Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on February 23, 2021

Another open thread, where you can comment on any topic. Moderation and standard rules still apply. Lengthy side discussions on other posts will be diverted here. Enjoy!

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Hidari 02.23.21 at 6:40 pm

‘The most important election of our lifetime — until the next one — produced no fewer than three big, wet American winners. Amid plague, protest, and violence, three larger trends emerged to mark the landscape of twenty-first-century politics far more distinctly than any candidate or ideology.

In both a mathematical and a historical sense, America’s most notable winner was that heartwarming index of civic health, participation in the democratic process. More than two-thirds of eligible voters cast a ballot this fall, making 2020 the highest-turnout election since 1900. New coronavirus-related voting options may explain some of this surge, but not all of it, since participation also shot up in states that largely refused to expand ballot access. In other states, like Colorado, Maine, and Minnesota, turnout crested above the practically Scandinavian threshold of 75 percent.

This historic mobilization of the American masses led to the election of a Democratic Party placeholder, whose launchpad to the world-straddling power of the US presidency was a thirty-six-year career representing a province smaller than Cyprus. There is something both absurd and apt about the simple fact that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in a contest that generated more mass participation than any of the campaigns that anointed Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, or Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The second winner of 2020, not unrelated to the first, was partisan polarization. As long-standing social and institutional ties wear away, and national politics increasingly takes the place of the union hall or the neighborhood club, party affiliation — Democrat or Republican, Biden or Trump, Blue or Red — has become a kind of “mega-identity,” in the phrase of the political scientist Lilliana Mason. American politics, as Obama himself has accurately pointed out, is now “a contest where issues, facts, policies . . . don’t matter as much as identity and wanting to beat the other guy.”…

November’s third major winner, filling out the picture, was America’s headlong march toward a party system entirely decoupled from the politics of class. To be sure, the class-aligned politics of the long New Deal era — which happened to produce virtually every worthwhile national law, from Social Security to the Voting Rights Act — began to erode decades ago. But the last four years have seen a rapid acceleration of this trend, with Republicans winning larger and larger chunks of the non-college-educated working class, while Democrats gain more and more votes from affluent professionals and managers.

The result is a party system in which “issues” and “policies” — that is, competing ideas about the exercise of power or the distribution of goods — can hardly expect to find meaningful expression, let alone material fulfillment.’

Discuss.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2021/02/the-politics-of-a-second-gilded-age

2

M 02.23.21 at 9:32 pm

I don’t know if this is the right place to bring this up, but this has been nagging at me for half a year. In this comment from July 2020, J-D implies that the word “sully” is somehow used incorrectly in the phrase “sully his own reputation” and that by looking in a dictionary this would become clear. A quick skim of the OED, Merriam-Webster, and Collins indicate that they all agree that it means to tarnish, stain, or soil. The OED even provides a citation from Gibbon’s Decline & Fall II (1791) that pretty much matches this exact same usage, “The purity of his virtue was sullied by excessive vanity.”

I’ve been dying to know what J-D’s true meaning of “sully” is supposed to be and which dictionary (which they claim to “enjoy consulting”) it came from.

3

William S. Berry 02.24.21 at 4:46 am

I’ve read a good deal about ASMR (Autonomic Sensory Meridian Response), and believe it’s something I’ve experienced in the past. I just can’t pin it down to a particular experience that I can remember.

But I definitely experienced it (or something very like it) today!

I lay down on my bed this afternoon and turned on the AV system to watch some ST: Discovery on the OLED (Yeah, I know, corny as hell, but really awesome HD imagery.).

I was sitting halfway up on a pillow against the headboard with a sheet draped across me. My amazingly beautiful black cat, Raven (mi Negrita Musculosa o Negrita Hermosa), jumped onto the bed and lay down on my legs with her head toward my feet. She rested her nose between my knees and began to gently swish the end half of her tail, very slowly, back and forth. Again and again, it lightly brushed the back of my hand next to me on the sheet.

More or less suddenly, I felt a sensation of all-body euphoria; of something like bliss. Not a rush, but an endorphin release that made me feel perfect (which sensation is virtually infinitely far from my normal lugubrious self!). (To be clear, no mind altering substances.)

I didn’t think about it at the time; I just closed my eyes and soaked in it, gradually drifting off to sleep.

Later this evening, I looked at Raven in her bed (on our bed), watching her sleep, and listening to her weird grunts and moans as she dreamed (???).

Watching her as she lay there, her side rising and falling with her breathing, I think I understood something about (one of the reasons) why we love our cats so. We admire them because they are capable of something that we can only dream of: Perfect bliss.

That is what we humans long for but can never experience.

Anyhow, that’s the kind of thing one thinks about when growing old. Or something.

4

bad Jim 02.24.21 at 7:41 am

Perseverance flies 450 million kilometers to Mars, lands perfectly.

Texas experiences severe weather, common elsewhere and not unprecedented there, and it’s a national emergency. Many die; millions are miserable for days.

We know how to make things work, but somehow, too often, we don’t bother.

5

bad Jim 02.24.21 at 9:10 am

Wikipedia informs us that ‘The Pavillon Sully (Pavillon de l’Horloge) of the Palais du Louvre is named in honor of the Duc de Sully.’

