.

46

John Garrett 03.29.16 at 2:53 pm

Why is working in one profession for 40 years so good, and being open to opportunity so bad? I don’t hear despair from the recent grads I work with (except re student debt), but I do hear openness to new challenges, flexibility. Two of the best I know went from Harvard to BCG at parent’s insistence, were top performers, and quit at two years to change the world. Is that a career?

JG

47

bruce wilder 03.29.16 at 3:01 pm

kevin drum finds the lop-sided margin given to Sanders curious and he’s right to scratch his head in wonderment. but, there are always divides. somewhere in the anti-war generation of the late 1960s Cheney and Alito were nurtured.

yes, large numbers are burdened with fantastic student debt. and, large numbers are not. that’s a divide. that divide will matter — the exemption from debt for some will matter as much as the burden of debt for others.

48

Anderson 03.29.16 at 3:06 pm

The fantasy that President Sanders would make a difference to *any* of the concerns named in the OP (to the extent it actually identifies concerns, not moods) does, obviously, have its adherents, but they seldom can explain the details of how that happens.

As the cartoon says, “You need to be more specific in step 2.”

49

kidneystones 03.29.16 at 3:21 pm

@22 I hate to break it to you, but Trump cleaned up in liberal Mass and New Hampshire with voters of all stripes, not just the elderly. He’s a vulgarian, but given the lack of choices it’s no surprise (to me) that many would choose a reality tv billionaire over a bought and paid-for political hack. We only narrowly escaped a choice between two dud dynasties. One of those two is still in the ring.

I hope Sanders knocks her out.

50

Map Maker 03.29.16 at 3:22 pm

I had one student dream of going into advertising in New York City. She got an (unpaid) summer internship her junior year, followed by a full time “offer” after it was over. I put offer in quotes, because they asked her to live and work for 6 months for them in New York City before the job would convert to a paying job. She asked me who could afford to work at a job like that … I didn’t answer, but did think people who’s parents can afford $60k a year in tuition for a non-prestigious undergrad are probably thrilled to support a child in a somewhat higher prestige position post undergrad.

51

Yankee 03.29.16 at 3:28 pm

Bernie has dragged the Democratic party conversation to the left, eg HRC & TPP without being (personally) divisive, perhaps with an eye to the landscape after the election. You don’t need to win all the time in order to do politics but these days we’re all Vince Lombardi playing football.

Which to me seems to be the core of the current problem, nobody willing to cut slack for anybody. No wonder the kids can’t make a move.

52

Ronan(rf) 03.29.16 at 3:39 pm

The remarkable thing about the last decade is the amount of stability in western political systems. There is no meaningful, outside of radical Islam, challenge to the legitimacy of the political and economic order (not even comparable to that at the end of the post war era) The centre has largely held firm.

53

Ze K 03.29.16 at 3:41 pm

52 “Bernie has dragged the Democratic party conversation to the left, … perhaps with an eye to the landscape after the election. You don’t need to win all the time”

After the election the conversation will go like this: ‘in the last cycle one candidate tried some lefty rhetoric, and he lost. So shut the fuck up.’ End of the conversation. Yes, you do need to win. Corbyn did.

54

Jerry Vinokurov 03.29.16 at 3:45 pm

As an Actual Millenial (albeit one on the older end of the spectrum), I count myself quite fortunate to have attended a UC in the early part of the 2000s, rather than a private college, and doubly lucky to have been refused admission to law school in 2010. As a result of decisions whose impact I had no way of foreseeing, I don’t have any student debt and am in a comfortable, well-remunerated tech job. A lot of people I know, including some very good friends, are not nearly that fortunate.

55

kidneystones 03.29.16 at 3:47 pm

As for the tough times. Bollocks. As others have noted, when a parent can afford to pay 60k (or 2ok) a year for a dubious degree in a dubious discipline it ain’t all bad. There are a variety of ways of earning money at the lower end of the scale. Lest we forget, the norm for many of the poorest remains indenture. The stories I know are true: one child of a friends in North America blew himself out of an excellent state university program, did nothing for a year, and then took a job stocking shelves. He’s frugal and lives at home. Last I heard he’s sitting on a very comfortable five figure sum ready to make his first investment in the real-estate market at age 26. In Asia, a good university degree from a good university or technical university might not get a high salary, but even in Japan their are multiple economies. Indeed, costs and salaries vary even within Tokyo. Many outside the big cities earn 3 million yen per year, roughly half of what a middle-class earner used to make. The principal difference between the America and Europe and Asia that I can see is that somehow all the little yuppies thought that getting paid nothing, or little, in a dead-end industry that used to confer questionable caché makes more sense than a good union job picking up trash. The first self-made millionaire I knew did exactly that, married young, raised his kids, converted his excellent credit history and his willingness to use his free time wisely to invest in a portfolio of properties that allows him to live as he chooses. Did I mention that he retired at the age of 45 on a full pension?

Not everyone has the opportunity, or the examples, or the support to take a dirty job, do it well, and convert that into a world of fresh opportunities for themselves and their families. But if you squint real hard, stop and listen carefully to those folks from other countries cleaning toilets, or raking leaves, you’ll hear wonder, surprise, and gratitude to be living in a world where unlimited supplies of fresh water and (relatively) clean air are available to all. I just returned from Europe where I was surrounded by all kinds of Africans and folks from the Middle East working and hustling and just generally enjoying getting on with life. They’re never going to visit a magazine in NY, but somehow they seem quite content building lives of their own.

Silly them.

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bianca steele 03.29.16 at 3:51 pm

Well, I’m old enough to have just started reading the paper regularly around 1990, which is also about the time my younger brother graduated from college. And while it was considered very sad that kids graduating around then had few job prospects, and that because it was just a fact that you could never recover, in terms of career, if your first couple of years out of college were bad, in terms of employment–things were absolutely certain to pick up after a couple of years, and moreover (even though this hadn’t been the case for those unfortunate kids) the best thing you could do to make sure it didn’t happen to you was get lots and lots of education, no matter how much it cost.

Of course, it didn’t cost quite as much then, and loans weren’t generally as big, and internships were more likely to be paid, and this kind of thing is a generational event now instead of occurring in small pockets of the economy.

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Omega Centauri 03.29.16 at 3:54 pm

My kids are 89 to 92. The later are skilled compsci types, so they at least see good career prospects. But they know many of their cohort who are struggling at minimum wage (mostly from middle class suburban white backgrounds). So it does depend on what you know, and the upper tier in terms of marketable skills can do OK, but so many of the rest are indeed struggling. At least when my kids got done with college, the GFC was a few years in the past, so the economy was at least sputtering along, most likeley those just a few years earlier had much more dire prospects and their credentials and skills may well have decayed.

But, I also see people in their 40s and 50s who got pushed out of their professions, and have to scrap for junk jobs along with the rest.

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bianca steele 03.29.16 at 3:55 pm

On Trump “cleaning up” in Mass: He got about 310,000 votes, compared to 610,000 for Clinton and 590,000 for Sanders (and 114,00 and 113,000 for Kasich and Rubio, and 60,000 for Cru).

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bruce wilder 03.29.16 at 3:56 pm

Ronan(rf): There is no meaningful . . . challenge to the legitimacy of the political and economic order.

Except for the functioning of the system itself.

The wars that never end. The economic recoveries that never come. The problems that cannot be solved or even addressed.

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Trader Joe 03.29.16 at 4:06 pm

I agree that there are some millenials with the resigned attitude described in the OP and in my experience anyway, can’t really ascribe a demographic as to why this is the case (i.e. rich, poor, rural, city etc.).

What I can equally say is that there are also a huge cadre of what I call parent created super-kids that are energized by launching their second start-up as soon as they get back from irrigating fields in Africa and running a triathalon.

There’s never been a group so connected, so technologically empowered and exposed to so much potential wealth/opportunity. Perhaps that’s daunting when carrying around a pile of debt, perhaps that’s energizing – I’ve not walked that mile. I do know that the kids that are prepared to pay some dues and get down to making a carreer quite often find one….just like the generations before them. Real life starts when you stop letting others tell you how to do it and start making it happen for yourself.

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b9n10nt 03.29.16 at 4:12 pm

In any environment, human communities build up folk wisdom to ameliorate the unique psychological and material challenges that are presented.

Our current environment threatens us with shallow induvidualism and does not (to say the least) build up resilience to ever-rising expectations of material and egoic gratification.

I think a lot of my 20s was building this resiliency, this folk wisdom: I’m not going to be rich or famous, I’m not going to achieve any remarkable status, and the cool new phone won’t be so cool in a few months but will be slightly addictive. So where is meaning, where is the way forward? How to deal with disappointment? Most of that answer for me is in spiritual practice but also in professional development but also also in interest in/ hope for social change.

It’s not productive to complain about first world problems (I dont have a house or a six figure income!). It is productive to be forced into looking deeper into What Matters. It is productive to care about politics and the larger community and not just our own career and finances.

But politics can hardly be a bulwark against despair. If only so many disillusioned 20 year olds didn’t find Jesus. I think the Church creates a lot of unproductive comfort that would otherwise turn people to productive worldly seeking.

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JeffreyG 03.29.16 at 4:13 pm

@ 61
in other words: Horatio Alger 2.0

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engels 03.29.16 at 4:21 pm

I do know that the kids that are prepared to pay some dues and get down to making a carreer quite often find one….just like the generations before them

How do you “know” this? What does it even mean (eg. is it falsifiable)?

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engels 03.29.16 at 4:27 pm

The remarkable thing about the last decade is the amount of stability in western political systems.

That’s the remarkable thing about 9 out of 10 decades you can name. And then sometimes the unremarkable happens.

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bruce wilder 03.29.16 at 4:32 pm

Anderson @ 49

Step 2a: You have to try.

Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t.

Step 2b: Check on how well it worked, if it worked at all. Then, maybe you try something else. But, you have to try — and you have to admit failure as it happens and move on.

Not construct an elaborate kabuki play around the ritual of trying with fake good intentions, while deliberately and intentionally failing in order to serve a corrupt interest. And, then act like nothing bad has happened.

Our politics have devolved into a pattern of deceptively attaching good intentions to policy designs certain to fail those intentions in ways that serve some one’s corrupt interest. And, then pretending like no one made a mistake . . . or got rich making that mistake.

We went to war supposedly to secure WMDs that did not exist. We responded to the GFC of 2008 as an emergency, but somehow 8 years later the recession is over, the big banks are bigger than ever and incomes are stagnating.

We supposedly pursue “free trade” agreements to enhance job prospects but that contain mechanisms that protect corporations and disable democracy. We have built a surveillance state to protect against terrorism. What is it really about? We have numerous guards at airports collecting shampoo bottles and nail clippers — what is that about?

The appealing thing about Sanders is not that he inspires confidence that he is able to do anything. He is a shambolic 75 year old (will be 75 in November) — able is not his ticket. What he is: he is sincere. He wants to do things that actually reflect his stated intentions. And, if only by means of a tactful silence on some issues, he seems to be in touch with the reality of failure — he isn’t insisting on “looking forward”.

For those who find him appealing, I think Trump may appear sincere, too. He seems like a narcissistic con artist to me personally. But, stand him next to Jeb! talking about how GWB kept us safe and we really need to raise the Social Security eligibility age further and tax cuts for billionaires, and Trump looks pretty good. Trump can at least admit in general terms that things are *ed up and bullshit.

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bruce wilder 03.29.16 at 4:35 pm

The policy of financing higher education falls into the same pattern, by the way. Talk up the value of higher education, but use a policy mechanism that draws away most of the benefit to some loan shark and makes the “beneficiary” miserable.

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djr 03.29.16 at 4:36 pm

Chroniclers from within the younger generation: does Lena Dunham (born 1986) count? The characters in Girls seem to have dreams of being New York writers / artists, but no income. But obviously its fiction on TV, rather than reportage.

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bruce wilder 03.29.16 at 4:41 pm

Trader Joe @ 61

It is the yawning divide. There are those with a lot of student debt and others with none or very little: it is something of a barbell distribution. Half of this latest generation of adults knew poverty growing up; half didn’t.

The ones who make it will have a big need to believe that this is a just result reflecting personal virtue. So, the Right will have its recruits. The Left — will they be waiting for personal transformation?

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engels 03.29.16 at 4:44 pm

does Lena Dunham (born 1986) count

If you like your generational chroniclers to be white, prep-schooled 1%ers, then definitely.

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Rich Puchalsky 03.29.16 at 4:46 pm

“I’m interested in the economics of the Japanese job-hunting scene. “

From anime watching with my kids I’ve seen a little bit of how this appears in that popular medium. bob mcmanus may be interested in this comment.

The Devil is a Part-Timer is literally about the Devil, who travels to our world from a magical dimension and finds fulfillment in working at a McDonald’s as a pseudo-young-adult, complete with shared apartment. Never has fast food labor been so represented as fulfilling in any other work I’ve seen, although some of this is for comic effect.

Noragami is about a “stray god” who appears to be a teenager, who takes any odd job he can get for the traditional offering of a 5 yen piece (about 4 cents U.S.) and is homeless. A girl who wonders if she should hang out with him thinks back to her mother’s warning about hanging out with lazy people, which is kind of puzzling since he’s always working or trying to work. Part of that scene is her thinking about or watching a TV show about “parasites” who live off of their parents — which, again, the god character doesn’t have.

One Punch Man has a favorite of mine, a rare appearance of anti-work activists as thugs who just want people to give them money and who beat up anyone who doesn’t. As the cultural changes we’ve talked about happen, anti-work activists are going to appear more and more as villains in this way, so this was like seeing the first crocus of spring.

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djr 03.29.16 at 4:48 pm

Well, yeah, certainly closer to the people Corey was talking about in his first paragraph than to the majority of the population.

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engels 03.29.16 at 4:55 pm

Not really: being university grad who wants ‘a career…not just in journalism but in a great many industries’ doesn’t put you in the 1% or make you white..

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Rich Puchalsky 03.29.16 at 4:58 pm

I have to laugh at the people who think we’re all old and past it. There’s nothing that marks you as old more than a concern that you’re not down with the youth.

I’ve helped to support a family as a freelance librarian since 1997, which makes me part of the precariat I suppose. I don’t think that this class is very well defined. The upper levels of it, the part that seem to be talked about in books like Shadow Elite, seem to me to be really part of what I call the global managerial class. They are the lower part of it, sure, but they’re really part of the same system as corporate upper management or political bureaucracy (those people who work in government who aren’t elected and who aren’t civil servants). Not really comparable to Uber drivers or whatever. I’m sort of at the lower levels of this myself, or in contact with it, and it’s a weird setting.

Here’s a post from my series on Occupy. I’ll quote part that I think is relevant:

“Still, a basic characteristic of middle-class economic protest movements is that as the economy gets better, people go back to normal life, because normal life for them is after all pretty good. Duncan Black periodically posts what he calls the Scariest Chart Ever, a graphic which shows the percent job losses in post WW II recessions in the U.S. If you look at that chart, it is indeed scary in terms of the depth and length of the employment loss. It is less scary in that the employment has been steadily trending upwards for a long time now. If it took the depth of the recession to create Occupy, then that slowly trending upwards line meant that we weren’t getting replacements for the people who left.”

In short, unless things get worse, I don’t see the Bernie Sanders moment as being even sufficient to elect Sanders.

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Ben 03.29.16 at 5:03 pm

@b9n10nt

Heart of a heartless world, soul of soulless conditions.

There’s a good Jacobin essay to be written (drawing on a mcmanus-esque reading list?) on empathy and community-building as revolutionary acts. Resisting the self-construction which late capitalism tries to build.

What spiritual practices do you find productive, if Christianity isn’t? (I meditate myself and have half-a-toe in Soto Zen practice. ‘Sgood.)

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djr 03.29.16 at 5:15 pm

I meant people who do unpaid internships at New York magazines. (I think Corey works in New York?) You’re right that the first paragraph ends up much more general than this… but I’m not sure that the first group can be generalised to the second. I can’t claim any great expertise on either group, I was born around 10 years earlier than Lena Dunham, and on a different continent.

I’m not convinced that the first group generalises to the younger folk who I see either. I work in a private sector engineering firm. We’re looking for 3 interns for the summer – and I really mean a summer job for current undergrads – and we’re offering £1000 per month. Hopefully we’ll get some good people, and be able to convince them to come back when they graduate. Maybe things are tougher than they were 10 or 15 years ago, but I don’t think that there aren’t careers to be had here.

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Trader Joe 03.29.16 at 5:32 pm

@64 engles
“I do know that the kids that are prepared to pay some dues and get down to making a carreer quite often find one….just like the generations before them

How do you “know” this? What does it even mean (eg. is it falsifiable)?”

I know it cause I see it in my workplace, see it in businesses my friends are involved in etc….a kid willing to step-up, take some responsibility and show some initiative will usually get a shot to show what they can do. I’m not saying they go from the mail room to CEO in a day and I’m not saying they probably aren’t getting screwed wage-wise on the front end of that journey – they probably are. That said, if they show they are responsibile, dependable, make good decisions, they will get a chance to progress and build a carreer – if not there, elsewhere (I also think few kids have any clue what they really want till they’ve worked some things they didn’t want – but that’s a different topic).

As Bruce notes @69….there is a divide and I do appreciate its harder for the kid carrying debt – but in my observation, the go-getters are not confined to either the debtors or non-debtors. The go-getters are the ones that understand that the degree they earned isn’t the end of the line, its a ticket to join the line and it only has a value if you are willing to make it have value.

Its true, it doesn’t work for everyone. But its far to easy to focus on the college grad working at Starbucks or driving Uber and not look at the one who opened their own coffee shop or wrote their own app.

I’d rather, a la Bernie, that the kids didn’t have to graduate with lots of debt in the first place. That said, if a kid is going to take up a place at college, graduate and then be depressed that the world doesn’t automatically recognize their brilliance and award them a place in society with a nice pay-check and manageable responsibilities – they’ve learned the books but not the lessons.

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bob mcmanus 03.29.16 at 5:37 pm

71: Lots! Good stuff!

Working has three seasons, mostly a sit-com about relationships in a family restaurant. Shirobako won awards, about a small anime production company, and is entirely about the work. Sore ga Seiyu focuses on voice actresses. Gin no Saji is about an agricultural extension college. Etc. The doctors, lawyers and cops are I guess confined to real-life mainstream television. But often anime series do focus more on work than love in their sitcom subgenres.

And of course, many come from the bigger media, Worklife Manga. Umm, caution, looking at those covers, there does appear to quite a few yaoi and BL titles targeted at young working women.

I suspect you might learn more, if you are learning in your entertainment, about the Globalized political workforce from independent and festival/arthouse movies than anime or television, because of the leftish cosmopolitan audiences, foundations, economic models, that support them. A ambitious Hungarian filmmaker, facing a local audience owned by Marvel and Disney, gets financing from France, Canada, Japan and it shows. Tons of great work being done.

I don’t know so much, I do focus on the usual Marxian post-post analyses as published by Verso and Historical Materialism imprints. And try to read about other countries.

Djibouti is booming! Lots of young contractors and talent there, maybe mostly Chinese, Indian, Islamic.

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b9n10nt 03.29.16 at 5:44 pm

Ben @ 79

Vipassana.

Here’s a could-be: standardized collectives created by people in retail (aka sucky jobs that aren’t a career and won’t pay a mortgage + tix to Hamilton) and the energy goes into personal development, communal living, and transformative urban politics rather than capitalist careerism. Call ’em “check out collectives”. Or something

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Matt 03.29.16 at 6:06 pm

I was born in 1981. I’m very fortunate to have a postgraduate education and to have started writing software professionally before the GFC hit. Still, 2010-2014 was very precarious for me: a series of “independent contractor” positions that weren’t independent at all, just irregularly scheduled, more highly taxed than ordinary employment, and free of any employer-provided benefits. Things would have been somewhat easier if I could just relocate around the country as needed; lots of short term positions came my way from recruiters and I had to reject them because I couldn’t be in Houston this year and then Chicago the next. I already had connections to people who needed me and couldn’t city-hop even if I theoretically could do it alone.

Do these dynamic young people going from city to city have siblings who need a helping hand? Long term romantic relationships? Widowed mothers? Loved ones getting sick and dying? I only faced financial precarity because I wouldn’t optimize my life for my finances alone. I only got to spend time with loved ones in their last months because I endured that precarity. “Be an adventurous nomad” might be great advice if everyone else you care about goes into stasis until you’re settled down. Otherwise it seems like just a different way to allocate regret.

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Orbital Weaver 03.29.16 at 6:07 pm

I grew up in the 1980s.among my friends. We all thought the world may end any day in mushroom clouds and nuclear war. So most just went surfing and took drugs. Not so different. After a while we worked out life goes on In she end, was the only one that went to university and did a bunch of book learnin’, including getting a PhD. So it will be for the current generation, I suspect. 40 will sneak up on them too. And life will go on slightly better or slightly worse for almost all.

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b9n10nt 03.29.16 at 6:21 pm

bw @ 69

The ones who make it will have a big need to believe that this is a just result reflecting personal virtue. So, the Right will have its recruits. The Left — will they be waiting for personal transformation?

The left should understand which message is particular to which message: to the polity you preach policies that create the conditions for success, to youths you preach and demonstrate grit & gratitude.

Don’t cross the (rhetorical) streams! A doctor tells the pharmisist what meds are needed and tells the patient what lifestyle changes are helpful: there’s no confusion about audience and message.

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Donald Johnson 03.29.16 at 7:26 pm

I thought part of Brett’s post was correct. I mean he’s wrong to think Sanders doesn’t want to win, but obviously Bernie doesn’t want to alienate Clinton supporters too much if he does get the nomination. So this part of Brett’s comment is just common sense–

“It’s a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, he can’t go after her directly in an all out effort to win the nomination, or he gets destroyed. On the other, he has to be a strong enough candidate that just tossing him aside and appointing Biden isn’t feasible.’

This is also why you can never have a very honest discussion in American election years. Bernie has already gone about as far as you can go criticizing the party whose nomination he is seeking. I just read some Daniel Larison articles about the Saudi war (crimes) in Yemen–Sanders would undoubtedly oppose US policy there, but is he going to say that Obama is supporting war crimes? Not likely. Someone running for the Democratic nomination can’t afford to piss off the bulk of Democratic voters. On the Republican side they openly favor war crimes and the only person who might have said something about this was Rand Paul.

And okay, this is all a bit off-topic, though I think it connects in a roundabout sort of way, in the sense you rarely have an election season where the candidates come anywhere close to telling the truth about anything. But with Sanders and in a psychotic sort of way, Trump, that’s not as true as it usually is. Why is that? Probably because people think the system is falling apart.

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Robert Savage 03.29.16 at 7:26 pm

My wife and I raised three daughters. Our oldest was born in 1981 and the youngest in 1988. I guess they qualify as millennials. All three graduated from college debt free, all worked at least during the summer months and two had part time jobs while attending classes. All have careers, have ambition, aspirations and believe that they have more than a little command of their lives. They act like they do at least.

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Donald Johnson 03.29.16 at 7:28 pm

“and in a psychotic sort of way, Trump, “

Um, in case people misunderstand, I think Trump is a racist bigoted maniac. But he did tell the truth about Bush and Iraq. And it seemed to go over well with many Republican voters.

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Anderson 03.29.16 at 7:50 pm

Bruce @ 66 perfectly embodies the phenomenon I’ve complained of. No details. Just that Sanders comes across as sincere. Like Reagan did, I suppose.

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Patrick 03.29.16 at 8:08 pm

I think some of the commenters here… really aren’t grasping the issue.

It’s not that there isn’t work.

It’s that unless you work in a small number of fields that still adhere to old economic models- govt employees, people with or economically near good unions, certain professional fields- there just isn’t any PERMANENCE.

I literally cannot imagine ever being in a place, career wise, where it would make sense for me to put down serious roots in a community. I’ve never lived in the same place for more than three years, and all of my moves were due to work issues. Every job I’ve held has had an implicit time limit- there’s been something, usually an economic or business plan issue, that’s made me aware up front that sooner or later things would change.

I’ve had work. Consistently. I’m not broke and I’m not hurting. My wife has also worked consistently, even when my job dragged her around the Midwest and forced her to change jobs.

It’s just… I don’t see an end to this. My skill set is in reasonable demand, but I will probably never feel comfortable and confident in my future, because complacency kills. I feel like a predator. If I stop worrying where my next meal is coming from, I might not have one. And when the gazelles emigrate to other pastures, I damn well better follow.

For young or middle aged people working or hoping to work in the general world of business, I think those feelings are very typical. And they’re not conducive to the American dream of owning a house, raising kids, and settling down.

I’m not kidding here. I’ve lived in four cities in ten years and I can’t see that pattern ever changing.

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Ze K 03.29.16 at 8:17 pm

@86 “Just that Sanders comes across as sincere.”

Guessing whether a politician saying nice things is sincere, and hoping that s/he is – this is exactly what a catastrophic failure of a political system looks like.

Well, of this political system, anyway. It’d be normal for, say, a monarchy. And so an authoritarian model is looking better and better every day. I’m sure that’s what’s behind the Ralph Nader’s idea of an enlightened billionaire…

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Rich Puchalsky 03.29.16 at 8:55 pm

Anderson: “Bruce @ 66 perfectly embodies the phenomenon I’ve complained of. No details. Just that Sanders comes across as sincere.”

So if you kind of hope that a politician saying the right things is sincere about actually trying to get them — a hope backed up by that politician’s long history in office — without actually knowing how that politician would get there, you’re a fantasist. And if you look at this and decide, like me, not to vote and to do something more worthwhile, you’re wasting rights that people have fought for etc. etc.

There’s never any shortage of people willing to tell you that no matter what, you’re doing it wrong.

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Trader Joe 03.29.16 at 9:03 pm

@87Patrick
Your observation is a good one. For what its worth, I’d say job Permanence died sometime in the 90s and has probably gotten progressively weaker over time. As you say, there are fields that remain exceptions, but the expectation that a person needs to keep agile and flexible is a stark change from the boomer generation (and saves a lot of money on awarding the 10 year lapel pins and 25 year engraved watches).

I feel like your number of inter-city moves is perhaps unusual on a widely generalized basis, but may be normal for your particular vocation – a good friend who is now a tenured Uni professor bounced around much the same before finally sticking a landing (as he likes to say it). My younger brother in tech has worked a number of jobs, but always in the same city. He’s been permanent as to home address but not business address (and on a number of occassions his home address was his business address as a remote employee w/all the related travel that entails).

I’m not sure how these experiences should bear on college interns though – they aren’t likely to have known such challenges so shouldn’t know to be even faintly depressed by them.

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LFC 03.29.16 at 9:07 pm

kidneystones @56
if you squint real hard, stop and listen carefully to those folks from other countries cleaning toilets, or raking leaves, you’ll hear wonder, surprise, and gratitude to be living in a world [i.e., the ‘developed’ world] where unlimited supplies of fresh water and (relatively) clean air are available to all.

It’s prob. good to be reminded, as in the above passage, that many poor people in poor countries do not have ready access to basic things like clean water. On the other hand, one’s wants and expectations are usually gauged in relative terms: thus, an intern at a magazine in a big city in the U.S. who hopes to become a writer/journalist/etc (in the ‘career’ sense as defined in the OP) and who finds the prospects difficult is not likely to be too consoled by the fact that he or she is not living in a favela on the outskirts of Rio or in a squatter or slum neighborhood in some mega-city or other in a developing country — or in a poor neighborhood or region of a rich country, for that matter.

Probably more gratitude for contingencies outside one’s control — such as what country and class one was born in — is indeed in order, but psychologically speaking, that’s not the way things usually work.

(p.s. I do think the OP might have acknowledged that, even in a difficult economic setting, some kinds of careers are, and prob. always have been, harder to embark on than others, but that’s a different point.)

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LFC 03.29.16 at 9:10 pm

sorry for the mess-up in italics — only the word ‘favela’ was meant to be italicized

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JeffreyG 03.29.16 at 9:13 pm

Trader Joe, this line that you are spinning is fine and all if you are intent on believing that the kids are alright…. but it doesn’t resonate. This notion about “a kid willing to step-up, take some responsibility and show some initiative will usually get a shot to show what they can do” sounds like it should be put on a motivational poster in some cubicle somewhere. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a position where it is revealed that you know significantly more than your boss many decades your senior (millennials experience this not-infrequently with technology), but where you might expect ‘hey great work how about you take on this project’ I might expect ‘hey kid know your place’. Maybe where you work does a good job with this sort of thing.

I know people who have tried to start a business, and who have written an app(s). These are not magic bullets to success. Coffee shops fail, and the app market is pretty saturated. If starting a business involves taking on debt, that gets a lot harder if you are already in debt. Sure, you can always make it by being really hard-working, or smart enough to come up with a Really Good Idea(tm) – but statistically speaking not everyone can be above average.

Yet we don’t just have to sit here and trade anecdotes. There are data out there that reinforce the point. You can go on at length about ‘go-getters’, but I sincerely doubt you would be comfortable with this line of analysis when applied to groups other than the youth. The economy is a structural thing. If the fed jacked up interest rates tomorrow, employment gains would slip and wages would suffer – this is totally independent of the level of ‘grit’ in the economy.

People start talking about generations and they quickly slip into a moral framework. A generation is a historical concept – it should be understood as such.

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b9n10nt 03.29.16 at 9:14 pm

@ Patrick 87:

You’ve just demonstrated why so many Americans aren’t moving from low-wage, high unemployment regions into high-wage, low unemployment ones: people value and are willing to pay for stability (and are loss-averse).

On the macro- level, public policy is fixated on economic growth (GNP) to the neglect of other aspects of peoples’ welfare. By not questioning the value of private income in relation to other public goods, we are socially engineered to serve a system that does not reciprocally serve us.

Ze K: re: “monarch”

I think the Trump appeal (and US Presidential politics in the TV age generally) is largely following a deep-seated pattern wherein the pesantry turns to the Monarchy (a highly symbolic authority with whom an emotional attachment is formed) as a righteous force against an oppressive aristocracy.

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bob mcmanus 03.29.16 at 9:18 pm

87: I think I am aware, or trying.

Had a fire next door, became a vacant lot. Young guy, maybe 28, is starting to build a house, his first for sale. Not sure where he got the plans, learned the paperwork, renting the equipment and hiring the subcontractors. Does the work between remodeling jobs, hopes to do maybe 3-4 a year, add $50k before taxes to his income.

A long long way from wage labor for Fox & Jacobs.

When I say “Everything’s Become Capital” this is part of what I mean, along with those who try to get rents by investing in Harvard and those who accumulate contacts, languages, and skills in the NGO/non-profit communities. There is buchu flowing money out there that doesn’t want to tie itself up in a brick-and-mortar huge factory, but 100k to 1 million is becoming fairly easy to borrow, if you have a sales pitch. At least that is my impression. But “Ivy League Degree” doesn’t sell well these days.

Younger generations are all becoming self-financing entrepeneurs, with a lot more “freedom” and a lot less security. This is a phase change in capitalism, but in terms of further atomization and fracturing of old affective social formations, merely an acceleration of processes inherent to capitalism.

Guy Standing (2014) is highly recommended, but there are plenty of people studying globalization and neoliberalism. Cosmopolitanism and new urbanisms are also search terms.

95

LFC 03.29.16 at 9:36 pm

mcmanus
Younger generations are all [sic] becoming self-financing entrepeneurs, with a lot more “freedom” and a lot less security.

This is an epic overgeneralization. What about all the people who continue to go to law school, med school, business school, grad school of one sort or another? A certain portion may become “self-financing entrepreneurs,” others won’t. Many will prob. have “less security” than (some of) their predecessors, but that’s a separate point.

those who accumulate contacts, languages, and skills in the NGO/non-profit communities

Did it ever occur to you that some who do this might be motivated by, among other things, idealism? Or you so inclined to see everything, incl. the NGO/nonprofit sector, as dictated by ‘capital’ that motives are irrelevant?

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bob mcmanus 03.29.16 at 9:37 pm

One way to look at it is that the top 10-20% are keeping more of the surplus for themselves. This is the infamous couple grossing $200-400k who are buying the $500k house, sending kids to private school, paying for great healthcare, saving for college and retirement, and saying they’re broke. And maybe having to learn a new career every ten years as education becomes obsolescent.

50 years that surplus was given to industry to expand or taxed away to build the commons, because under Fordism accumulation required boundaries and borders.

The future of capital is distributed, dispersed, and even more brutally competitive. Until the revolution.

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bob mcmanus 03.29.16 at 9:40 pm

Or you so inclined to see everything, incl. the NGO/nonprofit sector, as dictated by ‘capital’ that motives are irrelevant?

Mostly an economic determinist, but I do agree that the accumulation of social capital can have its own kind of profit.

Said enough here today.

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kidneystones 03.29.16 at 9:58 pm

@91 I agree. The true victims here are the yuppie dunces and their off-spring who watching the ‘tubes’ rise and print media sink, decide that a career in buggy-whips is the way to go. Heaven forbid we compare their plight to those living in places where a good harvest is still an event to celebrate. Globalization and the march of the machines is reversible and part of the solution includes being willing to pay higher prices for goods made in distant countries.

There’s an excellent chance one of the two candidates in favor of dismantling the 20th-century colonialist trade relations forced on post-colonial societies will actually get elected. Love to see that.

99

engels 03.29.16 at 10:28 pm

Younger generations are all [sic] becoming self-financing entrepeneurs, with a lot more “freedom” and a lot less security.

This is an epic overgeneralization. What about all the people who continue to go to law school, med school, business school, grad school of one sort or another?

You mean the people seeking debt-financing for an investment they believe will earn substantial long-term returns? Ummm

100

engels 03.29.16 at 10:38 pm

“People who have what takes will always be able to succeed in America.”
“But what about Ben! He never had a chance!””
“Well then, I guess he didn’t have what it takes.”

Thank you, Trader Joe, for a textbook example of a virtus dormitiva explanation.

101

jake the antisoshul soshulist 03.29.16 at 10:49 pm

I don’t think it is profitable to talk about the “go getters”. They are going to get the best of what is available. I think we should think about the average and below average. How can we maintain society that can’t provide a decent living for the great majority of its citizens. A pyramid may make a stable building, but it will not make a stable economy.

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jake the antisoshul soshulist 03.29.16 at 11:01 pm

Bobmcmanus.
I dont see anything like the dispersion of capital you are talking about. I see more concentration of capital. Though I agree about the brutal competition for what little is available.

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bob mcmanus 03.29.16 at 11:17 pm

I don’t think it is profitable to talk about the “go getters”.

The poor, homeless, and jobless often hustle more than the petty bourgeois within much worse conditions of competition and impediments to accumulation. I am aware of Mumbai and Rio, believe those streets have their share of go-getters, and am in no way celebrating the enforced totalitarian libertarianism of post-capitalism.

But…

Globalization and the march of the machines is reversible

No, it’s not.

104

PatinIowa 03.29.16 at 11:26 pm

Just gonna leave this here:

105

bob mcmanus 03.29.16 at 11:28 pm

I see more concentration of capital.

The difference is a concentration in Dearborn Michigan, owned and controlled by Henry Ford, and a concentration in Goldman-Sachs or Apple’s retained earnings or Walton family shares or SWFs, where the accumulation and concentration necessarily becomes available for others to use or leverage. Industrial Capital versus finance capital. Finance capital, fictional capital, has to move.

Carrier could move their fixed capital to Mexico because circulating capital has become dominant. Liquidity is becoming grotesque.

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phenomenal cat 03.29.16 at 11:34 pm

“Did it ever occur to you that some who do this might be motivated by, among other things, idealism? Or you so inclined to see everything, incl. the NGO/nonprofit sector, as dictated by ‘capital’ that motives are irrelevant?” LFC @96

Well, motives are relevant, but the impact or force of their relevance depends on what scale we’re talking about, does it not? At the personal level motives would likely be measurably relevant–“idealism” and all that helping to determine a given young person’s path into NGO/nonprofit sector world. However, it seems to me the relevance of such motives become increasingly diluted the greater the scale. I had the distinct displeasure of being exposed to a lot of critical literature on Development; truly a severe, depression inducing experience to read such a litany of “good intentions” gone unbelievably awry. Point being, when scaled up those motives seem to be thoroughly subsumed into the more pervasive logics of capital, geopolitics and the like.

I’m no economic determinist, but material conditions and institutional power seem to swamp motives most of the time, especially at larger–“global”–scales.

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engels 03.29.16 at 11:36 pm

the go-getters

Speaking of generational divides

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kidneystones 03.29.16 at 11:40 pm

@ 104 Yes, it is. The past is not the future and a great many are waking up to the fact that the only people profiting from ‘free trade’ are the richest. I’d expect even the densest to grasp the simple fact that giving responsibility for our lives to large corporations is a fatal error, as are the trade deals born out of the last two centuries of colonialism. The people in these nations (where indentured labor exists) understand better than us, that we can all do better. You’re extremely well-read, but books don’t tell the story.

There’s a wonderful set of changes taking place all over the globe as people wake up to the fact that the past is not the future. We see that, in part, in the exodus of economic migrants seeking a better life in the US and Europe. People want to build better lives for themselves and for their families.

The corporations only when we surrender. You may be willing to grab ankle. Not me.

109

Ronan(rf) 03.30.16 at 12:23 am

Thanks Matt @80 . Very true .

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Helen 03.30.16 at 12:32 am

https://medium.com/@girlziplocked/the-baffling-reason-why-so-many-millennials-hate-baby-boomers-92e827a11296#.kyjuln224

Really, this article is hate speech. I can’t help but think of the increasing problem (or just increasing reporting?) of elder abuse and the likelihood of vulnerable elderly people, many of whom have worked their arse off for others and have been loved and valued, being at the mercy of Wood’s generation and her “clean your own bedpan!” casual cruelty. I like to read Millenials like Laurie Penny who have a more intelligent and less childishly vicious view of the world.
If I said what Wood’s article reminded me of I’d be Godwinning myself, so not going there.

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LFC 03.30.16 at 1:01 am

@phenomenal cat
Scale matters, yes. But what I was objecting to, perhaps not as clearly as I might have, was mcmanus’ implication (as I read it at any rate) that all choices of or decisions about jobs/careers/etc are simply a matter of a utilitarian-style calculation as to what will get the most ‘return’. Obvs. that’s not uniformly the case. There are what the OP calls ‘existential’ as well as economic considerations:

Although all of these young men and women had some combination of writerly dreams, none of them—not one—had any plan for, even an ambition of, a career. Not just in the economic sense but in the existential sense of a lifelong vocation or pursuit that might find some practical expression or social validation in the form of paid work.

The “vocation or pursuit” in this sense is not something everyone in the world has the luxury of even thinking about or trying to follow, but that’s not to say it doesn’t exist at all.

As to development, yes, good intentions often go awry. But there are NGOs that do valuable, often insufficiently acknowledged work; they manage to improve lives even if they are not overthrowing capitalism.

