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    Problems within the "left" II: We lost a battle

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    • Lefties of ZU, from the liberals to the communists to the liberal anarchists, if you fall left of centre, the election of Donald Trump is a loss.

      2016 has been a bad year for us. We certainly weren't united (not that I can blame American leftists for failing to completely unite behind Clinton) but not just in the US, while in Australia we maintained ground and the Labor made swings (Greens too) Pauline Hanson was returned to power.

      Brexit happened.

      Colombian rightwing strong men stopped a peace deal.

      Duterte was elected in the Philippines.

      Now these are all over the world and not all necessarily issues from the same ilk. But nevertheless, introspection please. Like last time, I invite anyone who identifies as left to come in and respectfully be self critical. if you are not a lefty, you can post, but honestly we're probably just going to ignore you

      to respectfully question ourselves and others and identify where perhaps we are falling short. so comrades, please. lets be real, we're not perfect and sometimes our theory ties us in knots we do not realise. this is a safe space, but i want us to be critical of OURSELVES and try to think about how we can fix this. think outside the box and don't be afraid to say something that your friends may not like, radical theory was never supposed to be liked.

      i will be returning with some issues i theorise on how and why disadvantaged white people voted trump this time around

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Lucretia ().



    • There are three, maybe four, areas of note on this map and each has its own story. The most interesting of the set though is the largest: the big scary patch of Orange west of Chicago. And what's interesting about it is that the internet was quietly analysing the same region 4 years ago for very different reasons.

      In 2012 Scott Sumner identified this exact region as Obama's "Ace in the Hole":

      There’s a big blob of counties where Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois come together, which are solid blue. Why is that? These are counties with farms and small towns, there are basically no cities of any size. The biggest city is Madison, population 200,000, which is the big blue county in south central Wisconsin, on the eastern edge of the blob. I grew up in Madison, but I don’t have a clue as to why those counties further west are blue. I always assumed western Wisconsin was exactly like north-central and eastern Wisconsin—full of corn and dairy farms, and small towns with one church and 4 bars. Counties full of people with northern European backgrounds. Everywhere else in the Midwest the farm areas went for the GOP, except that strange blob that overlays parts of 4 states. A few of those counties may have small cities with a few manufacturing firms, but look how uniform that blue area is. There is obviously some difference that explains this, and now I feel like we should have been taught in school that southwestern Wisconsin is really weird.

      Any time an effort was made to frame American politics as an essentially rural vs. urban conflict this "driftless area" could be raised as the perfect counter-example. Yes, there is a measure of distrust for cosmopolitanism amongst the farmers and the ranchers and the miners and the loggers, but look at western Wisconsin: it doesn't *have* to be that way.

      Or didn't have to be that way maybe. The driftless area drifted on Tuesday, and the rest is soon to be history.

      Any model of the left's failure needs to foremostly explain what happened here. We're data light right now, and that's going to take a while to change. The well-researched book or insightful documentary which will trigger "Aha!" moments in everyone not currently in living in Wisconsin is still years away. I know I'm not going to be able to offer the sort of textually well-supported analysis here I could in the last "problems" thread and anyone who thinks they can (and isn't pointing at a post where they called the change a month ago) is probably out to lunch.

      I *did* however grow up in one of Canada's "drifless areas" - a rural community with a solid history of at least flirting with the far left - and I have some personal reflections on that. Excited to see where this thread goes as I try to get those thoughts down.
    • The clear criticism that has come out is "don't talk about white people as a class, as being racist, because you will alienate them to the point they vote like a minority or worse, take on the label of racist with pride."

      Are we doing a good enough job of listening to the white working class which is normally a bastion for social democratic parties? Well I highly disagree with any notion that the disenfranchised necessarily need to be nicer for pragmatic reasons to get allies on hand, I believe the principle is compromised and minorities are then merely playing to the system that still upholds the hegemon. But it would be utter folly to not recognise that we are doing something wrong, if this is in fact the sentiment of the most privilieged who may otherwise want to join our movement/cause. Regardless I recognise that my position is contentious even within the left on this issue, I've come to blows over it here with other progressive/left members because of it (lets discuss!)