My father had a good friend who was called ‘Sully’ because his last name was ‘Sullivan’, and perhaps because his first name was ‘Norman’.

6

bad Jim 02.24.21 at 10:14 am

As contrasted to Lully, who saddled us with the minuet-and-trio part of the sonata scheme that traditionally defines symphonies, quartets and trios. Beethoven adhered to the form even though he called his efforts ‘scherzos’, and some of Haydn and Mozart’s dance movements could perhaps be better termed ‘ländlers’ or waltzes.

7

Hidari 02.24.21 at 10:15 am

@4
As an economist, with a straight face, pointed out a few days ago, the energy ‘system’ in Texas is in fact working perfectly well.

And he was right.

The American socio-economic/political system is working perfectly for the purposes for which it was designed, and in the interests of those who designed it.

This is not the system failing. This is the system working.

8

nastywoman 02.24.21 at 11:59 am

@
”There is something both absurd and apt about the simple fact that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in a contest that generated more mass participation than any of the campaigns that anointed Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, or Franklin D. Roosevelt”.

BUT only 17 percent of all Trump voters believe that Biden defeated Trump.
(according to the latest Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll)

Soooo –
there is NOTHING more absurd and apt about the simple fact that an average kid stops believing in the ”Easter Bunny” around the fifth birthday – while Trump voters might believe in Santa Clause -(and Trump) until they… die –

AND what I always wanted to ask you guys -(and especially Hidari)

What does that have to do with… with…

”politics”?

Discuss??!

9

Omega Centauri 02.24.21 at 3:49 pm

bad Jim:
My hypothesis about Texas’s epic failure is libertarian leaning market fundamentalism. The optimal outcome is the sum of individual greedy decisions. In the case of power generators the calculus goes something like this: I could spend 5% more to be able to keep generating during an event that is expected to occur .1% of the time. I optimize my profits by not preparing for it. Were this uncorrelated with other producers, and with the dire need for power, this would have led to a desirable outcome for the systems users and owners. However the corelation is in fact very high, and the many stakeholders experience the externality. A mechanism for making individual producers car
e about the externality was missing, because it doesn’t match the ideology.

10

JimV 02.24.21 at 4:15 pm

From what I’ve read, the Texas power companies make more money (surge pricing and increased electrical demand on the power plants still running, lower infrastructure costs) the way their business is run, without the regulations imposed on the national grids. The system works fine as far as they are concerned. It’s their perfect Mars landing.

We are not all in this together–well, we are, but not in the sense of wanting to help each other as a strong priority. We don’t seem to be built that way.

I doubt if there are any stellar civilizations, but if there are and we ever meet one, I conclude it will be a hive-mind; all in it together, doing what’s best for each other in the long run, feeling each other’s pain.

11

William S. Berry 02.24.21 at 4:27 pm

autonomous sensory meridian response”, I should have said.

12

MisterMr 02.24.21 at 5:00 pm

@Hidari 1
“November’s third major winner, filling out the picture, was America’s headlong march toward a party system entirely decoupled from the politics of class.” […] Discuss.

Nah, it’s still a class based system:

1) In the blue corner: white collars (generally workers with a certain level of instructions), professionals, the more or les bureaucratic welfare state, with its bureaucratic concept of meritocracy mutuated from school (hence no racism, no sexism);

2) In the red corner: big business, but largely small business and small proprietors, plus those parts of the working class who feel disadvantaged in the meritocratic system discussed above. They have a different concept of meritocracy based on market success, non bureaucratic and often anti bureaucratic, and they believe that one has to use his/her own strategic advantages so that, for example, it is normal that a womant that is more beautiful can get a job more easily (that is anathema for the other group).

The reason people confuse this as something decoupled from class is that, on the one hand, in the collective imaginary “workers” means only blue collar workers and is often extended to blue collar employers too, and on the other that it is in the interest of corner red to confuse the water and not let the disgruntled blue collar worker that they are on the side of capital.

For example, some time ago I was speaking with a friend of mine of Spiderman’s movies, and this friend of mine referred to the Vulture character as a working-class villain, and Misteryo as a capitalist villain, although in the movies it is clearly stated that Vulture is a small business owner (hence a small capitalists) and Misteryo is heading a sort of evil worker union of disgruntled former employees of Tony Stark, hence he is not only a worker (though part of the aristocracy of workers) but even a union agitator!

In short it is just that people can’t get around the stereotipized concepts of class that we see in the movies about 1800, otherwise the difference would be quite stark.

It is a bit as if in 1800 people tought that all blue collar workers were burgeois because they weren’t peasant farmers.

13

Mark Pontin 02.24.21 at 9:35 pm

@ William S. Berry

You wrote: “My amazingly beautiful black cat, Raven … lay down on my legs with her head toward my feet. She rested her nose between my knees and began to gently swish the end half of her tail … Again and again, it lightly brushed the back of my hand next to me on the sheet … I felt a sensation of all-body euphoria … Not a rush, but an endorphin release that made me feel perfect … (To be clear, no mind altering substances.)