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engels 03.30.16 at 1:05 am

But what I was objecting to, perhaps not as clearly as I might have, was mcmanus’ implication (as I read it at any rate) that all choices of or decisions about jobs/careers/etc are simply a matter of a utilitarian-style calculation as to what will get the most ‘return’. Obvs. that’s not uniformly the case.

You’re right, not yet. But that’s the plan.

113

LFC 03.30.16 at 1:08 am

p.s. To anticipate a possible riposte re my quote from the OP, I do not think payment (“paid work”) is the only or an always indispensable form of “practical expression” of a vocation. There are prob. a few well-known cases, say, of writers who had v. different “day jobs”; Wallace Stevens comes to mind and I’m sure there are other examples. But this is a side pt.

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LFC 03.30.16 at 1:12 am

engels,
thks (?) for that link to the Economist piece. bkmarked to be read later.

115

T 03.30.16 at 1:22 am

http://www.epi.org/publication/the-class-of-2015/

There is data and analysis on this topic. And the big problem is not new college graduates, especially white ones, although it is a problem. It’s new high school graduates. As always, entering the labor market in a downturn sucks. Those entering the market in 2009 and 2010 were hit harder than those entering today.

116

JanieM 03.30.16 at 1:47 am

What Helen said @111. The linked piece is not only vicious but stupid. The idea that “baby boomers” are all alike suggests that the writer has only met two or three of them and has been unlucky in her choices; maybe she should get out more.

If I thought she was typical of her generation, I’d be even more worried than I already am about the world I’ll leave behind one of these years. Luckily, I happen to know a lot of people of her generation (starting with my offspring and their friends, not to mention quite a few of my co-workers), and none of them are anything like her.

117

jake the antisoshul soshulist 03.30.16 at 1:58 am

Bob mcmanus
I have described it as the cartelization of capital.
There is little doubt that, despite what some would like to think, the poor work a lot harder than most of rest of us. Unfortunately, most of that is to keep them from falling farther behind.

118

Val 03.30.16 at 2:37 am

Wow that Holly Wood article about baby boomers really is toxic isn’t it? In the larger scheme of things though it just confirms my theory that the US left is tearing itself to bits. So I’m going to offer a way-out psychological theory (usually I go more for sociology but psychology seems appropriate here):

– in Australia we had an outburst of the left tearing itself to bits in the Gillard-Rudd years, now in America, the left seems to be tearing itself to bits in the Clinton-Sanders contest. Could there possibly be something about a female-male contest that makes people get very strongly emotionally affected (it’s like mummy and daddy are fighting)?

Anyway … all I can say is we in Australia in 2010-13 had a similar episode of the left tearing itself to bits, and one day we found ourselves with the most ridiculous conservative government and a laughable Prime Minister, after which time people came to their senses, stopped fighting with each other and started uniting around causes like March in March and Bust the Budget

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_in_March http://www.australianunions.org.au/bustthebudget)

But a lot of damage was done meanwhile (and still is though to a slightly lesser degree with the new Oz PM).

So if my nutty theory (RP et al, this one really is a bit nutty, even I will admit it this time :)) is correct, it’s probably useless urging you all to stop fighting with each other and start working together to defeat the Republicans. You will probably go on fighting till you wake up one morning and find you’ve got Donald Trump as your President, whereupon you will probably all come to your senses and start uniting to get rid of him. But as I say, a lot of damage can be done meanwhile.

119

Anon 03.30.16 at 3:21 am

Looks like Holly struck a nerve. The kids really are alright. “Hate speech.” Jeezus.

120

Peter T 03.30.16 at 3:33 am

The interesting thing about Sanders and Trump is that they are putting some radical ideas into into the public discourse. Sanders less so, as his political position already had a solid – if partially submerged – niche, going back to the critics of the Gilded Age. But when Trump says America is a “poor nation” and talks about pulling back various military and political commitments until others step up and pay their way, that’s a major change in the way the US has talked about itself up to now.

121

Alan White 03.30.16 at 4:02 am

JanieM @ 117–thanks for preempting my diatribe with more tempered speech than I might have used.

122

TM 03.30.16 at 7:46 am

LFC: “It’s prob. good to be reminded, as in the above passage, that many poor people in poor countries do not have ready access to basic things like clean water.”

Thank goodness that would never happen in the US. I mean you could never imagine a poor American community being supplied with stinking, muddy, toxic water right?

Americans have a great capacity to look at the bright side. I often here the sentiment, we are so lucky to be better off than those poor folks in, I don’t know, Haiti. And of course it’s true, and really it is a great coping mechanism in bad times, but starting from the lowest of expectations is not a good strategy to make things better. Given how bad things have gotten (based on measurable criteria – wage stagnation, widespread precarity, degradation of the public infrastructure, etc.), it is really astonishing that people aren’t on the barricades.

123

TM 03.30.16 at 8:27 am

“I often hear the sentiment” [Regret the typo]

124

novakant 03.30.16 at 8:56 am

I find it hard to get outraged that someone on the internet is mean to baby boomers when several commenters right here seem to deny that there even is a problem, brag about their kids instead and insinuate that millenials are basically spoiled and lazy.

125

Robespierre 03.30.16 at 9:41 am

Would anyone, if they could go back in time, have the guts to tell depression-era Americans that hey, they live in the richest country in the world after all? Many countries in southern Europe face mass unemployment right now. I’ve applied for 243 jobs since the beginning of the year – yes, I’ve kept track. It is perfwctly common to have 50 to 200 applicants for each position. I’m fine living in the firstworld – except the part where I feel fucking useless and that I’m getting older with nothing to show for it, or any expectations that things will improve. The part where I walk past people sleeping in the streets and know that the only reason I’m not there is that my family gives me food and shelter could also use some working on.

126

Val 03.30.16 at 10:22 am

That’s awful Robespierre. I can’t do anything from here except send you my best wishes and admiration for your fortitude and guts, but I hope that counts for something and I hope things get better for you soon.

For those who’ve criticised the parents of millennialist on this thread, I wasn’t in my earlier comments trying to boast about my child or blame others – I was just trying to identify the factors that meant we in Australia have been lucky enough to have escaped some of these problems. And I agree with reason above that compulsory voting and transferable votes have something to do with it, because everyone, like it or not – and some don’t – has to be involved in politics. Plus many people in Australia vote strategically – different vote in the upper and lower house – so that no government gets too much power.

And I also agree with TM above – people should be at the barricades over this stuff – it’s not acceptable that young people (and many older people) can’t get decent jobs. You should be on the streets over this! You deserve better. And also you should vote.

127

Ronan(rf) 03.30.16 at 11:44 am

I don’t think millennials are lazy. I am a millennial who has perhaps had similar difficulties as those expressed by some above. My problem is with the premise of the post, that there’s some sort of collective generational apathy developing. Also that what we’re facing is unique.
Did the “baby boomers” really have it as easy as claimed ? I understand my perspective is probably skewed from growing up in Ireland rather than the US , England or most of Western Europe , which didn’t have that post war period of growth and economic security , but even in the industrialised west, was life really as simple as people like to claim? It seems at that time there were a lot of people excluded from society and the economy and a lot of opposition to both. I mean my parents had to leave the country, as did a lot of their siblings, then moved back to a regional Irish town in the 80s to start a business. I doubt it was particularly easy, although they were among the lucky (having some qualifications)
And they wanted things I didn’t , ie married by 22 with all their kids by 30. Was that time really more conducive to such stability or did people just have different preferences ? It seems to me that there’s a mix. In what ways are our problems unique? in what ways is mobility becoming stifled ? For who? Do people have different expectations than previous generations etc? There might be something there I guess, but I don’t see that the case has been made .
And there are still careers. I mean people still become plumbers, accountants , carpenters , insurance salesmen, teachers, policemen, nurses , tax men. We aren’t literally living in a post work dystopia (yet, anyway )
I do agree kidneystones rhetoric that at least we all have clean water is ridiculous. (But not surprising considering the source )

128

Ronan(rf) 03.30.16 at 12:03 pm

There’s also the other group people mentioned above, which is those whose job became redundant in their 40s 50s. I’ve seen this with a number of people and the difficulties retraining into something there is considerably more difficult than the problems facing the youth, particularly if the job was “less skilled”. I’ve known a number of people who lost long term jobs , and who didn’t have full secondary let alone third level education(and are older so not as enticing to employers in physical jobs ) so Cant compete with a lot of young, relatively qualified applicants, who might be mainly seeing the job as something to tie them over until something else comes. A lot of people are suffering not just millennials

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faustusnotes 03.30.16 at 12:26 pm

The idea that “baby boomers” are all alike suggests that the writer has only met two or three of them

How is this possible? It’s impossible for someone in the millenial generation to meet only two or three boomers. They probably know as many boomers as they do millenials. The boomers are a populous generation and they’re in charge of all the functions of society that millenials interact with.

Functions of society that are often very unpleasant. Coincidence? Surely …

130

TM 03.30.16 at 1:16 pm

It has always been thus that the young are in conflict with the social order created by their elders. In fact, to add a bit more anecdotal observation, today’s millenials seem to show unusually little hostility to their parents’ generation. What seems to be new is that generational warfare has become a right wing strategy to undermine the welfare state: See http://cloudfront-assets.reason.com/assets/db/13418418927817.jpg

131

Jerry Vinokurov 03.30.16 at 1:49 pm

Would anyone, if they could go back in time, have the guts to tell depression-era Americans that hey, they live in the richest country in the world after all?

Judging from this thread, quite a few people absolutely would say that.

132

engels 03.30.16 at 1:58 pm

Also, they’re not the ones suffering

133

LFC 03.30.16 at 1:58 pm

TM @123
Yes.

But perhaps you missed the next sentence I wrote @91, viz. “one’s wants and expectations are usually gauged in relative terms”. I was not meaning to advocate quiescence or starting from “the lowest of expectations,” to use your phrase. (I suppose I cd have made that clearer.)

134

engels 03.30.16 at 1:59 pm

“the _only_ ones”

135

LFC 03.30.16 at 2:10 pm

No one with any sense would walk up to, let’s say, a middle-aged former factory worker now either unemployed (or working in a low-wage job) and say “look on the bright side: you live in the richest country in the world.”

That’s ridiculous. As I said @91, people’s reference points are inescapably and understandably relative. The former factory worker’s reference pts are his former employment (now gone) and the living standards of others in his society.

It’s possible to understand this and at the same time realize that there is a global as well as national picture. However no one is suggesting, at least I didn’t mean to, that e.g. the magazine interns shd find it consoling or “a coping mechanism” (TM’s words) to think of the poorest people in the world. One doesn’t compare oneself to the poorest people in the world. One’s compares oneself to one’s peers and others in one’s own society.

136

LFC 03.30.16 at 2:11 pm

correction:
One compares oneself

137

Jerry Vinokurov 03.30.16 at 2:33 pm

No one with any sense would walk up to, let’s say, a middle-aged former factory worker now either unemployed (or working in a low-wage job) and say “look on the bright side: you live in the richest country in the world.”

Yes, but only because no one wants to risk being punched in the face. The media is in fact entirely full of people saying just this, from the safety of a studio and cultural context where everyone believes the same thing.

138

bruce wilder 03.30.16 at 2:33 pm

Explaining the effects of extreme redistribution upward as the result of excessive redistribution oldward is a clever argument. But, it has been circulating for a while.

Interesting to me is that the old seem unaware that redistribution upward has been so much more aggressive in taking from the young. The old have been allowed to keep some, but not all of their claims; the young have seen the promise of even the claims the old held onto undermined. Social Security (U.S.) has been preserved, but it’s value to the young diminished and it’s reliability is regularly called into question.

The young apparently have difficulty imagining how easy the early baby boomers had it. My small town high school had Latin and music and shop and calculus in the curriculum. My part-time job at the supermarket paid union wages. My first year of college cost $2000 all in (incl room & board); my parents (retired policeman dad, schoolteacher mom) paid most of it without strain. My first job out of college was unrelated to my education, and paid only a bit above minimum wage, but I could afford to rent an apartment in the city. I had no debt, but I had a little savings. My first “real” job included a lot of training the first three or four years and rapid promotion.

Financialization and globalization have eroded a lot of that. The world I grew up in was in the last stages of emerging from a system of caste. My high school offered Latin, because teacher was one of the few jobs a college educated woman could get. The initial stagnation of wages under Reagan was eased by the expansion of opportunities for women and two-earner households. Later on a rising stock market and house appreciation eased the way for some of my cohort, but there is an element of pulling up the ladder behind us in that. And, the end result now is an economy that is less productive at its core and more predatory. Things are precarious for so many because precarity is a means of financial harvest. We replaced the savings and loan from It’s a Wonderful Life with payday loans. And, we seem to me to have a collective mental block against admitting it, admitting that we have created a politics that creates and protects a lot of immiserating behavior.

The American economy now is predatory and parasitic. Good if you can get a job as a predator, I guess — some career opportunities there. But, politics should be about enlightened self-interest as well as narrow self-interest, common interest against private interest.

We can never go back. That is not possible, and I would not advocate for it. But, we could benefit by taking apart and going in another direction.

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bianca steele 03.30.16 at 3:15 pm

@138

And the best way the “center” can think of to accommodate resentment toward that, apparently, without doing the impossible and talking about economics (which are important even if they’re not the only determining factor), is to go Haidt and say, “yes, the problem is that liberals irrationally hate your culture, which in fact is really as much better than theirs as you think.” Which, strangely, isn’t actually an effective way to counter the ideology of white supremacy. It effectively restricts the extent of the economic discussion, however,

140

Jerry Vinokurov 03.30.16 at 3:27 pm

141

kidneystones 03.30.16 at 3:31 pm

@ 136 In my experience, middle-aged folks rarely welcome unsolicited commentary on their lives from strangers. Suggestions on how to look at life are even less welcome. The challenges facing the two groups – former members of the middle-class now out of work (see Disney) and recent college grads are not entirely dis-similar, nor are they alike. The latter often have large debt, fewer life skills, and little work experience. The former have 20-30 years work experience, enjoyed considerable/some success at work, and have an abundance of real-life skills – raising families, etc. Both groups are capable of keeping two thoughts in their minds at the same time. And as we move into similarities, both groups are being screwed by globalization, etc. The older may have recently lost a home, a job, and the ability to provide for her family. The younger can’t see where to get a foot on the rung of mobility. Both need to see that the world is not what they knew, or were led to believe it would be. This isn’t abstract for a substantial number of people I know, most of whom fall into the older category. As noted, I very strongly disagree with those who discount our ability to effect change. If we believe we are ‘doomed’ no matter what we do, we have zero incentive to do much. We need to be able to get a hold on one tiny part of our lives and start implementing positive change. That’s why we need to be aware of the challenges we face and the challenges others face.

My first strong impression of entering Mexico city by train in the morning for the first time decades ago was watching individuals line up at the communal tap, carrying brightly colored buckets, so that they could begin their day. That’s life everyday. I asked a fairly well-off Chinese woman why she decided to move from upscale Shanghai to Tokyo. Her reply: easier to live, by which I subsequently learned – in Japan she didn’t feel the same compelling need to soak all vegetable produce in cold water for two hours every day to leech out toxins.

We do face challenges and we’ve got it sooooo easy compared with many/most of our ancestors and many/most living in other parts of the globe. In Paris, I walked past one of the work actions alluded to elsewhere last week. In this particular case, disgruntled employees had stacked garbage at the entrance of a college and set the ancient doors alight. As I stood with several students watching the police gather ‘evidence,’ they alluded to the political problems France faced. I agreed, but pointed out the problems weren’t 1944, or 1914. We agreed.

Each generation has its challenges. Ours pale in most respects to those of those who came before us. I remember when inter-racial marriage was illegal in some states, when Australia had a color-bar, etc. etc. etc. Others have already done the heavy-lifting. We simply need to remember that others faced/face far more daunting challenges than we do today. That’s not the same as walking up to a stranger and announcing that she, or he, should ‘look on the bright side.’ We need to remember we’ve been born with skills and freedoms that few others enjoy. Our job is to understand the limits of what is and what is not possible. Expecting to swim against the tide by choosing a career path in a dead-end industry is not the same as being forced to train your much lower paid replacement on the threat of losing a pension, payout. We cannot and should not do much to help those too dense to read the writing on the wall. Skilled workers being forced to train their replacements have every reason to expect their government to provide some form of protection. They’re not getting it. So, they’re turning to Trump, or Sanders. They’re right to do so, because none of the other candidates is going to lift a finger to fight the status quo.

We need to fight the status quo because resisting globalization is the challenge of our time. But if we refuse to fight, then we can’t possibly win. Protectionism and fair trade look pretty good to me right about now. Taxing the shit out of corporations screwing their workers is likely to enjoy broad public appeal and for once we have two, not one, candidates ready to make this a reality.

Good times!

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bruce wilder 03.30.16 at 3:35 pm

Haidt, son of Scarsdale, is wont to introduce himself as a former liberal and presents liberalism as ignorant of, and uninformed by reactionary attachments to purity, respect and loyalty. He’s aided in his subversion by the fact that many modern liberals are not really aware of how liberalism historically or philosophically incorporated purity, respect and loyalty into its own program. He knows class condescension, in other words; trained in it from an early age and deploys it effectively. “class condescension” was and is his “former liberal” identity by another name.

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Anarcissie 03.30.16 at 3:38 pm

What Mr. Sanders offers is not revolution but reversion to and completion of the Welfare state, that is, a kind of stabilized, restrained capitalism. As many in the present discussion have mentioned, many young people (and not so young) find their economic world and prospects to be precarious. I believe this is because capitalism (as we know it, anyway) is reaching its physical limits and has begun to devour itself, and is thus running ever faster since the food remaining to it is, so to speak, pre-digested. (For example, buying a company, breaking it up, selling off the pieces quickly at less than they were worth, and getting rid of the employees; this can be done much faster than old-time expansion and accumulation.)

While it is always possible for some to find opportunities in graveyards, junkyards, earthquakes, and riots, most people probably desire nicer opportunities more suited to their natural pace and ambition, hence desire a reversion to earlier, seemingly better times. But I wonder if this is possible. Physical limits are unforgiving, even for the very smart. And our great leaders are not so smart.

144

reason 03.30.16 at 4:15 pm

Bruce @139
That autobiography is similar but significantly different to my own (I had a scientist father and a mother who somewhat resentfully was a housewife, and I had trouble finding holiday jobs in the early 70s, and I worked as an economist straight out of university – but got disillusioned and moved into the then infant IT). But yes, the world was significantly less predatory in SOME RESPECTS then (particularly economic). What shocks me now, however, is the growing dishonesty of the conversations in the public sphere. It is like Nixon is now an icon, not a pariah.

145

bruce wilder 03.30.16 at 4:18 pm

Anarcissie illustrates the hazards of treating “capitalism” as an unified organic actor.

We, and the institutions we create, are “capitalism”. The continual reproduction of political society and its economy is organic and necessarily cyclical, with periodic crises, but within the bounds left by its historic path, and the limits of logical and material necessity, plastic and undetermined going forward. Our creature does not have intentions or purposes of its own, even if we are a fractious and absent-minded bunch of architects of our future.

146

bianca steele 03.30.16 at 4:23 pm

Of course, one way to make our society less predatory might be to promote a class of people who are encouraged to devote their lives to moral and community values, and remove from them the responsibility of making it in the commercial world, so young people will have a role model and an alternate vision for living. We can call them:

Hipsters.

147

Suzanne 03.30.16 at 4:37 pm

“But when Trump says America is a “poor nation” and talks about pulling back various military and political commitments until others step up and pay their way, that’s a major change in the way the US has talked about itself up to now.”

@121: U.S. presidential candidates often employ rhetoric about making other nations “pay their way,” “fight their own wars,” “America isn’t the world’s policeman,” etc., during campaign season. The U.S. actually provides relatively little in the way of foreign aid, but you wouldn’t know that to hear them talk.

Trump also wants to give rich people a nice big tax cut, but for some reason he doesn’t yap about that much.

111, 117 & 119: I wouldn’t worry. In the fullness of time Holly’s young relatives and their friends will be excoriating her for her generation’s shortcomings in between mouthfuls of Holly’s pot roast, while Holly mutters about how easy they have it. I hope their jeremiads are better written, though.

148

Ronan(rf) 03.30.16 at 4:41 pm

I think Bianca is on to something there.

149

Anarcissie 03.30.16 at 4:50 pm

bruce wilder 03.30.16 at 4:18 pm @ 146 —
I wasn’t thinking of capitalism as a unified organic actor but rather as a collection of activities and relations, some of which predominate at any given time, and all of which change. (Hence the quasiweasel ‘as we know it’.) When the predominant activities and relations begin to approach a limit, the predominant actors (Capital) will seek out new activities and relations, withdrawing support from others, thus creating instability, perceived by others as precarity and lack of power and influence in the political realm. I was questioning whether a recollection of the Welfare state is going to solve the problem. Supporting Mr. Sanders is good business for me — I live on Social Security — but it’s business as usual. Or as used to be.

150

Robespierre 03.30.16 at 5:04 pm

Thanks Val, I didn’t mean this to be either criticism of you or a personal sob story. It’s just that there are other ways that lack of work can bite, besides material deprivation.

151

bruce wilder 03.30.16 at 5:23 pm

reason @ 145: the growing dishonesty of the conversations in the public sphere

I am with you there.

Of course, political persuasion has always involved elements of deception, but, yes, something is peculiarly dysfunctional. I do not know that I can explain it adequately. Some of us use the label, neoliberal, pointing at several related lines of rhetoric and thinking, but then are told that the label is meaningless, simply a synonym for “you don’t like it”.

Upthread, I said that I thought broad elements of the electorate experiences the dishonesty and the disconnect between stated intentions and commitments of candidates and their policy choices in office as “insincerity”. Of course, politicians have always been somewhat cynical in their use of their own sincerity, but I meant to indicate that in the present case, there’s a profound disconnect between the rhetoric of policy intent and the actual mechanisms and foreseeable consequences of chosen policies. Many people, maybe, cannot fully articulate that disconnect, and their own ideas about what is a good policy commitment and what policies follow from that may be bizarre (so you get people to whom a wall on the Mexican border sounds reasonable). But, nevertheless, they understand that the results of recent policy in domestic economics or international relations have not been satisfactory and don’t trust what the usual suspects tell them.

152

Igor Belanov 03.30.16 at 6:20 pm

I presume Bianca is being sarcastic when she describes hipsters:

‘a class of people who are encouraged to devote their lives to moral and community values, and remove from them the responsibility of making it in the commercial world, so young people will have a role model and an alternate vision for living. ‘

I’m surprised Bob hasn’t mentioned them already as they are slaves to fashion and ‘personal capital’, and will be all set to shave off their beards and remove their tattoos with a cheesegrater should clean-shaven respectability become the profitable new trend.

153

TM 03.30.16 at 6:48 pm

139 The “age inequality” argument is clever because it is true that *on average*, the over 60 are much richer than the under 30, and relatively speaking, the discrepancy has greatly increased. But of course, the vast majority of the over 60 are still not rich, not even affluent (as I recall, only 25% have more than 250k in net worth, which means that 75% own at best their house after a long life of working and most would be poor without Social Security). It’s just that most rich people belong to older generations (which is to be expected of course). What’s the name of that statistical fallacy again? In addition, what is new is that the fortunes of the younger generation have tanked particularly since the great recession.

154

bianca steele 03.30.16 at 7:09 pm

@153

I wrote the first paragraph intending to write “Women”. That would have been sarcastic. I decided “hipsters” would be more effective.

155

geo 03.30.16 at 7:19 pm

reason @145 and Bruce @152:

It would be interesting to know, if one could quantify such things, what proportion of all the communications one receives (or better, perhaps, the stimuli one experiences) in an average day are some form of advertising or marketing. I’d guess a large majority. In which case, a hypothesis presents itself: the nature and function of human communication has altered. Through most of history, the default reaction to any communication was “this is what the speaker believes.” One needed only to judge the credibility of the speaker in order to know how to act. In the 21st century, after generations of saturation advertising, much or most of it deceptive or at least manipulative, the default reaction is “this is what the speaker, for some purpose of his/her own, wants me to believe.” Virtually all public communication may safely be presumed to be aiming at some effect, rather than simply at conveying information or conviction. Finding out what the speaker actually believes, much less what’s actually true or false, is the hearer’s responsibility: caveat auditor. Universal mistrust is the moral foundation of this stage, at least, of capitalist society. Hence, honesty is no longer the best policy.

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Ze K 03.30.16 at 7:30 pm

“Virtually all public communication may safely be presumed to be aiming at some effect, rather than simply at conveying information or conviction.”

Not only public, all communications, arguably. According to Richard Dawkins, communication is manipulation. Science, man.

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bob mcmanus 03.30.16 at 7:55 pm

bianca and 153

I liked it, although as an old I would prefer the word “hippie.” The more I thought about it, and bianca’s description, the more I liked it.

This also goes to Ze K’s condemnation of doomsters, I am simply pretty orthodox and I looked for the quote in vain but Marx said something about capitalism (or other mode of production) only being superseded when all it’s existing tendencies are maximized in breadth and depth. You can’t go back, you have to work with and within capitalism to defeat it.

So the hippie, (there were of course varieties) the ones who exist within capitalism (not withdrawing to the mountains) while consciously not producing and that means not producing ideology or community besides not producing commodities (because ideology and community etc etc have become sources of surplus in late capitalism) is a decent model for destructive non-resistance. Anyway.

Manual Override essay on Sabotage in The New Inquiry

The history of sabotage is the history of capitalism unmaking itself

And if linesmen make connections,
can’t you make dis-connections?
—Guy Bowman to telephone company workers,
The Syndicalist, 1913

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Neville Morley 03.30.16 at 8:10 pm

I like geo’s proposed research project – and my attempts at thinking through some of the practicalities (e.g. the basic question of whether we should attempt to quantify this in terms of percentage of individual messages received or percentage of time in day they would take up if one actually paid attention to them all) support his hypothesis, that many if not most of us are now conditioned to ignore most of what is thrown at us on the reasonable assumption that it will be manipulative rubbish, and to suspect most of the rest of having similar purposes but being better at disguising them. In which case, the only messages with any hope of being accepted as sincere are those which, prima facie, no one in their right mind would think of putting forward in anything other than naive/deluded sincerity: old-fashioned socialism or virtual fascism.

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b9n10nt 03.30.16 at 8:29 pm

We perceive greater opportunities for gaining or losing status in everyday affairs, and thus we are tempted to manipulate through our speech.

Traditional modes of status -wealth and power- are increasingly ethereal, cosmopolitan, informal, hidden. Amidst the confusion the distractions of consumerist individualism present us with thousands of shallow opportunities for egoic ascendence. In traditional cultures, these opportunities for increasing status were tightly regulated: people knew their place and the aristocracy was keen on displaying their power.

Rhetorical manipulation is no longer confined to a debate among lords, rather it is ever-present, the principle mode of civic engagement, a residue of capitalist modernity.

This is very clearly what so many on the left have been writing about for so long: the logic of capitalism must grow, vine-like, through all traditional structures of social being and reform them lest we admit an alternative.

We now market ourselves when we choose where to eat, what to read, how to dress.

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Rich Puchalsky 03.30.16 at 8:54 pm

“That’s hate speech” and not-Godwinning / “my kids and their friends are fine” / #notallboomers. I don’t see what those Millennials are complaining about at all!

Boomers did accomplish something: they pretty much get the credit for ending official racial discrimination in the U.S. They also pushed some progress in feminism, anti-homophobia etc. and increased mass environmental consciousness, all of which were worthy achievements although quickly subsumed into neoliberalism. In every other respect, the generation failed the important social challenges of our time and left the world worse than they had found it.

They failed even on their own terms. The boomer counterculture — the hippies — were, as the current joke goes, always right. The failures of the boomer generation involve the rejection of their own counterculture and a return to standard cultural values.

But the oldest Millennials are 25 or so now, and they’re failing as a generation too, so people can console themselves with that.

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b9n10nt 03.30.16 at 9:05 pm

Another connection: we are often, as adults, looking at ourselves and noting how adolescent we are. But here’s what this might mean: adolescents naturally are constructing their identities and intensely sensitive to status. In traditional societies, whatever social climbing or falling might occur will happen in this window of time. Capitalism expands this window throughout adulthood, thus we are socially conditioned to extend our desires and aversions around status identity long past a time in our lives when it is more greatly biologically determined.

Thus we can hypothesize that we are, today, conditioned to be psychologically stunted: somewhere out there is a Marxist Evo-Psych therapist guiding 40 year olds into their 2os.

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LFC 03.30.16 at 10:18 pm

Rich P. @160
The boomer counterculture — the hippies — were, as the current joke goes, always right.

The baby boom, as usually defined, runs from 1946 to 1964, I believe. The statistical peak of the baby boom, iirc, was the year 1957. Someone born in ’57 was, almost certainly, too young to participate in the height of the hippie era — say, Haight-Ashbery 1967 or Woodstock ’69, just to cite two famous examples.

‘The hippies’ were thus the counterculture only of the first wave of the baby boom and by no means of the whole ‘generation’. This may seem like a minor pt but I think it’s worth recalling as it likely has some application to other statements about ‘boomers’ that one often sees.

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LFC 03.30.16 at 10:34 pm

geo @156
Would be interesting (and I’m sure it’s already been done) to apply this analysis specifically to political advertising during campaigns. Anecdotal evidence from occasional news reports suggests an increasing tendency of many voters to ‘tune out’ the saturation TV and radio and internet advertising during (U.S.) elections. Paradoxically, this may lead some candidates, self-defeatingly, to do it more.

Another feature of political advertising these days, which one can gather just from hearing snippets of ads in news reports, is the ghastly, hideous, annoying noise — it can’t be dignified w the word “music” — that routinely accompanies political ads. It’s a kind of crushingly repetitive string ground base — deedle, deedle, deedle, over and over, in the low registers — apparently designed to lend gravitas. All it does, however, is distract and annoy. The directors of political ads apparently feel that the audience is incapable of actually paying attention to the spoken word unless it is accompanied by a distorted version of the noise/muzak/etc that comes out of ceiling speakers in certain commercial establishments. This repellent noise cannot be making ads more effective, and yet candidates and their ad directors continue to use it.

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Helen 03.30.16 at 10:48 pm

What if entrenched discrimination of all kinds, and class, were not confined to generational cohorts? Isn’t the promotion of boomer hatred (And yes, it is hate speech – Much of the basis of genocide against Jews / Kulaks / “wealthy peasants” in the last century was whipping up resentment based on perceived “greediness” or monopolisation of resources) perfectly tailored for right wing and neoliberal overlords to get us and our children fighting amongst each other and ignoring structural racism, sexism and class, not to mention all the disastrous policies (housing, health, finance) which emanate from them?

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anon 03.30.16 at 11:33 pm

Holly Wood’s Boomer piece does not strike me as hateful but furious. Furiously beautifu and furiously funny, but also just plain furious. This is an important distinction, because it’s the kind of fury that betrays an emotional wound, of the kind inflicted by great disappointment or great betrayal.

In other words, it strike me as written out of the kind of fury that has its source in very great love. As an experimental exercise, I’d ask you to reread it, imagining that when the author wrote the piece, she was really, on some level, addressing it to her own parents.

I’m not saying that’s the case, just that it would work. Imagine that her fury is directed not at an abstract category or an age group, but specifically at the specific members of that group who raised her, who she admired, whose deepest values and ideals she inherited and still cherishes. And now imagine that she believes they lied to her: lied to her about what the principles they claimed to uphold, about the real value of those ideals, and about the way in which they should be practiced. Imagine that she, like all children as they grow older, discovered that her parents were not Gods but mortals, all too human humans who don’t always practice what they preach, who don’t live up to the ideals they profess, who sometimes don’t even, deep down, believe in the values they profess. Imagine that she felt that they had not simply disappointed or failed her, but had actually betrayed her.

Now imagine they just happened to belong to a generation that had–by and large, though not of course to a person–been particularly vocal in the trumpeting of their idealism, their righteousness, and their accomplishments. Imagine they had been so for about 50 years. And imagine that now that they just as loudly continually mocked their own children for having loved and admired and adopted all those values they had trumpeted for 50 years.

You might see fury, indeed. But you might try to find see that fury with a tiny bit of love.

166

Peter T 03.31.16 at 12:16 am

The thought that one lives in the richest, strongest or whatever nation in the world is, for many curiously consoling. The thought that, whatever one’s present circumstances, other people somewhere else – as it might be the Chinese – are better off is somewhat less consoling, but is still regularly put forward here and elsewhere.

167

Anarcissie 03.31.16 at 12:17 am

Those who are fond of attributing broad cultural and personal characteristics to the year one was born in, e.g. ‘Boomer’, ‘Generation X’, often noted in the past, when this sort of semi-astrology was getting started, that the leading wave of the hippies and New Lefties were born, not during the Baby Boom, but during World War 2. (‘War Babies’ was the term of art.) One theory that was advanced about this by generationists was that Daddy was off fighting the various wars of the era, and wasn’t home to apply stern paternal discipline to the children, who consequently ran wild. You can believe that if you want. Boomers had hardly turned 20 when such peak events as the Summer of Love or the Battle of Chicago took place. If anyone is too blame for the hippies, the New Left, the Jesus freaks, the druggies, and so on, it is the ‘War Babies’; if anyone is to blame for the suburbs and White flight, it is not the poor Boomers, but their parents, and those yet older and richer people who led their parents by the nose. Hating the Boomers seems particularly vacuous at this late date.

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Ronan(rf) 03.31.16 at 12:25 am

Holly woods boomer piece struck me as something I’d have written to my mother if she grounded me at 15 for smoking behind the bikeshed

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Chris G 03.31.16 at 12:31 am

“… individuals cannot learn to speak for themselves at all, much less come to an intelligent understanding of their happiness and well-being, in a world in which there are no values except those of the market. . . . the market tends to universalize itself. It does not easily coexist with institutions that operate according to principles that are antithetical to itself: schools and universities, newspapers and magazines, charities, families. Sooner or later the market tends to absorb them all. It puts an almost irresistible pressure on every activity to justify itself in the only terms it recognizes: to become a business proposition, to pay its own way, to show black ink on the bottom line. It turns news into entertainment, scholarship into professional careerism, social work into the scientific management of poverty. Inexorably it remodels every institution in its own image.”

– from Christopher Lasch, The Revolt of the Elites

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Ronan(rf) 03.31.16 at 12:39 am

To be more serious, I do (to some degree ) admire hollys gall and vitriol. I understand her schtick is exaggerated for effect , and is intended to serve a particular rhetorical purpose. That’s all fine and understandable, but it’s not an analysis in any meaningful way. It’s a persona, not an intellectual position

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b9n10nt 03.31.16 at 12:48 am

Chris G @ 169,

Thanks

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Helen 03.31.16 at 1:04 am

Professor Q says it better than I can:

http://johnquiggin.com/2015/08/06/the-generation-game-and-the-1-per-cent/

“A Zombie idea which can never be killed.”

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LFC 03.31.16 at 1:26 am

I think anarcissie @167 is largely right. I read the opening graphs of that Holly Wood piece (and I’m not reading any more of it) and she says “[baby boomers] destroyed orchards to build parking lots” or words to that effect. The archetypal postwar tract suburb, Levittown, started selling its houses in March 1947, according to a two-second glance at Wikipedia. In ’47 the only baby boomers who existed were around one year old. (And the Pres. mainly responsible for the interstate highway system, a big impetus presumably to the triumph of the car, was named Eisenhower — not a baby boomer; indeed, born in the C19. Etc.)

Given its sheer size, for one thing, it wd be surprising if the baby boom ‘generation’ (it’s actually more like at least two generations, in the biological sense of that word) were not open to various charges. But I think we already knew that w/o Holly Wood’s cry of betrayal and fury, or whatever it is.

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JeffreyG 03.31.16 at 3:27 am

The Pete Peterson’s and the business right are eager to promote the generational warfare story – it suits their interests quite nicely. The problem is that that story has resonance. America* squandered its historic opportunity after the fall of the USSR with a series of unforced errors. The mis-managing of the East Asian financial crisis and the WoT/Iraq War are the big ones here, but feel free to add your own example from the litany of failures we have experienced in recent decades. Financial capital and the war economy have been privileged over any sort of long-term investment in infrastructure, education, or our urban environments. We identify as a specific race religion gender class politic and style, but we have little sense of being engaged in a common project, working together to some future. The majority of our leaders go along with this, play up or even encourage division, and all the while we are expected to tune out the dull roar of American decline.

It’s not just our infrastructure that is crumbling, or that legislation and the machinery of government are woefully out of date; the feeling of dread really kicks in as you watch the general failure of American institutions of all stripes. The traditional media come quickly to mind, but our churches, our sports leagues, our schools and universities, our police forces – all mired in scandals including some mixtures of fraud, sex, and violence. How many of you would say with 100% confidence that you think our elections are administered fairly?

But instead of a call for national renewal, or even an honest accounting of where we are headed, you see those who have established themselves digging in. When someone like Holly Wood rails against aging Americans retreating to their suburban McMansions, it is against this backdrop of the broad-scale retreat towards the private in American life. The sense of ‘well I got mine’ by those in positions of power & influence. Has it always been such? Not in America – not as millennials were raised, high on the legacy of the post WWII boom, with the brashness of the 80’s and the optimism of the 90’s added for good measure. Yet as our lives are increasingly tailored to the sort of flexibility desired by the market, the hope of stability – through a career, or through the American dream of buying a home – appears increasingly out of reach. So there is a lot of anger and resentment against America*, and for millennials a sense of betrayal. Just before we arrived on scene, the common wealth of this country was parceled out and walled off (or shipped overseas). People are noting that it is not just millennials who are hurting, that plenty of the older generation have been hit hard by recent events. As if the millennials do not know this – remember, these are not our parents, our aunts and uncles, whose jobs and retirement savings we have watched disappear. This is part of the story of betrayal – will this be our fate a few decades hence as well?

Who stands in for America* here? It is easy to blame the older generation, who have dominated all positions of authority in society for all the obvious reasons in addition to the abnormal size of the cohort (also treated too expansively imo). The right wing wants the youth believe it is a generational question. The prospect of a shrinking pie, an age of diminished expectations about the future, gives an audience to these worries about debt and a long-term competition for societal resources. I know a lot of smart people my age who are sympathetic to this line, we (the left) should be troubled by that fact. But more than wringing our hands about it, something is going to need to happen in a material sense to give the younger generation a sense of ‘buy-in’ in the American system. As Sanders shows, millennials will reject this view if they are offered a viable future to substitute for it (one that openly acknowledges that “the system is rigged”, and even names the culprit). It is just hard to believe that it is worth staying the course if you think the trajectory is all wrong.

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Rich Puchalsky 03.31.16 at 3:28 am

LFC: “I read the opening graphs of that Holly Wood piece (and I’m not reading any more of it)”

Because it’s so long and would take so much time. That was pettifogging:Levittown is famous because it was a template for what came later, not because it was the culmination of an era. The Interstate Highway System was designed for long-distance travel, not to enable suburbs.