      Well I think there are two issues here in particular:
      1. We do not use accessible language
      2. We do not use a nuanced definition of racism/sexism


      1. It has come up a lot. We're "eltists" and we really are. You only need to look at the debate between Foo and my self to see what happens when two academics get a chance to be academics. I showed a friend the debate and they told me it was wholly uninteresting and intensely dense.

      The way we talk about things matters, and I don't think there is anything revolutionary about jargon laced brow beating that is not accessible by people who haven't had the privilege to access the type of education that I have.

      I take a lot of care when I talk to my parents, from a typical Latinx Catholic upbringing to use accessible, not necessarily simple, but accessible to them to discuss things like gender theory. Gender theory the likes of Judith Butler is absurdly written and taking that to a political debate is unfair. So honestly, I fucked up here. I take concepts of race seriously and push my agenda in public forums in ways that I would never do so with my parents. I take care, not to be nice to my dad when he says something horrible, but to make sure I am clear and he can see I respect him. I don't think we need to be nice, but definitely respect.

      When I admonish and humilitate opponents with language they don't understand, with an intent to make them feel stupid for their racism, that doesn't work. That pushes people away. I wouldn't say that I need to be nicer, but I do need to use accessible language when I tell people why what they are doing is racist, or how they belong to a class of people that profit from racism and are thus complicit.


      2. I hate it when the left says that minorities can't be racist.

      They are alluding to systemic racism of course. That minorities may have cognitive biases against other races, but that they are not in a position of power to leverage that discrimination in any meaningful way. And yet this is completely not what lay people mean when they say "i have experience black on white racism". I have always said, we are all racists. Everyone has internalised cognitive biases as a result of living within a deeply racist context/society.

      I think that Zizek's three part theory of violence is a good analogue for racism.

      • Subjective Violence: This is violence which is physical and performed by a clearly discernable individual/subject. This is the most obvious form, it involved thedestruction or harm of people or property
      • Objective Violence:
        • Symbolic: This comes in the form of how we represent and speak about categories of people. How does media represent people of colour? How does our discourse affect/represent women? Etc. This is less obvious, and yet the effects could be just as detrimental as subjective violence because of how messages about oneself are internalised.
        • Systemic: This comes from the smooth functioning of the system that people find themselves in. This is the hardest form of violence to see because the system is not obvious like subjective violence, it sustains a "zero violence" backdrop, and yet the functioning of the neoliberal global economy results in millions of people dying from disease and starvation each year because of the concentration of wealth in the top 20% of the world' populations. Inequality literally kills and perhaps more people that 'subjective violence' could ever hope to.
      I believe that this three part theory can be modified to look at what racism actually is:

      Subjective Racism: the actual empirically justifiable event of someone discriminating against someone. Be it through foul abusive language, violence or blatantly racism hiring outcomes. This is the most obvious form of racism. White, Black, Latinx, Asian, anyone from any level of the hierarchy can engage with this. It is racism.

      Symbolic Racism: This is essentially the same as Symbolic Violence. And while hegemons (white people) are in a greater position to have their symbolic affect minorities, minorities can still engage in it, albeit with far less of an actual impact.. Minorities don't have media, hiring practices and centuries of oppression on their side to have their stereotype threat actually mean anything. The inverse is obvious however.

      Systemic Racism: Like systemic violence. The USA's drug law's are ostensibly not racist. They're just about weed and drugs right? Except the consequences are overtly racist. This is and to a lesser extent the symbolic racism I outlined before are the reasons why people on the left say that "black people can't be racist".


      Well hopefully now, I think with these distinctions we can be intellectually honest and also recognise what white people are identifying when they say "no I have felt racism from minorities". Perhaps all the jokes we make about "lol white people" actually is a form of symbolic violence/racism? Of course they are less likely to be hurt by it than minorities because of their privilege, but can you really say that to a white person who is working class, struggling to get by, that "you're privilged, you don't get to complain!" I can see how and why around some white people. We can scoff at the suggestion that white people can't be symbolically harmed, but if they actually are feeling emotional distress, ignoring that is OUR folly.