You’re almost certainly wrong about the mind-altering substances. Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite that only reproduces in the intestines of cats. Today about one-third of the world’s human population is infected with it, though most will never know it.

How common ‘cat parasite’ gets into human brain and influences human behavior
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121206203240.htm

Infection usually occurs by exposure from infected cat feces and in severe cases can kill: I once knew a woman who lived alone in a big Victorian with a compromised immune system and forty-odd cats that she allowed to cr*p all over the pace, and she died at 56 in large measure from it.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/toxoplasmosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20356249

Should you wish to seek professional help, it’s possible. You probably don’t, of course. Addicts hardly every do (i.e. the cat lady who died at 56).

14

J-D 02.24.21 at 11:10 pm

… this has been nagging at me for half a year.

!

In this comment from July 2020, J-D implies …

I’d forgotten all about it, but on reviewing the thread, I find it follows an earlier comment in which I wrote

When I wrote that I do not think the word ‘sully’ means what you think it means, what I meant was–
–that I do not think the word means what you think the word means.

But maybe I was wrong. What do you think the word ‘sully’ means?

Now you write

A quick skim of the OED, Merriam-Webster, and Collins indicate that they all agree that it means to tarnish, stain, or soil.

It turns out I was wrong! It does mean what you think it means.

I am mildly anxious about the possibility that this response will nag at you for another six months. I hope not, but I don’t know of anything I can do about it. If I had not responded at all, would that have been worse?

15

William S. Berry 02.25.21 at 2:36 am

@Mark Pontin

I have two cats, not forty. They are completely indoor pets, get regular treatment by the veterinarian, and get their monthly meds (parasites, eyes and ears, hairball, etc.)

My cats have three litter boxes that are fastidiously maintained and deodorized.

Have you considered that people who make remote diagnoses of others over the Internet, and from a position of complete ignorance with respect to another’s situation, might be the ones who need to seek help?

16

hix 02.25.21 at 4:33 am

The good old parasite causes mental illnesses’ story. Always seemed too good to be true for my taste. The implication is we got a magic bullet solution to most mental issues that also removes stigma – a clear simple linear physical cause effect. So one just has to figure out a way to remove the parasite an all is fine. That would be great.

17

J-D 02.25.21 at 4:48 am

“November’s third major winner, filling out the picture, was America’s headlong march toward a party system entirely decoupled from the politics of class.” […] Discuss.

Partisan allegiance in America is not tightly coupled with class position, but there never was any time in American history when it was. The existence in America now of a party system which is not tightly coupled with the class system is not a product of change, it is a product of continuity. The use of the expression ‘headlong march toward’ is misleading.

In simplified terms, the owners and bosses can’t win elections unless a lot of the workers vote on their side, but there always have been lots of workers who have been prepared to vote for the owners and bosses to win elections: that’s not something new. The problem isn’t to figure out what’s making it the case now but to figure out what’s made it the case all along.

18

Suzanne 02.25.21 at 5:35 am

@ William S. Berry:

I would not be at all surprised if “Mark Pontin” is a pseudonym for my neighbor’s German shepherd.

19

bad Jim 02.25.21 at 6:20 am

Hidari, Omega Centauri, JimV: no argument!

Nevertheless I don’t think the various malefactors actually anticipated this outcome, however much they profited by it, and I seriously doubt that they’ll be able to continue in this fashion.

A better place for further discussion is John Quiggin’s new post.

20

Tm 02.25.21 at 8:28 am

MisterMr 12:
“The reason people confuse this as something decoupled from class is that, on the one hand, in the collective imaginary “workers” means only blue collar workers and is often extended to blue collar employers too”

Let’s be explicit shall we? In the “collective imaginary” of the American media system, which the Jacobinites most faithfully reproduce, “workers” are predominantly white men without college degrees. It’s an openly race-based, gender-based category and it has next to nothing to do with a person’s position in the capitalist system, with the way a person makes a living. In the American media discourse, not least in those parts of the left that self-identify as “class first”, an analysis based on actual economic class (in the Marxian sense) is practically non-existent.

To spell this out a bit more: According to the way those ctageories are applied, a self-employed Texas oil contractor (almost certainly a white man) making $120k counts as a worker, a hospital worker with some college training in Philadelphia (most likely non-white) making perhaps $40k does not. Office workers and workers in the health and education sectors in the collective imaginary are not “workers”. Apparently they don’t “work”. What else are they doing then?

The structure of the working class in advanced capitalism has obviously changed since the 1950s: higher education has become a mass phenomenon, the industrial sector has declined and tertiary sectors, including education and health care, have greatly expanded. If you try to understand class relations with the categories of the 1950s, you’ll end up spewing reactionary nonsense, which is precisely what many Jacobin writers are doing, what regressive leftists like Thomas Frank and Matt Taibbi are doing, who are now close to celebrating the Republican-fascist party as the “working-class party”. (don’t believe me?: https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/02/limbaugh-was-great-before-he-sold-out)

21

Hidari 02.25.21 at 10:54 am

The efforts of centrists to tell us that 2+2=78 has been one of the most hilarious of their rhetorical strategies of late, by which I mean, their effort to tell us all that leftists are the ‘real’ reactionaries and that centrists (by which I mean, intellectuals whose thoughts on social progress are more or less indistinguishable from those of the average members of the DNC) are the ‘real’ progressives.