Yes, generations are fake constructs and there is no reason why being born on either side of an arbitrary line should really mean much. But people do have common experiences and do communally make choices. They have the choice, insofar as a group of people can be said to make a choice, of whether to continue past trends or break off with them. And insofar as the baby boomers had choices, they generally made bad ones. People are all insulted because someone younger dissed them, and they’re doing the usual thing where they aren’t going to really say what they think because they’d be Godwinning, which means that they just said what they really think. Which is: Nazis! Which is ludicrous.

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Helen 03.31.16 at 4:23 am

Not “insulted”, genuinely fearful. Thinking of the next few years with vulnerable old people needing a higher level of care, “cared” for (thanks to the wonderful world of privatised “care”) by resentful people who have been ginned up to hate them.
That’s going to end well.

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bruce wilder 03.31.16 at 4:44 am

Bernie Sanders is a pre-boomer “war baby”.

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b9n10nt 03.31.16 at 5:31 am

I think two things can be simultaneously true:

Yes, we suffer from upward redistribution of wealth, grave ecological threats, a dysfunctional political system, a tragedy of mass incarceration & social upheaval, the vestiges of racism and sexism, and a civic culture steeped in escapism & triviality on the one hand and acrimony and bitterness on the other. These harms and threats are each related to a system in which our elites rise to, maintain, and defend their privileges.

Yet we are still a thriving prosperous society: In the U.S. measures of happiness are stable and among the highest among nations, life expectancy has continued to increase, per-capita income advances decade by decade, scientific advance and technological ingenuity continues to give us confidence in our potential to flourish…personal freedoms persist and -among some of the most vulnerable populations- expand.

Among politically-involved groups (of all ideologies) there’s a resistance to acknowledging the good news for fear that only persistent messages of fear and alarm will motivate “the choir” and spread the gospel among the unconverted. But I think that resistance is psychologically naive both for groups and individuals.

There’s very good reason for the Left to lay claim to and take credit for the prosperity that we do enjoy. It is as rational to hope that this 40 year period of neoliberal advance reflects old and dying ways of thinking as it is rational to fear that we are headed into darker times.

Optimism of the will, pessimism of the intellect? I think the intellect is rather lazy in accepting pessimism as an objective view. I think there is a way to acknowledge the corruption and threats that we face in this society without succumbing to acrimony, bitterness, or blame.

Perhaps these words are…condescending? Irrelevant? Distractions? But whatever fortitude it requires to hope for and work for social change, it can’t be well nurtured by constant messages of “We deserve the American Dream and you took it away” or “everything sucks and is getting worse”, can it? Seems like that’s a very contradictory way to go about working for meta-personal progress.

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Paul Davis 03.31.16 at 5:35 am

@175: sure, but those shared experiences are just as likely, if not more likely, to be based on geographic and class affiliations, on career choices and birth of first child, on cultural background and racial and gender identity, as on something as ephemeral as “shared birth era”.

180

Essayist 03.31.16 at 5:53 am

Holly Wood’s piece has great vitriol, and it’s generally true that “let’s you and them fight” is a great strategy to get the exploiters to fracture the exploited. Worked when the planters and the elites in the South put poor whites and African-Americans at each others’ throats. Why should it stop working now?

181

Ze K 03.31.16 at 6:22 am

bob mcmanus, @158 my attitude towards ‘the future’ is inspired not by Marx, but by Ecclesiastes… Though ‘hippie’ does work, anyhow.

182

reason 03.31.16 at 8:44 am

geo @156
Unfortunately, I think you may be right.

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engels 03.31.16 at 9:32 am

I am simply pretty orthodox and I looked for the quote in vain but Marx said something about capitalism (or other mode of production) only being superseded when all it’s existing tendencies are maximized in breadth and depth.

1859 Preface:

No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society. Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation.

ie. highly ‘orthodox’ but not exactly uncontroversial

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TM 03.31.16 at 10:00 am

“No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.”

That seems to make sense. But this:

“Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation.”

Where does this irrational optimism come from? Hegel?

185

Val 03.31.16 at 10:33 am

As a social historian, maybe I can tell you some things about baby boomers. For most of us, our parents had been affected by the Second World War, and for many, our parents had been directly involved. But we were born after the war, when they came back, determined that things could be different, that evil in the shape of Hitler had been defeated, even though they knew, puzzlingly, that their side had done some terrible things too.

We were the children of that belief, the ones who would make the dream of peace and plenty and fairness come true. And to some extent we did, until things went wrong in the 70s – when we were still marching (I have photos of myself marching) and then even more in the 80s, when we perhaps were old enough to start taking some responsibility. I am not sure who is responsible for what happened in the 80s, and the start of neoliberalism, but I feel fairly sure it wasn’t women. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there were any women amongst the leading lights of the Chicago School of Economics.

I think the neoliberal turn was more a reaction against feminism, and against anti-racism and anti-colonialism – I think it was white ruling class men reasserting their dominance. I don’t know what generation they were , exactly, but I don’t know that that matters. I do know that I fought against them, and I suffered because of it, and I don’t blame those of my sisters (or brothers of the non-ruling class) who went along with it, because there were real penalties for those of us who didn’t. I didn’t end up in poverty, but I didn’t end up in parliament either, which was certainly a possibility for me at one time.

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Rich Puchalsky 03.31.16 at 10:34 am

Helen: “Thinking of the next few years with vulnerable old people needing a higher level of care, “cared” for (thanks to the wonderful world of privatised “care”) by resentful people who have been ginned up to hate them.”

So is Holly Wood encouraging that resentment, or voicing it?

One of the digressions in recent threads was typical questions to anarchists about “who will work in the sewers” in an anarchy. Well, changing bedpans is our society’s work in the sewers. There’s a whole lot more people who do it than who actually work in sewers, and it’s worse paid and probably less respected. So how does our society get people to do it? By systematically putting aside resources for elderly people, because the social security net for them was just barely tough enough to survive the Reagan-through-Bush era, and systematically forcing younger people to do by a combination of removing the net for them and by lack of other work.

And who is to blame for that? “Entrenched discrimination of all kinds, and class”? Discrimination is what the baby boomers wee supposed to have struggled against: it’s pretty much their defining issue and involves the only accomplishments they did have. Class? A class structure can’t be sustained merely because the 1% want it sustained. It requires widespread buy-in. And the boomers are the adult elders in our society: they really have more actual responsibility and blame than anyone else.

Reality doesn’t grade on a curve. There are people who have been telling the boomers that they’ve been screwing up ever since the Reagan era. OK, now some younger people are resentful. Let’s hope that’s the worst of it.

187

Rich Puchalsky 03.31.16 at 10:42 am

And I should add that “the wonderful world of privatised care” was preserved and enabled in the U.S. by Obamacare, which patched over just enough of the crisis in the system to foreclose any other solution. Those people are getting paid very little for changing bedpans in part because liberals insisted that this was the best we could do and that we were ridiculous idealists if we held out for anything better — the same liberals who insist that HRC is the best we can do and that we’re ridiculous idealists if we vote for Sanders. Is thee a generational divide there? Oops, I think that there is.

188

bob mcmanus 03.31.16 at 10:54 am

185: Where does this irrational optimism come from? Hegel?

I often get help with this by looking at the “task” thing concretely, for example that for the steam or combustion engines to actually become significant a whole constellation of associated technologies and social relations had to be or soon to be online.

Could we have moved to mass solar energy/cable tv/high-speed internet fifty or 25 years ago, without a generation of silicon and rare metal development?

This might be viewed as trite or tautological or deterministic but just the opposite of optimistic, rather material and objective, for instance in positing a transition to socialism the necessary conditions are imagined based on the existing social relations and incremental political tasks rather than any utopian endpoint.

189

Val 03.31.16 at 10:59 am

Maybe you should read what I said, Rich, and respond to that. I am not responsible for what the white ruling class men of my generation did, and nor is Helen.

As I say, I don’t blame my sisters who went along with the neoliberal turn. Take Hillary Clinton – she tried to introduce a better healthcare funding system when her husband was elected (her husband, note, because even though she might have been more capable, she couldn’t have been elected then) and she got howled down. So she remade herself, with the blonde hair and the make up (and what her husbands infidelities may have had to do with that, maybe one can guess) and the neoliberal compromises, and became acceptable. And now all the young lefties are bagging her.

As I said, I didn’t go down that path myself. But I never got near the influence that Hillary Clinton (or Julia Gillard here) had either. So maybe think about why people compromise, hey?

190

bianca steele 03.31.16 at 11:43 am

How young do you have to be to understand that hipsters and hippies are different? I’m nearly fifty and I know that.

191

bob mcmanus 03.31.16 at 11:46 am

To a large degree I determine “the tasks mankind sets for itself” by what actually happens and what gets done.

From the sixties, flying cars didn’t make much progress, but Star Trek tricorders are in our pockets. Some progress has been made in the US on the environment and gender equality but considerably less on racial equality.

I don’t say “we tried but failed” or “we didn’t really try” because I don’t view the political will/desire for tasks not yet accomplished as an independent variable. Social desire/hope/optimism/determination is a material condition, a historical social fact.

Individuals have a greater degree of freedom, but very small influence on global conditions. However, history stops now, and teaches us that conditions can change rapidly and radically. Humility should restrain prediction and favor preparation.

192

bob mcmanus 03.31.16 at 11:54 am

192: Not young at all, since “hipster” is a 1940s word. Current usage appears terminally ironic.

I find recent admiration of the beatniks rather sad.

193

TM 03.31.16 at 12:10 pm

“And the boomers are the adult elders in our society: they really have more actual responsibility and blame than anyone else.”

As a rule, it’s always true that power and responsibility correlates with age. What I find a bit puzzling is the focus on the 1946-1964 cohorts as the generational bogeyman. Surely my own post-boomer generation has its share of responsibility, and surely the under 40 and under 30 generations also have their share of responsibility. Sorry to break it to Holly Wood but if her generation even bothered to show up at elections, they could have easily voted many of the hated boomers out of office (*), not to mention what they could have achieved with determined political activism.

To be perfectly clear, the generational blame game, whether understandable or not, is politically poisonous. Progressives have nothing to gain from engaging in it.

(*) Not to open that can of worms again: I’m not talking about those who make a conscious political decision not to participate in elections but the majority who simply don’t care.

194

Ze K 03.31.16 at 12:35 pm

“the generational blame game, whether understandable or not, is politically poisonous. “

what, and the gender- and race-based aren’t?

195

Rich Puchalsky 03.31.16 at 12:49 pm

The class-based blame game is poisonous too, if we’re going to label any justified resentment as poisonous. Why should people blame the 1%? The 1% would be powerless, as people keep reminding us, if only the non-1% would get out and vote and vote consistently against the politicians who support the policies of the 1%.

Social choices about how society is set up — well, in a mass democracy I think that you have three basic ways of looking at them. If it’s more or less deterministic or what like bob mcm is talking about, then it’s really no one’s fault. If it is someone’s fault, then you have to confront the fact that politicians are generally voted in by majorities. So then you have the choice of thinking that majorities are fooled, year after year, by evil elites into voting against their own interests, or thinking that they are pretty much voting for what they want.

Were the baby boomers fooled? No other generation has less excuse for saying they were fooled, because no other generation’s counterculture so strongly and directly rejected the same values that people were supposedly fooled into supporting. It’s like the punk rocker who sells out. Were they fooled into selling out because they didn’t know better? No.

196

lurker 03.31.16 at 12:52 pm

‘And now all the young lefties are bagging her.’ (Val, 191)
Why do you care? She doesn’t.

197

casmilus 03.31.16 at 1:28 pm

Meanwhile, the UK steel industry is threatened with closure due to trade policy towards China.

198

reason 03.31.16 at 1:40 pm

Val @186
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there were any women amongst the leading lights of the Chicago School of Economics.”

Anna Schwartz? Rose Friedman (who arguably led her husband astray)?

199

Ronan(rf) 03.31.16 at 1:44 pm

Is the problem with uk steel not as much to do with British energy policy ?

200

TM 03.31.16 at 2:04 pm

RP 197: I don’t even know how to make sense of a statement like “No other generation has less excuse for saying they were fooled”. Generations aren’t fooled and don’t make excuses, people do.

Nevertheless you are raising difficult questions. For example, when “justified” anti-capitalist resentment in Germany and elsewhere turned against “rich Jews”, was there anything wrong with the anti-capitalist resentment itself, or with the way leftists at the time stoked that resentment, or was this just an expression of deep-seated racism/anti-semitism and the pseudo-anti-capitalism just a propaganda veneer? What can, what should we learn from historical experience?

Ze K 196: Are feminism and ant-racism blame games? Or are you referring to the right-wing backlash, which blames women and minorities for any and all real and imagined social ills? I can only observe that the right-wingers are far better at the blame game. The famous male white trump supporter is entirely motivated by resentment. Should progressives really try to beat them at their own game?

201

steven johnson 03.31.16 at 2:06 pm

Material support for retirees, as well as children, students and soldiers (and teachers and other government employees in the eyes of those who view them as parasites) always comes from current production. Nobody can save up the food, electricity, clothing for their retirement. There is no likelihood that there won’t be enough young people to grow food, generate power, sew clothing, etc. to support retirees, children, students and soldiers (and teachers and other government employees.) The question is where the revenue to pay for it comes from.

Holly Wood and her ilk unquestioningly accept that revenue must come from wages, instead of other taxes,. They also unquestioningly accept that wage levels must necessarily be so low that many workers cannot expect to support their families, young and old. (The notion that production should be set at a level to provide for needs rather than set a level that is profitable is apparently inconceivable.) To put it in other words, Holly Wood et al. believe that it is taxes that cause economic distress, rather than low wages. This is grossly ideological in the pejorative sense, a profoundly reactionary misreading of reality formed by the needs of the ruling class.

202

Ronan(rf) 03.31.16 at 2:08 pm

“what, and the gender- and race-based aren’t?”

Good point. You could have replaced boomer for “white man” and not an eyelid would bat, so common would be the screed .

203

Rich Puchalsky 03.31.16 at 2:13 pm

TM: “Generations aren’t fooled and don’t make excuses, people do.”

This is total BS and if you followed it consistently would invalidate pretty much everything else that you generally agree with. I can’t stand people who are perfectly happy making generalizations, knowing that every generalization has to be wrong in detail, until it’s a generalization that they don’t like. Or people who suddenly can’t understand metaphors when it’s their ox being gored. Yes, a generation, like every other social grouping that has ever existed, is an artificial construction and “really” is composed of a lot of individual people making choices. Let’s just declare that sociology doesn’t exist too.

204

Rich Puchalsky 03.31.16 at 2:25 pm

steven johnson: “Holly Wood and her ilk unquestioningly accept that revenue must come from wages, instead of other taxes,”

Only if you can’t read.

Here’s a paragraph from the same post being criticized above:
“When Baby Boomers were my age, most of them voted for Reagan, Bush and Clinton. In a nutshell, the policies Boomers voted for included: sweeping financial deregulation, the Vietnamization of the Middle East, the steady erosion of trade protections, and the deconstruction of the New Deal. I see nothing worth preserving in this backwards heritage.”

What could Holly Wood *mean* by “the deconstruction of the New Deal”? It’s so hard to figure out! It’s too tough for us, but the part about bedpans was sure toxic.

Before people start accusing me of saying that everyone else is stupid, again, I’m not. The word I prefer is “horrible”. Stupid people could not use their education and reasoning power to misread so creatively and self-interestedly.

205

anon 03.31.16 at 2:53 pm

I’m reminded of Freud’s kettle: your kettle was fine when I returned it; plus, it was already broken when you lent it to me; besides, I never borrowed your kettle.

Baby boomers deserve credit for the good things they accomplished; plus, you can’t blame a generation for what some people did; besides, baby boomers don’t exist.

206

reason 03.31.16 at 2:57 pm

I’m sorry this is getting beyond ridiculous. Generationalism, like sexism and racism before it, is a process of putting a large and very diverse group into an ill-fitting bucket. It is just as unacceptable as sexism and racism are.

207

TM 03.31.16 at 3:07 pm

205: Show me where I made unwarranted generalizations. I probably made some in my life but I do try to avoid it. (*)

Btw here’s what I said: “Surely my own post-boomer generation has its share of responsibility, and surely the under 40 and under 30 generations also have their share of responsibility.” Assigning responsibility in a loose way to an amorphous collective is always problematic but yes, sometimes it makes sense as a figure of speech. Still one should be careful with it, and the year of one’s birth is really one of the least meaningful criteria by which to define a political collective.

208

Rich Puchalsky 03.31.16 at 3:10 pm

reason: “Generationalism, like sexism and racism before it”

So I assume that “reason” also objects whenever anyone says Black Lives Matter, because that’s supposedly racist, and instead says that all lives matter. I mean, it’s racist whether it’s a less powerful group criticizing social practices supported by a more powerful group or vice versa, right? Or whenever anyone here uses the word mansplaining, reason must pop in to write “that’s sexist”. #notallmen, after all.

If people were really consistent non-essentialists, I could sort of understand this. But all that it seems to amount to is that people have their favorite “large and very diverse groups” to blame, and they really object to anyone blaming the group other than the group that they’ve decided is to blame. Conveniently, they are always not in whatever group they think its blamable, so they are never responsible.

209

steven johnson 03.31.16 at 3:13 pm

Rich Puchalsky@206 Re-read the paragraph. Then think.

Clinton did not run on a platform of financial deregulation, so it is a libel to say Clinton voters voted for the policy. Vietnamization was supposed to be a policy of withdrawal of US forces in favor of local allies doing the fighting. Applying this to the Middle East is historically illiterate, or possibly just confusionist. The steady erosion of trade protections is not even agreed to be a leftist criticism.

As for the deconstruction of the New Deal, the process began with Taft-Hartley, not baby boomers. It was Carter who used the government to break a union, but again, it wasn’t a policy he ran on. Nor for that matter did he campaign for Volcker’s ferocious interest rate tightening, aimed to break increases in wages. Yet Carter was excluded from her indictment! Whatever Holly Wood may think the deconstruction of the New Deal is, she clearly doesn’t include labor relations in it. Nor does she have a problem with taxation policy. The highly progressive income tax rates were rolled back starting in the Fifties. Property taxes and sales taxes are not an issue for her when thinking about her paycheck, just FICA withholding.

No matter how absurdly Rich Puchalsky misreads this paragraph, it is a jumble of irrelvancies, selectivity, error..really it’s hard to figure out how to condemn it properly, save to not it is the kind of reasoning that appeals to anarchists. There was an old joke that Trotskyists were the brain trust of the left. The follow up is that anarchists are the brain dead of the left. Moralizing is no substitute for thinking.

210

reason 03.31.16 at 3:19 pm

RP
Huh? Are you saying something about the nature of black people as a group or is there an implied ALSO in there? Sorry, I don’t see the relevance.

211

Ronan(rf) 03.31.16 at 3:25 pm

“If people were really consistent non-essentialists, I could sort of understand this. But all that it seems to amount to is that people have their favorite “large and very diverse groups” to blame, and they really object to anyone blaming the group other than the group that they’ve decided is to blame.”

This is a good point. And it does happen all the time (I’m sure I do it often). The gold standard example Is probably places like LGM where on the one hand people often revert to rhetoric about “white males” or Christians or “the white working class”, then on the other if you try and venture a point about a more sympathetic demographic (say “Islam”) you get responses like “there are as many Islam’s as there are individual minds.”
I think it’s clear you *can* both generalise (we really have very few other ways of communicating complex phenomena, and some generalisations provide some , admittedly limited, insight) and you probably shouldn’t take the generalisation too far.

212

JimV 03.31.16 at 3:31 pm

““When Baby Boomers were my age, most of them voted for Reagan, Bush and Clinton.”

Her profile says she is in her late 20’s. I’m a boomer, born in 1946. 1946+29=1975, before any of the above were nominated (and most of us including myself didn’t live in California to vote for Reagan as Governor there). I voted for McGovern and Carter. (Didn’t see much difference between Humphrey and Nixon and didn’t vote in my first chance – my mistake. Have voted in every election since, typically at 6 AM before getting to work. Never voted for Reagan or either Bush.)

I read the Boomer article by Ms. Wood, back when it was linked, a day or so ago, and was mildly offended but let it go. Now that it has become a topic here, I won’t list all the inventions and scientific and medical discoveries of Boomers, the foundings of Greenpeace and similar organizations, but just repeat Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap. That includes Boomers. Maybe your generation is different, but I doubt it.

213

TM 03.31.16 at 3:32 pm

sj 203 and RP 206: I agree that Holly Wood doesn’t say what sj imputes to her (because he hasn’t read the article?) There are others however who are making that kind of argument, and I fear its potency. See 131.

214

geo 03.31.16 at 3:33 pm

Rich @205: Let’s just declare that sociology doesn’t exist

I second that.

215

TM 03.31.16 at 3:37 pm

210. “So I assume that “reason” also objects whenever anyone says Black Lives Matter, because that’s supposedly racist”

I don’t know what reason thinks but if you are saying that you can’t oppose racism without accepting its essentialist premise (that races have some sort of existence independent of social relations) then I don’t know what to say. Perhaps there is nothing more to say.

216

geo 03.31.16 at 3:38 pm

When we’re tired of discussing Holly Wood on who’s responsible for “the deconstruction of the New Deal,” perhaps we could move on to two brand-new masterpieces on the subject: Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal and Steve Fraser’s The Limousine Liberal.

217

Anarcissie 03.31.16 at 3:49 pm

LFC @ 174:
‘I read the opening graphs of that Holly Wood piece (and I’m not reading any more of it) and she says “[baby boomers] destroyed orchards to build parking lots” or words to that effect.’

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And they put up a parking lot….

(From Big Yellow Taxi by ‘war baby’ Joni Mitchell (b. 1943); song published in 1970; the oldest Boomer was 24 at the time, a bit young for major real-estate depredation.)

218

TM 03.31.16 at 3:50 pm

You can move on wherever you want…

219

TM 03.31.16 at 3:51 pm

[Meant to respond to geo]

220

Rich Puchalsky 03.31.16 at 3:53 pm

TM: “I don’t know what reason thinks but if you are saying that you can’t oppose racism without accepting its essentialist premise”

I’m saying that racism and “reverse racism” are not simply both racism. When people criticize black people being shot by police through using a slogan like Black Lives Matter, that is not racist. Nor is it essentialist, necessarily: even through races are social constructions, social facts are very important in people’s lives. Similarly, when relatively powerless youth criticize the decisions of their elders through a social construction like the generation concept, that isn’t “generationalist.” I think that people would sort of intuitively get this if they weren’t strongly predisposed not to get it.

As for steven johnson, he can take a paragraph that starts with “the policies Boomers voted for included” and wonder why it doesn’t include Carter, and take a generalization about Reagan, Clinton, and Bush and say that one of the policies is misapplied to Clinton. Plus he apparently doesn’t think that the Iraq War and other wars in the Middle East were / are based on “a policy of withdrawal of US forces in favor of local allies doing the fighting”. I’m not defending Holly Wood’s piece as correct, but it’s a whole lot better than the tawdry nitpicking in support of virtue deployed against it.

221

AcademicLurker 03.31.16 at 3:54 pm

Rich@205: Heh. A few months ago, driven by extreme boredom (home sick), I was browsing the archives of The Valve’s Theory’s Empire book event*. Hundreds of comments arguing over whether whether it was legitimate to talk about Theory, or whether you could only ever talk about individual theorists. plus ça change!

*Has it been 11 years already? Wow.

222

Suzanne 03.31.16 at 3:55 pm

@198: Clinton says that she wants to earn the votes of younger people and she would have both practical and personal reasons for being sincere about that. I’m sure she’d like to be a more inspirational candidate than she is considered to be in some quarters, and she has adjusted her rhetoric and approach to acknowledge that deficiency, which could be observed, for example, in her speech after her victory in Nevada.

223

Val 03.31.16 at 3:57 pm

reason @ 200
Thanks for correcting me, I’ll have to look into that. And before them was Ayn Rand and after them was Thatcher I guess, so I too should beware of generalising. However I should think women were only a small proportion of that group of economists who were the advocates of neoliberalism, at least?

@ 211 – I agree with you that what RP is saying doesn’t seem to make sense – blaming all baby boomers for the way some voted is ‘generationalism’ as you put it. However I found some information from the New York Times, via Dr Google, that does seem to confirm that many baby boomers supported Reagan in 1984:

This year it appears that many in this generation plan, like Mr. Merrick, to vote for President Reagan. According to the last four New York Times/ CBS News Polls, 54 percent of the voters aged 27 to 38 favor Mr. Reagan, while 37 percent back Walter F. Mondale. Only the smaller segment of the electorate aged 18 to 26 gives Mr. Reagan a bigger share of their support.

If you take the younger group as mainly ‘late baby boomers’ then support for Reagan was definitely high, although the article goes on to say it was much higher amongst men than women. Nevertheless, more women supported Reagan than supported Mondale.

Still, even if a majority of the baby boomer generation either supported Reagan, or didn’t vote, it doesn’t mean all did, and it is wrong to generalise about them in the way Holly Wood does. If I were a left wing woman in America, I would hate to think younger people were going to be mean to me in the nursing home because of the way some of my contemporaries voted!

224

Val 03.31.16 at 3:59 pm

225

anon 03.31.16 at 4:41 pm

I find it hard to believe this needs mentioning but (1) Wood’s piece is intentionally hyperbolic, (2) it’s poetry not analysis, and (3) she’s clearly a super-sweet person who will never, ever pick on you in the nursing home.

It might help to read the last of those links (https://medium.com/@girlziplocked/america-is-a-big-country-with-a-lot-of-shit-to-do-4a06f31f0d22#.ud0ccpygz) where history’s greatest monster has this to say:

“What I love about America is that there’s just so much of it. There are so many pockets of America bursting at the seams with weirdos. But the best part is that they’re different kinds of weirdos wherever you go! No matter where you go, you won’t have to look hard for a fresh batch of All-American weirdos. Move around often enough and you’ll never stop being knocked off your horse by the Great American Absurd.

And next to our absurdity there are hints all over us of greatness. There are startups at work growing mushrooms to insulate houses. There are people in Detroit turning abandoned lots into urban gardens that grow fresh, affordable food for their communities. And — oh God — when you think all hope is lost, there’s a little girl named Hailey up in Washington who spends her free time building tiny houses for the homeless.

I mean come on, America, we can be so great sometimes. Like Hailey. Hailey, the best American, toiling her childhood away at something she shouldn’t even have to be thinking about because we as a country don’t recognize housing as a human right. I’m sorry, Hailey. We’re letting you down, kid. America, there’s a lot of shit we have to do. Hailey can’t do it alone. America, we are sitting on 14 million empty houses and in the time it took us to finish The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, that kid will have built four more. Christ, aren’t we absurd.

The only good news America gets from me is that there is so much to do.The only good news America gets from me is that there is so much to do. When politicians talk about creating jobs, I think that’s preposterous. The jobs are already here. They’re teaching our kids. Caring for the sick. Housing the poor. Fixing our soil. Planting our crops. Saving the fucking planet. The problem is you don’t think we can.”

But fine, go on explaining why it’s hate speech when Ginsberg tells America to go fuck itself with its atom bomb (#notallAmericans). Go on slicing and dicing the accuracy of his claim about our libraries that only three quarters full of tears. Stay serious. Stay too cool for school, while Wood puts her heart on her sleeve and her strange shoulder to the wheel.

Five years ago, I was terrified by my students and terrified of the future–at least the long game. Now I’m only terrified by the short game. I’m betting the farm on these kids, and will be happy to be buried by them.

226

Rich Puchalsky 03.31.16 at 5:01 pm

So, let’s see if I’ve got this right about generationalism. If you don’t vote, you are being irresponsible. You share some responsibility for the predictable results of how and whether you vote. In a group sense, a democratic, majority vote has legitimacy — it is the best way of making a communal political decision.

At the same time, you can’t generalize about a group of people’s beliefs because a majority of them voted for something. The majority is not responsible for their democratic decisions. A democratic, majority vote really doesn’t say anything about the people who made it.

I think that I can reconcile these two beliefs. Together they say that individual virtue is paramount and must be defended. If someone doesn’t do an individual act that people agree is virtuous, then they are not virtuous. If they join in a communal act that people agree is not virtuous, then that can not be held to impinge on their individual virtue. In short, you can not generalize.

227

Val 03.31.16 at 5:15 pm

In case anyone is interested in Australian baby boomers, there is a great piece here http://adelehorin.com.au/2013/08/19/ageing-baby-boomers-will-they-hurt-labor/

In short, it’s not really clear whether we, as a generation, are left or right – the evidence is difficult to interpret, as is the question of whether we are becoming more conservative as we age. Sadly, the writer of this piece died last year, aged 64.

It is 4 in the morning here and I am having trouble sleeping so have been browsing the Internet. However I can see that there is a problem that a post originally about millenials has now turned into a discussion about baby boomers (albeit stimulated by a millenial attacking boomers!). If anyone wants to have a dig about that, fair enough. I won’t say anything further about baby boomers now though :)

228

Lupita 03.31.16 at 5:29 pm

Rich@187

A class structure can’t be sustained merely because the 1% want it sustained. It requires widespread buy-in

Why would Latin Americans vote for a neoliberal system that regards them as citizens of second class countries meant to be subservient to the West? Because most bought into the fantasy that we were to become first worlders, part of the privileged core, if only the technocratic, modern, neoliberal precepts were followed. In both the core and the periphery, people sold-out. In Latin American, most bought into the fantasy of becoming part of the exploiters instead of the exploited. In the West, it was for cheap imports.

It’s the global neoliberal consensus.

229

Lupita 03.31.16 at 5:34 pm

Val @186

I think the neoliberal turn was more a reaction against feminism, and against anti-racism and anti-colonialism – I think it was white ruling class men reasserting their dominance.

I saw the shrieking female masses swoon at Peña Nieto because he (supposedly) looked like a telenovela star, and therefore voted for him. I don’t know where you get this notion that non-whites, non-males are so left-wing, rational, and the future of humanity. We’re like all the rest, quite shallow. Besides, Peña Nieto and the other neoliberal presidents throughout the region aren’t particularly white or male. Bachelet was jailed in Chile and Rousseff was tortured in Brazil. They are now female neoliberal heads of state.

The demographic explanation for the spread of neoliberalism does not hold water. The racial and gender social reality, history, and aspirations of the US and the West cannot be used to explain a reality (neoliberalism) that took over the planet.

I don’t blame those of my sisters (or brothers of the non-ruling class) who went along with it

I do. In Latin America, it was mostly brown non-ruling class people torturing, disappearing, jailing, and assassinating other non-ruling class brown people. It is mostly non-ruling class brown people voting in neoliberals and lackeys of the empire.

230

Cian 03.31.16 at 5:44 pm

#191 Val: Is it possible that perhaps Hillary, who has surrounded herself with neoliberals, is in fact a neoliberal. That is someone who believes in the markets, meritocracy and order. Because if she is you don’t need to tie yourself up in knots explaining her policies as compromises, or 6th dimensional chess. It’s simple – she pushed the policies that she believed in. Maybe she’s an ideological politician who disagrees with the ideology of social democrats. Because it’s a lot easier to explain her and her career if you assume that.

As for the compromises she made in her career. Sure, she lived in a sexist time. But she’s also a mediocre politician (as in someone who can build coalitions and persuade others to follow her. She’s an extremely capable bureacrat) who hitched herself to the most brilliant politician of her generation. If Bill Clinton had had the political abilities of his wife – noone would have heard of him.

231

Cian 03.31.16 at 5:50 pm

To reiterate anon at # 227:
Holly Wood’s piece is a hyperbolic response to boomer commentators and courtiers who’ve been patronizing milennials since they were in high school. A rough translation for those who don’t parse hyperbole might read: “who the hell are you to tell my generation how to vote, or think? You gave us this mess, and you think we give a damn about your opinions?”

Judging by milennials of my acquaintance this is a pretty authentic channeling of how millenials feel about their elders. Prior to the election they were pissed off by all the generational thumb-suckers about this entitled/lazy/whatever generation. This election, with the mendacious coverage of millennials favored candidate (and patronizing commentary on Bernie Bros, etc.) seems to have pushed them over the edge. Can’t say I blame them.

Whatever the reasons for it, I do think that there is a vast chasm between the generations here. Maybe the election revealed it, maybe it helped create it. But when I read what they write on twitter, or talk to local millennials – it’s striking how differently they perceive the world and their place in it. Maybe what boomers are now feeling is how their parents felt in the 60s.

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Ronan(rf) 03.31.16 at 6:03 pm

Scrolling back to 171, I did mention it was obviously hyperbole for effect. This is also Bill o Reillys schtick. Perhaps she pulls it off better. It seems the jury’s still out.

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engels 03.31.16 at 6:09 pm

I think the neoliberal turn was more a reaction against feminism, and against anti-racism and anti-colonialism – I think it was white ruling class men reasserting their dominance

Yes that certainly seems to explain the miners strike, privatisation and monetarism to name just three

I am not sure who is responsible for what happened in the 80s, and the start of neoliberalism, but I feel fairly sure it wasn’t women.

From a British perspective this really is a whole new level of bizarre

234

geo 03.31.16 at 6:25 pm

TM @220: You can move on whenever you want

Would much rather you came along!

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Val 03.31.16 at 6:26 pm

Lupita @ 231
I think we can take it for granted that many people will vote against what you or I might see as their ‘true’ interests, and that they will ally themselves with power. When I say that neoliberalism was a reaction against egalitarian movements, I base that on analysis, particularly that:

-it recreated the racist and patriarchal idea of the normative individual (thus obscuring actual differences and power differentials based on gender, race/ethnicity and so on) in this ideology disguised as the ‘consumer’ who participates in the ‘market’;

-it disguised relationships of power while institutionalising them in the guise of the market (as I’m sure we all know, markets respond to money, not individuals, so those who have the most money have the most power).

Fair enough you can say that the individuals with the most money aren’t all white or male now, but they still mainly are, and most of the women seem to be there because of family inheritance http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/#version:static

Cian @ 232
I’m using Hillary Clinton more as an example of the compromises women make rather than talking about her political ideologies (apart from her original position on healthcare funding, which I don’t think was neoliberal) or skills.

As others have pointed out, can you imagine a female Bernie Sanders? First thing he’d have to do is get his hair styled and dye it (preferably blonde), and put on some makeup and lippy so he doesn’t look so “tired”. Then he’d have to smarten his clothes up, and stop shouting and waving his arms about. And even then his ideas would still be dismissed as nutty.

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reason 03.31.16 at 6:30 pm

Rich Pukalsky
“At the same time, you can’t generalize about a group of people’s beliefs because a majority of them voted for something. The majority is not responsible for their democratic decisions. A democratic, majority vote really doesn’t say anything about the people who made it.”

Oh come on – that is ridiculous. Are you saying the people who voted democratic are just as responsible for the GOP congress as the one’s that voted for the GOP? Democracy is a process – you don’t just vote once. It is the process that matters in terms of legitimacy not the individual decisions (you aren’t deciding for eternity – that is the whole point). And I don’t even know it is true that the majority of GOP votes came from boomers (and it certainly not true that significant numbers of younger voters don’t also vote GOP). Why are you spouting this nonsense – it is like saying young people are responsible for crime because more young people commit crime.

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Cian 03.31.16 at 6:32 pm

Val:
“However I should think women were only a small proportion of that group of economists who were the advocates of neoliberalism, at least?”

Women were a small proportion of all economists and political philosophers in that period.

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Val 03.31.16 at 6:35 pm

@ 235
I’ve already acknowledged Thatcher and reason informed me above that there were at least a couple of women involved in the the Chicago School. They were exceptions to the general rule though, not the rule. Other than that, you can read what I said to Lupita in my comment @ 237

@ 233 – the millenials I know in Australia don’t think that way about their parents – so again I’d suggest to you that the causes of this are mainly economic and political, not generational (except insofar as a majority of US boomers did support Reagan, as I noted earlier. But you know if she hates older people for voting for Reagan, maybe she should just hate those who did, rather than older people per se).

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JeffreyF 03.31.16 at 6:41 pm

hey reason – data on this stuff exists, and is easy to find to correct your admitted ignorance.

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reason 03.31.16 at 6:43 pm

Val,
I come from a family of 7 of whom 6 were university educated and all left of center and one (my mother) who was not and is stridently right wing. You could take that as an anecdote to suggest that women are more right wing (probably false) or that university educated people are more left wing (it really depends on what they studied). But I’m more inclined to think it is more complicated than that.

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bob mcmanus 03.31.16 at 6:45 pm

Thanks for mentioning the new Fraser book, geo, I will be looking for it. Loved Age of Acquiescence

I am reading less of the polemical anymore however, and wondering how much the Fraser will add to stuff like Hedges Death of the Liberal Class and Hayes Twilight of the Elites and Fisher’s Capitalist Realism. Or maybe just getting tired.

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Ze K 03.31.16 at 6:48 pm

Neoliberalism is not a reaction to anything. It’s a perfectly natural evolutionary mutation of the capitalist system, brought about by recent technological developments: computerization, communications, automation, transcontinental shipping. Obviously, it’s not going away because of some election. You can’t elect a politician who will stop it for you. I’m thinking, Bob M is right: the way to resist is to make the society ungovernable. Chaos. Who knows, maybe the ‘Trump revolution’ is the ticket.

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lurker 03.31.16 at 6:55 pm

@Suzanne, 224
She’s a politician. If she wanted to appeal to leftist youth (not all youth are leftist), she would.
But appealing to leftist youth has a political price that appealing to, e.g., the AIPAC does not have.

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Val 03.31.16 at 7:02 pm

reason @ 241
I think all kinds of qualitative info is interesting and relevant, including personal anecdotes. But if I want to make generalisations, I look at stats.

engels @ 235
From the Forbes rich list I linked earlier – of the top 100 richest people in the world now, 92 are male, and the majority appear to be white (for interest, 39 are from the US, by far the largest single group from any nationality).

So you can call my theories “a whole new level of bizarre” if you like (makes a change from nutty anyway), but I would say the empirical evidence bears out my theory that neoliberalism serves the interests of white ruling class men, particularly from the USA.

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Val 03.31.16 at 7:07 pm

Btw it is truly amazing how many guys on CT are like ‘of course I’m not sexist but gosh this feminist I’m talking to is nutty/bizarre/generally wrong about everything’

246

Cian 03.31.16 at 7:08 pm

Ze K:
Or by removing things from the market.

1) A lot of things will inevitably be removed from the market, because they’ve been a disaster. Academic research, for example. These things will return to the public space because countries that resist privatizing them will do better economically and politically. These are bad ideas, with bad consequences for the host.

2) Some things will gradually be socialized due to economic forces. You see signs of how that might happen within the software industry, where more and more of the infrastructure and tools are being open-sourced. Not out of any idealism, but simply because it’s more efficient and companies that embrace it do better. This is also starting to happen to hardware also. It’s not impossible to imagine it happening in a lot of service industries also. Not to sound like Paul Mason, or anything, but underneath the craziness he may have a point.