      And of course, if we accept this theory of racism, we need to make it accessible. To discuss with those in a way that doesn't make them feel stupid because we know the lexicon and they don't.





      more to come~
    • Once upon a time, I got caught up in a discussion with other progressive friends who were talking about how they were entirely uninterested in compromising with "hicks" and "bigots" and "misogynists" and "racists", which were codes for "rural white conservatives". When I pointed out that this is not a great way to secure votes, when I pointed out that it was a crude overgeneralization and stereotype of a collection of demographics, that incrementalism was vital for a democratic agenda, that rural white conservatives may at least have some legitimate grievances, I was accused of being a self-hating apologist sucking up to cishet white males for crumbs from the table.

      The statistic that sticks most with me in the aftermath of this election is not the lower-than-expected turnout for people of color, nor the fact that Trump got 35% of the Latino vote, nor the unimpressive 54% lead that Clinton had with woman voters compared to Trump's 42%; rather, it is rural white voters turning out in unprecedented numbers. For all the smearing that the Republicans leveled against Obama, these people did not turn out in record-breaking numbers against Obama in 2012...but they turned out in record-breaking numbers for Donald Trump in 2016. Heck, statistically speaking, many people who voted for Trump must have also voted for Obama in 2008; sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry are not sufficient enough an explanation to explain this.

      The same 42% of women and 35% of Latinos who couldn't be mobilized in 2012 for all the fear-mongering that the Republicans had worked up against Obama, against death panels, against UN peacekeepers taking our guns, but those same 42% of women and 35% of Latinos mobilized for "build a wall on the Mexican border" "grab them by the pussy" Trump. The Great Lakes states, generally reliably blue, basically defected. Immigration concerns are oft confused for racism by both believers and critics; that is to say, some believers may be blind to their (possibly unintentional, possibly intentional) racism in their effort to argue against immigrant labor, but we critics must not make the same mistake of assuming all their grievances about immigrant labor is only about racism. It's worth remembering that conservatives are a diverse social coalition that is not identical to the political organization that is the Republican Party, just as progressives are a diverse social coalition that is not identical to the political organization that is the Democratic Party.

      I'm upset at progressives right now, but not because of the traditional "you didn't vote and/or collapsed into in-fighting" reasoning. Even now, it's hard for people to reconcile two explanations: That Trump was either propelled into the presidency by racist white supremacists, or that he was propelled by people who have legitimate grievances. It has been a combination of both, among many other factors (including the years-long smear campaign against Clinton, the drama that surrounded the Democratic primaries, the general sentiment that "the system" - whatever the hell that even is - wasn't working), yet people have downplayed one in favor of another to support whatever narrative is most convenient for their ideological biases. Yet we have found it so easy to simply accuse all of them of being racists and misogynists and bigots, and then we act surprised when they react poorly to our disdain and turn against us.

      This is not the only reason why Clinton lost and Trump won, but I think it's an important one now and in this conversation. We - not the Democratic Party, and not the entirety of the progressive voterbase, but enough of the voterbase - have delegitimized their troubles and sufferings because "they don't have it as bad as minorities", and despite criticizing the idea of misery Olympics, we ourselves engage in it to treat other voters as a joke. Heck, the OP went so far as to say that "if you're not a leftist, we're not going to listen to you".

      Yes, Republican social and economic policies over the last few decades have been horrible for impoverished white citizens, even moreso than Democratic policy. But at least conservatives - not just the Republican Party, but conservative voters - pay an incredible amount of lip service to them. And although lip service is hardly enough, although it is not substitute for policies that help them, the problem is that progressives as a voting bloc can hardly get themselves to not make fun of rural white Americans, never mind express sympathy. Even now, we speak scathingly of "white anger", as if it's something unquestioningly worthy of disdain and unworthy of consideration, as if it's somehow less worthy than the anger of other demographics, as if they're nothing but misogyny and homophobia and racism, as if every conservative and every Trump supporter are irrational party-yes-men incapable of extending any good faith towards us. Too many discussants in this very forum clearly seem to believe so. As a voting bloc, we have conflated voters with their party institutions, and that has cost us.

      Or, to quote a friend who was feeling the same way we feel now when his country voted for Brexit: "I think, quite frankly, that [the left] (if we must call it that) will not understand what happened today/yesterday. they'll just double down on thinking it was racism/whatever."