In other news, up is down, left is right, and communists are the ‘real’ fascists.

Back in the real world, the idea that the Republicans will become a working class party is unlikely as of yet (they are still too attached to the nostrums of neoliberalism…so far) but it’s certainly possible, and some Republicans have stated clearly that that is the aim.

Likewise the idea that the Democrats might become, in the future, the party of upper-class educated white males with some POCs of either or any gender ‘sprinkled on top’ (diversity!) is possible though it’s not going to happen in the immediate future. The influence of the Sanders wing is still too strong. But when he goes, who knows? The last election was a definite step in that direction.

But the basic idea that the Republicans and Democrats might switch places on a key topic is hardly implausible. After all it’s happened before (vis a vis race, with the Republicans being the anti-racist party all the way through the later 19th century and well into the 20th, with the Dixiecrat dominated Dems being on the opposite team).

In any case, all of the heat and sound and fury (shrieks of ‘fascist’ ‘Nazi’ ‘communist’ and babbling about non-existent ‘violent insurrections’ and so on) is an attempt to pretend that there are fundamental ideological differences between the two main parties, which there obviously aren’t, as Biden’s essential continuance of the main points of the Trump agenda has shown.

22

Tm 02.25.21 at 11:27 am

J-D: “In simplified terms, the owners and bosses can’t win elections unless a lot of the workers vote on their side, but there always have been lots of workers who have been prepared to vote for the owners and bosses to win elections: that’s not something new.”

This is such an abvious point and yet our self-claimed class warriors are able to delude themselves into thinking otherwise. I can only think of one reason for that, and that is the desire for a “golden age” narrative, which is almost by definition a politically regressive perspective, and it explains why this part of the political spectrum is so compatible with Trumpist discourses.

“The result is a party system in which “issues” and “policies” — that is, competing ideas about the exercise of power or the distribution of goods — can hardly expect to find meaningful expression, let alone material fulfillment.” This Jacobin quote demonstrates not only awful writing but a near total disengagement from empirical reality. Who can look at Biden’s platform and current projects (Covid relief, 15$ minimum wage, health care access and on and on) and conclude that the parties express identical ideas about “the exercise of power or the distribution of goods”? Probably somebody who is also capable of believing that Josh Hawley is a populist and represents a working-class party…

23

Tm 02.25.21 at 11:39 am

William 14: The article quoted by Mark Pontin says: “A number of studies also confirm that mental diseases like schizophrenia, depression and anxiety syndrome are more common in people with toxoplasmosis, while others suggest that toxoplasmosis can influence how extroverted, aggressive or risk-inclined an individual’s behaviour is.” It doesn’t say how frequent these findings are but it’s worth pointing out that most people with cat experience perceive the presence of cats as relaxing and balancing. Which I think explains much of the evolutionary success of this remarkable species. Without that purr power, cats might have been seen as useful by early agriculturalists but probably not as beloved family members…

24

nastywoman 02.25.21 at 11:54 am

and as a ”cat(loving)person” myself –
I would like to inform everybody here – that ”Adolf” is the pseudonym for German shepherds and NOT “Mark Pontin”.

25

nastywoman 02.25.21 at 12:06 pm

AND! –
about this ”politics of class-question” –
can’t we finally ALL agree – that in countries –
(like America-Australia-UK) – where the majority of ”people” (working) tell you –
that they hope very much to become rich -(and famous?) –
one day –
and thusly do NOT want to ”overthrow” or ”revolutionise” ANY system
(”government” – ”politicians”) who-which give them the hope that they can get rich -(and famous) one day?

26

Hidari 02.25.21 at 12:47 pm

‘In the “collective imaginary” of the American media system, which the Jacobinites most faithfully reproduce, “workers” are predominantly white men without college degrees.’

‘According to the way those catageories are applied, a self-employed Texas oil contractor (almost certainly a white man) making $120k counts as a worker.’

I’m sure this is true: after all, whoever heard of a random, anonymous commentator on the internet making shit up?

But just to prove this point, could you possibly post an example of someone who writes for Jacobin (or a similar socialist magazine) describing a self-employed Texas oil contractor on 120K p/a as a member of the proletariat/working class? Just one link will be fine please.

Alternatively could you provide a link to a Jacobinite (or similar) clearly stating that a female POC on 40K working in a hospital is quite definitely not working class?

Thanks!

27

Orange Watch 02.25.21 at 4:07 pm

MisterMr@12:

The Spiderman observation is a good one, but I’d argue your conclusion is slightly off. The US has recast class as a cultural phenomenon largely tied to a person’s class affect. It’s how the circle of George W. Bush being a blueblood scion with an Ivy League education was squared as him being “jus’ folks”. It’s how nouveau riche spoiled brat Donald Trump is a champion of the everyman, but Bernie Sanders is an out-of-touch elite. Vulture didn’t sound like a college-educated professional – he sounded and comported himself like a hard-luck hustler who was robbing people richer than him and complaining he couldn’t get a fair break. Mysterio OTOH was suave and well-spoken, relying on expertise and guile to con his way into power. It’s probably worth noting there’s some gender politics baked into that as well; Keaton’s Vulture is more “acceptably masculine”, right down to his code of honor in not doxxing Spiderman, while smooth, deceitful Mysterio lacks these “manly” qualities which are typically cast as working class virtues in American discourse. See e.g. every paean about a course bigot “telling it how it is”, ever.