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bruce wilder 03.31.16 at 7:24 pm

geo @ 156

The analysis of political cycles in terms of generational turnover turns into astrology because people don’t read Ecclesiastes as seriously as Holly Wood.

Are you familiar with Gresham’s Law? It is the economic principle, “bad money drives out good” and ostensibly explains why a debased coinage will displace one whose precious metal content more closely approximates its face value. But, people have long used that basic idea as a metaphor. The Wikipedia article on Gresham’s Law provides this quotation from Aristophanes’ The Frogs (405 BCE):

The course our city runs is the same towards men and money.

She has true and worthy sons.

She has fine new gold and ancient silver,

Coins untouched with alloys, gold or silver,

Each well minted, tested each and ringing clear.

Yet we never use them!

Others pass from hand to hand,

Sorry brass just struck last week and branded with a wretched brand.

So with men we know for upright, blameless lives and noble names.

These we spurn for men of brass…

One irony of Gresham’s Law as an economic principle is that it is actually not desirable to invest precious metals into currency; money to function well as an economic institution should have no inherent value of its own. But, put that insight aside.

The point I want to draw attention to, in my roundabout way, is that investment is cyclical, not linear. You build something up, and that creates an opportunity: to tear it down. Some great monarch establishes a coinage of proven integrity, and in its context, that policy yields some gain, but it doesn’t continue to yield a return just because it is virtuous. A coinage with a high precious metal content yields a small and possibly diminishing seignorage, as its integrity becomes an accepted fact, but confidence in its integrity and habits of commerce predicated on its integrity opens the possibility of great gains from debasement.

The integrity that once supported credibility was an investment, an accumulated resource, deliberately husbanded and nurtured, but as it accumulated, and lost its scarcity value, it ceased to yield sufficient return to support reproduction. And, the opportunity to disinvest, to make depreciation yield cash, so to speak, arose in its place. Credibility has no more profitable use than as a means of deception.

I suppose I am arguing that a world that has depleted its stock of integrity and is low on credibility is a world in which an entrepreneurial effort to rebuild integrity and credibility, has a prospect of earning a good return on such an investment, given the scarcity. Thus, to everything there is a season.

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Cian 03.31.16 at 7:26 pm

#245 Val – No the data supports a range of theories, one of which is yours. You could equally make the argument that neoliberalism serves the interests of those with power and resources. In some countries that will be white males, in other countries it will those with connections to ex-colonial powersm in others it will be ex-communists and criminals. Elite women have done better under the current regime in the US than they did in the 60s. Young women today, in those elites, seem to bein

Sure you can find neoliberals who are sexist and racist, but you can also find neoliberals who really aren’t. Including billionares. As a ideology it’s been extremely accommodating to gender, racial and sexual equality. In the west most neoliberals will argue that economic discrimination is a market failure. Some believe it will self correct (as companies that hire according to ability will out compete those that don’t), others believe it requires government intervention to ‘correct’ the market. Neoliberalism was unfazed, unlike traditional conservatism, by women entering the workforce. It’s been able to adapt fairly easily to a non-homophobic society. It found it easy to appropriate the social aspects of feminism (‘lean in’ being the latest example).

“[neoliberalism] recreated the racist and patriarchal idea of the normative individual (thus obscuring actual differences and power differentials based on gender, race/ethnicity and so on) in this ideology disguised as the ‘consumer’ who participates in the ‘market’”

Actually neoliberals hold a ‘utopian’ idea, which is that equality of opportunity can only be achieved by extending marketization to all people, and to all aspects of life. Your misreading of it is common and one that has done a lot of damage to the causes of liberals.

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Ze K 03.31.16 at 7:26 pm

“Or by removing things from the market.”

Nah, wishful thinking. Neoliberal mills grind slowly but exceedingly fine.

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JeffreyG 03.31.16 at 7:42 pm

‘Boomers’ itself refers to two distinct cohorts. The immediate post WWII cohort that comes of age in the late 60’s counterculture and the politicized era of Vietnam (draft and all) is very different than the cohort that comes of age in the go-go 1980’s. The latter cohort voted for Reagan and Bush overwhelming against their democratic opponents, to the tune of 20+ point differentials (the data I have shows that the former favor Reagan as well, but by a less pronounced margin). But don’t take my word for it; look the figures up yourself, you might be surprised.

Rich P is on point when he calls people out for selective anti-essentialism. If we want to talk about political and economic life in a country of 300+ million people, we have to use aggregates. Getting upset with that when it applies to your group is totally natural, but irrelevant to the question of whether we can productively use that particular grouping to understand social life.

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Val 03.31.16 at 7:47 pm

@ 249
I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. I don’t disagree with what you said in the first sentence of your last para, and it’s not at odds with what I’m saying. So the misreading you see doesn’t exist. Also I’m not a liberal, if that’s what you think. I’m an egalitarian, communitarian feminist.

I am saying that the universalising aspects of neoliberalism (what you call “utopian” aspects) act to disguise the real inequalities that exist, and do so in order to maintain them. The ruling class is the same old ruling class it ever was, with a few women and people of colour admitted, as long as they support the ideology (hence ‘lean in’).

The purpose of ideology in the service of power is as much to disguise or obscure inequity to the holder of the ideology, as to disguise it from others.

I’ve tried a few times (deleted) to explain this more fully, but I keep getting tied up in double negatives – so anyway, the fact they believe the ideology doesn’t mean that it isn’t still serving their interests. That’s the best I can do right now – maybe someone else can help.

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Lupita 03.31.16 at 7:49 pm

@Val

I would say the empirical evidence bears out my theory that neoliberalism serves the interests of white ruling class men, particularly from the USA.

There is no difference between the interests of white ruling men as opposed to those of non-white ruling men and women. As always, it depends on the empirical evidence you seek. Google some images of the Latin American political elite, for example, a picture of all the heads of state at this year’s CELAC summit in Ecuador. Google images of the wedding of Carlos Slim’s daughter. In both cases, you will see people who look like Latin Americans. You could do the same with African and Asian political and economic elites.

Whites have not supplanted the local elites, they work together. Each elite looks like its surrounding population with better teeth. Maybe whiteness explains Western elites, but you cannot generalize this to the rest of the world.

253

Ze K 03.31.16 at 7:56 pm

“Getting upset with that when it applies to your group is totally natural, but irrelevant to the question of whether we can productively use that particular grouping to understand social life.”

Well, if you want to understand social life, it would make sense to use social groupings, rather than race, age, gender, or any other other irrelevant characteristics.

254

Val 03.31.16 at 8:04 pm

@ 251
The point is you can generalise in a way that’s supported by evidence – ‘the majority of baby boomers voted for Reagan’ – or you can generalise in a way that’s misleading and unfair – ‘the baby boomers voted for Reagan therefore they are (all, collectively) to blame for what’s happened to America’ (Holly Wood’s apparent position). The latter is clearly unfair to the many people in that age group who opposed Reagan and what he stood for.

I can’t believe that you and RP don’t actually get this.

255

Yama 03.31.16 at 8:08 pm

I just want to say what a pleasure it has been to see Lupita return to these threads. She has been missed.

256

JeffreyG 03.31.16 at 8:10 pm

If your argument is not with me but with Holly Wood, then how about you go argue with Holly Wood, eh?

For someone who is claiming to be sensitive to individuality and not given to unfair blaming, I think you need re-consider your position here.

257

Val 03.31.16 at 8:14 pm

Lupita @ 253
My theory is that there are patriarchal hierarchical structures that developed historically, and are no longer supported by laws (the relevant laws have in most societies now been repealed) but are still commonly found in most (though not all) societies and corporations. However if you take the idea of the pyramid shape (which isn’t the only way you can represent this kind of thing, but is ok I think) then those at the very top (a la the richest people in the world) tend to be white men, often from well to do families.

It doesn’t imply that you don’t get the same thing in other countries, including ‘non-white’ countries.

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JeffreyG 03.31.16 at 8:14 pm

Neoliberalism co-opted the gender and anti-racist discourses, and now parrots them as is politically convenient. We have seen this quite clearly in the HRC campaign throughout in its contest against Bernie. She once challenged the American voter: ‘will taking on the financial elites help us end racism and sexism?’

It displays a shocking (and on that part of elites, willful) ignorance of how these phenomena interact. At its worst, the neoliberal crowd actively deploys concerns about gender and race to divide the working class against itself.

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Lupita 03.31.16 at 8:15 pm

Thank you, Yama.

260

Cian 03.31.16 at 8:18 pm

“I am saying that the universalising aspects of neoliberalism (what you call “utopian” aspects) act to disguise the real inequalities that exist, and do so in order to maintain them.”

Well of course, it’s a right wing ideology. But not all right wing ideologies are the same. Neoliberalism has never been socially conservative. Both Reagan and Thatcher openly despised large chunks of the elites of their day. They wanted a new elite, swashbuckling and adventurous (and in practice usually criminal). Neoliberal philosophers and economists celebrate the destructive capabilities of the markets. And they mean it.

The brilliant thing about neoliberalism is that rather than disguise inequalities, they pulled a bait and switch. The problem, they argue, is one of opportunity. Economic equality is bad because markets. But none of this matters so long as we can all compete in the market. Now as you say, there’s a lot of handwaving here, and as good socialists we both know this is bullshit. But as an ideology it was brutally effective for it’s era (which I think is coming to an end, though capitalism will no doubt give us something equally awful in it’s place) as it was totally sympatico with civil rights. Neoliberals have no problems with civil rights so long as nobody is bad mannered enough to discuss class, or economics.

“The ruling class is the same old ruling class it ever was, with a few women and people of colour admitted, as long as they support the ideology (hence ‘lean in’).”

Well yeah. But it would be the same ruling class if it was 50/50 male/female, with suitable represenation from the different minorities. It’s a ruling class. The contempt that white elites have for poor working class whites is nothing compared to that held by black elites for the black poor.

“I’ve tried a few times (deleted) to explain this more fully, but I keep getting tied up in double negatives – so anyway, the fact they believe the ideology doesn’t mean that it isn’t still serving their interests.”

Well yes, but those interests can be varied. For example, the reason that neoliberalism appeals to many liberals from a wealthy background, such as Clinton and Blair, is that it’s unthreatening. The problem isn’t their wealth and privilege. They don’t have to give up anything. You can be a progressive, and wealthy. It’s helped by the fact that previous elites were so socially reactionary, as the Baffler never tires of pointing out. Billionares can be revolutionary too, so long as they’re hip to the gays.

The reason a lot of Wall Street elites like neoliberalism, is that it allows them to think they have earned their wealth and privilege. They worked for it (and they do work pretty hard). Nobody wants to be the bad guy, and the meritocratic instincts of neoliberalism (however laughable in practice) allow elites to see themselves as the good guys.

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Cian 03.31.16 at 8:24 pm

“My theory is that there are patriarchal hierarchical structures that developed historically, and are no longer supported by laws (the relevant laws have in most societies now been repealed) but are still commonly found in most (though not all) societies and corporations.”

Yes, social change takes time.

To sort of get back to the original point. How will creating more female billionaires, or making a neoliberal female president, improve the lot of women generally?

262

Val 03.31.16 at 8:30 pm

@ 257
This is what you said Rich P is on point when he calls people out for selective anti-essentialism. If we want to talk about political and economic life in a country of 300+ million people, we have to use aggregates. Getting upset with that when it applies to your group is totally natural, but irrelevant to the question of whether we can productively use that particular grouping to understand social life.

And that’s what my comment refers to. I’m sorry that my comment upset you, but I wasn’t actually blaming you for anything, just pointing out that it is how you use aggregates that matters, not the mere fact of using them. If you use aggregates to suggest that some people in an arbitrary ‘social grouping’ (based only on year of birth), must necessarily be held responsible for what others in that group have done, even when they actively opposed it, then you’re obviously using them wrong. That’s what people have been talking about, in case you came in late.

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Val 03.31.16 at 8:35 pm

Speaking of Bad Generalisations, I want to rephrase my comment @ 246
Btw it is truly amazing how many guys on CT are like ‘of course I’m not sexist but gosh this feminist I’m talking to is nutty/bizarre/generally wrong about everything’

I should say, not, “it is truly amazing how many guys on CT … “, but instead, ‘it is truly amazing how often some guys on CT … “

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JeffreyG 03.31.16 at 8:39 pm

“If you use aggregates to suggest that some people in an arbitrary ‘social grouping’ (based only on year of birth), must necessarily be held responsible for what others in that group have done”

Please locate an instance of this in my comments.

You are still arguing with Holly Wood, and you don’t even realize it.

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Val 03.31.16 at 8:40 pm

Sorry for repeat postings – I meant that to mean there aren’t many guys who do that, just some who do it rather frequently. And I actually intended to suggest that I wouldn’t necessarily include eg JeffreyG in that group, just in case it seemed as if I was – but I realise it may have come out sounding the opposite. Oh, I give up! Time to stop.

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4jkb4ia 03.31.16 at 8:42 pm

If neoliberalism worships the individual above all, then whether electing a neoliberal female president helps women is dependent on
whether that individual is a successful politician. If Rousseff gets impeached she won’t be helping anybody.
whether that individual can market herself, going upthread a little bit, as interested in helping women. A little girl, or a grown woman, can be inspired by just the possibility of participating fully in their society, and maybe become more radicalized later on.

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Val 03.31.16 at 8:43 pm

@ 265
Getting upset with that when it applies to your group is totally natural, but irrelevant to the question of whether we can productively use that particular grouping to understand social life.

Perhaps you could explain what you mean by that?

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4jkb4ia 03.31.16 at 9:09 pm

I will posit agreeing with Rich (don’t want to abandon another argument with him) hat boomers failed as a generation. At least they failed in bringing forward an effective left in American politics. However,
they may not have all aspired to that to start with.
Everyone did not fail. I will be very upset by the proposition that Greil Marcus failed, although he is less radical than in the 1960s.
“Boomers voted for” then glosses over the people who didn’t fail, or tried to hang on to some leftist belief. The impact of boomers in American politics might be better analyzed by a boomer president like Bill Clinton or actual boomers who served in Congress. I realized this by reasoning that the “Watergate Babies” were a reflection of boomer idealism in some ways, but most of them were not Boomers themselves. Gary Hart was born in 1936 and Pat Leahy in 1940.
I was born in 1971, and have the sense to know that I know nothing about millennials after I watched Boomers trying to stereotype us in the full flower of their cultural self-involvement. I also have watched my born-in-1957 husband casting around for a Republican to vote for for the last two elections and basically failing miserably. These two experiences have convinced me that Boomers shouldn’t be taken seriously as a sublime greatest generation that had possibilities not open to later generations–many Boomers are just regular people with regular flaws and virtues. They may have spoiled for the later generations the idea of making the world over entirely and left the idea of extracting some decency and dignity where possible.

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JeffreyG 03.31.16 at 9:30 pm

Val, as a feminist, you probably use gender a lot when it comes to understanding social life. But you understand that events and policies, while oftentimes impacting women as a whole in a certain way, will also have different and sometimes even idiosyncratic effects with regard to particular women. The fact that some few women will benefit greatly from policy x does not mean that the claim ‘this policy will hurt women’ is off limits.

The analytical utility of thinking in terms of social group is an empirical question, and it is not to be resolved based upon anecdotes and/or personal feelings about one’s relation to the stated group. Maybe there are relevant sub-groups then? Again, an empirical question, still treating in aggregates.

Yet we have seen many, many anecdotes in this thread along the lines of ‘oh I know a few Millennials through work and through my kid(s)’ [one could argue that the OP set the stage in this regard]. People somehow seem satisfied to remain at this level of analysis. But it is possible to both a) think in terms of aggregates, and b) understand that there are internal differences among those aggregations.

Now, frankly speaking, this is only a point of contention because this issue seems to have bearing on this notion of ‘responsibility’ or ‘guilt’. Personally, I think that thinking about politics in this sort of desert/moral frame is unproductive (in the most basic sense of distracting us from achieving outcomes that we otherwise could generally agree to pursue). As technocratic as liberalism purports to be, oftentimes the ideas are technocratic in form, moral in substance. This is a longstanding theme of liberal thought, which consistently has to answer for the times when the needs of upholding the market system impose massive costs on society. Anyways, the key here is that the question of ‘who is responsible’ is a political question. As I argued above, the right wing wants to spin this narrative of generational conflict, and in so far as that narrative has resonance, the left should be concerned . Holly Wood here as anec-data.

To the point of the OP, Sanders has shown that millennials do notnecessarily support a politics that gives up on our commitments to the old and aging. But what Sanders’ ideas do, at the same time as they re-affirm commitments to Social Security and Medicare, is radically reject the dominant ideas of the previous generation. Socialism worn as a badge of honor; a direct criticism of selfishness and ‘greed is good’ culture; a recognition that the US has been the international equivalent of a schoolyard bully. A rejection of the idea that America is the greatest country in the world .

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bruce wilder 03.31.16 at 9:40 pm

If they have merits

271

Rich Puchalsky 03.31.16 at 9:47 pm

New advances in refusal to generalize are all around us! Let’s say that I went to a discussion among people from El Salvador about the Atlacatl Battalion and, in general, what the U.S. did during the Salvadoran Civil War. And they started to talk about how Americans supported those actions. Then let’s say that I got up and said “Wait, you are unjustly blaming all Americans for the actions of our democratic majority! I personally opposed those actions and by talking about ‘Americans’ you’re talking about us as if we’re all responsible.” I can imagine the response, but let’s say that I then went on to deny that the very concept of “an American” had any meaning. It was just an accident of geographical location, grouping an arbitrary set of people together. The fact that we’d voted in the same elections and paid taxes and so on doesn’t mean that we shared responsibility for anything. All that mattered was our individuality.

Maybe Lupita will get a laugh from this, maybe not.

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geo 03.31.16 at 10:17 pm

bob @242: maybe just getting tired

Me too, brother.

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Helen 03.31.16 at 10:24 pm

Yet we have seen many, many anecdotes in this thread along the lines of ‘oh I know a few Millennials through work and through my kid(s)’ [one could argue that the OP set the stage in this regard]. People somehow seem satisfied to remain at this level of analysis. But it is possible to both a) think in terms of aggregates, and b) understand that there are internal differences among those aggregations.

So you didn’t bother to read the linked article by John Quiggin, I take it.
“Personal feelings” is code for “silly, emotional woman can’t do analysis.” We see what you did there. Stop it.

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geo 03.31.16 at 10:31 pm

Bruce @248: an entrepreneurial effort to rebuild integrity and credibility, has a prospect of earning a good return

Shall we whip up a business plan, go see some venture capitalists? We’ll call it Crooked Timber Integrity Enterprises.

275

Helen 03.31.16 at 10:42 pm

Helen: “Thinking of the next few years with vulnerable old people needing a higher level of care, “cared” for (thanks to the wonderful world of privatised “care”) by resentful people who have been ginned up to hate them.”

So is Holly Wood encouraging that resentment, or voicing it?

There is little difference, cf. violence against women compared with the hate speech against them on almost every social media platform from the Chans down to your local news service. Once that particular ball gets rolling downhill it aquires momentum and the verbal hatred stokes the violence and so it goes.
Elder abuse is a thing. Google it.

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JeffreyG 03.31.16 at 10:54 pm

Helen, that is quite a charge, but you misunderstand me. I was alluding to many comments above, more than I can recall off the top of my head frankly, but notable among them are the comments of Trader Joe, liveoak, Val, and John Garrett. There is no gender pattern there.

Regarding JQ’s piece, I did read it, it was quite short. I don’t see how a single data series* on change in income changes the discussion here, and JQ is only leveraging this data to dispute a specific right wing argument. You will note that I have repeatedly argued that the generational blame game is a tactic by the right wing to distract us from the gains of the 1%, in total agreement with JQ’s conclusion in that blog post.

* – the analysis is incomplete (for the point you seem to want it to make) various reasons, including: the percentage changes are not taken into account; only income is considered, not wealth (!!) ; future implications of recession conditions for long term wage earning potential is not considered.

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Rich Puchalsky 03.31.16 at 10:58 pm

So by writing “Have fun cleaning your own fucking bedpan” she was actually encouraging elder abuse. Wow, what a Nazi!

I don’t know why bob mcmanus and geo are so tired. Things like this refresh my essential faith in the human spirit.

278

engels 03.31.16 at 11:14 pm

Btw it is truly amazing how many guys on CT are like ‘of course I’m not sexist but gosh this feminist I’m talking to is nutty/bizarre/generally wrong about everything’

I should say, not, “it is truly amazing how many guys on CT … “, but instead, ‘it is truly amazing how often some guys on CT … “

Val: I don’t know who implemented neoliberalism in the 80s but whoever it was, it wasn’t women.
Me: From a British perspective, that sounds really bizarre.
Val: So you think I’m nutty and wrong about everything. Because I’m a feminist. Sexist!
Me: Okay, I think I’m going to go and do something else now. Thanks for the discussion.

279

Rich Puchalsky 03.31.16 at 11:58 pm

AcademicLurker: “Heh. A few months ago, driven by extreme boredom (home sick), I was browsing the archives of The Valve’s Theory’s Empire book event*. Hundreds of comments arguing over whether whether it was legitimate to talk about Theory, or whether you could only ever talk about individual theorists. plus ça change!”

Ah, those days of eleven years ago. I thought of doing a short play in three acts called “Reductionists Gone Wild!” in reference to those stupid Girls Gone Wild videos, but it’s not actually reductionism, because no one actually believes it. It’s just something that is deployed selectively and in bad faith.

Here’s my favorite example: there is no such thing as a global temperature. I linked to a random first Google hit, but this one was all the rage among global warming denialists for a while.

280

engels 04.01.16 at 12:01 am

We were the children of that belief, the ones who would make the dream of peace and plenty and fairness come true.

Holly Wood for President!

281

Lupita 04.01.16 at 12:09 am

@Val

I am not responsible for what the white ruling class men of my generation did

I don’t blame my sisters who went along with the neoliberal turn

My sisterly sentiments do not run as deep as yours. I blame my Western sisters and brothers equally. I also blame my brown and black sisters and brothers. If not, who is there left to blame for the current world order? It is us collectively, extraterrestrials, or nobody. At the very least, it is happening under our watch.

282

Lupita 04.01.16 at 12:14 am

4jkb4ia@267

If Rousseff gets impeached she won’t be helping anybody. whether that individual can market herself, going upthread a little bit, as interested in helping women. A little girl, or a grown woman, can be inspired by just the possibility of participating fully in their society, and maybe become more radicalized later on.

So if Rousseff is not impeached, she could be regarded as successful by a little girl who will grow up to maybe become radicalized, perhaps be tortured as Rousseff was, become president, transform into a neoliberal, and avoid being impeached. By then, it will be 2060 and nothing has changed.

Instead of betting on that little brown girl, I would rather bet on a certain crazy white man to stir up some chaos right now. I know, I probably just reserved my place in hell.

283

bruce wilder 04.01.16 at 12:36 am

geo @ 276.

I think it might be a bit early in the millennium to start short-selling deceit and manipulation.

In other news, Wikipedia is marking April 1 by featuring Gregor MacGregor, famous as the first Cazique of the Principality of Poyais.

284

EWI 04.01.16 at 1:27 am

From the Redmond papers:

MS 15,263 /4 1917. Sept. A copy of a letter from Major Ivan H. Price to James O’Connor, Attorney General (1917, Sept. 22), giving an account of his conversation with Eoin MacNeill. Price concludes that this ‘unfortunate man concocted his version [of a story about an attempt at blackmailing MacNeill into giving evidence against John Dillon] for the purpose of getting the Irish Parliamentary Party to obtain his release’ and regrets that Redmond and Devlin ‘should be deceived by a rebel, who has not even now repented’.

MS 15,182 /20 1914 […] Dillon adds ‘MacNeill is a most exasperating man to deal with’; (1914, May 28), on his opinion of MacNeill: ‘My interview … left me with the impression that he is extremely muddle-headed, not consciously inclined to make mischief, but hopelessly impractical and possessed with the idea that he ought to be trusted’

MS 15,192 /4 1905-14. Correspondence with Alice Stopford Green. Green gives her opinion of Eoin MacNeill: ‘I have seldom seen a man more unfitted for action, less fit to lead others in a difficult crisis, and less wise in his judgment of men’

285

Helen 04.01.16 at 1:27 am

Rich, you keep attacking the strawman of imaginary people who don’t believe in aggregations, while in fact your interlocutors are simply saying that this particular aggregation is bullshit. It’s not the same thing at all.

286

Rich Puchalsky 04.01.16 at 1:46 am

People who really didn’t believe in aggregations would be fine. But the people here just don’t believe in aggregations that have negative characteristics and include them. No one here ever stepped in and said “There is no such thing as a baby boomer” if anyone ever wrote something about how great baby boomer music was or said “There is no such thing as a Millennial” pretty much ever.

For that matter, when people are trying to get other people to vote, or talking about democratic legitimacy, then it’s really important and an expression of the people’s will and the greatest thing ever. When you try to draw the obvious corollary that something that people put so much weight on must reveal what people chose in the aggregate at that time, all of sudden it’s “Responsibility, what?”

And for that your initial comparison of a hyperbolic writer to Nazis was BS, and you’re compounding it by an accusation of encouragement of elder abuse — an actual thing, as you point out — which really, have you no decency. And your feminism sucks because you’re just using it as an excuse for your bad behavior. Just as Val discovered that she could say whatever she liked and then answer any disagreement with “You’re sexist”, you’re having fun discovering bad hidden meanings in someone talking about the problems of personal anecdotes.

287

Val 04.01.16 at 1:51 am

@ 271
Yeah, I referred to my youngest daughter and her friends, said their experience seemed different to those in the OP, and speculated about how that might be related to the different economic and political conditions in Australia (which, as I think you probably know or may be vaguely aware of, are significantly different than the US in some ways). So shoot me, as you apparently say in America.

I give up. Good luck Helen, you’ll need it.

288

Val 04.01.16 at 1:59 am

Just read #289
You’ll need more than luck Helen. At least you’re the nutty feminist with bad manners today, gives me a break anyway :)

289

Cian 04.01.16 at 2:32 am

This is a really bizarre discussion.

Holly Wood’s piece was clearly hyperbolic and taking the piss. She, like many millennials, is pissed off at her generation being patronized by the US media. This is a thing that happens to millennials. She was EXAGGERATING for comic effect. This is a thing that some humans do.

I cannot believe I have to say this, but apparently I do. Writing that you won’t change somebody’s bed pan when they’re old does not mean that you want to exterminate the old. It is not ‘code’. It is not intergenerational warfare. At most it’s a gentle gibe that “hey granddad, you’re gonna need us one day, so watch your mouth, right”. AT MOST.

All this for Holly. Okay, I nominate Amber Lee Frost as the spokesperson for her generation. This should be fun…

290

Cian 04.01.16 at 2:40 am

#290 – Val, you know there was about 150 posts between your original post, and the post that you set you off. It’s highly unlikely that they remembered that you authored that particular post, or were singling you out. People have the right to disagree with you without being accused of sexism.

291

Helen 04.01.16 at 2:42 am

A strong history of hateful speech towards any group leads to an escalation of violence towards that group. People here may choose not to believe that, but that’s their prerogative.
Since even mentioning gender is anathema to this group, here’s a different example, where violence against a specific group is escalating at the same time as hundreds of clickbait articles are written claiming they do awful things, and if you say “Pfft, bloody cyclists, who cares” you’ve just proved my point.
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jul/01/sabotage-and-hatred-what-have-people-got-against-cyclists

292

Helen 04.01.16 at 2:44 am

…And yes, this is sometimes done in the guise of “humour” and “taking the piss”. As long as it’s socially acceptable hatred, yeah?

http://www.smh.com.au/news/entertainment/tv–radio/magdas-anticyclist-rant/2009/10/01/1253989983683.html

293

Cian 04.01.16 at 2:58 am

Hate speech according to Helen:
“Have fun cleaning your own fucking bedpan.”

Beyond parody.

294

Anarcissie 04.01.16 at 3:05 am

So, who would you say that to? And what would you be thinking when you said it?

295

Cian 04.01.16 at 3:09 am

“Since even mentioning gender is anathema to this group”

Huh, what? Where is this even coming from. The person whose post you’re reacting so strongly against is a woman. Whose work was praised by another woman on this thread. And whose feminist writing is liked by many of the men on this thread that you’re accusing of misogyny.

296

Cian 04.01.16 at 3:17 am

“So, who would you say that to?”

An elderly relative who’d pissed me off with their rudeness. I mean it’s hardly the kind of thing you shout at a Nuremberg rally, is it. At least not if you want to achieve your genocidal aims.

“And what would you be thinking when you said it?”
That you’ve got a fucking nerve granddad, given you’re going to need my assistance in a few years.

297

Cian 04.01.16 at 3:20 am

An Amber Lee Frost post My Kind of Misogyny.

Should be fun.

298

LFC 04.01.16 at 3:26 am

Side comment: interested to learn (from the reference by academic lurker) of the 2005 book Theory’s Empire, a large anthology critical of ‘Theory’. Was just glancing at it.

299

Rich Puchalsky 04.01.16 at 3:27 am

Helen: “A strong history of hateful speech towards any group leads to an escalation of violence towards that group. People here may choose not to believe that”

As a Jew, I never knew that! And I agree that this piece of Holly Wood’s really reminds me of the people who wiped out a good part of my family tree. That was a apt comparison on your part and not overdone at all.

Now, as to “mentioning gender is anathema to this group”, let’s bravely break this taboo as well. I think that the Millennials complaining about this have actually mentioned gender. They’ve said that the baby boomers always seem to retreat to symbolic uses of feminism whenever they are challenged politically. As in: people must be against HRC because she’s a woman, and Bernie Bros like him because he’s a man, and look at what a feminist HRC is she can’t be a neoliberal. I wonder what seems strangely familiar about that? Surely no one could be doing that here after just having had it brought up. Why, it would almost be like these were actually powerful, older women accusing a rather powerless younger woman of something really nasty and justifying that somehow as “feminism”, and that that was such a typical interaction that younger people had started to comment on it. But that can’t be true. It’s inconceivable.

300

TM 04.01.16 at 7:39 am

RP, you are just making a fool of yourself. For the record, nobody on this thread remotely suggested that Black Lives Matter was racist. Nobody suggested that talking about social aggregates was verboten. The only thing I specifically said was that I object to the blame game. I don’t object to using categories like gender, race, age, SES etc. for political analysis (with caveats) but I strongly object to unwarranted generalizations. As to the charge that I am a boomer pissed by Holly Wood’s criticism, 195 could have given you a clue but you seem to be beyond reasoning at this point.

301

TM 04.01.16 at 7:46 am

Cian 296 and others: The backlash against Holly Wood is overblown. I’ve said that before. However, you seem to overlook the money quote:

“The next twenty years of you aging into corpses in your boxstore suburban wasteland is going to cost the nation trillions. Your selfish deaths will cost our children schools and libraries.”

This is factually bullshit and dangerous right-wing let’s-dismantle-social-security-so-retirees-will-have-to-fend-for-themselves propaganda.

302

TM 04.01.16 at 7:49 am

geo 236: What I meant was that if you want to talk about those books, go ahead, just do it. I’ll come along if you make it sound interesting.

303

TM 04.01.16 at 8:08 am

Finally, in case this really needs spelling out: “A bedpan or bed pan is an object used for the toileting of a bedridden patient in a health care facility”. If they were able to clean it themselves, they wouldn’t need one.

304

Asteele 04.01.16 at 8:19 am

Nah. RP is totally right, and boomers are a garbage fire.

305

Asteele 04.01.16 at 8:28 am

Also 195 is not great. When I look at the question of why young-poor people are less active in the political process, I’m going to guess the actions of the rich and powerful, not unstable internal causes of the powerless.

306

Asteele 04.01.16 at 8:42 am

If I was going to say RP is wrong, I would say he’s giving the boomers too much credit for the civil rights act etc, the oldest of them were only 18 when it passed. At the height of “liberalism” in the seventies the oldest would of been only 30. Politics was still dominated by the previous generation.

307

reason 04.01.16 at 9:09 am

Asteele
So you are working for the GOP? Assisting their let you and him fight strategy?

308

TM 04.01.16 at 9:33 am

307 and 308 are not great either. Just sayin’.

309

engels 04.01.16 at 9:47 am

Sabotage and hatred: what have people got against cyclists?

When they came for the vaguely progressive yuppies with a massive persecution complex I said nothing…

310

engels 04.01.16 at 10:01 am

A strong history of hateful speech towards any group leads to an escalation of violence towards that group.

That’s one way of preparing the ground for aggression towards people. Another is to repeatedly make exaggerated claims that they are victimising you ‘we are under attack – they hate us because of who we are – they want to kill us – well we’re not going to take it anymore…’ I believe the second one is more American.

311

Val 04.01.16 at 10:17 am

Cian @ 293
I only referred to one of JeffreyG’s comments, so it may not have been clear. In one comment (#271) he suggested that some people were arguing only at the level of anecdote and in a subsequent comment (#279) he specifically identified me as one of them. In fact, not only did I discuss in some detail the economic and political circumstances in Australia and America, I also subsequently linked to evidence about voting patterns in both countries.

Now JeffreyG doesn’t have to read every comment I make, but he should also refrain from writing crap about me.

I’m not getting involved in this discussion further, but I wanted to put that on the record. I have previously been accused of elitism for suggesting that it’s good to support your arguments with evidence. I’m not suggesting that everyone who comments here has to be an academic, nor that people shouldn’t be able to express unsupported opinions when they want. I do think though, that people should understand the difference between opinion and evidence. I also think that if people are representing what others have said, they should try to do so fairly. There are several people in these threads who won’t do that, and it spoils the discussions.

It’s basically about whether you’re trying to have a discussion on important and controversial points (recognising that sometimes people get heated and sometimes they make mistakes), or whether you are just playing some game that you want to win. Because the latter is not a discussion. I suppose one could just ignore people who do that, but it is difficult, particularly when they’re actually talking about you and the things that you are supposed to have said. And it’s not just JeffreyG who does that, by a long chalk. I wish there was someone moderating these threads who could make people abide by some kind of rules of honest argument, but given that there’s not, I think some discussions are being so damaged that they’re probably not worth participating in.

312

Collin Street 04.01.16 at 10:22 am

I’m going to guess the actions of the rich and powerful, not unstable internal causes of the powerless.

By definition, problems cannot be caused by the powerless. You need agency to cause problems.

313

Soullite 04.01.16 at 10:32 am

A lot of people here are really having trouble accepting just how much Millennials hate them.

Nobody who actually is a millennial would ever doubt this. We hate you. We hate most of your icons — most notably, JFK, who cuntishly stated ‘Ask not what your country can do for you!’ as if Democracy was about enslaving yourself to the state, and you all tried to turn him into the new incarnation of Jesus for saying it! We hate your politicians. We hate the political issues you fight over — focusing on abortion when none of us can get a job that doesn’t involve a deep fryer, screaming ‘WAR ON WOMEN!’ as your only political slogan for six years while the bottom fell out from under the economy, caring about every social issue under the sun but completely ignoring the economic ones your children needed you to focus on. We hate the way you blame us and call us lazy after you destroyed our futures, removed our ability to form families and sent every job worth having overseas.

You all have no concept of how much hatred and fury is coming your way over the next few decades. You have no idea the horrors that await you in retirement homes, because we sure as hell aren’t going to give a shit about your dignity after you murdered our futures and insulted us for it. You have no idea how horrible your ‘legacy’ in history is going to be, because we are the ones who will write the history books when you’re gone.

There will never be a generation as large as our again, in no small part because of the policies you advocated and voted for.

314

Rich Puchalsky 04.01.16 at 11:32 am

Asteele: “If I was going to say RP is wrong, I would say he’s giving the boomers too much credit for the civil rights act etc, the oldest of them were only 18 when it passed.”

Yes, I was really kind of slighting the previous generation, but I was trying to get away from firm generational boundaries and more towards a sense of what was accomplished in each time period.

315

bob mcmanus 04.01.16 at 11:47 am

+1 to Soulites comment

I haven’t engaged in the Helen argument, and I guess this is in part my own hobbyhorse, but the period roughly June 2008 to June 2009 was probably the most important political moment in our lifetimes, and baby boomers etc have not come to grips with it.

Obama, Krugman, DeLong, etc and the Democrats did not save the world with Tarp inadequate stimulus etc, they betrayed the working class and especially future generations. It had been thirty years in the making, and Republicans did set them up. But Republicans/conservative do understand Schmittian politics of creating a catastrophe and forcing your opponents to surrender or go to total war. A FDR “we welcome their hate” was not optional, it was necessary.

Obama and Dems sold us out, and most liberals have given them a pass on it. Now it’s too late, you rarely get opportunities to redo historical conjunctures. I don’t blame millenials for hating us.

316

TM 04.01.16 at 12:07 pm

318: “Obama and Dems sold us out, and most liberals have given them a pass on it.”

And that is related to baby boomers how exactly?

Soullite 316: If you have any evidence for your claims about what millennials think, I would be interested. Otherwise, not so much. I pointed out above that today’s millenials seem to show unusually little hostility to their parents’ generation, and I doubt they hate their grandparents. But I admit, I couldn’t provide more than anecdotal evidence. However, not a single of the millennials I know even remotely resembles your caricature and that already falsifies your claims (“Nobody who actually is a millennial”).

317

TM 04.01.16 at 12:09 pm

[Ok Obama was born 1961. Does anybody really view him as a typical baby boomer?]

318

reason 04.01.16 at 12:15 pm

Soullite
Who the hell do you think you are talking for, and who the hell do you think you are talking to?

319

reason 04.01.16 at 12:20 pm

Look can we stop playing stupid games here. The people who voted for the GOP (whatever age they are) are responsible for the GOP, the people who didn’t are not. That is the way voting works. What counts is what people do, not what group label you stick on them, people are neither guilty as a consequence of a label, or innocent as a consequence of another label.

320

reason 04.01.16 at 12:28 pm

I think the American perspective, by the way, distorts things. I was born in 1955 and grew up in Australia. My classmates were almost all born in 1954 or 1955 and in our teenage years we grew up with the very real threat of being conscripted and sent to Vietnam. It politicised the whole generation as one party (the conservative one – the Liberal Party) wanted to continue to do that and the other one (the Labour Party) wanted to end it. Which party do you think appealed to us? The Liberal Party slogan was “all the way with LBJ” – yes the bringer of civil rights – was a right winger to young Australians. Early baby boomers in Australia (such as for instance John Quiggan) are mostly left of center. Don’t throw labels around indiscriminately, it is just stupid.

321

Ze K 04.01.16 at 12:50 pm

@318, you talk about the superstructure (and not even any halfway meaningful part – Obama, a US president, clearly a mere simulacrum), as if it can ‘betray’ something. What the hell kind of marxist are you?

