Asia and hormones: query

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Sat Jun 20 09:12:42 PDT 1998

Rob Schaap wrote:

>>>To demand what?
>This we're notoriously bad at. We want to optimise human freedom but we're
>not very good on the variety of ways in which freedom is currently
>curtailed, so some of us get confused about how we get from variable
>oppressions to a commonwealth of freedom. I submit we must *unite in
>demanding the material requisites implicit in Liberalism's formal
>(self-legitimating) guarantees*.

So we just want to do individualism better than the liberals?

>The overlapping categories of woman, non-white, of non-dominant sexuality,
>unemployed, or employed (etc etc) all confront one common rhetorical
>problem. They are claiming status, dignity, and agency apparently already
>extended to them. This is Liberalism's trick - formalism. We should be
>demanding of our order that it extends to all the practical resources
>required to make real the freedoms Liberalism has (and has had to) formally
>promise(d). This does not seem difficult to translate into good agitprop.
>In practice, it stresses the voice of the particular, but in an importantly
>universalised context. And explicit political differences needn't be
>highlighted. An honest Liberal can't deny these claims, a SocDem would see
>this as precisely what s/he's been on about all along, and a revolutionary
>agrees with all this, but differs with the other two political groupings
>only in that s/he believes such demands will eventually show themselves to
>be unattainable under our order - so it's good revolutionary agitprop, it's
>good practice, and it recognises both the voices of different identities
>and the fundamental importance and (importantly) possibility of mass

How do you get to the solidarity part from the polyvocality part?

>>>Our collective difficulty on the Left of projecting an
>>>emancipatory future, our difficulty in sustaining as objects of
>>>critique, liberalism, capitalism, and the state, critiques that have
>>>quite literally defined the left for the last century, but no longer are
>>>the main subject of almost anyone's critique....
>Guess I'm saying we should rehabilitate these categories, not chuck 'em out
>- but then I'm a Left Conservative.

I want to rehab them too, and I'm not an LC (note how Brown spent a paragraph or three defining herself as a conservative in many ways). But it's a pretty hard job, isn't it? Maybe it's living in the American paradise that biases me but I see that these categories don't resonate with many people. I hate to keep quoting Stanley Greenberg's polls, but the U.S. public seems to have no notion of social solidarity, believing that only one's own efforts helped by family (but not friends, unions, or parties, or political action in general) are the only key to success. That's a very strong headwind to fight.

>>>Our difficulty in imagining that today's often nihilistic, apathetic,
>>>consumerist and media-saturated, increasingly wired population could
>>>ever be rallied for emancipatory struggle.
>If they've no money to buy, all that lovingly nurtured consumerism can have
>a nasty way of striking back. And wired people are people who can more
>easily be reached by all - not just the hegemon.

Europe has managed high unemployment rates, and the U.S. 23 years (1973-1996) of falling real wages. VISA and TINA are our social structure of accumulation.


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list