My temptation is to say that it’s not so much that class discourse is absent, but that it’s been entirely recast through the lens of class resentment, so that percieved class is determined not by what you do, earn, or have, but rather what negative stereotypes you lack – which mostly boils down to the ancient intellectualism/anti-intellectualism divide, plus weird contortions on both sides to pretend that wealth has nothing to do with comportment, or politics.

And contra Tm@20’s tired PMC never-class analysis, this isn’t primarily about race. Citing an individual making twice the median household as exemplary of what is held up as “working class” is disingenuous – but not nearly as much as presenting an individual who is middle-to-upper-middle-class as “the real working class”. The latter is also tone-deaf and out of touch. The median family income in Phillidelphia is ~$45k. Someone earning ~$40k by themself is middle class (66-200% median) even if they’re the sole earner. More likely, they’re at the high end of middle class in that community (as opposed to being slightly above median nationally). This is a common PMC slight-of-hand; anecdotally, since Tm has again cited LGM authoritatively, I’ve seen one of their commeters cite their $150k household income of a teacher and a cop as precarious lower middle class. Even in San Francisco (which I have no reason to believe they were from) that’d be 130% median family income, but the PMC seems constitutionally incapable of recognizing that most people are making far less than they do, and that economic anxiety is not the same as economic precarity – which might seem superficially ironic when considering liberal PMC political and economic analysis, but really just demonstrates their class solidarity with their economic peers in the petty bourgeois who share that confusion.

It shouldn’t be terribly controversial to say that shifting voting patterns in non-European demographics shows as well that race-never-class politics are playing with fire – even faced with in-your-face racism from GOP thought leaders, racial and ethnic minorities who poll more socially conservative than the population as a whole are increasingly supporting the GOP. They still support Democrats in larger numbers, but comfortable myths of demographic inevitably seem to be proving just as dangerous as one would expect. Class exists as a driving force in US politics, and by pretending it doesn’t we allow rich conservatives to profitably promulgate the myth that class is purely cultural with no economic element. It’s hard to believe that this goes unnoticed by the PMC who are so heavily invested in maintaining the status quo…

28

steven t johnson 02.25.21 at 4:21 pm

People who oppose Marxism and Marxian class analysis tend to replace it with theories about the Deep State and a quasi-conspiratorial view of state propaganda turning people into robots. Instead of class struggle, much less God forbid a new class taking power, all the good things will come if clear thinking and mutual tolerance triumph. Thus, the most important value is a free press/media and a prudent caution about the latest fads in scapegoating. (Not quite the same thing as dismissing scapegoating as mere symbolism of no great value in itself and worse, diversionary in practice…the social media equivalent of looting and burning.)

This is a superficially sophisticated version of railing about sleazy journalists which is at bottom is bitching about how agitators rile up the masses. The notion that politicians are demagogues riling up the masses is also closely related. The common denominator is a gut feeling the filthy masses are the ones causing the badness. The notion that it’s the depravity of the common man ruining things because, people are crap, is I think far more diagnostic of conservatism than love of “hierarchy,” especially those versions that have only two levels (Good and Bad,) or at most three (Good, Bad and Godly leaders anointed to scourge the wicked.)

All visions of politics that deny a ruling class defined by its social role in production (i.e., property,) but imagine the passions of the mob are the driving event as quite anti-Marxist. In my opinion, of course. There are no academic qualifications for Marxism, though. Another commonly associated anti-Marxist notion is the PMC, the professional-managerial class, a nonsense hodge-podge that adds a quasi-conspiratorial tinge to lifestyle definitions of class.

As to Texas, conservatives see thingsas they are as God-ordained and the good people accept. Those appointed by God to actually run things are there to punish the bad people and are not to actually make things better, as if it were in man’s power to dispose. It is not popular to acknowledge there is even such a thing as religious bigotry, especially given the open hostility to minority new religions, but it is, and it is a powerful factor in conservative politics.

Last and least, a little game? Guess where the quote came from: “I hope and trust some graduate student is already working on the perhaps inevitable convergence between contemporary fascism and the deep misogyny of certain glibertarian gay men.” Birds of Prey taught us gay men hate women apparently. From LGM, Counterpunch, Jacobin, the Monkey Cage, New Yorker?

Or another: “The dominant prewar political tradition was the militarist, nationalist populism of Józef Piłsudski, who had originally risen to prominence as a socialist leader in his own right. Piłsudskism was set first against Russian imperialism and later Soviet revolutionary expansionism, and he played a major role in the defeat of the Red Army at the gates of Warsaw in 1920.” It was of course Pilsudski who invaded the USSR in 1920, to seize territory or reverse Bolshevik victory in the civil war or both. From LGM, Counterpunch, Jacobin, the Monkey Cage, New Yorker?