322

Rich Puchalsky 04.01.16 at 12:51 pm

reason: “in our teenage years we grew up with the very real threat of being conscripted and sent to Vietnam. It politicised the whole generation”

And because of this politicization, your generation resolved to never send young Australians off to war and poorly justified foreign interventions ever again. Oh, wait. Actually, to quote Holly Wood, “You voted for every Iraq war.” It’s almost as if what you thought was politicization wasn’t politicization at all, but rather a natural disinclination to get shot, and that once you’d gotten yours you didn’t really care about any kind of generalized political lessons at all.

323

reason 04.01.16 at 1:13 pm

RP?
No we (who exactly is we?) didn’t (and I certainly didn’t as I don’t get to vote), but besides a volunteer army is a completely different question.

324

bianca steele 04.01.16 at 1:19 pm

@320

No, I think of Obama as Gen X, like me (born in 1966).

We’ve had two Baby Boomer Presidents in he US, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Before 2000, IIRC, we had few major candidates, even, who were young enough to be considered Boomers.

325

Cian 04.01.16 at 1:19 pm

TM: Sure, but it’s followed immediately by this: “Your McMansions are the salt on what was once good earth. You destroyed orchards to build parking lots. Undoing your imperial ignorance will take our lifetime.” The implication being that Boomers are selfish because because they created a mess, and then will die leaving it to the next generation to clean up. I mean ‘box store suburban wasteland’ is they key phrase. If she wanted to push dismantle social security bullshit (which I feel fairly confident she does not), there are far more direct ways of making that point.

It’s not the greatest piece and some of her claims are definitely questionable. Though no more so than the litany of crap that the mainstream media spew out about milennials every day. If people are really worried about intergenerational warfare, you might want to start with TV news, NYT/Washington Post, etc.

326

TM 04.01.16 at 1:47 pm

I’ll bite, what is the “crap that the mainstream media spew out about milennials”? On this thread there has been the claim that commmenters “insinuate that millenials are basically spoiled and lazy”. Except nobody said anything of the like (prove me wrong with actual quotes). What is really going on here?

327

engels 04.01.16 at 1:55 pm

328

JeffreyG 04.01.16 at 2:07 pm

Val, I don’t think I have been ‘writing crap about you’ – I addressed you both because you were asking me to clarify my comments, but also because I thought you would be sympathetic to my problem with the reliance on anecdotes in this thread. You yourself voiced an issue with this line of analysis somewhere mid thread. There are many comments that I take issue with in this thread, but few of those posters have lingered here. I singled you out largely because you seemed interested in having an actual discussion.

I think the claim that this thread started off with an excess of anecdotes is wholly defensible, and I stand by it. Throughout the thread, I have tried to communicate why the Sanders campaign is attractive to millennials. Funnily enough, despite the OP and some of the comments at the very beginning, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in that discussion.

See, I am a millennial in America, so this is something I think about and care about. So I am going to object when someone draws inferences about the situation of my peers that I think are faulty.

329

Rich Puchalsky 04.01.16 at 2:09 pm

reason: “No we (who exactly is we?) didn’t (and I certainly didn’t as I don’t get to vote), but besides a volunteer army is a completely different question.”

Now there is some real politicization. Those suckers volunteered, so send them to the front. The lessons of your youth certainly made a lasting impression on your adult politics. But yeah, I shouldn’t blame you, you voted for Kodos.

One again I’m puzzled. Why are young people so inexplicably angry? Their elders weren’t responsible for anything.

330

JeffreyG 04.01.16 at 2:15 pm

reason, the idea that the American perspective distorts things in a thread about the support for Bernie Sanders among millennials is ridiculous.

Yeah, Australia is different. We wish we could be more like you all – that would be great. But Australia is a different political set-up, doesn’t have the same problems with foreign policy, and is closer to the Chinese business cycle than the American. I don’t get what Australia has to do with anything here – as far as I can tell, no one is claiming that this phenomenon exists in Australia(?)

331

JeffreyG 04.01.16 at 2:27 pm

TM at 329 if that is an honest question and you are not satisfied with your own googling I can very easily summon up a host of examples from the mainstream media on this narrative for you. As for comments here, people could very well be referring to what I criticized as the ‘Horatio Alger’ line of thinking that was pursued upthread

332

Anarcissie 04.01.16 at 2:34 pm

TM 04.01.16 at 1:47 pm @ 329 __
It’s ‘Kids Today’ decorated with generationalist astrology.

Cian 04.01.16 at 3:17 am @ 299 —
So you see it is anger and maybe nascent hate. Now, when you apply that kind of thinking and feeling to huge demographic categories — and everyone can do it — you get a certain kind of politics. I’ve noticed that working out in Real Life, not just in Net verbiage. In the case of Holly Wood, she even has mistargeted the hate object — it was not the Boomers, not even their parents, who bulldozed the orchards. If it matters.

The road to Nuremberg is shorter than you think.

333

reason 04.01.16 at 2:40 pm

JeffreyG
The generation extends beyond the US. Using it as a homogenous set is just lazy, when there is a perfectly good set to use – GOP supporters.

334

Rich Puchalsky 04.01.16 at 2:42 pm

At the innumerable protests I’ve been to I’ve tended to hear a chant, “No justice, no peace”. What could that mean? It’s so hard to figure out. I guess that what it means is that angry and relatively powerless people should consider carefully who is to blame, realize that responsibility is diffused over too many people to make holding anyone responsible meaningful, and then go home and play a video game.

But if some people are still angry you can tell them that the road to Nuremberg is shorter than they think. Because that makes perfect sense.

335

anon 04.01.16 at 2:45 pm

“Why are young people so inexplicably angry? Their elders weren’t responsible for anything.”

My impression is that their anger towards older generations only appears as a response when media thinkpieces blame them for their predicament, mock and pathologies their criticisms, and heap comparative praise on previous generations.

I don’t think they really wanted to show up for a generation war: they were busy trying to solve their problems rather than distribute the blame (OWS, BLM, Sanders campaign), but kept getting interrupted by some boomer with a bullhorn screaming in their ear about how they’re lazy, entitled, and will go to hell if they don’t vote for Clinton.

I think they’re mostly angry about their predicament, not us, and we’re in the crossfire *only* to the degree that we continue actively try to obstruct them in their efforts to solve their own predicament.

The good news is: they’re slowly but successfully pushing us out of the way.

336

JeffreyG 04.01.16 at 2:47 pm

reason
or maybe you don’t recognize these things in your country because they are different in your country. Most if not all of the data on a generation gap in attitudes and experience is from the American context.

Again, who in this thread has argued that this carries over to Australia?

337

engels 04.01.16 at 2:47 pm

Do CT threads still have a safeword? Asking for a friend

338

Rich Puchalsky 04.01.16 at 2:48 pm

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I certainly do not merely mean GOP supporters. And “reason” has been giving a very good illustration that the phenomenon extends outside the U.S. He talks proudly about how his generation of Australians was politicized by conscription and in the same breath says that sending younger people to Iraq was completely different because it was a volunteer army. There’s nothing more essentially boomer than that.

339

JeffreyG 04.01.16 at 2:48 pm

340

reason 04.01.16 at 2:49 pm

RP
your arguments are just silly.

I don’t think we should play lightly with the lives of volunteers, but that doesn’t mean the situation isn’t quite different than the situation with conscripts (who didn’t even get a vote). Volunteers are getting paid to do a dangerous job and know that. Of course society owes it to them to ensure they have decent alternatives and that they are well paid and looked after – (and that is the real scandal by the way – see VA underfunding).

I’m not saying these people shouldn’t be angry, but the anger should be targeted. It is like someone who is angry with a particular woman blaming all women. It is not acceptable as far as I am concerned.

341

TM 04.01.16 at 2:50 pm

JG 334: Do we at least agree that nobody on this thread said anything about millennials being spoiled and lazy?

The MSM like stereotyping (as do many commenters around here) and if you are annoyed by being stereotyped, I’m with you (I am just as annoyed). I don’t get the impression that millennials are overwhelmingly protrayed in a negative light but feel free to correct me. What bothers me more than the crap in the MSM is purported leftists in a leftist forum who spend 300+ comments seriously debating whether stereotyping is wrong.

342

reason 04.01.16 at 2:52 pm

JeffreyG
Why are WHICH baby boomers desperate to make us millenials (who exactly) hate ourselves. No I do not belong to a baby boomer conspiracy and I have no interest in making ANYBODY hate themselves. I have only an interest in convincing people to vote consistently for people who advocate better policies.

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bruce wilder 04.01.16 at 2:52 pm

This has become one of the least enlightening threads in my recollection.

I think the way large-scale political societies make momentous choices is often obscure. Certainly the choices made by the voters of a representative democracy are made indirectly. We vote for politicians. The politicians who get elected vote in the legislature, but in a series of votes in an obscure tug of war over omnibus measures. The politicians hand off to staff, lobbyists, appointed politicians and hired technocrats. I dare say few voters understand much; most vote at random essentially. What choice there is is made further up the chain than the general election, when candidates are chosen to run. The voter is responding to propaganda, the 30 second ad, the soundbite aimed at impulses grounded in prejudice and social identification given a political “meaning” by other narrators of our collective lives, other propagandists in other words.

RP does not vote, says it is unimportant to him. As an individual act, I think it is unimportant. Less morally important as a discrete ethical act than how you treat your neighbor’s dog in casual encounters, generally. I do vote, as a duty. And I comment on websites for an audience of tens I am guessing — another waste of time no doubt. But, it is how I engage with politics, with understanding what is interesting to me, as a sports fan engages with a game he does not play, or a movie fan engages with celebrity lives he does not live.

The U.S. did change direction politically and economically in the early 1980s. All kinds of trend charts can highlight this. All the Boomers could vote by 1982 at the latest and Reagan made a big impression on a young Obama, among others. A realignment of partisan identity made the two political parties ideologically homogeneous to an extent they never had been before.

The American brand of neoliberalism — articulated by Charles Peters of the Washington Monthly, if you want a definite text — emerged, nominally opposed to Reagan, but accommodating and incorporating the new political facts laid down by his success. The essence of neoliberalism was abandonment of what Marxists might call class struggle. The neoliberal would abandon the old people-against-the-bosses fights on behalf of the poor, labor unions, against business, and turn instead to wonky, technocratic ways to make progress thru consensual shaping of market-based reforms. Smart. Clever.

Reagan stood for dismantling the New Deal, which had been built on that politics of countervailing power that the neoliberals abandoned. He promised a politics of tax cuts and abandoning public investments, of arms races and ethically and intellectually challenged intervention abroad, breaking unions and “free trade”. A pattern was set, if you like, by Nixon, repeated with style and enthusiasm by Reagan and amplified still further by GWB.

This was a politics of upward redistribution and also a politics of abandoning the future, the young. Reagan and later GWB was paying off the Boomers with political dividends drawn from disinvestment, from deindustrializing, from allowing public infrastructure to age, from allowing wages to stagnate or decline at the low end, from deregulation of banking and finance allowing housing bubbles and student loans, luxurious credit cards, etc. Clinton, with his Third Way, offered variations on a theme mostly, though he did reverse the deficit spending, military spending, and brought about some economic growth that reached wage earners for a time. But, in the end, Clinton continued dismantling welfare, unions, financial regulation, public financing of higher education, etc.

Most people do not understand how policy connects with the world as they experience life, and a lot of political analysis and propaganda is meant to obscure that relation. A narrative that blames the character of a “generation” for the consequences of choices made in a process no one fully understands can explain little enough. Yet, the choices are made, and consequences do follow. Some of it is clear enough, if you pay even minimal attention. And, for that public opinion and the electorate can be held morally accountable. GWB is not in jail for war crimes; that is an indictment of the American people. Obama did not prosecute crime on Wall Street and Clinton asks how fighting Wall Street will address sexism and racism — choices are presented to us, before they are taken away with shouts of lesser evilism.

Sanders is getting lopsided support among the under 30s for good reasons. I agree with McManus that Obama missed the main chance in 2008-9 to change things and the political opportunity will not return.

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reason 04.01.16 at 2:53 pm

I repeat again,
if sexism is unacceptable, and racism is unacceptable, and homophobia is unacceptable why exactly is generationalism acceptable?

345

Trader Joe 04.01.16 at 2:55 pm

@334 JeffreyG

Aha! I finally understand what your’re talking about (and understand why you dissed my comment upthread).

My point, undoubtedly poorly made, is that when there is a figure like 20-24 year-old unemployement rate is 12% (or whatever it is – someone linked it)….we can whinge that that isn’t as good as the 5% overall rate and we can accuse the 12% of being coddled slackers or any of the other handy lables. Alternatively, we can say 88% of that cohort have a job…the found something to do to be productive, to pay off their debt, to gain experience.

That was my point – there are far more “millenials” (if we’re allowed to generalize that term) who don’t correspond to the depressed, hopeless, no career path label than do. If that sounds Horatio Alger-ish, so be it. Most educated young people full well understand that they need to find a way to put their eductation to work and are in fact doing just that.

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bruce wilder 04.01.16 at 2:56 pm

Usurious credit cards

Damn spell check.

347

bruce wilder 04.01.16 at 2:58 pm

reason @ 347

Who are you asking?

348

Jerry Vinokurov 04.01.16 at 2:59 pm

You know, a rudimentary understanding of the nature of space-time and causality would lead one to believe that those who chronologically came before (let’s say, oh I don’t know, the “boomers”) necessarily, in aggregate, create the conditions under which those who chronologically came after (work with me here and let’s call them “millenials”) are forced to operate. Indeed, indeed, #notallboomers; I’m sure lots of you are cool and good and not at all bad. It doesn’t change the fact that young people today are facing tougher economic conditions as a consequence of decisions made before they were even born, and to add insult to injury they also have to listen to a boomer culture industry that derides them as lazy and entitled. I wonder where that hostility could possible come from…

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reason 04.01.16 at 3:00 pm

Bruce
I think you inadvertedly put your finger on the problem. In the US people have been convinced to see voting as a consumer choice and you put it a duty or responsibility. I think Australia making it compulsory makes it clearer – it is a responsibility. You aren’t voting to get something for yourself – that is what markets are for – you are voting for your fellow citizens, to set rules that will shape a good society. It should be an informed and careful vote and you should take the trouble to inform yourself and understand the consequences. It is a DUTY.

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William Timberman 04.01.16 at 3:01 pm

bruce wilder @ 249

A Gresham’s Law for integrity? Oy! I can’t find it in my heart — or God knows, my mind — to disagree, but isn’t it sad (Or ironic. Or something.) that one of the most astute analysts of human frailty in the CT comments section finds an economic principle lurking behind yet another area (lying) of human endeavor? (As in If we could just agree to run this human psychology stuff like a business, we might finally get somewhere.) Has the Cato Institute been alerted?

Short version: truly, this was an insight worthy of Jonathan Swift. Next time I’m roped into dinner with a Trump supporter — and in Arizona that’s a genuine hazard — I may just whip it on him (or her.)

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AcademicLurker 04.01.16 at 3:02 pm

Bruce Wilder@346:

This has become one of the least enlightening threads in my recollection.

I don’t know about that…the bar for “least enlightening thread” is set pretty darned high.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.01.16 at 3:08 pm

reason: “Volunteers are getting paid to do a dangerous job and know that.”

It’s neoliberalism then. OK, Boomers were politicized into neoliberalism, and they are very proud of that.

BW: “This has become one of the least enlightening threads in my recollection.”

Sometimes the BS is so breathtaking that enlightenment isn’t really what you’re going for. In that case all you can do is keep mocking people by telling them the truth. “might as well not be lying when standing in shit”, to quote myself.

I’ve been trying to convince people to take responsibility for this stuff ever since the Reagan years. And no, they say it’s not their fault, because a) it’s the GOP, b) they voted, c) they voted for the “right” candidate. Was there ever another adult generation that wasn’t willing to take some kind of communal responsibility for how their society turned out?

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bruce wilder 04.01.16 at 3:09 pm

Trader Joe @ 348

Yes, people do get on with their lives. Politics is about the institutional environment. If the institutional environment is a lottery, with few winners and many losers, or the winners winning at the expense of making losers, that is a political choice. A political choice that forecloses life chances for many.

Horatio Alger wrote his stories when many young people lived lives of desperation in a society that cruelly condemned them to make risky choices that would end badly for most with the certainty of casino blackjack. His heroes were typically rescued by wealthy benefactors, who luckily recognised some pluck in a sympathetic lad. Not a sound social policy, though mildly entertaining and hopeful if you do not considered the stories untold.

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reason 04.01.16 at 3:14 pm

Bruce W @350
Everybody.

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reason 04.01.16 at 3:17 pm

RP
“Was there ever another adult generation that wasn’t willing to take some kind of communal responsibility for how their society turned out?”

What??? You are kidding aren’t you. Most of the world lived most of the time in autocracies – it was completely and utterly clear that the responsibility was with a small privileged set. There NEVER was a generation that thought it was responsibility for the entirety of their society, and never should have been – most structures are inherited.

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TM 04.01.16 at 3:21 pm

JV: “derides them as lazy and entitled” , again, no evidence whatseoever that this is true. Certainly no one on this f***ing useless thread has derided you as lazy and entitled.

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engels 04.01.16 at 3:23 pm

…As a result of these divergent trends, in 2009 the typical household headed by someone in the older age group had 47 times as much net wealth as the typical household headed by someone in the younger age group–$170,494 versus $3,662 (all figures expressed in 2010 dollars). Back in 1984, this had been a less lopsided ten-to-one ratio…
http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/11/07/the-rising-age-gap-in-economic-well-being

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Rich Puchalsky 04.01.16 at 3:26 pm

“Most of the world lived most of the time in autocracies”

So everyone has to vote, and it’s their DUTY, to set rules that will shape a good society. But if those rules did not in fact shape a good society then hey, most of the world lived most of the time in autocracies. And most things were inherited, and when someone talks about e.g. the deconstruction of the New Deal then people just inherited that destruction, it was beyond their control even though they voted for it.

I’m getting more and more convinced by this argument. It’s your DUTY to symbolically dodge responsibility for anything that’s going on by doing an individual act that satisfies your sense that you have done all that you could.

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anonymouse 04.01.16 at 3:27 pm

Re Holly Wood and “you voted for”, see below.

And this is just the folks who voted. Her claim seems pretty….attenuated, at best.

And Haidt is a self-important blowhard who is distorting important ideas and research to fit his own fear-based agenda. On youtube, there’s a video of him hectoring the Dalai Lama about the the Dalai Lama’s ignorance evils of Communist China!

Popular vote percentages, via wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_presidential_elections_by_popular_vote_margin

Reagan 1980-51%
Reagan 1984-59%
Bush 1988-53%
Clinton 1992-43%
Clinton 1996-49%
Bush 2000-47%
Bush 2004-50%

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b9n10nt 04.01.16 at 3:27 pm

Even if we grant that generations (silent-boomer-X-millenials) are discreet entities and further grant that such entities have a coherent agency on politics -and by grant from this we are way out on a limb, analytically- a fundamental error persists: boomers are old and millenials haven’t gotten old yet.

Until the millenilas have taken the reigns and solved inequality, war, and nuclear fission can we at least give them both a pass for their (insert insult here) and ignore their better-than-thou criticism of boomers’ (insert insult here)?

Can we have this conversation in 40 years when we can give our longitudinal study time to mature?

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engels 04.01.16 at 3:29 pm

362

William Timberman 04.01.16 at 3:29 pm

Rich Puchalsky @ 355

I’ve been trying to convince people to take responsibility for this stuff ever since the Reagan years. And no, they say it’s not their fault, because a) it’s the GOP, b) they voted, c) they voted for the “right” candidate.

Bloody, but unbowed. Perhaps that’s the best we could have done, but it’s certainly not what we hoped or worked for. The millennials have my sympathy, and if they really think they need it, they’re also welcome to my confession that not all of my generation (b. 1943) kept the faith. Many of us, in fact, never read the catechism of that faith, let alone helped write it. Perhaps the millennials will do better, perhaps not, but most assuredly they’ll get their time in the tank. Doing better is a collective process, and if we’re lucky, a cumulative, rather than cyclical one. I’d like to bet against Bruce Wilder, you might say, but I’m far from sure that it would be prudent to do so.

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reason 04.01.16 at 3:30 pm

JeffreyG @345
That article is a load of bollucks by the way. The luckiest generation was the one before us (the one born too late to fight in the war, and were given tax concessions to raise a family, and could educate their kids for free and bought their houses for next to nothing and than had their value pushed up by inflation etc, etc.) Many boomers are seeing their assets depleted by unemployment in their 50s and 60s, and some have lost their savings in market crashes.

364

reason 04.01.16 at 3:30 pm

Oops
That post was @342

365

b9n10nt 04.01.16 at 3:32 pm

Oops…fusion (amidst another error).

Could the boomers here please enable a text preview function…sheesh.

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Jerry Vinokurov 04.01.16 at 3:34 pm

JV: “derides them as lazy and entitled” , again, no evidence whatseoever that this is true. Certainly no one on this f***ing useless thread has derided you as lazy and entitled.

I wasn’t talking about this thread, I was talking about the larger culture. Thanks to engels for getting there before me with the links.

367

reason 04.01.16 at 3:35 pm

RP
Well you certainly are escaping any responsibility for anything by not voting. I’m sure the people that fought (and really fought) for democracy will be proud of you (and I mean you personally not your whole generation). The biggest problem with this all is it started with baby boomers writing articles feeling sorry for millenials, and now it is ending up with some baby boomers starting to think the millenials (or some of them anyway) maybe deserved it anyway for being so bloody minded.

368

reason 04.01.16 at 3:37 pm

RP
I’m only kidding with that last sentence of course, but you sure aren’t making yourself popular.

369

TM 04.01.16 at 3:41 pm

Test

370

TM 04.01.16 at 3:42 pm

engels 359, I addressed that way back at 154. The median US retiree household has a net worth of $170,494. Why do you think that figure is remarkable, because it’s so low?

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Rich Puchalsky 04.01.16 at 3:44 pm

I’m not making myself popular! Cian wrote that this was beyond parody a while ago, but there’s a huge territory beyond parody and I’d still like to see how far we can go with it.

So there were people who fought (and really fought) for democracy. Were they like the politicized people in your generation who got very distressed that they were being conscripted into a foreign war, and learned such lasting political lessons from that? It’s very brave of you to assume the mantle of defender of democracy — you’ve earned it.

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engels 04.01.16 at 3:53 pm

Why do you think that figure is remarkable?

It’s quintupled in the last three decades.

But of course, the vast majority of the over 60 are still not rich, not even affluent

That’s like saying the wage gap between men and women doesn’t matter because “the vast majority of men are not well-paid” – ie. BS

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anon 04.01.16 at 4:01 pm

“Perhaps the millennials will do better, perhaps not, but most assuredly they’ll get their time in the tank.”

Fair enough, but I doubt think millennials are really claiming they’ll do better, they just want an equal chance to try. I think the anger comes out of their admiration for what previous generations did achieve, added to their disappointment at many (#notall) from those generations turning against their own past achievements, betraying their professed ideals.

Basically, millennials began by deeply admiring their elders and asking them to lead, but got a resounding no. Then they asked us to at least help, and again got a resounding no. Now they’re simply asking us to get out of the way. Still getting a resounding no, but now getting active suppression of their efforts to do yes, they’re understandably getting a little pissed.

We can bicker about the historical accuracy of their undertandable pissedoffedness, but frankly that strikes me as, well, pissy–and not a little childish. They rightly have higher expectations of maturity from their elders’ discourse than their own.

Again, I don’t think they started or wanted a generation war or a “which generation’s The Greatest Generation” contest–they’re just responding to our calls for one. It’s like fucking class war. The ones who start it always start screaming “class warfare!” when the other side finally decides to show up.

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JanieM 04.01.16 at 4:02 pm

I think CT has reached peak troll.

Time to go outside.

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engels 04.01.16 at 4:12 pm

In Britain you can also look at the changes to the welfare system, which has been massively rebalanced in favour of pensioners in last five years alone, not to mention higher education debt. Anyhoo time to do something less boring than argue with idiots…

376

TM 04.01.16 at 4:16 pm

373, of course the difference in wealth between old and young matters, but that doesn’t make it remarkable. It’s exactly what one would expect.

As to the 170k, if your point is that the old geezers have it too good if after 40-50 years of working they have managed to pay off their mortgage and aren’t living in poverty any more, as was customary until a few decades ago, then I must say you are one really weird species of Marxist.

JanieM 375, you are so right. I’m out of here.

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engels 04.01.16 at 4:25 pm

It’s exactly what one would expect.

A retiree in 2014 being five times better off in relative terms than a retiree in 1984 is “exactly what you would expect”???

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bruce wilder 04.01.16 at 4:32 pm

William Timberman @ 353

Sorry to confound or disappoint my main fan. I don’t know what I was going for in the comment of which you complain: in frustration at my own inability to express any useful distinction, I drove off the main road to visit a kind of fractured satire of CT comments. But, as RP has observed we are out beyond the normal bounds of parody already, and the normal rules of narrative physics don’t apply in this barren region, where Holly Wood is Goebbels.

One of my main themes, as you know, is that we simply don’t know: uncertainty overwhelms us individually and collectively, but we have to pretend otherwise to get on with it. Otherwise, we might be too terrified to cross the street. Fiction is our main weapon against uncertainty and its existential anxieties and ethical dilemmas. We say we want the Truth, but the certainty of Truth is not available to us; what we generally mean is that we want a better, more inspiring, more motivating story. Better can entail enough truth that we can escape Reality Biting us in the behind, as it tends to do when our self-serving lies go too far in the direction of denial and failure to properly acknowledge the limits of our capabilities, aka our responsibility for consequences.

I rail against mainstream economics and its ideological child, neoliberalism, because I understand it. It is a fiction, but I don’t rail against it as a fiction per se; I rail against it as bad fiction, fiction that hides genuine social mechanisms behind its mythic preaching about virtue moving a just world: if we only get the incentives right . . . In 1983, neoliberalism was lubrication for a change in policy — not one I agreed in detail with even then, but still some change in policy was absolutely necessary. Today, it is a form of insanity.

It is the “absolutely necessary” that is hard to grasp, even in cases as clear as Thatcher confronting the coal miners over the fate of their subsidized, obsolete industry. That’s Reality Biting policy and the fictions of a previous era in the ass. Right now, Reality is biting us in the ass over the latest extension of “free trade” to take one example. And, we struggle to construct a new fiction that might guide policy in a less self-defeating direction.

I think we are having remarkable difficulty collectively abandoning the fictions of the past, which have turned rancid as they have reached the limits of their logical extension. That’s an integrity problem, if you like. A problem with truth-telling. But, we have to understand that in a world where we do not know the Truth, and can only offer each other better adapted fictions. Fictions that carry meaning, but somehow allow us to access social mechanisms for changing policy. And, part of that is admitting failure.

We are having a problem of truth-telling, in that we are having trouble, collectively, admitting failure. To me, Clinton is the unwitting symbol of a stubborn refusal to admit mistakes and failure. ymmv

Anyway, I’ve run out of steam and have to go do actual work.

379

Cian 04.01.16 at 4:38 pm

Look if you imagine that Holly Wood’s piece is written to David Brook, some hack Clinton apologist and Trader Joe you get a much better sense of where she is coming from. Give her the charitable reading that you’d prefer people gave your words and move on with your life.

380

Cian 04.01.16 at 4:41 pm

#337: TM – Are you deliberately misreading Engel’s point, or are you really that obtuse. The point he is making is that the wealth gap between the young and old has greatly increased. If you really want to flounce off because he won’t engage with the argument you’d prefer – ok – but it lacks dignity.

381

Rich Puchalsky 04.01.16 at 4:53 pm

BW: “That’s an integrity problem, if you like. A problem with truth-telling.”

Well… you say that “the certainty of Truth is not available to us”, and in some absolute sense it never is, but don’t we really know more of the truth than ever before? Let’s take global warming as one major contemporary problem. We have a whole international joint effort of scientists laboring to boil down a consensus scientific position for us so that we can understand it. That may not be Truth with a capital T, but it’s as close as we’re going to get.

But that’s sciency. How about economic truth? We have all sorts of statistics showing increased inequality, both generational and otherwise. That’s statistics, though, and math is hard. OK, how about moral truth. “War is bad”. I can’t count the number of CT comments devoted to complicating “War is bad” so that it isn’t so bad.

I hate to send people back to that poem yet again, but the problem is not truth telling. The truth is available to any educated person, and one can tell it all one likes. A problem in collectively admitting failure is not a stubborn refusal to admit mistakes. If it was that, you wouldn’t have people here denying the whole idea that there was any such thing as a collective.

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Igor Belanov 04.01.16 at 5:29 pm

Dr Pangloss @352

‘I think Australia making it compulsory makes it clearer – it is a responsibility. You aren’t voting to get something for yourself – that is what markets are for – you are voting for your fellow citizens, to set rules that will shape a good society. It should be an informed and careful vote and you should take the trouble to inform yourself and understand the consequences. It is a DUTY.’

So why does Australia get the same shitty selfish right-wing governments as everyone else? Could it possibly be that the Australians who would not vote if it were not compulsory are as lacking in enlightenment and empathy for others as those who vote in other countries?

383

Trader Joe 04.01.16 at 5:36 pm

@380 Cian
I actually don’t have much problem with Holly Wood. I far rather hear one person rant, even if imprecisely and ineffectually, than listen to someone whinge endlessly about being powerless to change their circumstances and being a ‘victim’ of an entire society that has clearly chosen to remorselesly devour it youth and create a world of hopelessness for them.

Despite what you might think, I’m no where close to being a boomer, more of a mid-ish Gen Xer…you know the generation the boomers couldn’t be bothered to criticize and the one the Millenials doesn’t think exists…so, as you say, charitable readings all around. Surely that’s the way to go.

384

Igor Belanov 04.01.16 at 5:39 pm

Engels @ 376

‘In Britain you can also look at the changes to the welfare system, which has been massively rebalanced in favour of pensioners in last five years alone, not to mention higher education debt. Anyhoo time to do something less boring than argue with idiots…’

Quite right, and it has been going on for some time. I worked at a social security office more than a dozen years ago, and they had increased Pension Credit at the same time as they hammered the unemployed, single parents and those on Income Support. In many ways this is totally irrational. Many pensioners have no mortgage to pay, no dependents, have fewer ‘luxuries’ to pay for than when they were younger. Then again, it encourages pensioners to spend money on the younger generations of their family, so maybe it provides an ideological example of the ‘trickle-down effect’!

I would say that many pensioners have not asked to be preferentially treated and they are so disparate in wealth that there is little common purpose among them, but their ‘relative’ advantage is bound to create some tensions, as well as political consequences. It’s pretty safe to say that the votes of older people gave the Conservatives their election victory in 2015.

385

William Timberman 04.01.16 at 5:53 pm

bruce wilder @ 379

No, I wasn’t confounded (bold words for a one-eyed fat man), and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. My line, expressed here and elsewhere, is this: Honesty may be a trifle too ascetic in the age of iPhones, but it isn’t a sign of mental retardation. It does bespeak, however, one who doesn’t want, or need, anything the hucksterism of our age is selling. The principle involved reminds me of something I once read about bushido: if you’re truly willing to die, you’re free to do what needs doing. Otherwise, you give all sorts of hostages to fortune. In our own culture, we should maybe dust off the Existentialists and put them back in the display cases of our high school hallways.

And no, this isn’t a mental discipline we can expect of — let alone enforce upon — the average Joe, as is demanded daily by the fascist myth-makers and armchair warriors of virtue who plague us every day on Fox News. Credere, obbedire, combattere, as Mussolini’s old slogan went — to which, it seems, the neoliberals have added lavorare. Just more bullshit for the rubes, this is, not what I’m talking about at all.

Neither is it a form of fatalism, this keeping-of-one’s-own-counsel, as one does go on doing every day pretty much what one would have done anyway. It’s just a way of clearing away the fog, of making up one’s own story and sticking to it, not in the face of the evidence, which is elusive at best, but in the face of those who discover — or invent — a bumpersticker (millennials are lazy slackers, boomers are hypocritical parasites) and think, by waving it about, to change the world for the better.

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TM 04.01.16 at 6:03 pm

Cian 381: Are you deliberately misreading my point, or are you really that obtuse. First, the young don’t have savings because they haven’t had time to accumulate savings. That is what you’d expect and no evidence of a gerontocratic conspiracy or even injustice.

Second. the majority of retirees are not even comfortable. Most have no meaningful savings other than the house they live in, and SS together with Medicare are just enough to not live in poverty.

Third, the fortunes of the young have deteriorated mostly because of student debt. That is a scandalous issue but hardly one which people on CT are ignorant about. In any case it is neither causally nor otherwise related to the meager savings of typical retirees. You could make a case that many of them have through their political choices contributed to this state of affairs, and that would be fair, but the suggestion that the old have gotten rich by squeezing the young is idiotic.

Fourth, anybody who is outraged that retirees aren’t poor is a reactionary asshole, and if they also think that blaming the elderly is a courageous political stand, they are dangerously deluded.

387

Tyrone Slothrop 04.01.16 at 6:03 pm

Mein Kampf mit der Bettpfanne, oder wie Ich lieben der Dekubitus gelernt…

388

Lupita 04.01.16 at 6:07 pm

Soullite

We hate you.

We hate the way you blame us and call us lazy after you destroyed our futures, removed our ability to form families

You sound like a Bolivian peasant ranting against Bechtel and the empire. It seems like the US has created its own internal third world. Which is good. It makes thinks easier for the globe.

Regarding Holly Wood, I wonder if she is aware that, just as millenials are awaiting boomers’ infirmity to strike, so is the non-West awaiting the first crack in the empire’s façade. I doubt it since she doesn’t rant about what free-loaders young Americans are thanks to the US’s position in the world nor did I see any indication of her being influenced by anything other than what is written by her fellow Americans, which is quite a feat given that she has an internet connection. She seems very unsophisticated and parochial, innocently poking here and there, just for fun, oblivious of the world and of being so typically American, not particularly angry or hateful.

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engels 04.01.16 at 6:31 pm

I would say that many pensioners have not asked to be preferentially treated and they are so disparate in wealth that there is little common purpose among them, but their ‘relative’ advantage is bound to create some tensions, as well as political consequences.

Agreed.

Tbc my point was only that it’s undeniable there’s been a significant redistribution of relative privilege and demographic power seems like the obvious explanation. For the record, I do think the generational antagonism gets overplayed in the media at the expense of class, and I don’t think generations are an analytical category like classees, races or genders. Imo it really has come to the fore in the US primaries though, as Corey rightly said.

390

JeffreyG 04.01.16 at 6:53 pm

So bringing this back to Sanders, the idea is that millennials are not just resigning themselves or playing the victim; instead, we are actually quite hopeful about the future. It is just that we are hopeful about a radically different future than the America we have now. So all the notions in the mainstream media that people like Sanders are not serious/worth serious consideration, making unreasonable demands, too ‘pure’ – so much of this is based in the received wisdom of (what many millennials understand to be) faulty ideas. Growing up on the internet, at a time of widespread institutional failure, yields an interesting sort of ennui. Millennials are the first generation where a majority acknowledges that the true markers of American exceptionalism are nothing to be proud of.

TM; Yeah – I wouldn’t say that people here are bad at all wrt the ‘lazy millennials’ sort of thing. Some intimations of it sure, but people like myself have their say and we have had some proper back and forth about it. But in so far as we are going to have this conversation that brings in the broader discourse, you can’t deny the existence of this sort of stuff, so I think you would agree it is germane to this discussion.

Again, this sort of meme (‘lazy millennials’) only works because it feeds into a broader narrative that resonates with people. In so far as people here are concerned about a generational divide deepening into a generational sort-of ‘class warfare’, I think you should be listening to some of the concerns someone like Sanders is giving voice to. If Sanders is to lose the nomination, it will remain an open question as to what extent these concerns are taken seriously by the Democratic Party.

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engels 04.01.16 at 6:56 pm

In any case it is neither causally nor otherwise related to the … savings of typical retirees

Actually it is because reduced public funding for HE enables a lower tax burden. Fwiw you’re still completely missing the main point.

anybody who is outraged that retirees aren’t poor is a reactionary asshole

Good thing the only people who are outraged about this are the straw men in your head then!

392

engels 04.01.16 at 7:00 pm

In so far as people here are concerned about a generational divide deepening into a generational sort-of ‘class warfare’, I think you should be listening to some of the concerns someone like Sanders is giving voice to

Yep. And likewise for intra class antagonisms based on race or gender. “We’re all it together” (so stop complaining) is not a socialist sentiment.

393

Brett Dunbar 04.01.16 at 7:29 pm

Old people vote. Pensioners are disproportionately likely to vote, which is why the government is terrified of upsetting them. The young and the unemployed are disproportionately unlikely to vote. So they get ignored.

Capitalism has faults, it also works better than anything else we have tried. It has made some countries rich, South Korea for example has gone from a per capita GDP slightly lower than North Korea in 1973 to a PPP GDP per capita about the same as Italy today.

The student loan in the UK is functionally a graduate tax. Repayments are determined solely by income and the balance is written off after 30 years.

394

js. 04.01.16 at 8:01 pm

But seriously, is her name really Holly Wood? Because that would be amazing!

395

js. 04.01.16 at 8:15 pm

Sometimes, reading long CT threads one is not involved in is remarkably like finding oneself sober in the middle of a bunch of drunk people. It’s that “holy shit, that’s how I must sound” feeling that’s rather similar.

396

LFC 04.01.16 at 8:38 pm

@js.
But seriously, is her name really Holly Wood?

I wd be very, very surprised if that were her real name. (n.b. I mostly stopped reading this thread about 90 comments ago. Just not that interested in the ‘generational’ topic, I guess.)

397

LFC 04.01.16 at 8:43 pm

W Timberman @386
bold words for a one-eyed fat man

Nice quote — from ‘True Grit’, if memory serves. As addressed by (someone or other, I forget the character’s name) to John Wayne. Not that I read the context — just scrolling up and saw this.

398

LFC 04.01.16 at 8:53 pm

bianca steele upthread somewhere
… I think of Obama as Gen X, like me (born in 1966).

The generally accepted cutoff for the baby boom is, i believe, 1964. (I’ll have to check it but i think it is 1946-1964.) Therefore you, bianca, born 1966 are Gen X or whatever, but Obama is a baby boomer. Not that i think any of this esp. matters.

And if you want to put yourself and Obama in the same generational box, why not, i suppose…

399

Stephen 04.01.16 at 9:00 pm

Lupita@389: I have just connected to this infinitely depressing thread, have looked at only parts of it, but your contribution does seem very much to the point.

Someone said about a certain sort of revolutionary, “children playing with fire who don’t even know that fire is hot”.

400

bianca steele 04.01.16 at 9:35 pm

LFC: The accepted cutoff was 1960 or 1961 until about, maybe, twenty years, ago, when someone looked at a graph and decided the boom continued until 1964, and the NY Times decided that anyone born before JFK was shot was a Baby Boomer. Since this was well after everyone involved had reached adulthood and knew whether or not they counted as a Baby Boomer, I see no reason to change the way I use the term.