      None of what I said makes me or anyone else not white, male, cishet, and rich happier nor safer. But at the end of the day, the electorate isn't going anywhere, and the voters are here to stay. Our assumption that "these people don't matter" is one of the leading reasons why we screwed ourselves over, and why they outvoted us. At the end of the day, politics is the art of the possible, and - if only for my own well-being as a non-cishet-white-male - I'd rather we move in the right direction step-by-step than hand regressives more power.

      "A compass, I learned when I was surveying, it'll point you true north from where you're standing. But it's it's got no advice about the swamps and deserts and chasms that you'll encounter along the way. If, in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp, what's the use of knowing true north?"
      - Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln (2012 film)

      Carl Sagan wrote:

      People are not stupid. They believe things for reasons. The last way for skeptics to get the attention of bright, curious, intelligent people is to belittle or condescend or to show arrogance toward their beliefs.

      The post was edited 4 times, last by Kei ().

    • I think it is a bit misguided to be mad at progressives for white people "turning on us" when Bernie Sanders was the progressive candidate with policies that white rural, working class America wanted, and Clinton was not. Really I think most of the furthest "left" who have the most vitriol towards white people as a class were the most ardent critics of Clinton. The Clinton camp embraced neoliberalism and forgot the working class in conjunction with everything you speak of, but had the true progressive candidate been in place, the result may have been different give Sanders' Robin Hood policies of taxing the 1% and much more agreeable/popular persona.


      i think this is a good response actually from a progressive who comes under fire for "hating whites"

      The post was edited 2 times, last by Lucretia ().

      Post by Avalanchemike ().

      This post was deleted by Foo ().
    • I had a fairly long post written up but honestly Lu hit the nail on the head with the largest, major point: white supremacy. It's here, it's never gone away, and white leftists continually downplay it and ignore the voices of various PoC. We're not going to get anywhere so long as we continue to refuse to call out racism and try to look for other answers that support the generalized statement of #NotAllWhitePeople and attribute its effects to the burning-cross-white-sheet racists. Leftists love critique of racism being made upon the right-wing and conservatives but we dig in our heels the moment anyone begins to analyze our ties to white supremacy. That needs to be addressed ASAP.

      Jargon is another issue; I am most invested in gender and sexuality. I feel that the general discourse is heading towards an area that is essentially academic wank, e.g. that it holds little power in combating the everyday oppression that gay and trans people and women experience. I am less interested in analyzing, say, what a non-transitioning trans man experiences (is it transphobia or misogyny?) and instead look in the eyes of the oppressors; primarily I believe they are being influenced by their misogynistic beliefs rather than some complex form of transphobia. Thus I am more interested in pursuing said misogyny.




      I also think it should be brought to the discussion, or at least reminded, of state suppression and intervention. Meaning that almost any actual, threatening, leftist movement is destroyed by the status quo.

      The CIA and America continuously intervened in South America.
      In South Asia.
      The Red Scare.
      Anarchist-Spain.
      The Black Panters.

      Movements were quickly overtaken by right-wing fanatics. E.g., Stalin and the USSR.

      "The Left" as per leftists who are marxists, anti-capitalists etc., not only face the general cultural backlash but the real threat of nation state intervention. I would argue that a part of our lack of numbers comes from the fact that communists and anarchists have been murdered by the thousands. Not so much the case when it comes to Nazis and white supremacists, who more or less get a slap on the wrist.
    • Jaime Lannister wrote:

      I had a fairly long post written up but honestly Lu hit the nail on the head with the largest, major point: white supremacy. It's here, it's never gone away, and white leftists continually downplay it and ignore the voices of various PoC. We're not going to get anywhere so long as we continue to refuse to call out racism and try to look for other answers that support the generalized statement of #NotAllWhitePeople and attribute its effects to the burning-cross-white-sheet racists. Leftists love critique of racism being made upon the right-wing and conservatives but we dig in our heels the moment anyone begins to analyze our ties to white supremacy. That needs to be addressed ASAP.

      Jargon is another issue; I am most invested in gender and sexuality. I feel that the general discourse is heading towards an area that is essentially academic wank, e.g. that it holds little power in combating the everyday oppression that gay and trans people and women experience. I am less interested in analyzing, say, what a non-transitioning trans man experiences (is it transphobia or misogyny?) and instead look in the eyes of the oppressors; primarily I believe they are being influenced by their misogynistic beliefs rather than some complex form of transphobia. Thus I am more interested in pursuing said misogyny.