If it’s more fun to Google, have at it.

29

Starry Gordon 02.25.21 at 6:26 pm

@20, @17, @12 —

If class has become unreadable, this may mean that class is not what we (most of us) say or think it is, or does not function as we suppose it does.

30

Kiwanda 02.26.21 at 12:54 am

TM:

Let’s be explicit shall we? In the “collective imaginary” of the American media system, which the Jacobinites most faithfully reproduce, “workers” are predominantly white men without college degrees. It’s an openly race-based, gender-based category and it has next to nothing to do with a person’s position in the capitalist system, with the way a person makes a living. In the American media discourse, not least in those parts of the left that self-identify as “class first”, an analysis based on actual economic class (in the Marxian sense) is practically non-existent….If you try to understand class relations with the categories of the 1950s, you’ll end up spewing reactionary nonsense, which is precisely what many Jacobin writers are doing, what regressive leftists like Thomas Frank and Matt Taibbi are doing,….

So the Matt Taibbi, Thomas Frank, and the writers at Jacobin regard working class as meaning mainly white and male?
Here, let me google that for you.

Jacobin:

The working class — black, white, native-born, and immigrant — across a diverse set of experiences and facing myriad oppressions, collectively make up a class of people who are exploited to create profits for the few. Understanding how class works and on what basis class positions are determined help to reveal the structures of power and exploitation in our society.

This does not just extend to workers engaged in the production of physical goods. Teachers and nurses must sell their labor in order to provide services, and thus are part of the working class.

Jacobin:

….party elites can no longer be complacent about continuing to dominate the working-class black and Latino vote indefinitely. Biden is underperforming with voters of color relative to Hillary Clinton, whose own struggle to excite nonwhite voters to the same degree as Barack Obama contributed to her defeat. This racial divide can also be understood through educational attainment: in 2019, 40 percent of whites over the age of twenty-five had attained a college degree, compared to 26 percent of blacks and 19 percent of Hispanics, according to Census data….

Jacobin:

2. Building Multiracial Working-Class Solidarity

Despite all the lip service Democrats pay to racial justice, bettering material conditions for working people of color is not high on their agenda. In New York, Democrats have pursued policies of austerity and displacement, and structured the political system to disenfranchise and disempower their constituents — resulting in some of the lowest voter turnout in the country. For these communities, class-struggle electoral campaigns can offer an avenue into the political process, building solidarity and empowering us as a class.

Jacobin:

The real story here is the same as in 2016: working-class African Americans aren’t voting Republican en masse, but they are showing up to vote Democratic at lower rates than the rest of the party’s coalition.

In the highest-turnout presidential election in over a century — where Michigan’s turnout climbed from 62 percent to more than 73 percent — Detroit’s largely black, working-class residents voted at roughly the same rate they had four years ago.

Although 2020 turnout spiked all across Michigan and Genesee County, it actually declined in black working-class Flint. Results from rural black-majority counties in Alabama and Mississippi, and precinct-level returns in largely black districts like Chicago’s South Side, West Philadelphia, North St. Louis, East Cleveland, and central Akron, show a similar pattern compared to 2016: small but consistent shifts toward Trump, alongside flat or declining turnout rates.

Let me google that for you again.

Matt Taibbi:

Trump lost the election because of his handling of the pandemic, the top issue for 41% of voters, who chose Biden by a nearly 3-1 margin. But among people whose top concern was the economy — 28% of the electorate — Trump won an incredible 80% of the vote.

All of this points to a dramatic change. Trump may not have done much, politically, to deserve the support of Black, Latino, LGBTQ, and female voters. But the Democrats’ conspicuous refusal to address economic inequality and other class issues in a meaningful way created an opening.

And then, And then, Thomas Frank:

In his new history of anti-populism, Thomas Frank’s most stunning insight is this: In the 1890s, in the states of the Old Confederacy, the threat of “a political union” between poor black Republicans and poor white Populists so panicked the ruling post-Reconstruction Bourbon Democrats that their official, narcotizing lie of white solidarity was weaponized into the inhumanly degrading dogma of white supremacy.

“The South in the 1890s,” Frank writes, “was filled with poor farmers both white and black, and keeping these two groups at each other’s throats was virtually the entire point of the region’s traditional politics” (p. 42). Hence the usefulness of the lie of white solidarity: For a generation or more after the Civil War poor whites were propagandized to believe that their true interests lay with those of their wealthy Lost Cause betters. But the advent of the Populist movement shattered this lie. “In 1892,” Frank continues, “the Populist leader Tom Watson of Georgia declared in a national magazine that ‘the People’s Party will settle the race question’ by addressing the common economic interests [italics mine] of black and white farmers” (p. 43).

Frank proceeds to quote Watson: “‘You are kept apart,'” with remarkable eloquence did Watson address the poor farmers of the South, “‘that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings. You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both. You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars both'” (p. 43).

And poor whites and poor blacks, as Populist leaders like Watson exhorted them, did indeed begin to make viable political alliances — to the horror of the Bourbon Democrats.