401

ckc (not kc) 04.01.16 at 9:39 pm

…as a parent of millenials, I would say they know enough to allocate blame (and credit) where it is due

402

Jameson 04.01.16 at 9:42 pm

Usually a straight lurker, but allow me to offer a perspective you might not see too often around these parts. I’m an educated millenial whose great distance from the neurotypical has resulted in my earning a wage in low status blue collar environments (food service, retail and warehousing). Right now I work at a “distribution center” that employs people whose capacities are more representative of the population of millenials writ large than the daughters of academics and professionals. Based on my observations of language, judgement and ability to plan, I’d say the IQs of my co-workers range from 70 to 115 with 90-95 being the most common. The warehouse employs about 40% whites, 40% blacks and 20% Spanish speakers (no Asians or Jews that I’ve met). There is a fair amount of self-segregation between the races and especially between those with different native languages. But you do see everybody sitting together in the break rooms a good amount. Being a highly physical workplace, the average age of non-management employees is mid to late twenties. About 700 employees.

My work is boring as sin, so I pass some of the time conducting amateur anthropological fact finding missions. People open up with their co-workers in ways they might not with outsiders. They talk about hopes, dreams, fears – where they’re from and where they hope to go. I have found that there is a sense of class identity that transcends race and language, although I would say there is very little “class consciousness” in the sense of people talking about or, from my elliptical inquiries, having the vocabulary to express the notion. But it’s there. By and large, working people know things are getting worse for them in America as a group and they’re well aware that the rich are getting richer. But the overriding response is apathy; there’s an overwhelming air of resignation that the great machines of society will churn on regardless of any input they might offer: it’s simply their job to see to it that they and their families don’t get crushed.

There are competing explanations for what exactly the machines are and who they serve. I know a couple guys who are into the whole Rothschilds-Bilderberg Group-End the Fed type stuff. Many retreat into religion, either as an alternative social support apart from the state – many black folks in this camp – or as a means to justify to themselves their humble position (various flavors of Calvinism and prosperity gospel). Others just get smashed every night (or morning, depending on shift) after work. There are some who believe that it’s only right for management and the ownership to work folks to the bone – that’s it’s some people’s lot to work hard and serve and others to rule. I’ve heard a few people talk positively about unionization in the abstract, but never with enough seriousness to invite the inevitable retribution that is implied in the anti-union videos we all watched when we were hired.

Very very few have an appreciable political life. Most will know the names Clinton and Trump and Cruz and Sanders; the breakroom TVs are on rotation between Fox, CNN and MSNBC, after all. By and large, they could give platform bullet points and reproduce the slogans but not what they mean in material terms. In my questioning, they understand that ISIS is an Islamic terrorist group but not who Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is or what territory the group controls. Nobody understands what a marginal tax rate means. Nobody could tell you what a CDO or a CDS is. Many still believe Saddam had WMDs and an operational relationship with al Qaeda. A few voted in the primary, but this is not a group that evangelizes: no phonebanking or canvassing or attending rallies or such. There’s not a bumper sticker to be found in the parking lot (I’ve looked). For the record, Sanders does not inspire any particular enthusiasm here; he’s just too far removed for what’s thought to be possible.

To stick up for my people, many are active in community charity. The company does projects for local homeowners down on their luck who need some repairs done, and there’s always a good turnout. Really, they’re great people by and large, they just have zero confidence that things will get better for them or those they hold dear beyond what they can personally provide. The company offers some scholarships to those who want to further their education, but few people sign up. Most are more focused on maintaining. A lot of young parents; a lot of children born out of wedlock to folks who haven’t been together very long. Always someone in the extended family who needs help with this that and the other.

I do feel there’s an underlying sense of unease, that the world is moving ever faster and that they’re not going to be able to keep up. These folks are just not going to be the computer scientists, the proverbial robot programmers of the future; they’re just trying to keep moving faster than the machines can so they don’t get axed. Many have part time or seasonal jobs as floor covering people or handymen or painters or in various other blue collar enterprises. It’s takes all they’ve got to raise a family in today’s savage environment. I’m thankful every day my wife and I decided not to have kids, as there’s no way in hell we’d be able to afford it.

There’s a lot of short term thinking. The “gig economy” is not news here. There’s not a lot of confidence that social security will be there in the long term. Most haven’t really thought about investments or retirement beyond the company’s 401k match. The feeling of having ‘no future’ resonates: nobody expects to have a career akin to previous generations. The future is too uncertain. Technology is moving too fast. Nobody knows what the labor market will look like a few years down the line let alone a few decades. They’re already starting to hire all the new folks as temps. That trend will only accelerate and metastasize. Of course I’m generalizing with these characterizations. There are many exceptions. But this is my sense of the zeitgeist. Right now, the average millenial guy, the guy with the 95 IQ is just happy to be working, to be able to provide and buy some nice rims and a good system or lift his truck, to feel like he’s still valuable. But, like the slave whispering in Caesar’s ear, there’s always the nagging question: “for how long?”

Anyway, thought you might appreciate a dispatch from the other half.

403

William Timberman 04.01.16 at 9:45 pm

LFC @400

As I remember the scene, Robert Duvall’s character, who can’t believe a single dipsomaniac old lawman would dare try to arrest him, says I call those bold words for a one-eyed fat man. Marshal Cogburn (John Wayne’s character) replies, Fill your hand! Gunfire ensues. Very American.

404

engels 04.01.16 at 11:15 pm

Someone said about a certain sort of revolutionary, “children playing with fire who don’t even know that fire is hot”

“At 2°C,” Eakin says bluntly, “we are likely to lose numerous species of coral and well over half of the world’s coral reefs.”…

405

Suzanne 04.01.16 at 11:45 pm

@ 245:
Be that as it may, Clinton does want to appeal to liberal/left younger voters. She also wants to get to the White House and AIPAC is one of the stops. Clinton — and Obama — are about as close to neutral on Israel as you can get in American politics at the national level — “neutral” being distinctly relative, in this context. (During the campaign of 2008 Obama declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital and said it must remain undivided, a blooper that Clinton happily pounced on.)

@ 232:
“Hitched herself.” I think it’s just as possible that without Hillary, Bill doesn’t get far outside Arkansas, despite all his undoubted great gifts. Clinton always had political aspirations of her own and she made a choice familiar to many women and cast her lot with her husband’s – as a man, at that time he could likely go farther. She played a much bigger role in his career than even the most influential of political wives – the only comparison is Eleanor Roosevelt. As a politician, Clinton has proved that she’s tough, knowledgeable, resilient, unflappable, and an excellent debater. She also has flaws, ideology aside – not deft off the cuff, just an okay speaker, more at ease talking policy than working a rope line, made those speeches to Goldman, has trouble warming up to the press . (With her press travails, that last is understandable, but it’s still part of her job.)

406

bianca steele 04.02.16 at 12:13 am

I just remembered that at one point, the NYT had the cut offs at 1945 and 1966. I remember that because it put my husband and his mother both within the same generation.

407

Donald 04.02.16 at 12:25 am

“Clinton – and Obama- are about as close to neutral as you can get in American politics on the national level–

Only because American politicians at the national level are grotesque panderers. They don’t have to be.

https://berniesanders.com/sanders-outlines-middle-east-policy/

408

Val 04.02.16 at 4:43 am

js @ 398

Sometimes, reading long CT threads one is not involved in is remarkably like finding oneself sober in the middle of a bunch of drunk people. It’s that “holy shit, that’s how I must sound” feeling that’s rather similar.

You may be on to something here.

Even when I was still participating in it I was beginning to ask myself ‘am I possibly trying to have a debate with people who aren’t entirely sober?’

(and I think you’re underselling yourself, your contributions usually sound pretty lucid to me :))

409

Z 04.02.16 at 7:00 am

She also wants to get to the White House and AIPAC is one of the stops.

That’s the problem right here. AIPAC is one of the stops (or so she believes). Goldman Sachs, ditto. Super PAC, ditto. Opposing same-sex marriage, ditto. Supporting military adventures however much obviously foolish, ditto. Addressing wealth and income inequalities, which are probably the highest of all modern societies since 1850 and which make the words meritocracy or social mobility (not to mention democracy) sad and cruel jokes, not so much.

The worse is that as long as everybody believed that everybody believed that one had to do this to get to the White House, she might have had an excuse. But then comes a dinosaur of American politics just about as unappealing as can be who does the exact reverse and as a result becomes a viable candidate, defeating you handily in many states and winning by large margins against any Republican opponent according to opinion polls; all that in in six months. And here is a simple counter-factual. Could she adopt Sanders political propositions, she would. Instantly. Just defeat him once and for all. She isn’t, so she can’t.

And who voted for him? Young people, apparently overwhelmingly and regardless of gender. No wonder they might feel a bit unimpressed by the political wisdom of their elders.

410

js. 04.02.16 at 7:10 am

Barack Obama, Generation X. Possibly. I just can’t get into the generational wars because I’m not part of any generation at all, it turns out. Thanks fuckers.

And Val, thanks!

411

Ze K 04.02.16 at 7:23 am

411 “But then comes a dinosaur of American politics just about as unappealing as can be who does the exact reverse…”

Sanders is not doing the exact reverse. He’s promising exactly the same imperial world-domination game, albeit slightly less liberal domestically; yet still essentially liberal – a pathetic new-deal liberal.

Trump, otoh, really does do the exact reverse. But it looks like they find a way to stop him; I see his chances dropped from .85 a few weeks ago to below 0.6 now…

412

Hidari 04.02.16 at 8:13 am

Oh please. It’s increasingly obvious that Trump never really wanted the nomination in the first place. He is now on auto-destruct. The best result for Trump now is that he ‘loses’ (or better still has his ‘invevitable’ victory ‘stolen’ from him by GOP elites) so he can now play the victim card for the rest of his career, and doesn’t have to do the hard work of being President. This was always about publicity and Trump’s business interests.

GOP elites have made it very clear that they would prefer a Hilary Clinton presidency anyway, who provides a political platform that is essentially identical to the Republican’s but with a smattering of progressive rhetoric to keep the liberals onside. With the gerrymandered Congress and Senate and the unelected SCOTUS keeping the country ‘right’ the Republicans continue to wield real power with a ‘Republican posing as a Democrat’ Clinton as a puppet/figurehead.

http://www.salon.com/2016/04/01/donald_trump_truthers_theories_spread_hes_trying_to_sabotage_campaign_after_his_disastrous_week_from_hell/

413

Robespierre 04.02.16 at 8:28 am

Ze K, I know you hate nothing more than capitalism that works, but, but the current path seems to be either that, stagnation or fascism. Oh, right.

414

Hidari 04.02.16 at 8:44 am

‘Republican Hawks prefer Hillary Clinton for president over Donald Trump’

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/mar/29/republican-hawks-prefer-hillary-clinton-president-/

415

Ze K 04.02.16 at 8:57 am

“Ze K, I know you hate nothing more than capitalism that works”

I don’t hate anything. It would’ve been stupid to hate capitalism, and what the heck is “capitalism that works”? How did it work for those guys on that Manning video, in Baghdad, shot down like animals from a helicopter?

“It’s increasingly obvious that Trump never really wanted the nomination in the first place.”

This may very well be true. It doesn’t, however, refute the point that he’s the only candidate doing “the exact reverse”, and getting a significant number of enthusiastic followers…

416

Val 04.02.16 at 10:25 am

Thank you too js

So, in a message that all is forgiven and I can be as drunk and incoherent as anyone else (Saturday night here), I would really like to talk about something that happened today.

I was at a rally, protesting the cuts to climate science at the CSIRO*, and it got a bit boring*, so I got chatting to a young guy who was handing out Socialist Party material. We talked for a while about various things*, including the fact that there are three different socialist organisations* in my local area.

Late in the conversation, just before I went to listen to the last two speakers*, I mentioned that some older male socialists I talk to seem a bit sceptical about feminism. A look of shock crossed his face. He said that he couldn’t imagine any real socialists behaving this way, and that true socialism was about equality for all.

So this is a young guy who is a millenial, or possibly even a post-millenial, if such a thing exists – he was so young. Think I’ll leave it there, but engels et al, I hope you take note.

* http://cpsu-csiro.org.au/2016/04/01/melbourne-rally-to-protest-csiro-and-climate-research-cuts/

* because some of the early speakers were a bit ‘scientists are a wonderful elite and you should all bow down and worship them’ which is what actually puts people off science

* particularly our shared view that climate scientists would be better off saying they were workers who were doing a difficult and important job to the best of their ability rather than presenting themselves as an elite.

* long story, which I’m happy to expand on for anyone interested (the long version is quite funny) but partly due to the fact that I live near to large university

*Greens and Youth alliance, all women (youth alliance had two speakers) – greens speaker an elected politician who actually fired up the crowd, unlike most of the previous speakers, so why were they last on the program? I think I know why but won’t talk about it here

417

Val 04.02.16 at 10:42 am

Looking at that comment above, I think the underlying message may be that when I’m drunk I write super-coherently, with careful footnotes. Academia, eh? It teaches you something.

418

Hidari 04.02.16 at 10:56 am

@419 the only way that most CT threads can be understood is to assume that pretty much all the commentators are drunk.

419

engels 04.02.16 at 11:10 am

Ye and verily the young lurkers said unto Val ‘we support your cranky mixture of bourgeois feminism, US-style identity politics and apologias for Clinton and Gillard in email’ and we agree that anyone who does not is not a feminist or a socialist, and the young lurkers bowed down before Val and Val blessed the young lurkers and it was good.

420

Hidari 04.02.16 at 12:14 pm

Just think guys! When we were younger we used to go out on a Saturday night and drink beer and talk shit to our friends in pubs and bars. Now we stay in and drink wine and talk shit to complete strangers on the internet.

And they say there’s no such thing as progress.

421

novakant 04.02.16 at 12:17 pm

the only way that most CT threads can be understood is to assume that pretty much all the commentators are drunk

I wouldn’t restrict this to the commentariat: sometimes I had this vivid image of Daniel Davies and John Holbo on a cocaine binge while Belle Waring was sipping Mint Juleps.

422

engels 04.02.16 at 12:52 pm

I don’t think everyone was ‘talking shit’ and I learned a fair bit from Lupita’s and Jeffrey’s comments, among others. I also thought the post was great. My impression is that with a couple of exceptions people here really don’t want to know about younger Americans’ perspectives, or Sanders, generally. Not a surprise really.

423

Ze K 04.02.16 at 1:02 pm

Chait’s piece linked in 424 is a meaningless drivel: describing marxism in quintessential liberal terms – ‘rights’, ‘free speech’… It’s like describing elliptic geometry assuming euclidean axioms… He needs to open his mind a bit…

424

Ecrasez l'Infame 04.02.16 at 1:42 pm

Sometimes, reading long CT threads one is not involved in is remarkably like finding oneself sober in the middle of a bunch of drunk people. It’s that “holy shit, that’s how I must sound” feeling that’s rather similar.

Nah, js, you’ll only really get the feeling of how you sound if the drunks recite the Shahada with their fingers crossed behind their backs, and then give patronisingly “authentic” lectures on how everyone else is misunderstanding Islam/Muslims in between doing shots and eating hotdogs.

5:91 Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?

425

Ze K 04.02.16 at 1:45 pm

“More like describing philistogen theory using terms from modern chemistry, actually. “

No. It’s simply a different set of axioms, or ‘values’ as politicians like to call them. For example, you think that private property is sacred, and others think it’s evil. You worship the individual, and others the collective. These are basic axioms, right there. And from these two completely different foundations, two completely different frameworks are constructed. You can’t analyze one using the assumptions and terminology of the other. You need a meta-theory.

What works and what doesn’t is a judgment call, and, currently, a subject of considerable controversy: most people who experienced both models seem to prefer the marxist one.

426

engels 04.02.16 at 1:58 pm

…Young people proved to be about equally or more open-minded than their elders on all the categories Gallup tested, but the biggest gap between young and old was on “socialist” candidates…
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/rampage/wp/2016/02/05/millennials-have-a-higher-opinion-of-socialism-than-of-capitalism/

427

Dipper 04.02.16 at 2:03 pm

@6 and prices in London.

Yes prices of flats in London are beyond the reach of young people without independent means – e.g. Clerkenwell is anywhere from £800,000 upwards. But walk to Liverpool Street Station and take a train ride of 35 minutes and you can be in walking distance of a 2 bed flat for £180,000 upwards in Harlow Essex.

London is an exception. Its the #1 city in the world at the moment, where the wealthy from all corners come to buy a safe space and enjoy the best theatre/food/culture. Most people live outside and commute in, and it is much more affordable, though less fashionable.

428

engels 04.02.16 at 2:21 pm

Miles from London, find out which postcodes could grow into the next mini property price bubbles
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/11518363/Britains-new-property-hotspots-will-see-house-price-hikes.html

429

Ze K 04.02.16 at 3:01 pm

Brett, I’m not saying it hasn’t really been tried. It certainly has. As for thousands dead, so what. Same was the case of the French revolution, for example. Any radical systemic change is painful. But I don’t hear anyone saying: terror of the French revolution proves that absolute monarchy is the only successful model. A more relevant question is: can this new model survive and, eventually, bounce back? I don’t know, but (with any luck, unless something drastic happens, like a full-blown nuclear war) we’ll see.

430

Dipper 04.02.16 at 3:08 pm

From “Snowdrops” by A D Miller. “Communism didn’t ruin Russia. Russia ruined communism”

431

Plume 04.02.16 at 3:19 pm

Brett @432,

I know this is hopeless, but . . . .

Your analogy with philistogen theory is telling, as is your belief in the “every time it’s been tried” thing. First of all, I’ve never seen you, ever, actually say what you think “Marxist theory” is. I’d love to see you paraphrase it and relate it to Marx’s writings. What, exactly, do you think has been tried and disproven?

But the real core of your problem is this: You seem to think there is this one set theory, which everyone supposedly agrees to, based on Marx’s writings, as if it were a maths or physics theorem. Something that never involved thousands of subjective interpretations, or a huge range of disagreement even within the community of Marxists and Marxians. You seem to believe that Lenin and Mao and others took this one thing, this one, actual, concrete entity, and reproduced its exact essence, parameters and dimensions, as if it were a model home, kept its exact logic intact, and that because they supposedly never deviated from this one essence, that proves that one thing, that model home, that math theorem is/was a disaster.

Ever stop to think that maybe they got it all wrong? That their extremely subjective interpretations, which were ferociously attacked by other self-identified Marxists, were wrong? And that because Marx wrote almost nothing whatsoever about what would replace capitalism, and spent most of his life just critiquing the existing economic system, there is no maths or physics theorem to get wrong? As in, he never went into the slightest detail about how to set up a new government and what it would look like, and he also warned against trying to have a socialist revolution in a country without a strong, surplus-yielding, already modernized economy.

In short, what is this “Marxist theory” you think has been disproven?

432

Plume 04.02.16 at 3:29 pm

Ze K @433,

“Brett, I’m not saying it hasn’t really been tried. It certainly has.”

But what is that “it” you and Brett are referring to? Leftists, including Marxists, never agreed that there was one “it,” not in the run-up to the Russian Revolution or its aftermath. In fact, there was so much dissent on the left, Lenin and Stalin (especially Stalin) purged the ranks to the degree possible — through jail, torture, exile or execution. We had decades and decades of leftists, including Marxists, who said the Soviet version was a betrayal of Marx’s writings, as was Mao’s, as was Castro’s, etc. etc.

People like Brett have this kindergarten vision of “Marxism.” They see in black and white. They won’t ever acknowledge the millions of different shades involved, and the courageous dissent of leftists who believed Lenin, Stalin, Mao and company got “it” all wrong — violently wrong.

Before anyone says “it” has been tried and “it” always fails, they need to define “it” and compare “it” with the original — along with the 10,001 different visions/interpretations of “it.”

433

Ze K 04.02.16 at 3:53 pm

‘It’ being public ownership of the means of production, public investment, and an attempt at distribution according to fairness and the public needs. What else is there?

And what do the purges (and tortures, etc.) have to do with any of this? Jacobins purged the Girondists, and then got purged themselves, and then there were emperors and kings again, but eventually France became a republic. And who cares about the purges now?

434

AcademicLurker 04.02.16 at 4:08 pm

As for thousands dead, so what.

I believe this thread has now reached Peak Crooked Timber…

435

Rich Puchalsky 04.02.16 at 4:24 pm

Plume: “And that because Marx wrote almost nothing whatsoever about what would replace capitalism, and spent most of his life just critiquing the existing economic system, there is no maths or physics theorem to get wrong? As in, he never went into the slightest detail about how to set up a new government and what it would look like […]”

Actually, Bakunin and Marx had arguments about just this, and Bakunin pretty much predicted everything that would go wrong with Marxism later. You don’t really need to go to Lenin or Mao. The problems with Marxism were implicit in what Marx wrote and defended from the beginning.

436

Plume 04.02.16 at 4:32 pm

Ze K @437,

“‘It’ being public ownership of the means of production, public investment, and an attempt at distribution according to fairness and the public needs. What else is there? “

If that is “it,” then “it” never has been tried before in the modern world. The public didn’t (doesn’t) own the means of production in Russia, NK, Cuba, China, etc. etc. A one party state/dictator did/does.

And you’re forgetting the other central tenet: full democracy, including the economy. That has also never been attempted on any national scale, anywhere in the modern world.

And:

“And what do the purges (and tortures, etc.) have to do with any of this? “

It proves again that there is no one “it” involved. Who did Stalin and company purge, assassinate, etc. etc.? The vast majority were leftists who disagreed vehemently with the one party state and its interpretation of the revolution, of leftism in general and Marxism in particular. My point being that it’s absurd to dismiss “Marxism” based upon its perversion, bastardization and radical distortion by a few. The left itself has never been able to agree about what “Marxism” actually means . . . . and all too many right-wingers think they have and that everyone was/is on board with Stalin and Mao’s radically subjective version, etc. etc.

The left never was.

437

William Berry 04.02.16 at 4:36 pm

It’s “phlogiston”, not “philistogen”, unless by the latter some sort of pun is intended.

438

Plume 04.02.16 at 4:39 pm

Richard @439,

Marx had arguments with Marx about this. He evolved over time and disagreed with himself often. Again, there is no one “it” to disprove. That’s my point. There’s not even an “it” if we just look at Marx and only Marx. Throw in the 10,001 interpreters and things spiral out even more from there. There is no “it.”

I side with Bakunin, btw, on more things than not — among other anarchist-socialists. To me, Marx was most valuable as a critic of capitalism. He did next to no work on what would replace it, just that it needed to be replaced, and he showed why this was/is the case.

So when the issue is what was implemented to replace the existing capitalist system — state capitalism — is under scrutiny, does it make any sense to hang this on “Marxism” when Marx himself barely said a peep about that? And when there is so much diversity and divergence among Marxists and Marxians themselves?

Not to me.

439

Ze K 04.02.16 at 4:50 pm

“Full democracy” is a political system of slave-owning ancient Greeks. Liberal democracy is a political system of capitalism. Communists have dictatorship of the proletariat, until the state is not needed anymore and it dies away.

“The public didn’t (doesn’t) own the means of production in Russia, NK, Cuba, China, etc. etc.”

Of course it did. Via the vanguard party, representing the interests of workers. Learn your ideology, and don’t mix, match, and confuse it with other ideologies.

“Who did Stalin and company purge, assassinate, etc. etc.?”

Who cares? Too much emphasis on individuals. You need to think on the systemic level, and ignore the noise. When you concentrate on the noise, you miss the big picture.

“My point being that it’s absurd to dismiss “Marxism” based upon its perversion, bastardization and radical distortion by a few.”

Who said anything about dismissing? Not me.

But now you are trying to dismiss a 70 years long experiment taken place on one sixth of the planet with hundreds of millions of people in it… And that’s not even counting 1.3 billion strong China, where it still continues…

440

Rich Puchalsky 04.02.16 at 4:57 pm

Plume: ” Throw in the 10,001 interpreters and things spiral out even more from there. There is no “it.””

I think that’s silly, but OK. Anyone who really thinks that there is no core Marxism is free to give up using the term “Marxist” to describe their ideas, and then we can go on to something else.

But, you know, there are ideal versions of many ideologies. U.S. “libertarians” have an ideal version of capitalism, which they say has never really been tried. Any amount of pointing out the actual history of capitalism won’t help. As Ze K says, there’s been a 70 year long experiment in one of the two superpowers, and an ongoing one in the second most powerful country in the world, and lots of other smaller ones that have pretty much all died off or gone bad. How many experiments do we need to try before we say that there are obvious reasons why this ideology doesn’t work?

441

Plume 04.02.16 at 5:02 pm

Ze K @443,

Sorry, but you’re absolutely wrong. About “full democracy” and everything else you write above. By definition, “the public” didn’t own the means of production. A single party/dictator did. That’s not “the public” in any other sense than Orwellian. And “full democracy” is direct, participatory, includes the economy, and has never been tried on a national scale in any nation. And, no, Greece didn’t have full democracy. They had a representative, highly limited form of democracy which did not count women, minorities, slaves or the landless in general.

Full democracy mean universal suffrage and is direct, participatory and not representational.

442

engels 04.02.16 at 5:11 pm

I don’t know what it says about me that I don’t have the energy for another round of Dissent versus Dugin

443

Plume 04.02.16 at 5:25 pm

Rich @444,

The diversity among “Marxists” is staggering. Again, there is no “it.” And because that diversity is assumed right off the bat, there is no need to run from the term. Why should Marxists stop using the term when it has never meant anything remotely close to the black and white, comic-book version peddled by its critics?

Just take a look at the variations linked to here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marxism

It’s not a matter of “ideal versions” or “No True Scotsman.” It’s that “Marxism” has no single definition and encompasses massive differences in goals, philosophy, emphases, methods, etc. etc. . . . which render the idea that “it” has been disproven completely absurd.

As for those experiments. How many have there been? Six, maybe? There have been hundreds of experiments under capitalism, all of them massive failures, too. They obviously dwarf those who borrowed the name “Marxist” for theirs. And the death toll for the capitalist world is many, many times greater than that of the faux-Marxist examples.

I despise both. I have supreme contempt for both. And I am not advocating for any “Marxist” alternative, because such a thing doesn’t exist beyond the desire to see socialism replace capitalism. Marx wanted socialism to replace capitalism. He didn’t want “Marxism” to replace it. Even for Marx, there was no “it” like that. He also wrote a bit, often in vague terms, that socialism, once it became second nature, once it was naturally integrated, would be replaced by communism, the absence of the state. Basically, left-anarchism.

The argument in Marx’s day was the belief that a government was necessary as a transitional stage to the absence of government, versus the belief that this could be skipped. That, no, we need the absence of the state as the revolution itself, not as a goal via natural process. But the end goal was the same.

It wasn’t “Marxism.” It was socialism, followed by communism, both of which preexisted Marx and he always acknowledged that.

444

Plume 04.02.16 at 5:40 pm

I think the biggest confusion about “Marxism” is this.

That’s it’s all about a certain kind of revolution and a certain kind of government structure, post-revolution. In reality, most Marxists see it as a way to analyze existing social relations, especially economic, and especially capitalist. They see it as a very important and useful way of breaking down everything from literary texts to historical tomes. It’s a method of scholarship, study and analyses, and it, too, has diversity within its ranks.

Most of Post-Modern theory in the Humanities stems from Marxist methods of analyses. Deconstructionism, Post-Structuralism, etc. etc. There is Marxist-Feminist, Marxist-Humanitarian, Libertarian-Marxist, Green Marxism, LGBT-Marxist, etc. etc.

Economic Marxists tend to use “Marxian” rather than “Marxist,” but theirs is a analytical method as well.

It’s a subset of a subset of a subset that seeks a certain kind of revolution and a certain kind of structure once the revolution is “won.” And none of that came from anything Marx ever detailed beyond the vague . . . . again, because all he called for was socialism to replace capitalism, not “Marxism.”

445

Ze K 04.02.16 at 5:45 pm

“I don’t know what it says about me that I don’t have the energy for another round of Dissent versus Dugin”

Yeah, I’d much prefer Dugin these days. Civilizationism, the “fourth political theory” that I don’t really understand… All the good stuff. The fad of the day; that’s where the passion is… But here, I doubt anyone cares…

“and lots of other smaller ones that have pretty much all died off or gone bad.”

Some were defeated, but some (China, Vietnam) adapted, reformed themselves. So, I don’t think it’s over, not by a long shot. Stay tuned.

446

Plume 04.02.16 at 5:55 pm

Ze K @449,

What would you call those experiments, though? Cuz they aren’t what Marx wrote was necessary. Again, he said capitalism needs to be replaced by socialism, and in those hijacked revolutions, state capitalism (not socialism) typically followed a kind of obdurate feudalism, or close to it. He also said, don’t have revolutions in nations like that. He wanted socialist revolution in Britain and Germany first, hopefully with parallel revolutions throughout Europe, which would then spread. He was smart enough to know that if they happened in “backward” nations, they would fail — both due to the West crushing them, and the absence of an economic surplus, so they would suffer from “sharing the scarcity.”

In reality, places like the Soviet Union were the ultimate betrayal of socialism — and, by extension, “Marxism.”

447

Anarcissie 04.02.16 at 6:06 pm

Ze K 04.02.16 at 3:53 pm @ 437:
‘And who cares about the purges now?’

Actually, they worry me. But these body-count contests are incomplete without including the monumental tolls of death and destruction that accompanied the rise and establishment of liberalism-capitalism, including its imperial and colonial aspects.

448

Plume 04.02.16 at 6:10 pm

@451,

“Actually, they worry me. But these body-count contests are incomplete without including the monumental tolls of death and destruction that accompanied the rise and establishment of liberalism-capitalism, including its imperial and colonial aspects.”

Very true. And the latter is never acknowledged by the triumphalists in the liberalism-capitalism corner, and we’re brainwashed into not even thinking about those things. It’s heresy to even suggest we might be as bad — and in total, we’ve been far worse.

Again, I condemn both. That’s why I push for alternatives that have never been tried. Everything that has been tried in the modern world has been despicable in effect.

449

RNB 04.02.16 at 6:39 pm

@410 Does Crooked Timber lead people to drink heavily or just attract people who already drink heavily?

450

bob mcmanus 04.02.16 at 7:19 pm

453: I am a teetotaler who would like to bring back prohibition but make marijuana mandatory legal and may still be flashing from the 70s. I would hope my psychedelic experience shows in my prose but I am no Robbins, Farina, Pynchon, or Wallace, and can only do my best to write kaleidoscopically.

451

Ze K 04.02.16 at 7:22 pm

“Actually, they worry me.”

That comment was about the 1790s purges in France. You sure it worries you? It’s history. Most people (I hope) see it as a major transformational event, where, naturally, major violence is par for the course. That’s life.

452

RNB 04.02.16 at 7:26 pm

Speaking of the kids, do they do psychedelics or shrooms anymore; or is it just special cocktails of Red Bull and opioids while using social media?

453

Plume 04.02.16 at 7:31 pm

Ze K @455,

“That comment was about the 1790s purges in France.”

It was? Because it was in direct response to this question:

“Who did Stalin and company purge, assassinate, etc. etc.?”

454

bob mcmanus 04.02.16 at 7:39 pm

456: Urban millenials are all junkies, while Red State millenials are tweakers. It’s true by science, trust me.

I’m with Engels, when a thread devolves into BB (or LFC, Arnold) arguing with Plume about the Gulags it’s over. Kind of a new Godwin.

455

RNB 04.02.16 at 7:40 pm

@454 So I take it that you did and do inhale. Can’t believe that HRC has not hit Sanders hard over this; it would have hurt him all over Washington.

In an interview with Katie Couric of Yahoo News, Sanders touched on a variety of subjects — including his past drug use.

“I coughed a lot. I’m sitting around, I smoked marijuana,” said Sanders, who then coughed for affect [sic]. “I smoked marijuana twice, didn’t quite work for me.”

456

RNB 04.02.16 at 7:42 pm

I do trust you on this stuff, mcmanus; at least more so than on the interpretation of Marx stuff.

457

Plume 04.02.16 at 7:53 pm

bob @458,

How do you see “Marxism” in light of the subset of the subset discussion?

Do you think there is a there there? An “it” that has been disproven?

Btw, good PoMod references, though was surprised you left out Barth and Barthelme. The latter is one of my favorite all-time postmodernist writers. Especially great with his short stories. And if you really want kaleidoscopic, you should read Henri Michaux, the Belgian surrealist poet, painter and experimenter with myriad drugs. The inventor of “Plume” as well. He was PoMod long before they “officially” existed.

458

RNB 04.02.16 at 8:04 pm

459

JeffreyG 04.02.16 at 8:16 pm

imho Marxism these days mostly amounts to a sort of intellectual kitsch.

The idea that ‘socialism’ as a political impulse today has much to do with Marx is a right wing myth – at least in the developed West. Contemporary socialism comes much closer to Polanyi’s ‘tendency in industrial civilization to self-consciously transcend the market by subordinating it to democratic society’. Even here, with ‘industrial’, we see clear signs of age. What might a post-industrial socialism look like?

460

RNB 04.02.16 at 8:26 pm

Yup, Marxism is pretty marginal now except for the occasional radical speaking of the prospect of profits on new investments being dim while profits on existing investments being bolstered by monopoly, like in this
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/03/30/larry-summers-corporate-profits-are-near-record-highs-heres-why-thats-a-problem/

461

engels 04.02.16 at 8:37 pm

‘Socialism as political impulse’ never had much to do with Marx. Marx didn’t invent socialism, he just greatly improved the theoretical tools available to serious socialists for understanding capitalism, fighting the power of capital and building a better future.

462

engels 04.02.16 at 8:46 pm

(Tbc I don’t think someone like Sanders is in any way influenced by Marx but I also don’t think he’s a socialist under any normal definition.)

463

Brett Dunbar 04.02.16 at 8:47 pm

In purely economic terms imperialism makes no real sense. Capitalism per se doesn’t provide any reason for proactive military action. With the very limited exception of things like Perry’s expedition to Japan. The benefits to everyone of Japan opening trade with the world exceeded the opportunity cost of the expedition. Japan however was quite exceptional in its response and was certainly a great power by 1904 (Russo-Japanese War) and has a strong case that is was actually a great power by 1895 (First Sino-Japanese War). Usually the cost of any military action exceeds any possible profits from the military action. Capitalist states could afford to waste money on empires, it was still a hugely loss making endeavour.

War is fundamentally a value-subtracting activity. Huge amounts of stuff is used to break existing stuff leaving less stuff than you started with and stopping you from using the stuff you have used to break stuff in a more constructive way. Some individuals get more stuff but overall amount of stuff decreases so aggregate losses exceed aggregate gains.

A coldly economic approach to Iraq would have been to end the embargo Iraq wanted to sell oil, western businesses wanted to buy oil as cheaply as possible and increasing supply would lower the marginal cost of oil. The embargo was politically and morally motivated by a desire to punish the Iraqi government for Iraq’s awful human rights record and history of military aggression.

464

Val 04.02.16 at 9:00 pm

RNB @ 453
I’m not sure, but it feels like the latter sometimes.

I should add, I don’t comment here using my university email, but my name links to a blog that’s linked to my research, so – I’m not advocating drinking too much! In fact I tend to drink too much when I’m depressed, and there are features of CT that I also find pretty depressing, so it’s probably not helpful, even though most commenters are interesting and thoughtful.

It’s useless to try to answer all the times I’m misrepresented, and if I try to protest, even lightheartedly, it just makes it worse, as they just hit back harder, and as I said earlier, you can’t really ignore it when people are using your name – so all in all, I guess it’s better if I do what I said I was going to a while ago, and disengage.

465

Rich Puchalsky 04.02.16 at 9:13 pm

“he just greatly improved the theoretical tools available to serious socialists for understanding capitalism, fighting the power of capital and building a better future.”

And wow have those theoretical tools been so successful at those three tasks. Only a century later and so much progress has been made.

I also like the “serious socialists” part. Anyone can read what Marx thought of other socialists, and his followers continue the same attitude. “Serious” means pretty much what the capitalist media mean by “serious”: it means “always wrong”.

466

engels 04.02.16 at 9:31 pm

‘serious’ = interested in actually helping to bring about socialism rather than eg. wasting people’s time on a blog by posting endlessly negative opinions about the left largely devoid of argument or knowledge of their subject matter

467

JeffreyG 04.02.16 at 9:32 pm

I actually think Marx had a solid grasp, and a significant impact on, the socialist politics of his day. Yet by the time WWI rolls around it was pretty clear that Marxism was insufficient – theoretically speaking – for analyzing politics. A bunch of people add things on in the meantime, but it was not for nothing that Gramsci, arguably the most politically attuned of the Western Marxists, considered the Russian revolution a ‘revolution against Das Kapital’. Gramsci himself of course abandons Marx’s approach to political rule and interjects his own, a pattern of ‘slight stretching’ that continues as “Marx” is championed in the colonies.

468

Rich Puchalsky 04.02.16 at 9:59 pm

Oh no,,another commenter on a blog has dissed me for posting comments on a blog. It’s too bad that I don’t have the vast index of Onion links that he has, otherwise I’d be able to really argue too.

This, by the way — and getting back to Sanders — is why those 40% of young people or whatever who have a favorable view of socialism tend to view it in similar terms as JeffreyG does above, as some kind of more or less vague (sorry, JeffreyG) subordination of the market to democratic society. Real socialists tend to be insufferable (Bernie is a welcome exception). They’re like the worst MSM talking heads, endlessly repeating the same points no matter how often proven wrong, condescending to everyone over their mastery of their advanced “serious” 19th century texts, and unlike the MSM talking heads they didn’t even get any success out of it.

469

Anarcissie 04.02.16 at 10:56 pm

Ze K 04.02.16 at 7:22 pm @ 455:
“Actually, they worry me.”

‘That comment was about the 1790s purges in France. You sure it worries you? It’s history.’

Yeah, it’s history, and you know what they say about history.

470

Collin Street 04.02.16 at 11:05 pm

They’re like the worst MSM talking heads, endlessly repeating the same points no matter how often proven wrong, condescending to everyone over their mastery of their advanced “serious” 19th century texts, and unlike the MSM talking heads they didn’t even get any success out of it.

Same as the hard right, like I’ve pointed out: the only difference is that there’s noone on the hard right that isn’t like this, whereas other political traditions have reasonable numbers of reasonable theorists.

471

engels 04.02.16 at 11:28 pm

So who are the ‘reasonable theorists’ of the left you’d contrast with crazy talking point spouters like David Harvey, Perry Anderson or Ellen Meiksins Wood?

472

Ze K 04.02.16 at 11:50 pm

BB 470 ” That’s the problem with your theory, Plume: you’ve built a dictator into it without realizing it.”

Well, you only need the dictatorship until you change everyone’s mindset, make it suitable for collective ownership. People can’t switch immediately; can’t adapt to the new model, as their minds have already developed and stiffened. This is a known phenomenon, see von Trier’s Manderlay, for example (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manderlay ).