      So spoiler alert: I'm a genderqueer person of color. I was fortunate enough to grow up most of my life in San Francisco, but I also spent some time working in the Deep South. I have firsthand experience with bigotry although perhaps - due to a number of mitigating factors that I'm not comfortable talking about here - not as bad as others. I'd like to think I know what I'm talking about and am not downplaying certain issues at play here.

      Yes, racism, sexism, white supremacy, and all other manners of bigotry were absolutely major contributing forces to Trump's campaign. But here's the thing: We knew that going in. We knew that "build a wall" "grab them by the pussy" Trump was appealing to the racist, sexist, white supremacist, and bigoted segments of the American population. But to think that this is the most important factor that we must linger upon at the expense of all other concerns is a flawed approach. Bigotry was not the reason we were blindsided; we knew all-year-long that Trump's campaign was about bigotry, and yet this can't account for the defectors from the Great Lakes states, the 42% of women, the 35% of Latinos, and others. If we don't understand their concerns and just assume it's all about bigotry, that they're just self-hating misogynists and racists and homophobes, then we're only going to lose more elections.

      Carl Sagan wrote:

      People are not stupid. They believe things for reasons. The last way for skeptics to get the attention of bright, curious, intelligent people is to belittle or condescend or to show arrogance toward their beliefs.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Kei ().

    • OK! So

      By marking this thread for Academic Discussion, Lu set a standard for the sorts of posts which are permissible in the discussion. For an outline of those standards, please see the SD rules. For a set of exemplars, please see the last "problems within the left" thread Lu created.

      Object-level discussions in this thread which did not have an academic tone have been moved to the thread on Interpersonal Responses to the election. Meta-level discussion has been removed. The thread will now be reopened for continued academic discussion. Further commentary should go directly to Liah or I in private.

      Thanks yo.

      Post by Inverted ().

      This post was deleted by Foo: See previous post. You've been warned about this before. Make this the last time. ().

      Post by Azarimanka ().

      This post was deleted by Foo: See previous post ().

      Post by Azarimanka ().

      This post was deleted by Foo: Taking this to PM ().
    • I would like to address a number of questions that arise when discussing where can the left-wing go from here, from an American perspective.

      Where did they go wrong?
      1. First of all, Clinton was uncharismatic. Was she qualified and intelligent? Absolutely. But so were Romney, McCain, Kerry, Gore, Dole and Bush Senior. Charisma wins elections.
      2. Isolating oneself within a bubble of left-leaning media outlet and avoiding information that contradicts their beliefs (i.e. the closeness of poll numbers in the rust belt)
      3. Running an unfavorable candidate. Regardless of her many merits, data has been clear in showing that she was their least popular candidate and they ran a risk.
      4. Playing it safe. Clinton didn't spend a lot of time talking about what she would do as president. She spent more time attacking her opponent than promoting herself in a strategy of attrition. She picked Kaine as her vice-president to further reduce the variables.
      5. Not relating to the white working class. When Clinton said "America is already great" and Obama makes optimistic speeches about economic recovery, they came off as complacent.
      6. Ignoring the rust belt and taking it for granted. Not visiting Wisconsin and Michigan, but trying to win in Georgia and Arizona.
      7. Assuming that most of trump's supporters are racists, when it's more accurate to say that they were angry at the establishment and voted for what they felt to be a lesser of two evils. But by saying trump has no appeal to voters others than racism is a way to absolve Clinton by discrediting opposition.
      Does abstaining encourage future Democrat candidates to be more progressive?

      In 2000, many Democrats stayed home and said "We'll run a more progressive candidate in 2004 and we'll win next time". Neither happened.

      It's a vicious cycle. Progressives stay home because Democrats aren't progressive enough. But Democrats shift to the right precisely because progressives stay home.

      Now both candidates need to shift to the right. Republicans can afford to pander to the most extreme members of their party because they will be voting. Democrats need to win over centrists and even some mild conservatives.

      If most progressives voted for Gore and/or Hillary Clinton, then the Republicans would be the ones who had to shift to the left. Republicans wouldn't be able to win with extreme policies because now they would need centrists just to survive.