31

LFC 02.26.21 at 2:23 am

Hidari @21 continues his “narrative” that there are no ideological differences between the two main U.S. political parties and that Biden is “continuing the Trump agenda.” [sic]

It’s true that the Dem Party is not a socialist party, it’s not a self-identified labor party.

But of course that doesn’t mean there are no significant differences betw. the two parties. Biden has rejoined the Paris climate accord, is rejoining the World Health Org., is trying to put a moratorium on deportations (a federal judge in Texas has blocked it), is allowing asylum seekers to remain in the country, as intl law requires, as their cases are being considered, is sending $25 million worth of face masks to be distributed via community centers in poor neighborhoods, has a $15 minimum-wage provision in the pandemic relief bill. Some of his Cabinet appointees are better than others, but they’re all better than Trump’s. Biden has rightly ended U.S. support for Saudi offensive operations in Yemen (though btw the Houthis, from what I gather, are worsening the overall situation w their assault on what is apparently just about the last remaining functioning city in that country).

Anyway, perhaps Hidari imagines that he is engaging in some version of épater les bourgeois. But, I suppose, let a thousand schools of thought contend, let a hundred flowers bloom, even if their (in)accuracy rivals that of Fox News et al. Whatever.

32

M 02.26.21 at 2:37 am

@J-D 14:

Ah well, that’s all right. I was mainly curious as to what you were so confident that “sully” actually meant. My main theory is that you had confused it with a similar word like “sally” or “sultry”.

33

William Berry 02.26.21 at 3:00 am

@TM

Fair enough. But that doesn’t change the overbearing presumption and rudeness of MP’s remarks.

I only got my two cats around two years ago. I’m coming up on seventy YOA, and for most of those years have experienced, and been treated for, moderate depression, OCD, and anxiety.

My two “girls “ made me feel better almost immediately. I quickly fell in love with them; I greatly admired their beauty, their playfulness, their sense of trust, well before they had a chance to colonize my brain with their magic germs.

But if I am now, in fact, infected with a cat germ that makes me f***ing feel better? Well, that’s just one more thing I have to thank them for!

Hmm. Now, if there were just some way to infect the entire human race!*

*Joking, of course (kinda’).

34

nastywoman 02.26.21 at 6:40 am

and as we are back at ”class” against ”race” –
AGAIN!

In a country where 74 million voters vote for somebody who pretends to be very rich –
”race” is always ”the winner”.

35

nastywoman 02.26.21 at 6:51 am

and about the difference between ‘Democrats’ and ‘Republicans’ –
In dollars – right now – the most obvious difference is 1400$ or 0$ Dolpush –
and this:

”Democrats’ push to pass a $15 minimum wage in their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package violates Senate rules, according to the Senate’s parliamentarian, who delivered a likely fatal blow Friday to the effort to give tens of millions of workers a raise.

to pass a $15 minimum wage in their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package violates Senate rules, according to the Senate’s parliamentarian, who delivered a likely fatal blow Friday to the effort to give tens of millions of workers a raise.

For weeks, Democrats have been waiting for a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian, who oversees Senate procedure, on whether they can raise the minimum wage through the budget reconciliation process, the legislative maneuver that will allow Democrats to pass legislation with a simple majority.

House Democrats are expected to soon vote on a COVID-19 package that includes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in stages over the next four years. The provision also eliminates the tipped minimum wage, which currently allows employers to pay workers a lower base wage as long as the workers receive gratuities.

The proposal would give an estimated 27 million workers raises over the next four years. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 and has not been increased in more than a decade.

But without the Senate parliamentarian’s blessing, Democrats now are left with some unfavorable options. They can strip the $15 minimum wage provision from the final COVID-19 relief package and negotiate with Republicans to pass a narrower minimum wage increase separately. Or, they can leave it in and subject it to a procedural vote on the Senate floor, which has a 60-vote threshold — which would ultimately kill the provision”.

36

J-D 02.26.21 at 8:06 am

… The US has recast class as a cultural phenomenon largely tied to a person’s class affect. … My temptation is to say that it’s not so much that class discourse is absent, but that it’s been entirely recast through the lens of class resentment, so that percieved class is determined not by what you do, earn, or have, but rather what negative stereotypes you lack – which mostly boils down to the ancient intellectualism/anti-intellectualism divide, plus weird contortions on both sides to pretend that wealth has nothing to do with comportment, or politics. …

The use of the word ‘recast’ implies that the phenomenon being described is a product of change. But it’s not a product of change, it’s a product of continuity. It’s always been like that.

If class has become unreadable, this may mean that class is not what we (most of us) say or think it is, or does not function as we suppose it does.

If two people are having a discussion in which they’re both using the word ‘class’ and they both have the same (or nearly the same) understanding of what the word means, then using the word will assist communication and facilitate understanding. If two people are having a discussion in which they’re both using the word ‘class’ and they have divergent understandings of what the word means (but they don’t know that’s what’s going on), then using the word will hinder communication and cloud understanding. If two people are having a discussion in which they’re both using the word ‘class’ and they have divergent understandings of what the word means and they recognise that’s what’s going on, the discussion is likely (although not certain) to be consumed by futile meaningless wrangling about which definition of the word should be considered correct.