So, people will need to change, and even with all outside counter-propaganda completely shut out, this should probably take several generations, or perhaps some highly effective re-education camps… Or probably both; Moses did the 40 years in the desert, and the Commandments…

473

engels 04.03.16 at 12:16 am

endlessly repeating the same points no matter how often proven wrong

Rich I seem to remember when we had the Marxism go-around a few years ago your slam-dunk was that in affluent Western societies class no longer plays any role in politics. Wanna revise that?

474

Plume 04.03.16 at 12:58 am

Brett @470,

Again, I know this is hopeless, but . . .

“A single owner, no matter what you call it, no matter what motives you theorize it should have, always is a dictator. That’s the problem with your theory, Plume: you’ve built a dictator into it without realizing it.”

Yes. That single owner as dictator is why we need to get rid of capitalism. That’s what capitalism is based on. It’s based on the dictator/autocrat model, and the master/slave model.

But that part in bold? I shouldn’t have to explain this to you, but I didn’t invent socialism. I didn’t build anything into it.

Beyond all of that, there is nothing vague about the concept of “the public.” It’s just all of us. Every citizen, together. All citizens make up the public. So when the public owns the means of production, we all own it. We each have our individual shares; we’re all co-owners; there are no bosses, no dictators, no autocrats precisely BECAUSE we all are co-owners. Co-owners with equal say, equal voice, equal share, equal value.

In “socialism” as I understand it, power is dispersed, decentralized, completely spread out into 315 million bodies, all with equal standing under the law. Which means a “dictator” is an impossibility. No one person has authority to take control over everything, because we all have equal power. And to further devolve power away from any centers, we have autonomous, community-sized, egalitarian, democratic, cooperative economies, federated to one another. There are no political parties to take control. There are no concentrations of power beyond the individual. You can’t take control of a business by yourself. It’s always already owned by everyone. As in, literally everyone. We all hold the means of production in common.

As for the nonsense about “inevitability. Ironically, that sounds like vulgar Marxism. That sounds like a person who believes in historical inevitability, like victory for the proletariat. Nothing is inevitable. Other than you showing you don’t have a clue about leftist thought.

Now, as I asked earlier, please explain, in your own words, what you think “Marxism” means. Please explain what “it” is, in your view — the “it” that has supposedly been proven wrong so many times and inevitably leads to dictatorship. What is “it”? Brett . . . .

475

Suzanne 04.03.16 at 1:10 am

@409: Thank you for the link. And Sanders does get brownie points from me for being the first to refuse to show up to kiss Bibi’s ring.

I didn’t see any great departures from the Democratic consensus there, though. Sanders says we can’t be the policemen of the world, etc. (I might be more impressed if he had talked a bit more about Yemen instead of giving that catastrophe a passing tip of the hat.) Clinton makes more hawkish noises, but she knows as well as Sanders that any solution in Syria, say, will have to be a political one and that the tolerance of the American people for foreign adventurism is very low right now.

Sanders might want to remind Clinton that in 2008 she claimed Obama was naive for wanting to open diplomatic channels with the Iranians, if he hasn’t already.

476

Plume 04.03.16 at 1:31 am

Rich @473,

Your constant denigration of socialists is puzzling. You say you’re a left-anarchist. Well, pretty much all the most famous left-anarchists in the 19th and 20th centuries considered themselves “socialists.” I can’t think of a single one of them who didn’t, as a matter of fact. They used terms like “socialist” interchangeably with “anarchist-socialist,” communist, “anarchist-communist,” etc. etc. Kropotkin, Proudhon, Reclus, Morris, Bakunin, Goldman, Luxemburg, etc. etc. etc. They identified as “socialists.”

Chomsky identifies as a libertarian socialist, which is pretty close to my own point of view, though I think I’m more of an anticapitalist than he is, and more eco-conscious.

Also: Sanders isn’t a socialist. Judging from his proposals, he’s not a democratic socialist or even a European-style social democrat, either. He is fine with capitalism being the economic engine. He isn’t talking about any nationalization of any good or service, much less industry. Though he cites the Scandinavian countries a lot, he doesn’t appear to want to go as far as they have already gone — or went forty years ago — when it comes to the Commons. I think he would have been considered a mainstream liberal if it were the 1960s right now. Relative to the rest of the field, he’s great. But he still falls well short of what America needs, which is far more than an updated New Deal. That’s what Sanders is, essentially. A New Dealer, with updates.

We need someone willing to call for the dismantling of the empire and the replacement of our economic system with a sustainable, eco-friendly, fully democratic one — non-violently, through the democratic process. But that needs to be the goal.

477

RNB 04.03.16 at 1:36 am

@482 Are all puzzles worth solving?

478

Anarcissie 04.03.16 at 1:47 am

Brett Bellmore 04.02.16 at 9:25 pm @ 470:
If one entity controls all the water, you’re a slave, because you must have water.

One entity controls the water supply of New York City.

479

RNB 04.03.16 at 2:08 am

@483. Interestingly Sanders’ response to the financial crisis was not a call for a temporary Swedish-like nationalization of institutions but (a terribly reckless) tolerance of bankruptcy which he has followed up with calls for a break-up of big financial firms. In other words, his economic agenda here seems based less on socialism than on a libertarian vision of competitive capitalism.

480

Rich Puchalsky 04.03.16 at 2:18 am

Plume: “Also: Sanders isn’t a socialist. “

engels said this too. So 40% of young people or whatever have started to look favorably on socialism, and have a favored candidate who has said that he’s a socialist through a long career in Congress, and the first impulse of self-declared socialists is to say that he isn’t a real socialist. OK. But what I wrote was all wrong?

481

RNB 04.03.16 at 2:23 am

@469 Take care of yourself, Val; I think the best we can do is not get sucked in by posters who don’t respect the principle of charity in discussing our respective ideas and who have done little thinking or reading to provide us ideas that are interesting and challenging and who also do not provide actual evidence that is relevant to the discussions being had.

482

Plume 04.03.16 at 2:51 am

Rich @487,

Sanders has always been at pains to distinguish himself from plain old “socialist” by adding the modifier, “democratic.” Not since his youth has he called himself just a “socialist” without that modifier — as far as I know. To me, this is redundant, as “socialism” isn’t socialism without full-on democracy, including the economy. It’s something else entirely. But democratic socialism is basically used as a kind of marker, a sort of “to the right of” socialism “proper,” if I can binge on scare quotes here for a moment.

And I’m not talking about “purity” or anything like that. It’s a different point of view, an actual faction on the left that believes it is best to work with the Democratic party — to be the “left wing of the possible within the Democratic Party.” And this means keeping capitalism in place, compromising on things with the Republicans and the Democrats, and giving up on the idea of public ownership of the means of production or a classless society down the road. In Europe, it’s a stronger brew, and means certain industries are nationalized — which is about as close to “public ownership” as we’ve seen, but still not there. European “democratic socialism” is closer to what Tony Judt talked about in his Ill Fares the Land, for example. “The heights” are commonly held, but everything else is in the private sector.

I think the rise of young people saying they are okay with socialism is largely based on a misunderstanding of the term, though it’s a hopeful sign — this misunderstanding. It’s a lot more positive in its error than the right’s ignorant distortion, which basically just boils down to “Big Gubmint tyranny” and is pushed to make sure the richest retain their power and privilege. As in, the right’s demonization of socialism is in the service of keeping the ruling class in place, fat and happy. That’s not the rationale for the millennials’ embrace, etc.

Good article on the changing attitudes from Harold Meyerson, who identifies as a democratic socialist, too.

483

Procopius 04.03.16 at 2:55 am

I’m old, retired (from the Army), and live in Thailand. Incomes tend to be low here, rural poverty is less awful than it was forty years ago but still awful, and medical costs are low (alas, I’m not a citizen so am not eligible for the free health care). I haven’t been back to the states since the Army sent me to Germany in 1979, so my view of America is limited to what my old friends experience (still middle class or better), what my former Thai students see (they’re all pretty rich by Thai standards), and what I read on the internet. I see a lot of complaining on behalf of “the Kids,” and I see a lot of statistics showing the hollowing out of prosperity, but I see a lot of cognitive dissonance, too. There seem to be a lot of people who can afford a new iPhone every year. There seem to be a lot of people who worry about clothing fashions. I look on the internet for “cheap low-calorie breakfast” and find recipes calling for something called “quinoa” (which sounds expensive to me), lingonberries, fresh organic kale, almond milk. Those do not seem to me to be the concerns of people who are financially constrained. I was born in 1937 and grew up among people who still had vivid memories of living through the Depression (yes, there has only been One). My father once recounted to me that when he and mom were newlyweds, their big night on the town on Saturday nights, was to share a bottle of beer in the kitchen of their apartment (in those days rented, furnished apartments were still more than two rooms) listening to Glenn Miller or Woody Herman on the radio. I know, poverty is relative, but a lot of the discussions I see seem to be coming from very privileged people.

484

Plume 04.03.16 at 3:02 am

RNB @486,

Sounds like the right-libertarian delusion of “creative destruction.” That if the government just left the private sector alone, it would lift itself up after it demolishes part of itself in these crashes. In reality, it would, by definition, be too weak to do that, which is why the government has always stepped in to bail out the capitalist system, which simply can’t function without massive government support. At home and abroad. From 1970 to the present, we’ve had more than 100 large scale international bailouts, as David Harvey notes in his The Enigma of Capital. These have totaled many trillions of dollars and there is no end in sight.

Capitalism simply can’t go it alone, contrary to right-libertarian and conservative belief. Not only with day to day operations, and between nations, but each and every time it collapses, the only entity capable of lifting it up is government. It requires a bigger government apparatus, in fact, than any previous economic system.

Again, I like Sanders best among all the candidates. Actually, he’s the best we’ve seen in a generation. But, IMO, he still doesn’t go nearly far enough. His New Deal liberalism, while being a great deal better than Hillary, and with Hillary being better than Trump . . . . . it’s still weak tea overall for what ails us.

485

RNB 04.03.16 at 3:05 am

@491 Great data point from Harvey. I should have read the book that I have had for years. I shall look at it soon.

486

RNB 04.03.16 at 3:08 am

On the ‘necessary’ role of the state there is this
http://evonomics.com/stop-crying-about-the-size-of-government/
Which I think brings us back to Marx’s critique of Hegel: does the present state corrupt the essence of the state or is the essence of the state, corruption?

487

Anarcissie 04.03.16 at 4:06 am

RNB 04.03.16 at 3:08 am @ 493 —
Thanks for that link. The basis of government and state is institutionalized social coercion, which may or may not be ‘corrupt’ depending on how you think things ought to or can be. One of the statements the authors make is: ‘Most primate societies are despotic and extractive in human terms.’ This was not the impression I had of most primate societies, but not being a primatologist I commented, asking for the data on which they base this assertion. It seems fundamental to their argument about the goodness or necessity of the state.

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Matt 04.03.16 at 4:18 am

The price of microelectronics has plummeted since 1979 while the price of big-ticket items like housing, medical care, and higher education has long been growing faster than inflation. In my wife’s neighborhood growing up circa 1979 all the lower-middle class families there could afford to own a car and their own detached houses. But nobody in her circle could have splurged on a home computer. Since 1979 the real price of a home computer from e.g. Apple is down 75%, and it’s much more capable. But the real price of houses in her old neighborhood is up about 700%, and the house was the much more expensive item to begin with. The implication that American young adults could buy the same things their parents did at a similar age, if only they weren’t squandering money on quinoa and iPhones, is completely wrong.

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JeffreyG 04.03.16 at 4:23 am

I don’t understand the appeal of Acemoglu’s work.

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js. 04.03.16 at 4:50 am

Look, I didn’t love the Holly Wood piece (that name, tho) — just not getting the humor I guess, and also missing the context (I manage not to encounter jeremiads against millennials somehow). But some of the stuff on this thread is ridiculous. My kids, so ambitious!, Go-getters! iPhones! Have you even heard about the iPhones!? (I’m vaguely surprised no one’s mentioned cable yet, maybe that’s too 20th century.)

But, I don’t know, maybe look at what debt—and student debt in particular—looks like now vs. what it looked like a generation ago, let alone when the GI Bill allowed people to enjoy the baby boom. Or maybe look at what retirement plans, sorry “retirement plans”, look like now vs. what they looked like a generation or two ago. Or—closer to the concerns of the OP—maybe investigate the elusive ubiquitous “independent contractor”. This isn’t your Uber driver; this is people in full time jobs with—often—few or no benefits, this is also one of the fastest growing categories of employment in the US. Maybe then it will begin to make sense why even the go-getters! among the millennials (and I would guess that the people Corey mentioned in the post are mostly go-getters! by any reasonable measure) are feeling a measure of despair.

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Brett Dunbar 04.03.16 at 5:32 am

There was a recent series on the BBC called Back in time for the weekend in which a modern family more or less experienced the life of a similar family from 1950 to 2000 using data from a detailed consumption survey that was run for many years in the UK. By modern standards the standard of living before 1970 was fairly low. Food was expensive and and there were few consumer goods. In the 1970s while there were power cuts and the three day week the amount of consumer goods increased dramatically and this has basically continued ever since.

Inflation indexes like living standard indexes generally are bad at dealing with the on going increase in quality. This exaggerates the inflation rate and therefore makes the real income look lower.

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b9n10nt 04.03.16 at 5:52 am

We can and should acknowledge the hardships that current 20-somethings face, but we should also be wary that a fixation upon them can lead to or reinforce regressive reactionary politics: me above we, us against them, relative status wealth vs. objective material plenty.

Not saying the the Holly Wood posts necessarily represent an ethos of greed and delusion, but they -quite typically, as an example of liberal economic critique that accepts capitalist premises- insufficiently point towards a proper solution to the stress and despair.

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Ze K 04.03.16 at 7:07 am

BB 480 “The dictator decides he’s not needed anymore? ;)”

Yeah, theoretically that’s the plan. But you’re right: so far the experience indicates that, as soon as regular purges stop, bureaucracy gets entrenched to the point of becoming a socioeconomic class of its own, and it tends to resists any changes. The iron law of institutions. That’s a problem. One of many. Well, it’s still work in progress…

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Peter T 04.03.16 at 7:13 am

There’s this to be said for Marx – when not indulging in the petty (and vicious) quarrels of revolutionary cliques, he and Engels spent their time trying to understand the world they were trying to change. Long hours in the British Museum Library, endless collection of statistics, reading the leading anthropological and sociological research of their time as well as political economy. They were often wrong in their theories, and much of their knowledge base has been superseded or corrected, but they were not hand-waving (the habit of close analysis of actual conditions was what made so many Marxist movements so formidable). The same cannot be said of most of their critics, then or now.

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engels 04.03.16 at 9:49 am

I look on the internet for “cheap low-calorie breakfast” and find recipes calling for something called “quinoa” (which sounds expensive to me), lingonberries, fresh organic kale, almond milk. Those do not seem to me to be the concerns of people who are financially constrained.

Keep ’em coming

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engels 04.03.16 at 10:29 am

the first impulse of self-declared socialists is to say that he isn’t a real socialist

No, it was about the 367th impulse (purpose being to clarify that while we’re happy about what’s happening we don’t think it means capitalism is about to end, or something silly…) But if you want to call him a socialist, Rich, go ahead: we really couldn’t give a flying fuck.

The point that Americans my own age and younger don’t share your catatonic hostility to socialism and Marxism remains significant and is one reason why I really am going to pack this in now and enjoy the sunny day.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.03.16 at 11:35 am

Yes, without this timely warning, people without your deep understanding of history might expect capitalism to end because a socialist was elected.

In any case, I don’t have a hostility to socialism. Once again you are confusing yourself with the movement, comrade. I have a hostility to people who have no understanding of what went wrong in the past and who want the next generation to repeat the same old mistakes.

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engels 04.03.16 at 12:02 pm

Once again you are confusing yourself with the movement, comrade

No, I’m not. You criticised ‘self-declared socialists’ so I offered a response. If it was just anothet ad hominem attack on me you didn’t make that clear. And you’re not my ‘comrade’ – as I said before all your opinions on capitalism, class, revolution, etc are entirely in line with those of a left-wing liberal (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

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engels 04.03.16 at 12:24 pm

A good piece on Sanders by a young(ish) American Marxist (which incidentally does seem to sort of allow him the use of the label ‘socialist’)
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2016/03/25/the-sanders-democrat-is-paving-the-way-for-the-radical-left/

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Rich Puchalsky 04.03.16 at 12:29 pm

The “comrade” bit was sarcastic: I don’t think that you’re anyone’s comrade because I don’t think that you actually engage in any political activity.

And what I meant by “self-declared socialists” was exactly the kind of boundary-setting activity that you do like to do. The kind of people who, at the appearance of a long-term socialist making a serious run for the Presidency, feel like they have to tell people that he’s not a real socialist, just in case anyone might believe that he was. Maybe you’re not a real socialist? After all, the tendency that you self-identify with has spent its entire history destroying rival socialisms because they are not “real socialism” according to its own theory.

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engels 04.03.16 at 12:35 pm

I don’t think that you’re anyone’s comrade because I don’t think that you actually engage in any political activity.

Well then you’re an idiot.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.03.16 at 2:03 pm

A crushing retort. No doubt engels never mentions anything he’s involved in because it’s so sekret.

So I’ll sum up. People like engels say, over and over, that they are the judges of what socialism is. So any other tendency is supposed to wait with bated breath to be judged “real socialism”, but at the same time they aren’t supposed to say anything bad about socialism because we’re all socialists. This act got tired in the early part of the 20th century and I don’t see why anyone should continue to play along now.

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Brett Dunbar 04.03.16 at 2:47 pm

Attempts to abolish capitalism have tended to work less well and often end up with piles of skulls. Corporatism less so than socialism. In any event the historical record provides a strong reason for being sceptical about replacing capitalism.

Capitalism tends to be most successful in democracies. The generally low level of corruption means that the most effective way of being successful is to be more competent than your competition rather than getting your cronies in the government to ban your competitors. Which is what happens in places like Russia. Corporatism like mercantilism has a lot of political favouritism and market manipulation.

China is currently having some success in implementing a properly functioning market while remaining a dictatorship. Whether this can work long term is more of a question, Indonesia under Suharto tried the same, it worked for years, then it suddenly didn’t, Indonesia is now democratic.

Democratic institutions in the west work, you can tell from things like the way politicians pander to those parts of the population who actually vote, like pensioners and largely ignore those who don’t like the young and unemployed.

Quite a lot of left wing criticism of capitalism is actually directed at the corporatist and mercantilist elements rather than areas where the market operates effectively.

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engels 04.03.16 at 2:48 pm

I said I ‘don’t think [Sanders is] a socialist under any normal definition (as an aside and after having written supportively of him for months – I also linked approvingly to a Marxist article that seems to give a slightly more inclusive take). A ‘normal definition’ might be something like ‘public ownership of the means of production’.

You can disagree with the definition, but calling it ‘boundary policing’ and going on a rant about my alleged collective responsibility for putting down the Hungarian Uprising or murdering Trotsky is nutty, borderline abusive bullshit, which says everything about the mindset of American liberals of a certain and nothing of any substance.

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Plume 04.03.16 at 3:25 pm

Rich,

“So any other tendency is supposed to wait with bated breath to be judged “real socialism”, but at the same time they aren’t supposed to say anything bad about socialism because we’re all socialists. “

It’s not about remaining silent. It’s not about holding back on criticism. Nothing is above critique or questioning. Everything is fair game. But the object of the critique, the object of the questioning, should match up with the thing being critiqued or questioned. It’s important to be accurate about what, exactly, is being critiqued. What “it” is.

Zooming in to a fundamental level for analogy:

If Joey Smith steals Sally Jane’s lunch at school, and she accuses Bobby Johnson instead, who was home sick at the time, then this is “bad critique” and doesn’t match the object with the thing being critiqued.

North Korea, for example, is officially called The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by its leader. If someone is highly critical of that government — which they should be; it’s horrifically bad — it doesn’t make sense to do so by being critical of “Democratic Republics.” It makes sense to be critical of dynastic dictatorships and so on, but not “democracy” or “republics” or “people’s republics” etc. etc. etc. . . . which do not match up in the slightest with what actually exists in North Korea.

It’s not asking too much that criticism of “socialism” match the thing itself, and that if it doesn’t at least have the core, essential tenets of two centuries’ worth of theory and small scale practice, it shouldn’t be called “socialism.”

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Anarcissie 04.03.16 at 3:31 pm

I suppose if one thinks that language and concepts don’t mean much except as vehicles for propaganda (that is, the exertion of power) then saying that socialism is the same as the Welfare state is all right. I myself find the smearing-out of meaning often makes it harder to think and communicate. Being cursed from an early age with a certain amount of rationality, I have found uses for this defect, but I acknowledge that some others, seemingly free of it, may be happier and more successful than I.

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Ronan(rf) 04.03.16 at 3:34 pm

I’m not a socialist , (or Marxist ), so haven’t read enough Marxist writers (I’ve read the usuals, Harvey , Anderson etc). What else would people recommend ? Less in the lines of critiques more in line of visions of what a socialist society would look like and a rough blueprint of how you’d get there ? I have had my eyes on this book by Paul Auerbach “socialist optimism”, does anyone know whether the author and/or book is any good ?
Also , I have to agree with jeffreyg, I’ve no idea why people are so taken by Acemoglu and Robinson’s work.( There’s a pretty stinging critique of them by Peter temin, which I’ll try dig up and link to later)

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Ze K 04.03.16 at 4:04 pm

I thought it was officially announced by the ‘socialist international’, sometime in the 90s, that they stop espousing marxism and position themselves as the left wing of the neoliberal mainstream. And that was that. Neoliberalism has become the only mainstream choice. Outside the mainstream, the left doesn’t exist, but nationalists (isolationists) gain support all over the place. That’s the landscape…

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Cranky Observer 04.03.16 at 4:28 pm

“piles of skulls” is a specific trope of the hard Radical Right which is fine to simply ignore. But I’ll bite the time: WWI saw three intensely capitalist nation-states plus one that wished to be, later joined by the largest capitalist economy, create piles of skulls that could have easily reached to the moon. Yet capitalism as such never gets tagged with that one. Convenient.

510

Plume 04.03.16 at 4:53 pm

Cranky Observer @516,

Not to mention even more slaughter in WWII by the capitalist world. And you can add colonialism to this as well. To the hell on earth this produced for “third world” peoples. Its chief impulse, at least from the 19th century on, was capitalist expansion, as capitalism itself is essential imperalistic, and the first innately imperialistic economic system in history.

The slave trade was also a capitalist venture by the 19th century, and the rise of capitalism itself extended the life of slavery in the Americas by several decades, as it made it highly profitable again. The pre-capitalist dynamics of slavery would likely have forced its end for strictly economic reasons, but capitalist “innovations” boosted its capacity to sustain itself and thrive — making banksters and myriad financiers obscenely wealthy as well.

If Mao and Stalin can be blamed for deaths due to famine, and those deaths pinned on “socialism,” then famine in Ireland and Africa and in every capitalist nation, colony, satellite, etc. etc. gets pinned on capitalism as well. Hell, deaths due to cigarettes, the quintessential capitalist export, number several million per year, year after year after year. That’s a result of capitalists knowingly producing deadly products. If that doesn’t count as a “pile of skulls” attributable to capitalism, then one can’t justify a count for “socialism,” either.

Not to mention the fact that “socialism” still hasn’t even been tried on any national scale, whereas capitalism has and dominates the globe.

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engels 04.03.16 at 5:16 pm

Ronan

What else would people recommend ? Less in the lines of critiques more in line of visions of what a socialist society would look like and a rough blueprint of how you’d get there ?

This is a bit of a leading question as there’s a strong current Marx’s own thought that’s quite ‘hostile to this ‘utopian’ project, partly for democratic, partly epistemological reasons. As Peter said, Marx and Engels was much more focused on understanding the world in order to change it

This used to very discussed all the time here and if you check the sidebar iirc there are links to seminars on Wright and Cohen, who addressed this question from a Marxist and post-Marxist perspective, on sociology and normative philosophy respectively. Not really my thing but it’s there. Joseph Carens also influenced both. I might dig out more references if I have time.

For current commentary aimed at a broad audience I’d highly recommend Jacobin

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Brett Dunbar 04.03.16 at 5:26 pm

World War II was started by Nazi Germany which was quite explicitly a corporatist state. Its allies Italy and Japan were also corporatist.

Slavery was far more associated with pre-capitalist mercantilism and the development of capitalism in the 19th century was associated with the destruction of bonded labour. Accusing capitalism of causing slavery is utterly at variance with history. Britain at the same time capitalism was developing began devoting considerable resources to not only eliminating slavery in the areas it controlled but also eliminating the slave trade world wide and coercing other states into abolishing slavery.

Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot all killed huge numbers of people in pursuit of their vision of socialism. Attempting to radically change the basis of an economy in pursuit of some theoretical vision of how things ought to work has a really bad record. Firstly you need to use a great deal of violence to overcome opposition and then you tend to cause famine as what you are trying to do doesn’t work. In a democracy the opposition of the sceptics is usually enough to stop that sort of thing from being attempted and certainly enough to cause its abandonment if it actually starts to fail.

Mercantilism was imperialistic and expansionist, the gaining of trade monopolies and other privileges over colonies was viewed as a good thing. Adam Smith pointed out that even the most generous estimate of the value of these trade privileges was a tiny fraction of the cost of getting them. From a purely capitalist point of view there are almost no circumstances in which it is worth beginning a war, capitalism itself is pacifist and internationalist. Warfare is started by other things, like nationalism.

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Plume 04.03.16 at 5:47 pm

Brett @519,

We’ve been through this before. Corey Robin has written about Nazi Germany’s capitalist economy as well. It most definitely was capitalist. “Corporatism” is just a natural outgrowth of capitalist logic and competitive laws of motion.

Also, no one is accusing capitalism of causing slavery. I said it existed under capitalism and capitalism was a major reason why it survived as long as it did in the Americas. It made a failing system profitable again. That counts on capitalism’s tab too.

And I know this is hopeless, but you have the most pollyannish vision of capitalism possible. It is indeed the first innately imperialist economic system, as it must grow or die. It must unify once disparate, independent markets and forever extend itself into (or create) new markets. It must dominate wherever it goes and completely alter previous economic systems/relations or it can’t grow.

And, yes, we fight wars constantly on behalf of capitalists and capitalism. If we just limit this to America, our history is filled with hundreds of examples of our capitalists actually getting our government to launch wars, coups, covert ops, etc. etc. in order to force other nations to open up their borders to our capitalists. With rare exceptions, wars in the 20th and 21st century were all fought to protect and extend capitalist domination, and for much of the latter half of the 19th century this was also the case.

Capitalism is the economic system of our time. Wars have always been fought primarily to acquire wealth in the most valuable form of that day. Pretty much all previous economic systems were at the beck and call of aristocratic ruling classes. Capitalism is the first economic system to turn the tables and rule governments instead.

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Plume 04.03.16 at 5:49 pm

Brett,

This is true:

“Attempting to radically change the basis of an economy in pursuit of some theoretical vision of how things ought to work has a really bad record. Firstly you need to use a great deal of violence to overcome opposition and then you tend to cause famine as what you are trying to do doesn’t work. “

And you’ve just described what capitalism has done all over the world for roughly two centuries.

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Asteele 04.03.16 at 5:58 pm

When people talk about capitalism the’re talking about the economic system developed in Europe in the late 1500s early 160os. Brett, I’m not sure what your talking about: Left-wing Liberalism maybe.

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Brett Dunbar 04.03.16 at 6:03 pm

I don’t think we are yet at a position where we can predict what a post-capitalist economy would look like. We have seen the failure of a couple of suggested replacements, corporatism and socialism. The former is, like mercantilism, a less efficient market system, the latter ends up turning into a full blown command economy and is even less efficient. What actually works is a capitalist economy with a strong democratic state which uses various redistributive taxation policies to help those who lose out due to being unlucky, incompetent or the victim of prejudice.

One of the problems Ireland had in the 1840s was that it wasn’t really integrated into the early-capitalist economic order. Ireland’s economy was based on self sufficient subsidence agriculture and imported and exported little food so the infrastructure to move food wasn’t in place, Ireland’s economy was too localised and essentially pre-capitalist. A country better integrated into world trade is able to import food in the event of a serious crop failure. We recognise that not nearly enough was done at the time due to excessive fear that the Irish wouldn’t do anything about the underlying structural problems with their economy.

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Plume 04.03.16 at 6:03 pm

Asteele,

When I talk about it, my go-to source is The Origin of Capitalism, by Ellen Meiksins Wood. I don’t think there is a better summary of what makes it so unique anywhere else. Michael Perelman’s The Invention of Capitalism is also excellent.

I’m not sure where Brett gets his definition.

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Ze K 04.03.16 at 6:12 pm

@523, “We have seen the failure of a couple of suggested replacements, corporatism and socialism.”

Hmm. Both corporatism (Scandinavia, Japan, Singapore) and the Chinese version of socialism appear to be, at the moment, better models than the standard liberal capitalism of the US and western Europe.

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Lupita 04.03.16 at 6:18 pm

@ Ronan

What else would people recommend?

I would recommend reading about Emiliano Zapata, his Plan de Ayala, and how he expropriated and distributed land in his state of Morelos in the form of ejidos (an indigenous socio-economic system based on communal property).

Continue with President Cárdenas’ implementation of Zapata’s Plan de Ayala (as expressed in Art. 27 of the Mexican constitution) in several other places around Mexico and how that turned out (short story: lots of corruption, a few good results).

Finally, because all stories have an end, read about NAFTA, which includes the derogation of Art. 27 leading to the privatization of ejidos, millions of ejidatarios engrossing the reserve army of labor in order to collapse wages in Mexico to benefit maquiladoras, the rise of Zapatistas demanding constitutional reforms recognizing the social rights and autonomy of indigenous communities, mass emigration to the US, collapse of wages in the US, construction boom and bust, anti-immigration fervor, and the rise of Trump.

I think this story of socialism in the form of Zapata’s socialist revolution and the Mexican socialist constitution, the NAFTA counter-revolution, and the Zapatista counter-counter-revolution, encapsulates what socialism is, how it comes to be, how it ceases to exist, and how it never dies.

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Brett Dunbar 04.03.16 at 6:46 pm

There is a pretty big structural and intellectual gulf between the mercantilist system that developed with the creation of a cash economy from about 1500 to 1800 and the system that was inspired by Adam Smith which developed from around 1800 onwards. I use capitalism to mean that system only.

Corporatism bears a strong resemblance to mercantilism, although only corporatism developed a intellectual tradition of its own, the most influential description of mercantilism is Smith who was highly critical and called for the end of the bulk of the special privileges awarded to favoured groups such as guilds.

Neither are all that close to capitalism as for example they are both nationalistic and hostile to trade with other nations, fearing that that would make the foreigners strong at your expense. They are also quite distinct from socialism and represent a third intellectual tradition. Corporatism gets less attention as it has essentially been abandoned as a failure, it was tried in the 1930s and it didn’t work as well as capitalism. The capitalist Asian Tigers did far better than the corporatist states of Latin America.

Corporatism and mercantilism have a totally different attitude towards monopoly, cartels and price controls to capitalism. Corporatist and mercantilist economies support and enforce them and will use legislation to remove competition in fields which are naturally competitive. Nazi Germany actually banned small business. Capitalist states act to prevent businesses from colluding to set prices and will prevent mergers that reduce competition. Corporstism is a producerist ideology while capitalism is consumerist.

Corporatism was nationalistic hostile to trade and aspired to Autarky as an ideal. Capitalism is internationalist and pro-trade. A capitalist state suffers far more from a major war as it is much more dependent on world trade. Normal Angell’s argument in The Great Illusion was correct, war was futile. That didn’t mean that nationalism couldn’t overcome the economic facts.

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RNB 04.03.16 at 6:57 pm

Against Acemoglu and Robinson:

How were English institutions inclusive–unlike in France, taxes could be raised without consent and property could be more easily seized. Parliamentary supremacy in England is mischaracterized as an inclusive institution according to Robert C. Allen who also argues that factor prices had more to do with British industrialization than the greater inclusivity of institutions.

Were the institutions brought about the Meiji Restoration inclusive as well? Is Botswana’s relative success really due to the greater relative inclusivity of institutions? They have met a lot of criticism. One could also argue that it was not strong property rights but weak ones as in the case of German patent law that enabled high growth rates.

Do settler mortality rates really serve as an exogenous variable determining quality of institutions that enable Acemoglu and Robinson to escape the problem of reverse causality? In other words, they have to show that settlers did not set up putatively favorable institutions in places that had proximity to trade routes that already positively affected long-term development. Have they done so?

And how much of the variance in growth do inclusive institutions account for anyway? Do geographic factors such as malarial burden and isolation really matter as little as they say? Can we understand the material conditions of women without reference to culture as a determinant of institutions (they don’t really discuss women at all)? Do they underestimate the importance of policy mistakes resulting not from vested interests but prejudice and ignorance in holding back growth?

Without the econometric analysis can A&R avoid selection bias in the natural experiments they idiosyncratically choose to support their institutional hypothesis?

Also have they underestimated the benefits putatively inclusive institutions derived from their colonial relations?

And as Temin asks: do they suffer a kind of Olympian detachment from the failed states that they are observing that they do not notice how close the US is to becoming one?

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Anarcissie 04.03.16 at 7:01 pm

People curious about the connection between the rise of capitalism and mass slaughter and genocide might be interested in Late Victorian Holocausts. (The link is to the Wikipedia page.)

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Brett Dunbar 04.03.16 at 7:02 pm

Japan, Singapore and Scandinavia aren’t corporatist they are capitalist. Corporatism was the economic system of states like fascist Italy Franco’s Spain and Argentina under Peron amongst others. It was pretty much abandoned as a failure in the 1970s. The idea that the optimal trade policy is to have low tariffs and markets open to the outside has more or less won everywhere. China is more an example of trying to combine capitalism and despotism.

Donald Trump is an example of a modern corporatist or mercantilist (they are fairly hard to tell apart). Populist “common sense” economics without a sound intellectual backing, calling for high tariffs and repudiation of trade deals.

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Plume 04.03.16 at 7:03 pm

Brett @527,

Adam Smith didn’t inspire capitalism. It predates him. It started in Britain before he was born, though it was just about exclusively an agrarian phenomenon then and not yet dominant. He was writing about something he was observing at the time. Something he saw growing, changing the landscape.

You could easily correct your mischaracterization by reading the two books I listed above. Throw in The Making of Global Capitalism, by Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch, and The Age of Acquiescence, by Steve Fraser. The latter is very helpful in placing capitalism within its American context. Fraser shows that it wasn’t dominant in America until after the Civil War, and talks about the long tradition of anticapitalist resistance . . . . which once took a much more vibrant and stronger form. He compares the reactions to the First and Second Gilded ages to make his case.

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Ronan(rf) 04.03.16 at 7:06 pm

Thanks engels and lupita.

Lupita, I know the story very superficially, anything in particular you’d recommend reading on it?

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Ronan(rf) 04.03.16 at 7:12 pm

There’s a decent article in the Boston review called a servant heart about the social and moral foundations of “neoliberalism”. I can’t link to it because I’m on my kindle, but it’s worth checking out. Though here’s the gist:

“In order to craft this thicker account of the neoliberal moment, we must take citizens seriously as moral agents, which means engaging their religious lives. Religion has proven devilishly persistent in modern societies, and the advent of neoliberalism often seems to accompany religious revival. Like most theorists of neoliberalism, however, Brown ignores this angle, preferring to focus instead on economists and bureaucratic elites… .But three recent books suggest that, even in the age of neoliberalism, our relationship to the market is mediated by a web of institutional and moral commitments. The advent of neoliberalism, according to these books, rested upon the mobilization, not the destruction, of our affective, moral, and social inclinations. This new story takes seriously the fact that neoliberalism never comes to power under its own unattractive guise but always under the wing of a quite distinct, and often religious, moral economy….To make sense of these phenomena, and to capitalize on them, those of us on the left might have to learn something from the religious right, which after all has proven successful in harnessing pre-existing forms of religion and culture. This will require us to access the old democratic virtues of listening and understanding that might still be found somewhere in the scarred tissue of our neoliberal hearts. Moreton ends her book by urging us to understand that neoliberalism “did not make political dupes of Kansans or Arkansans.” It offered culturally legible forms of meaning, providing the moral economy that, even in the twenty-first century, we all implicitly call upon to guide our actions in private and public alike. To glimpse beyond neoliberalism, we will need to understand what problems it seemed to solve and how it structured meaningful lives even while deconstructing the public sphere. We will need oceans of empathy and concern, and we will need to listen as much as we lecture. “We will need,” Moreton concludes, “a servant heart.”

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Ze K 04.03.16 at 7:13 pm

Corporatism, also known as corporativism, is the sociopolitical organization of a society by major interest groups, or corporate groups, such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labour, military, patronage, or scientific affiliations, on the basis of common interests.

Trade is neither here nor there. The point is cooperation of major interest groups, for the benefit of all. If trade is beneficial – trade it’ll be. Corporatism is practiced by many extremely successful countries these days, including Switzerland, Sweden, Japan.

Compare to the US, that is run exclusively for the benefit of the US-based capital – exporting capital (ie: jobs) to Mexico, China, etc., shipping its products back to the US, and running large trade deficits is all fine and dandy. For Switzerland that would’ve been a big no-no. Swiss economic policies promote the well-being of the Swiss people, not Swiss capital.

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Ze K 04.03.16 at 7:20 pm

China is ruled by a communist party, espousing marxist ideology. But, unlike the USSR, in a flexible, non-dogmatic way. You can read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideology_of_the_Communist_Party_of_China

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Brett Dunbar 04.03.16 at 7:24 pm

The US has seriously flawed political institutions along with a culture of interest groups not exploiting those weaknesses. The US has been able to get a presidential system to work while France has got a semi-presidential system to work. Parliamentary systems seem to be a bit less vulnerable as you don’t get a deadlock due to a split mandate. Presidential and semi-presidential systems have the problem that you can end up with a confrontation between the head of state and the legislature where both have a democratic mandate not to back down.

The US founding fathers tried to copy and improve the British constitution they managed to re-break some of the things we had fixed. Giving the head of state actual power and separating the cabinet from the legislature were the two biggest. They went for separation of powers we chose accountability instead.

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Asteele 04.03.16 at 7:37 pm

Brett the words you are looking for are: “classical liberalism”, when I plug those into your comments they make sense.

531

Brett Dunbar 04.03.16 at 7:51 pm

Corporatism is an economic ideology. It favours existing established interest groups at the expense of others. This tends to lead to protectionist policies designed to favour declining businesses with high barriers to entry. In Latin America it led to import substitution where high tariffs were used to make a high cost local producer artificially competitive with more efficient foreign businesses. Protectionism cost the losers in aggregate more than it benefits the winners. If you artificially make steel expensive with tariffs the cost is to the manufacturers who buy the steel who find that their costs are higher and they have to increase their prices causing them to lose sales and market share. The costs of protectionism exceed the benefits.

