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Monday, October 3, 2011

Exercise lacking substance, political will

New York Stock Exchange, active trading
late 1920s
“Liberal Left” hanging out at high finance
Doug Henwood, Jodi Dean Comment
Edited by Carolyn Bennett

“‘Occupiers [of Wall Street’]: I love you, I’m glad you’re there,” Left Business Observer founder and editor Doug Henwood said over the weekend. 

Open Secrets image
“… I admire the tenacity and nerve of the occupiers and hope it [the protest] grows,” Henwood said, “but I am curious and frustrated by the inability of the organizers (or participants), whoever they are, exactly — an endlessly shifting population — to say clearly and succinctly why they are there.

“… I know that certain liberals are using that to malign the protesters. I am not. I desperately hope that something comes of this but there is a serious problem with this speechlessness.

“…[T]he location of the protest is a statement but when it comes to words, there’s a strange silence — or prolixity [wordiness] which, in this case, amounts to pretty much the same thing.

“Why can’t they say something like this? 
Britannica image - Wall Street and Stock Exchange

  •        These gangsters have too much money
  •  They wrecked the economy, got bailed out, and are back to business as usual.
  •        We need jobs, schools, health care, and clean energy.
  •        Let’s take their money to pay for them. The potential constituency for that agenda is huge.

“[I]nstead we see [in demonstrations] sprawling things like … eleven demands, each identified as the one demand … The demand is a process …  

“Why the emphasis on multiplicity and process — a living instance of the problem Jodi Dean identified last November — a paralysis of  will disguised as a set of principles …

Britannica image - Woman Suffrage USA, March 1913
Once the New Left delegitimized the old one, it made political will into an offense, a crime with all sorts of different elements.

Political Science Hobart and Williams Colleges Professor Jodi Dean’s November 20, 2010, I Cite article asked and answered, is the Left — Inept or unwilling? “… The actual problem is unwilling — not willing at all,” she said.

Seattle, Washington, USA, protests 1999
“Once the New Left delegitimized the [Old Left], it made political will into an offense, a crime with all sorts of different elements:

·       Taking the place or speaking for another (the crime of representation
·       Obscuring other crimes and harms (the crime of exclusion
·       Judging, condemning, and failing to acknowledge the large terrain of complicating factors necessarily disrupting simple notions of agency (the crime of dogmatism
Britannica image Chile high school students
May 2011
·       Employing dangerous totalizing fantasies that posit an end of history and lead to genocidal adventurism (the crime of utopianism or, as Mark Fisher so persuasively demonstrates, of adopting a fundamentally irrational and unrealistic stance, of failing to concede to the reality of capitalism).”

Dean concludes, “…A politics without representation, exclusion, dogmatism, and utopianism is no politics at all. … It is instead an ethics. Is it any surprise, then, that under neo-liberalism, ostensible leftists spend countless hours and pages and keystrokes elaborating ethics … — fundamentally personal and individual approaches that obscure and deny the systems and structures in which they are embedded?”

Open Secrets image
Henwood said the people he spoke with among the Wall Street protesters “were inspiring” but, a substantive weakness in dissent fails to impact neo-liberalism. His advice: “You really have to move beyond this.”

Sources and notes

“Doug Henwood: draw a line, take a stand on occupy Wall Street,” October 1, 2011, Doug Henwood at LBO News, http://lbo-news.com/

“Inept or Unwilling (Jodi Dean, I cite), November 20, 2011, http://jdeanicite.typepad.com/i_cite/2010/11/inept-or-unwilling.html

Doug Henwood is founder (1986) and editor of the newsletter Left Business Observer and hosts “Behind the News,” a weekly radio show covering economics and politics on KPFA- Berkeley, California,  that is rebroadcast on several other stations across the United States. Then program also has a worldwide audience via its Internet archive. He is author or Wall Street.

Dr. Jodi Dean is a professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY (1993-) She teaches political theory. Her research and writing focus on the contemporary space and possibility of politics. She is author of Solidarity of Strangers (1996), Aliens in America (1998), Publicitys Secret (2002), Zizek’s Politics (2006), Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies (2009), Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive (2010).

Dean’ scholarly interests Political Theory, Digital Media and Politics, Post-structuralism and Psychoanalysis, Neo-liberalism and consumerism, Cultural Studies, Feminist Theory; courses she routinely teaches are Introduction to Political Theory, Modern Political Theory, Contemporary Political Theory, Feminist Legal Theory, Fascism, Consumption and Citizenship

Academic credentials: Ph.D. and M.A., Columbia University, B.A., Princeton
Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY 14456

Mark Fisher is a music writer and theorist and writes regularly for The Wire, frieze, New Statesman, Sight and Sound. He is a Visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London, and maintains a weblogs on cultural theory, k-punk (http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org)

Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism according to Verso Publishing and ReadySteadyBook blogger:  Capitalist Realism — is there no alternative — “analyses the development and principal features of this capitalist realism as a lived ideological framework.… “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. After 1989, capitalism has successfully presented itself as the only realistic political-economic system — a situation that the bank crisis of 2008, far from ending, actually compounded.”  http://www.o-books.com/obookssite/book/detail/358

Democracy Now program today from New York City

“700 Arrested on Brooklyn Bridge as Occupy Wall Street Enters Third Week, Protests Grows Nationwide — The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests in the financial district took a dramatic turn on Saturday when protesters tried to march across the Brooklyn Bridge.

“When police arrested 700 of the demonstrators, the event quickly turned into one of the largest arrests of non-violent protesters in recent history.

“Some protesters claim police lured them onto oncoming traffic on the bridge’s roadway; others said they did not hear instructions from police telling them to use the pedestrian walkway.

“Meanwhile, similar ‘Occupation’ protests have spread to other cities, including Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles, where hundreds of protesters are now camped out in front of City Hall.” Democracy Now today hosted a roundtable discussion with Marisa Holmes, an organizer with the main organizing group of Occupy Wall Street called the General Assembly; Marina Sitrin, an attorney who is part of Occupy Wall Street’s legal working group; and Laurie Penny, a writer and journalist who reported on protests in London earlier this summer. http://www.democracynow.org/

Britannica captions

Demonstration against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, Washington, U.S., 1999,
© AFP/Corbis

Joining nationwide demonstrations, high-school students in Valparaíso take to the streets on May 30 to protest proposed changes in Chile's public education system, Eliseo Fernandez—Reuters /Landov

Alice Paul leading the National American Woman Suffrage Association march in Washington, D.C.; oil over a photograph, 1913, The Granger Collection, New York

Wall Street and Stock Exchange, gelatin silver print by Berenice Abbott, 1936; in the Art Institute of Chicago, Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago, All Rights Reserved, Restricted gift of Edward Byron Smith, 1984.1175

The New York Stock Exchange on an active trading day in the late 1920s, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


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