      Right now Republicans can win just by holding the far-right. Because it's easier to get someone like Ben Carson to vote for Donald trump than someone like Colin Powell.

      If progressives voted, Republicans would say "Okay, if we tone down some of our policies, maybe progressives won't be angry enough to vote lesser-evil". But if progressives are already staying home, why negotiate with them at all?

      It's an amazing cycle how Democrats both are blocked in Congress and then blamed for not using their magic wand to get legislation passed.

      Does the Democratic Party need a progressive to win in 2020?

      It's well possible for people like Ellison and Warren to be the party's future, but to say Clinton's loss was a repudiation of centrism is a wishful interpretation of data at best.

      Were Obama's policies significantly different than Kerry's? No. He just had much more charisma.

      Clinton won the popular vote and lost the swing states only by 2%. It's not a sign that

      the party is dead or on life support. All the party would need some tweaking and not a revolution. Mostly charisma.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Inverted ().

    • This post series was a lot longer coming than I wanted, but hey. As in the last thread, writing summaries of views from outside the left that I've encountered and found reasonably interesting. This time focusing on criticisms from Independents rather than from the right. As a disclaimer, this was the first thing I've really written in a month, and I mostly just let it flow to work out the cob webs. Lotta low hanging fruit here, maybe not so much deep insight ^^

      ---

      It's in vogue, at the moment, to have an opinion on the demographic divide. I saw this video reposted at least a dozen times on various social media platforms last week and its the latest in a trend of our attempt to suss out what's "really going on" with Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials.

      Demography is not a new science, and - aging population effects aside - situations similar to the one we currently face (where three broadly distinguishable demographics operate simultaneously in the public sphere) are as old as civilization. Is there anything in particularly noteworthy, then, about the current set up?

      David Chapman thinks so. An independent philosopher who claims to study "the quality of meaningfullness and meaninglessness", Chapman is (in)famous in some of the circles I run in for being one of the few notable opponents to Bayesianism as an ideology (on the grounds of what you could reasonably call extreme pragmatism). He has a general theory of culture which is eminently concerned with generational divides and begins, essentially, with the "universal" culture of the 1950s.

      God is dead in 1880, and the modernism of the early 20th century attempts to negotiate with that fact. The trials plays out across the individualist/collectivist spectrum and leads, on one side, to the embrace of existentialism and, on the other, to the rise of totalitarianism. The whole thing is terrible and exhausting and after an absolutely terrifying climax in the form of WWII people just kind of slum it for a while. They agree to be OK with contradiction and hypocrisy and so for a decade or two we get performances of Westphalian sovereignty, scientific industriousness, and the nuclear family. See Mad Men. Every one is pretty much lying to themselves and each other about everything always but for people who *lived through fucking World War II* that's just fine.

      The Baby Boomers did *not* live through WWII. They were raised in this hypocrisy but couldn't justify it, and they reacted predictably:

      “The counterculture” generally refers to the youth movement of the 1960s-70s: rock and roll, anti-war protests, psychedelics, the New Left, hippies, and the sexual revolution. While puzzling out how these elements cohered—to understand the counterculture functionally and structurally—I had a peculiar realization.

      A second movement shared “the” counterculture’s abstract features—its structure and function. Based in Christian Fundamentalism, it might be called “the Moral Majority,” after one of its main organizations. It too offered “a new, alternative, universalist, eternalist, anti-rational system.” This was the same mode of relating to meaningness, even though its content was deliberately opposed to most of what the hippie counterculture stood for.

      For Chapman, the seemingly stark differences between the young left and the young right of the 1960s and 70s are superficial: Hippies and Evangelicals may not agree on any particular "matters of fact" but they operate in much the same way structurally. For example, in both systems hypocrisy is a sin - your public behaviour is intended to be a reflection of your private life and beliefs. In both systems, scientism is a sin - proper spiritual conduct was the best way of generating material reward. In both systems, ambiguity and non-comformity are serious concern - the improper conduct of others is a threat to the fabric of society, if not the security and prosperity of the world as a whole.

      All told, the baby boomers navigate meanginfulness and meaningless in a mostly unique, fundamental way which we can label <<counter-cultural>>. This systematization may have persisted for many generations, playing itself out over the course of a century as modernism had, if not for changes to society on a *technical level* which cut in to the dance.