37

Tm 02.26.21 at 8:22 am

Kiwanis: can we assume as consensus, then, that the term working class includes teachers, nurses, office workers, that workers with college degrees are still workers, that the majority of the working class votes Democratic as it has for decades? Because if these points are not in dispute, as you seem to claim, among the left including Jacobin etc., then what is the dispute? How can Jacobin, Taibbi, Frank and others then claim that the Democratic Party is the party of the economic elite, or that their economic policies are identical to those of the Reps, or even that the Republicans have become the „Working-class party“?

38

Tm 02.26.21 at 8:31 am

Kiwanda: can we assume as consensus, then, that the term working class includes teachers, nurses, office workers, that workers with college degrees are still workers, that the majority of the working class votes Democratic as it has for decades?

Because if these points are not in dispute, as you seem to claim, among the left including Jacobin etc., then what is the dispute? How can Jacobin, Taibbi, Frank and others then claim that the Democratic Party is the party of the economic elite, or that their economic policies are identical to those of the Reps, or even that the Republicans have become the „Working-class party“?

39

Tm 02.26.21 at 8:34 am

„ as Biden’s essential continuance of the main points of the Trump agenda has shown“

No further comment needed…

40

Tm 02.26.21 at 11:25 am

OW makes my case further by claiming that my example if a hospital worker making 40k shouldn’t be referred to as working class but rather as „high end of the middle class“. Precious. Let’s also agree that unionized auto workers (who still can make more than $30 an hour) aren’t real workers. What should we call them, the oligarchy?

The responses to my earlier comment demonstrate clearly that we do not have a coherent concept of class. Every single comment above has referred to class in a different way. Clearly if we want to have a meaningful debate, we need to address that. You can choose to shoot the messenger if you prefer but I would suggest trying to deal with empirical reality for once rather than engaging in escapist delusions.

41

MisterMr 02.26.21 at 12:44 pm

@Orange Watch 27

I mostly agree with you, and i think that the genderization of politics is a thing. However, I have 2 nitpicks:

1) I’m italian and my friend who called Vulture working class and Mysterio a capitalist is an italian blue collar: this is not just an American phenomenon.

2) In a capitalist society, presumably most people are working class, otherwise we wouldn’t call it a capitalist society anymore!
This means that people up to some step above the median income are still working class, although it is difficult to say exactly whare the line is.

Here though we are dancing around the central problem, which is factual:

Whose economic interests do Democrats represent? Whose the Republicans? Do the voting patterns match the economic interests served?

IMHO there is a problem here because I think the Reps represent wealth much more than the Dems, but due to the bubbly nature of modern day economy at least in the short term this is also good for workers (until the bubble pops). This is the reason many workers may believe that for example Trump was better economically for them than Obama, whereas I think that the opposite is true and that, for example, the lowering of marginal income tax rates is very bad for workers in the long term.

So we have this situation where the same party has people who essentially are the causes of financialisation who also say they are against financialisation, or believe that the gold standard would be the correct answer against fictitious money (it’s the opposite, USA had to leave the gold standard because it leads to an excessve wealth to income ratio because you can’t devalue wealth) etc.

Since people who vote for right populist parties hold many of these that I think are contradictory beliefs, I think they are actually the ones who are lead by the nose, but then I say this because of my beliefs on how the economy actually works.

42

nastywoman 02.26.21 at 6:09 pm

BUT!!
It wasn’t ME –
who kidnapped Lady Gaga’s dogs!
(even if Hidari would try to blame ME!)

43

Orange Watch 02.26.21 at 6:36 pm

stj@28:

I’m curious: in your cosmology of anti-Marxist badthink, is petit bourgeoisie also a nonsense hodgepodge borne of “lifestyle definitions of class”? Historically, the petty bourgeoisie has included many people who you now seem unwilling to see removed from either labor or capital. For a Marxist, you don’t seem terribly willing to examine certain (inconvenient?) parts of what Marx himself concluded. The PMC is as real and compatible with Marxism as the petty bourgeoisie – it’s an acknowledgement that classes are not monolithic nor united nor tidy, and that labor roles and relations are not timeless, eternal, or even universal. But let’s ask a more pointed question: if all there can be is simple labor or capital, where do police fall? Do class enemy police who broke heads in labor strikes against capitalists become heroic revolutionary workers when they break heads in strikes against loyal Party appartchiks? Where do employees of private security companies fall? What of self-employed private security contractors? Are they little capitalists or doughty workers – or does that depend on who they stand with and against? And what of bureaucrats? Professors? Is a Chicago School econ prof proletarian because they own no means of production? Do they share class interests with a retail clerk, a factory worker, a gig delivery driver, a stock analyst, or none of the above? How many shares of stock does a laborer need to own before they become a capitalist, and does it matter if they’re shares in their own company or another?

You can flatten all classes down to two uniform monoliths, but that’s a lazy oversimplification that reveals more about your goals and methods than reality. It’s also quite handy if you view yourself as a vanguard elite of the underclass that naturally directs and speaks for labor without actually sharing working or living conditions with laborers – a revolutionary cadre that has made a dedicated career of directing, supervising, organizing, and educating the masses who lack their specialized skills, formation, and perspective…

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