532

js. 04.03.16 at 8:15 pm

@Ronan — It’s a little old and not exactly what you asked for but Brenner’s classic work on the origin of capitalism is excellent (reprinted in The Brenner Debate). I don’t get a lot out of Ellen M. Wood’s The Origins of Capitalism, unlike it seems everyone else, but to some extent it’s a popularization of Brenner’s view.

E. O. Wright’s Envisioning Real Utopias is also an obvious place to look.

533

js. 04.03.16 at 8:23 pm

…And avoid anyone in any way influenced by Althusser and you’ll be fine.

534

Brett Dunbar 04.03.16 at 8:51 pm

If you use capitalism to cover both mercantilism and the classical liberal system you render the term so broad as to be pretty useless, as you are then using it to cover two fundamentally different systems. Grouping mercantile/corporatist and socialist systems together on the basis that neither trust competition in the market to set prices by itself would be similarly stupid.

Capitalist institutions developed within mercantilism as the state didn’t regulate all prices and the guilds’ power was limited to the cities. In the sub urbis a free market prevailed due to a lack of regulation. That worked better and gradually a free market was extended. The political battle over the Corn Laws was a key milestone in the political defeat of mercantilism in Britain.

Whatever eventually replaces capitalism will I think develop organically within the advanced capitalist states. What it will look like I have no idea; but I doubt it will resemble Marx’s utopian fantasies.

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engels 04.03.16 at 8:59 pm

avoid anyone in any way influenced by Althusser

*polishes icepick*

536

Rich Puchalsky 04.03.16 at 9:23 pm

Plume: “But the object of the critique, the object of the questioning, should match up with the thing being critiqued or questioned.”

OK — but for people like engels, there’s nothing actually there. If Lupita recommends that I read about the Zapatistas, I can read about the Zapatistas (I already have to some slight degree) and they have actual beliefs, actual policies, an actual history. For the kind of Marxist that I’m talking about, any belief that you question, they immediately declare is outmoded and they don’t believe in it. This extends to: the class struggle, the existence of classes, classes as determined by relationship to means of production, false consciousness, alienation, the labor theory of value, the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc. etc. Similarly anything that you say isn’t present in the tradition magically is, because someone, somewhere is bound to have written something about it, no matter whether hardly anyone has really heard of them.

Against this continual shapelessness — often justified, as engels does above, by a reference to how Marx wasn’t about utopian projects, they are about theoretical tools for understanding — they continually set themselves up as if they are still relevant and as if anyone cares what their opinion is. Someone likes Ze K at least has some connection to actually existing Marxism. But the standard model denounces every Marxist state that has ever existed as not real Marxism. What is there to criticize? An idea? But there is no idea.

What’s left is simply an attitude. engels says that we can’t blame him for the invasion of Hungary or the killing of Trotsky, which is ridiculous because of course we can’t blame him for anything: he’s ineffectual. All he can do is, in every thread, try to police the boundaries of who is who and what is what. Why should anyone still care about these ancient categories?

I think it’s ludicrous that people who have a following of maybe a few thousand in the U.S. are setting themselves up as the judges of whether Sanders is a real socialist or not. If their judgement is what makes a socialist, perhaps people should just choose another name. I don’t think that there’s any particular remaining relationship between state socialism and libertarian socialism in any case.

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Lupita 04.03.16 at 9:23 pm

@ Ronan

The functioning of an ejido (or its precursor, the calpulli) are both socio-economic systems based on communal ownership, so perhaps you would be interested in those as examples of how socialist units have actually operated. Then there are the caracoles formed by the Zapatistas whose functioning has been described by el subcomandante Marcos. I cut&pasted some quotes so that you can get an idea of how they operate. It’s very pedestrian, I’m afraid.

Government
we made all of the major decisions, or the “strategic” ones, of our struggle, by means of a method that they call the “referendum” and the “plebiscite”.
Good Government Juntas change continually.
“rotations” which last from eight to 15 days
There’s no continuity, because agreements are made with one junta one week, and the next week there’s already another, different junta.” Some don’t go into details and posit: “the Good Government Juntas are chaos.”

Social
we lowered to zero the rate of alcoholism
And we got rid of prostitution and unemployment disappeared as well as begging.
the cultivation, consumption and trafficking in drugs were prohibited

Ecology
The destruction of trees also was prohibited, and laws were made to protect the forests, and the hunting of wild animals was prohibited

Women
While the percentage of female participation in the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committees is between 33 and 40%, in the autonomous councils and the Good Government Juntas it is less than 1% on average. Women are still being ignored in the naming of ejidal commissioners and municipal agents. Government work is still the prerogative of the men.
Domestic violence has decreased, it is true, but more through the limitations on alcohol consumption than through a new family and gender culture.

Health
In the five regions where the Good Government Juntas are operating, health campaigns are being carried out which promote the use of latrines and the cleanliness of dwellings.
Generally speaking, the Good Government Juntas are seeing to it, little by little, that each of the Autonomous Municipalities has a basic community health structure: health promoters, health campaigns, preventative medicine, micro-clinics, pharmacies, regional clinics, doctors and specialists.

Conclusion
And we made many errors and had many failures.

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engels 04.03.16 at 9:32 pm

Two newish books I haven’t read:
Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work <– looks interesting
Postcapitalism
A Guide to Our Future
<– I'm a bit sceptical

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engels 04.03.16 at 9:35 pm

Rich, remember when you said you weren’t going to respond to my comments because I was beneath your intelligence? Is there anything I can do to persuade you to re-institute that policy?

540

Asteele 04.03.16 at 10:48 pm

It’s not how I’m using it, it’s what the word means.

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Val 04.04.16 at 1:54 am

RNB @ 488
I just checked back in to see if there were any comments I should respond to (as opposed to those I shouldn’t) and found yours, so thank you. Very good advice which in future I shall try to follow (as I don’t necessarily intend to disengage from CT forever). I also think that most people on CT, most of the time, do try to follow those principles.

However it’s also important to put on record that I think I was particularly subjected to misrepresentation and ridicule by a few commenters here, and that that is related to the fact that I take a stronger feminist line than most commenters on CT. I also think that’s something that CT, collectively, should think about.

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Anon 04.04.16 at 2:21 am

Val, I have read many of your posts with interest and I hope you continue to post. I also appreciate that you have on a number of occasions replied to tough and sometimes less than generous criticisms with good humor and restraint.

However, I would like to go on record that I think you’re mistaken in this post. Misrepresentation and ridicule are the rule in CT discussions and I don’t think you have suffered them to a greater degree than most posters. To the degree you have suffered them, I don’t agree it’s because you hold a stronger feminism.

I think your critics here would argue you hold a *more moderate* feminism, one impoverished by your generosity toward those who have compromised with neoliberalism. To be clear: we might be wrong about that, but it’s a sincere disagreement about what counts as strong feminism that’s the real dispute.

Finally, to the degree you have, like most of us, endured misrepresentation and ridicule, it is in part because you have often (not always–again some of your replies to critics have struck me as impressively good humored) been less generous in your attacks than your parries. The key example is implying that posters are sexist or at least less than feminist when they object to the substance of your views.

Overall, I don’t think you’ve been treated entirely fairly, but I don’t think you’ve been treated more unfairly than you have sometimes treated others. That’s okay, the same can often be said of all of us on occasion. But I don’t think you’re an outlier here. You’re just another one of us, with all the irritations that entails. Let the irritations run off your back, and stick around.

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RNB 04.04.16 at 4:11 am

@539 Wasn’t there some previous discussion of Ellen Wood’s Origin of Capitalism here at Crooked Timber?

544

bruce wilder 04.04.16 at 5:13 am

Ronan(rf) @ 533 “The Servant Heart” was interesting. Thanks.

545

Ze K 04.04.16 at 7:11 am

@Brett Dunbar “Corporatism is an economic ideology. It favours existing established interest groups at the expense of others. This tends to lead to protectionist policies designed to favour declining businesses with high barriers to entry.”

Corporatism is a model that attempts to alleviate internal conflicts in capitalist economy; especially the most critical one: between labor and capital.

There are various ways to achieve this goal. For example, the typical Scandinavian way is to include (by law) union representatives into the boards of directors. In Japan, it’s achieved by employment practices: long-term continuous employment, with seniority-based wages. In Switzerland, wages (including salary scales) are negotiated, every few years, between the employers’ association and the unions’ association – and the negotiated wage scales become law. Also, the government plays its role in incentivizing business to stay in the country, to hire, first and foremost, citizens (as opposed to immigrants), and in softening the competition so that businesses could stay afloat and make profit.

These are all illiberal measures, you see, rejected by neoliberalism. Neoliberal idea is to unleash the ‘market forces’, so that later the people’s servants in the parliament would tax the winners and redistribute the loot to you and me.

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Val 04.04.16 at 9:51 am

Anon @ 550
I think your critics here would argue you hold a *more moderate* feminism, one impoverished by your generosity toward those who have compromised with neoliberalism. To be clear: we might be wrong about that, but it’s a sincere disagreement about what counts as strong feminism that’s the real dispute.

I really am trying to disengage for a while, so I don’t want to get into long debates. But I would like to suggest that the reason you think that is because you don’t understand what I’m saying, so I’ll try to say it one more time.

In any system where there is a dominant and a subordinate group, those members of the subordinate group who first achieve some power are likely to be compromisers. Nevertheless, their achievement of positions of power is important because they are the first steps towards building a critical mass that can actually achieve change.

As someone said earlier, having a woman in a position of political leadership, regardless of her political views, gives girls the capacity to imagine themselves there. I remember having exactly that experience as a child when Mrs Bandaranaike became the first female head of a modern state. I was a child, and I had no idea about Mrs Bandaranaike’s political views, but she said to me that women could do this.

Anyway, as I said, I really want to disengage for a while, so maybe we can discuss this further another time.

547

Brett Dunbar 04.04.16 at 10:39 am

Corporatism is a fundamentally non-capitalist economic system. For a corporatist competition is seen as inherently bad and businesses are actively encouraged, even forced, to collude to set prices, it is also intensely nationalistic and protectionist and favours high tariffs. This is all in stark contrast to capitalist economics. No economic system is pure and some corporatist elements are present in all real world economic systems (for example the US ban on exporting oil, which slightly depresses the domestic oil price at the expense of domestic oil producers) but the fundamentals are normally capitalist. Corruption like in Russia has led it in a more corporatist direction. Business success there depends more on political favour than competence.

Corporatism like socialism was touted as a successor to capitalism. Both in the end failed; they proved inferior at generating wealth.

Corporatism was associated with fascist politics. The reason that IG Farben became a major donor to the Nazis was that IG Farben had invested heavily in synthetic oil, betting that peak oil had arrived in the 1920s. Then the vast reserves of middle east oil started to be discovered causing the market price to plummet. The democratic capitalist Weimar republic took the attitude that that was IG Farben’s problem, the low price benefited German consumers. Hitler promised that he would impose high tariffs on oil in order to achieve autarky and self-sufficiency this would make the investment in synthetic oil profitable instead of a cripplingly bad investment.

Trump is arguably a corporatist, for example favouring repudiating trade deals and advocating dramatically increasing tariffs to prevent imports. It appeals to populists like Mussolini or Trump as it seems like common sense, even if it breaks down on closer examination.

548

Ze K 04.04.16 at 11:14 am

“For a corporatist competition is seen as inherently bad and businesses are actively encouraged, even forced, to collude to set prices, it is also intensely nationalistic and protectionist and favours high tariffs.”

If so, what of it? I don’t think you can state in good faith that corporatism has failed – when it’s practiced, by various degrees, in the most prosperous countries in the world.

You could say that you think it should fail, based on your reading of Adam Smith (or whatever), but that’s a different story. We have our convictions, but then there’s also actual empirical evidence…

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Brett Dunbar 04.04.16 at 12:56 pm

It isn’t used as the basic economic policy of any major nation. There is a general consensus that tariffs should be low, trade is basically a good thing, &c. all elements where the corporatist and capitalist elements differ. Corporatism was popular in the 1930s as a reaction to the great depression demonstrating the apparent failure of capitalism. Corporatism was the economic theory espoused by fascists. It essentially vanished with the last fascist states in the 1970s.

The attitude to competition is diametrically opposed. Capitalist states have legal procedures to prevent anticompetitive practices while Corporatist states actively encouraged anticompetitive practices.

The existence of some corporatist elements like the UKs water industry and a few smaller regulated monopolies in the economy like the existence of socialist institutions like the NHS or state schools doesn’t make the UK corporatist or socialist. The economy is still fundamentally capitalist. The corporatist elements that exist tend to be far less significant then the socialist elements in the economies of rich nations.

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Ze K 04.04.16 at 1:09 pm

If indeed there was a consensus that trade is a good thing, then there would’ve been no need to WTO, and zillions of trade agreements . For a nation, trade is a good thing when you produce something and sell it abroad. And it’s an extremely bad thing when someone else produces something and sells it to you – this hurts your economy, because instead you could employ your people producing it…

551

Brett Dunbar 04.04.16 at 4:31 pm

Ze K @ 558

You appear to be a mercantilist, which is similar to corporatism. The intuition that exports are good and imports bad is the basis of corporatist/mercantilist thought.

There is an agreement that it is good actually implementing it is somewhat difficult as individual special interests lobby for trade barriers that favour them. It benefits an individual business to restrict competition, the diffuse costs to their customers however exceed the benefit to the favoured industry. For example tariffs against cheap imports of steel from China favours Tata Steel and allows the Port Talbot plant to operate profitably instead of losing £1 million a day. It also raises the costs of the customers such as the Ford plant at Ellesmere Port. Making them less competitive. It does however look good to the inhabitants of Port Talbot.

Lowering tariffs unilaterally is generally beneficial; lowering them multilaterally is more beneficial.

552

anon 04.04.16 at 4:49 pm

Val @554

“Anyway, as I said, I really want to disengage for a while, so maybe we can discuss this further another time.”

Fair enough. It’s good to take a break from these things every now and then, and I could use one, too.

“But I would like to suggest that the reason you think that is because you don’t understand what I’m saying, so I’ll try to say it one more time.”

Maybe so, but not being or feeling we’ve been entirely understood is a burden we all bear in these conversations, and often it’s easy to confuse honest disagreement with misunderstanding or willful misreading. I think many, even most, in this thread have met their responsibility of trying in good faith to understand one another. Sometimes we still fail to, and it’s no one’s fault in particular. Justice can be done to all sides in a dispute, and everyone still be left dissatisfied.

“In any system where there is a dominant and a subordinate group, those members of the subordinate group who first achieve some power are likely to be compromisers. Nevertheless, their achievement of positions of power is important because they are the first steps towards building a critical mass that can actually achieve change.”

I agree completely, and suspect most in this thread do, too. So, given agreement that on balance achievement of positions of power for members of a subordinate groups is a good thing, there can still be disagreement about how this is to be achieved, and in which cases the benefits outweigh the harms. I assume your opponents disagree with you on the latter only, believing that in certain cases–e.g., electing Clinton (or to take non-controversial extreme cases, electing Palin or Fiorini) will do some good in that respect, but not enough to justify other harms they believe (rightly or wrongly) would also result.

Again, it seems like an honest disagreement in which both sides are compatible with strong feminism. We can save the discussion of that disagreement for another day, but I still insist most everyone here is concerned about how best and effectively to practice feminism, not exhibiting skepticism toward it. (The same might be said about the bickering over “socialism”–isn’t only one poster here really suspicious of socialism, and the others just disagreeing about how to best promote it?)

553

Lupita 04.04.16 at 5:07 pm

@ Val

In any system where there is a dominant and a subordinate group, those members of the subordinate group who first achieve some power are likely to be compromisers. Nevertheless, their achievement of positions of power is important because they are the first steps towards building a critical mass that can actually achieve change.

If I were a privileged, neoliberal Westener, I would argue the same. What better way to prolong the status quo, enjoy its material benefits, and remain in the good graces of empire for another generation? And to think that what passes for feminism in the third world are women banding together to get a water pipe into their neighborhood. I, personally, look up to those women.

554

Rich Puchalsky 04.04.16 at 5:13 pm

anon: “(The same might be said about the bickering over “socialism”–isn’t only one poster here really suspicious of socialism, and the others just disagreeing about how to best promote it?)”

Sort of. It depends on what you mean by “socialism”, which is a contested word that some people prefer to assert isn’t contested, something generally done for bad reasons.

If socialism means “public ownership of the means of production”, that’s only putting off the actual disagreement, which consists mostly in what “ownership” means (and to a lesser extent what “public” means and what “the means of production” are.) In short, this definition blends state socialism and libertarian socialism, something which happened at an early point for historical reasons. In practice, it’s always been used to try to get libertarian socialists to think of themselves as a kind of adjunct to state socialism.

It’s long since past the point where libertarian socialists stopped pretending that they are in agreement with state socialists in any important way. State socialism is always going to lead to the same socialist states that we’ve seen in history. That’s not an improvement over what we have now, unless you as Ze K does think that China is better than Western liberal societies. State socialism always involves the management of public assets by a class of managers. There are schemes to get away from this, but in practice that’s what they’re always collapsed into.

555

Ze K 04.04.16 at 5:19 pm

Brett Dunbar, but we are talking about nations, you see. Not plants and customers. The steel plant, that is a part of your national economy, is more than an abstract steel-producing entity. It’s also an entity that employs people, your fellow citizens. These people then spend their wages buying something, hopefully something also locally produced, including automobiles. Thus your national economy is alive. Life goes on. Should you close that steel plant however, people will become unemployed. They stop buying automobiles. So the car factory goes out of business too. Its workers become unemployed too. They turn to a life of crime, or join the local communist organization. You know the rest.

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Ze K 04.04.16 at 5:31 pm

“unless you as Ze K does think that China is better than Western liberal societies”

‘Better’? It appears to be more economically viable. If the western people prefer to live in western liberal societies, who am I to tell them what’s ‘better’?

557

Rich Puchalsky 04.04.16 at 5:38 pm

Lupita: “If I were a privileged, neoliberal Westener, I would argue the same. What better way to prolong the status quo, enjoy its material benefits, and remain in the good graces of empire for another generation?”

And look at how far this can be stretched out. First we can have the first black President. Then the first woman President. Then, I guess, the first openly gay President. Think of all the lessons we’ll be teaching the kids about how they, too, can equally rise to a position of power where they can maintain an unjust system. That’s what feminism is all about.

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Plume 04.04.16 at 5:51 pm

Rich, I agree with you about the separation between “state socialism” and libertarian socialism, which we both endorse and embrace.

I absolutely reject the the former.

559

Rich Puchalsky 04.04.16 at 6:12 pm

Plume: “Rich, I agree with you about the separation between “state socialism” and libertarian socialism, which we both endorse and embrace.”

In practice I think that the whole concepts of “public” and “ownership” are kind of unnecessary. The public is just everyone and anyone, and I’d rather have a society in which there really isn’t a system of ownership for most things. There probably would be for personal possessions, because people get really annoyed when someone walks off with their personal possessions. But any system of ownership can be gamed for accumulation. In short, if we’re making ideal societies, I’d rather have a society where walking off with someone’s surplus isn’t a crime but instead is a meritorious act.

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anon 04.04.16 at 6:30 pm

Rich @562: “Sort of. It depends on what you mean by “socialism”, which is a contested word that some people prefer to assert isn’t contested, something generally done for bad reasons.”

Yes, but I think we can frame that either as a disagreement what socialism “is” in some narrow sense which allows that the disagreement is fundamental (“your socialism is my anti-socialism, so we’re fundamentally opposed”), or we can frame that as a disagreement about what socialism “ought” to be, in which case the semantic disagreement is based in support for at least overlapping, partially shared concepts about what ought to be (“I want socialism to go here, you want it to go there, but we both want some overlapping thing that has been wanted under that name in the past”).

In this case, the foundational agreement is that all are suspicious of “capitalism” on most definitions, only suspicious of “socialism” on contentious ones, and all endorse “socialism” on *some* definition, which at least partially overlaps many of the others’ definitions.

Maybe the shorter way of putting it: everyone agrees that something in the Wittgensteinian family of resemblances of “socialism” is worth promoting. Likewise, in Val’s discussion, we all probably agree that some concept with a substantial family resemblance to “feminism” is worth promoting, and equally or comparable important as class justice.

For that reason I suspect it’s unconstructive to accuse each other of on some level being opposed to feminism or to socialism–even given the fact that the semantic disagreement about the extension of those terms is deep.

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Brett Dunbar 04.04.16 at 6:43 pm

They can do something more useful in areas where you have comparative advantage. Raising the costs to the monopolists customers causes them in aggregate more harm than the benefit gained by the monopolist. That is why corporatist and mercantilist policies have been largely rejected and tariffs have fallen. In most areas tariffs are limited to 3% by historical standards very low.

Mercantile economics was effectively criticized by Adam Smith in 1776.

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bruce wilder 04.04.16 at 6:52 pm

. . . it’s unconstructive to accuse each other of on some level being opposed to feminism or to socialism–even given the fact that the semantic disagreement about the extension of those terms is deep.

Did I hear someone say something about “incredulity toward metanarratives”?

These disagreements are not “deep”. That’s the wrong metaphor.

These discussions produce a lot of rising smoke, destined to be lost in the clouds, and arguments about what impressions their puffy shapes make upon our undisciplined imaginations.

563

Rich Puchalsky 04.04.16 at 6:54 pm

anon: yes, I agree with that. The differences between state socialists, libertarian socialists, and for that matter democratic socialists (i.e. Sanders) are mostly differences about what will get us to a desired end within a similar value system.

This is why, even though I think that it’s pointless on some level to say that we’re all socialists and therefore have to support each other, I also think that it’s not really anyone’s place as a boundary definer to decide who is a real socialist and who isn’t. There are different kinds of socialists, and none of them is the singular real one.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.04.16 at 7:08 pm

BW: “These discussions produce a lot of rising smoke […]”

Well, what do you suggest, BW? These discussions are an amusing way to spend time in between work. If you want something productive, I could try to get you to join a project to reduce GHG emissions by tracking corporate policy of major GHG emitters and increasing the importance of GHG reduction plans within corporate bureaucracies. Anyone who can argue on CT could also do that.

565

bruce wilder 04.04.16 at 7:16 pm

RP @ 572

I like idle. (Duh, I’m here, reading CT comments, which is barely above Free Cell in its practical merit.)

566

bruce wilder 04.04.16 at 7:19 pm

I do confess I am waiting like a potential witness to an impending car crash to see if this is going to get a reaction from the Mean Girlz: “. . .we’ll be teaching the kids about how they, too, can equally rise to a position of power where they can maintain an unjust system. That’s what feminism is all about.”

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Ze K 04.04.16 at 7:24 pm

@Brett Dunbar “They can do something more useful in areas where you have comparative advantage.”

There are 1.3 billion people in China, and they (those of working age) prefer to be employed. Wages (the labor costs) in China are much lower than in Europe. Productivity is probably about the same (if not higher). Human beings are the same (i.e. Europeans don’t possess any special talents, as far as I know, compared to the Chinese). What could a British steel worker possibly offer to China in exchange for their steel?

568

bruce wilder 04.04.16 at 7:41 pm

Re: trade (Brett Dunbar & Ze K)

Just a side-note, really.

Adam Smith identified specialization as the source of significant gains in efficiency and productivity, and the ultimate explanator of the wealth of nations. Trade enables specialization. In Smith’s theory, specialization is kind of like gravity: a universal force that explains near and far: just as gravity explains the apple falling from the tree and the planets orbiting the sun, so specialization explains a division of labor in the village and across the globe, specialization being limited by the extent of the market.

Smith’s argument, illustrated by his visit to the pin factory, is less abstract than Ricardo’s argument from comparative advantage. Ricardo’s comparative advantage argument identifies a kind of weak force, a reason why people would specialize and trade even when no one realized any special advantage or gain in productivity and efficiency from specialization. Ricardo’s argument is thus robust, applying in many possible circumstances and against a great range of possible parameter values. And, Ricardo is calculating on a general equilibrium outcome, without dynamics or strategy. Consequently, it seems Panglossian: trade appears an unalloyed good, mutually beneficial in all conceivable circumstances.

Ricardo’s argument also takes on some of the qualities of a kind of intellectual sinkhole, swallowing up in its abstractness all capacity to think about actual trade with its strategic bargaining over terms, and challenging the student to try to climb out after having been trapped at the bottom.

Smith’s argument is more inferential. He’s arguing an interpretation from observation, not deduction. He’s not arguing a finger exercise with Portugal and England, wine and cloth. He doesn’t presume equilibrium, he doesn’t make fine, abstract distinctions between absolute advantage and comparative advantage and he doesn’t put aside the possibility of gains from specialization as in the pin factory — he embraces them.

The economy of the actual world isn’t governed by a tendency toward general equilibrium and in the real world, we make capital investments as part of strategic attempts to gain advantage in the terms of trade as well as to gain sometimes enormous advantage in terms of productivity and efficiency. The patterns of actual trade cannot be explained by Ricardo’s principle of comparative advantage — this is well-known to economists, but not adequately acknowledged in their priestly pronouncements on the sanctity of “free trade”.

In the real world of international trade, where financial capital and technological knowledge is mobile and absolute advantages in commodity production, increasing returns to capital investment, arbitrary rules governing claims to intellectual property and complex financial exchanges rule the day (but general equilibrium is no where in evidence), a tariff or other restriction on trade can be strategically effective in dynamically improving the lot of nations. Managing trade and investment is necessary and the operative policy questions revolve around whose interests will be served by what principles of management.

I would say that Adam Smith’s insights into the central importance of specialization in the organization of production are critically important and of enduring value. Autarky — at least the extreme and simple-minded version engaged in by, say, North Korea — is an idiotic policy model.

Ricardo’s insights, on the other hand, seem to me to be pernicious. In historical context — a context that is always lost post-Samuelson — the argument for mutual benefit fit the Liberal demand for convenient and profitable hypocrisy perfectly. Free trade is highly advantageous to a country with an advanced technology exhibiting increasing returns embedded in an accumulated capital stock, because of the combination of favorable terms of trade as well as the dynamic opportunities to export financial capital. For Britain, workshop of the world circa 1850, free trade was almost a no-brainer. For Germany or the United States circa 1870 or even much later, free trade would have been practically suicidal. In the event, the protective tariffs enacted by the U.S. after 1890 were amazingly successful in promoting the industrial development of the country at some expense to the rents of British industry. Many other countries, like Japan and China, have successfully used trade protection measures to promote industrial development.

During and immediately after WWII, it was generally understood that international institutions would be necessary to manage international trade and development to achieve mutually beneficial development and expansion of the capacity for industrial development. The U.S., with much of the world’s gold in its vaults and industrial superiority across a broad range of Second Industrial Revolution technologies, lots of oil, was in a position to play the good hegemon to stabilize this system and did. The Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates, the IMF, the World Bank, the GATT system and so on were setup.

That post-WWII system has evolved, as such systems do, into something quite different from the original conception. The U.S. is no longer in a position to play the good hegemon and the stability of the system as a whole is threatened. The design shortcomings of some major innovations in the system — the Eurozone is exhibit 1 — suggest that our available policy architects are not to be trusted. The integrity of U.S. financial institutions and “capital markets” is also now highly questionable, where once their integrity was a foundation. The design of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and similar schema suggests that business corporations are seeking to disable or handicap the political, countervailing and stabilizing power of nation-state governments further, going forward as well as to enshrine extreme protections for financial claims disguised as intellectual property.

We are a long way from 17th century mercantilism and the dogma of “free trade” is irrelevant. The political problems are about constructing institutions to manage international finance, capital movements, large-scale corporate business hierarchies, and so on. Not to mention the looming problems of climate change and global resource limits.

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Ze K 04.04.16 at 7:42 pm

…also, tariffs is not the only way to support the national economy. Subsidies.

For example, according to Boeing:

For more than 40 years European governments have heavily subsidized Airbus. They paid 100 percent of the development costs for early Airbus products, and today Airbus still receives one-third of the billions of dollars needed to develop new commercial airplanes.

http://www.boeing.com/company/key-orgs/government-operations/wto.page

Boeing itself probably isn’t far behind…

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bruce wilder 04.04.16 at 7:57 pm

Ze K @ 575

There would seem to be sensible arguments to the effect that Britain should not be producing much new steel, let alone exporting it. That doesn’t mean that making steel no one needs as a make-work program for British steelworkers is sensible.

Ze K @ 577

Yes, and those governments are willing to do that, because of the evidence of potential for increasing returns to scale in aircraft production that yields big economic rents and advantageous terms of trade.

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Ze K 04.04.16 at 8:06 pm

@bruce wilder “Autarky — at least the extreme and simple-minded version engaged in by, say, North Korea — is an idiotic policy model.”

Yes, their ideology – juche – puts the highest value on national self-reliance. Implementation is a different matter (and we don’t really know anything about life in North Korea), but as an ideal it doesn’t strike me as idiotic. I could probably list (though I won’t) a half-dozen of commonly accepted western liberal ideals that I find far more idiotic… People live (oh I dunno, say, in the Kalahari Desert) self-sufficient lives, and they are happier than you and I, for all we know…

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bruce wilder 04.04.16 at 8:10 pm

Last comment.

To me, this discussion of the economics of trade connects back to Anderson @ 49:

“The fantasy that President Sanders would make a difference to *any* of the concerns named in the OP (to the extent it actually identifies concerns, not moods) does, obviously, have its adherents, but they seldom can explain the details of how that happens.”

“how that happens” covers a long logic chain that includes mobilizing political coalitions, but it ends in the technocratic capacity to institute systematic reform.

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Brett Dunbar 04.04.16 at 8:12 pm

Ricardo’s argument on comparative advantage depends on a small number of plausible assumptions. It holds provided that the relative costs of production in different places are different and the transaction costs are small enough to be negligible. Specifically it holds even if one place has an absolute advantage at everything.

The euro has essentially the same problem that the gold standard had, and indeed other fixed exchange rate systems, it doesn’t allow the use of exchange rates to correct for different economic circumstances. In the 1930s Britain had a very quick recovery as we left the gold standard quickly and massively devalued. Full employment was reached by 1932, faster than any major economy except Japan. The 1930s in the UK were economically speaking better than the 1920s had been. The early 1920s depression was deeper than the Great Depression. The Bretton Woods system was replaced by a generally superior floating exchange rate system.

I didn’t favour joining the Euro as I was worried that they might actually take the stability and growth pact seriously. And not abandon it when good policy called for abandoning it. I was right to worry. The benefit to the UK of being part of a larger currency was limited and the risk of being stuck with a bad monetary policy was significant. I would only support joining the Euro if the stability and growth pact were abandoned.

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Ze K 04.04.16 at 8:14 pm

“That doesn’t mean that making steel no one needs as a make-work program for British steelworkers is sensible.”

Why would they produce steel no one needs? The choice Brett Dunbar presented was to import from China, or apply tariffs and make domestic production profitable. In the end, iirc, they dropped the tariffs in exchange for something, but in abstract I don’t see any problem whatsoever with tariffs…

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bob mcmanus 04.04.16 at 8:42 pm

…it doesn’t allow the use of exchange rates to correct for different economic circumstances.

I have never been at all impressed with how this mechanism has worked through in actual historical practice, and so am deeply suspicious of theory. Even in theory, it appears to be based on the radical repression of wages, social wages, and consumption (in historical practice unto mass death) in service of a localized capital accumulation that may no longer be possible. I don’t trust economists like Krugman who are enthusiastic about it. Pitchforks look more moral.

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bruce wilder 04.04.16 at 8:47 pm

From Wikipedia:

Following Britain’s withdrawal from the gold standard and the devaluation of the pound, interest rates were reduced from 6% to 2%. As a result, British exports became more competitive on world markets than those of countries that remained on the gold standard. This led to a modest economic recovery, and a fall in unemployment from 1933 onwards. Although exports were still a fraction of their pre-depression levels, they recovered slightly.

Unemployment began a modest fall in 1934 and fell further in 1935 and 1936, but the rise in employment levels occurred mostly in the south, where lower interest rates had spurred the house building boom, which in turn spurred a recovery in domestic industry. The North and Wales remained severely depressed for most of the decade. In severely depressed parts of the country, the government enacted a number of policies to stimulate growth and reduce unemployment, including road building, loans to shipyards, and tariffs on steel imports. These policies helped but were not, however, on a sufficiently large scale to make a huge impact on the unemployment levels.

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bruce wilder 04.04.16 at 8:49 pm

bob mcmanus: I have never been at all impressed with how this mechanism has worked through in actual historical practice, . . .

Me neither. And, Krugman, . . . well, the charitable way to put it, is that he’s not in close touch with the data.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.04.16 at 10:04 pm

BW: “I do confess I am waiting like a potential witness to an impending car crash to see if this is going to get a reaction from the Mean Girlz”

You forget that Lupita wrote it first. “Lupita” is a female sounding nym, so that magically changes it to “a feminist criticizing a feminist” from “a man getting in an argument with a feminist”.

But might as well toss in this piece on Trump also.

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engels 04.04.16 at 10:45 pm

This is why, even though I think that it’s pointless on some level to say that we’re all socialists and therefore have to support each other, I also think that it’s not really anyone’s place as a boundary definer to decide who is a real socialist and who isn’t. There are different kinds of socialists, and none of them is the singular real one.

<a href=So here is Tony Blair the socialist, as he prepared to rewrite Clause Four of the Labour Party in 1994:

“The socialism of Marx, of centralised state control of industry and production, is dead. It misunderstood the nature and development of a modern market economy; it failed to recognise that state and public sector can become a vested interest capable of oppression as much as the vested interests of wealth and capital; and it was based on a false view of class that became too rigid to explain or illuminate the nature of class division today.

“By contrast, socialism as defined by certain key values and beliefs is not merely alive, it has a historic opportunity now to give leadership. The basis of such socialism lies in its view that individuals are socially interdependent human beings – that individuals cannot be divorced from the society to which they belong. It is, if you will, social-ism.”

Only two years ago, Cherie Blair saw fit to describe herself as a socialist in a Guardian interview. And during summer’s Labour leadership campaign, all five candidates – including a seemingly reluctant David Miliband – affirmed their socialist credentials.

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Helen 04.04.16 at 11:23 pm

I do confess I am waiting like a potential witness to an impending car crash to see if this is going to get a reaction from the Mean Girlz: “. . .we’ll be teaching the kids about how they, too, can equally rise to a position of power where they can maintain an unjust system. That’s what feminism is all about.”

So to push back against antifeminism is “mean”?
This is a whole other discussion, though.
But of course men love this approach, because it lets them off the hook and ensures they can remain as the dominant group for a while longer.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.04.16 at 11:52 pm

You know, engels, if you actually want me to stop responding to your posts, you have to stop responding to mine. Your latest one is your usual stupid one-liner, being an extended quote that says that because some people say they are socialists who you think aren’t, that it’s a bad idea. But really you’re just doing what you always do: defending the boundaries. Have you ever had an original thought?

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Rich Puchalsky 04.04.16 at 11:54 pm

Helen: “So to push back against antifeminism is “mean”?”

It’s not antifeminism: it’s a different feminism than yours. One which doesn’t equate the physical state of being female with being a feminist.

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Helen 04.05.16 at 12:09 am

Do not presume to know what “my” feminism is.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.05.16 at 12:16 am

Don’t presume to know what mine is either. You just labelled it antifeminism, so let’s not have this holier-than-thou thing where you’re not being insulting and labelling people.

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js. 04.05.16 at 2:10 am

Still desperately needing more Belle waring on this blog.

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Ben 04.05.16 at 3:53 am

“Women in high positions of the neoliberal order key to breaking down hierarchies” sounds like a really bad jv policy debate argument, like for why the perm uniquely solves the kritik

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Val 04.05.16 at 5:18 am

I am not getting into this debate, but I want to put this on record:

I am opposed to neoliberalism
I am opposed to hierarchy
I am currently writing a thesis that investigates how people working in health promotion and public health can work towards egalitarian and environmentally sustainable societies.

http://fairgreenplanet.blogspot.com.au/p/blog-page.html

And here’s a link to some people (including me) calling for the phase out of coal and a fair transition for mining workers and communities today, just as a bonus http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-05/doctors-call-for-end-to-coal-plants-in-latrobe-valley/7299048

I’m sure someone here can still find a way to misrepresent me, but I can but try
(Maybe it’s that I appear to have unwittingly pretended to be a doctor? There has to be something bad and neoliberal here somewhere. )

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engels 04.05.16 at 8:01 am

Your latest one is your usual stupid one-liner, being an extended quote that says that because some people say they are socialists who you think aren’t, that it’s a bad idea.

Er what does this sentence mean?

But really you’re just doing what you always do: defending the boundaries.

So if I don’t think Tony Blair is a socialist then I’m responsible for the Gulag. Damn.

Have you ever had an original thought?

Maybe not, but I know bullshit when I see it.

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engels 04.05.16 at 10:29 am

Moderated – c’est la vie – time for a break. Thanks Jeffrey and Lupita for some interesting points and to Corey for the post

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Rich Puchalsky 04.05.16 at 10:46 am

engels: “So if I don’t think Tony Blair is a socialist then I’m responsible for the Gulag.”

Been over this before: I don’t think you’re responsible for anything. But the article that you quoted mentions that all five Labor candidates in 2010 said that they were socialists. Do we have to take them at their word? No, you could make an argument (as opposed to a one-liner argument from incredulity) that they weren’t real socialists by historical definitions, if you wanted to do that tiresome boundary-defending activity. But they are people who stood a chance of being elected to important political positions, backed up by a electorate that (perhaps mysteriously) seems to think that they are socialists in some sense. Sure, you can have your opinion of what socialism should be, just as I have mine, but they get to define what socialism actually is through practice. Similarly, you can say that Chinese Marxism isn’t real Marxism, but there are 1.3 billion Chinese people living in a one-party Marxist state, and what you say doesn’t make them disappear.

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engels 04.05.16 at 11:17 am

But they are people who stood a chance of being elected to important political positions, backed up by a electorate that (perhaps mysteriously) seems to think that they are socialists in some sense.

David Miliband
Cherie Blair
Humpty-dumpty

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Rich Puchalsky 04.05.16 at 11:26 am

I admire engels’ dedication to supporting my comments. Here I said that all he does is mindlessly defend an ancient orthodoxy with one-liner arguments from incredulity, and he obligingly trots another one right out.

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engels 04.05.16 at 11:36 am

Oh no! Third-personing! It burns!

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engels 04.05.16 at 11:45 am

Rich, I admit to being lost for words. Your ‘anarchism’ is about as radical as Alan Sugar. Cheerio.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.05.16 at 11:57 am

You always present that same thing as if it’s a retort. “Your ‘anarchism’ isn’t radical.” If twits like yourself get to define what radicalism is, then no wonder there are so few radicals about.

Needless to say, there’s a commonality between engels and Val. “Your X is not the real X. In fact, it’s anti-X.” The fact that they hold to competing theories doesn’t change their similarity.

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