      Between (roughly) 1975 and 2000, it was possible to produce media content in a storable form, distribute that content to a small group of interested parties *whom you could screen to some extent*, and turn enough of a profit to continue the cycle. This had never really been the case before in human history and will almost certainly never be the case again. The result was the <<sub cultural>> system of Generation X:

      The subcultural mode marked a fundamentally new approach to meaningness. It abandoned universalism—the delusion that meanings must be the same for everyone, everywhere, eternally. It recognized that different people are actually different, and need different cultures, societies, and psychologies.

      The subcultural mode also created subsocieties: a new mode of social organization, intermediate between the family and state. Membership in subsocieties was voluntary, based on emotional affinity and cultural enjoyment, rather than ethnicity or geography. Subsocial organization began to resolve the problems of the self/society relationship that the countercultures tried, and failed, to renegotiate.

      Subcultures were vastly different in their superficial features. There are marked differences between hippies and evangelicals, sure, but they're nothing compared to the differences between true London punks and west coast circuit board nerds - themselves only two facets of the extraordinary complex subcultural gem. Still, like the counter cultural mode, the subcultural mode shows significant internal consistency. It doesn't care at all about hypocrisy (do whatever you want at home or at work - how you behave on *the scene* is what's important) or about material reward (the spiritual experience of the the great *thing* around which the subculture formed was reward enough) or about how anyone outside of the subculture behaved. It has its own answers.

      So if this mode had had its chance to play out, as modernity had, things could've been really interesting. Might we have actually achieved Atomic Commutarianism? Chapman seems to think so. Alas, technology continued to march forward, and the chance was lost.

      See, what was *critically* important to the subculture was *authenticity*. The preservation of the group through a social screening ritual intended (in many cases subconsciously) to prevent weakening of the tight knit subcultural structure OR exploitation by industry. The internet destroyed the possibility of controlled distribution of subcultural product and with it the promise of authenticity. The rise of many current stereotypes of the next generation - the Millenial - was predicted in the model of the "hipster"; the fundamentally and consciously inauthentic.

      The current crop of young people have their own system of meaningness, built for the internet age, which Chapman calls the <<atomized mode>>

      The previous, subcultural mode failed because individual subcultures did not provide enough breadth or depth of meaning; and because cliquish subsocieties made it too difficult to access the narrow meaningness they hoarded.

      The global internet exploded that. Everything is equally available everywhere—which is fabulous! Now, there are no boundaries, so bits of culture float free. Unfortunately, with no binding contexts, nothing makes sense. Meanings arrive as bite-sized morsels in a jumbled stream, like sushi flowing past on a conveyer belt, or brilliant shards of colored glass in a kaleidoscope.

      With no urge for context to make culture understandable, everything is equally appealing everywhere. The atomized mode returns to the universalism of the countercultural mode—but by default, rather than design. In the 1960s, for the first time, everyone in an American generation listened to the same music, regardless of genre—as an expression of solidarity. Now, everyone in the world listens to the same music, regardless of genre, again—just because it’s trending on YouTube.

      Gangnam Style has been watched 2.9 billion times on YouTube.1 Even counting repeat views, it’s probably well-known to most young people on the planet. Its genre is, in fact, K-pop; but may be the only K-pop song most Westerners have ever heard.

      Genre—which defined many subcultures—has disintegrated. Atomization seemed at first like subculturalism taken to an extreme, but it is a qualitatively new mode. K-pop may be a subculture in Korea, but in America it’s just YouTube. It’s normal for a Top 40 hit to mash up country-style pedal steel guitar with bubble-gum-pop vocals, hip-hop rapping, EDM bass, and black metal blast beats. “Authenticity”—the aesthetic ideal of subculturalism—is impossible because there are no standards to be authentic to.

      If you buy this model, then you have access to a very interesting conclusion. Because of the unique effects of rapid cultural development, we have - for possibly the first time in recognisable history - three different approaches to meaning operating simultaneously in our society. Modernism got to play itself out for nearly 100 years spanning generations with a bunch of internal and external superficial differences but being - in structure - rather consistently a set of negotiations between individual and collective approaches to secularization from top to bottom. The <<systematic mode>> of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is described just so - in terms of centuries, not decades.

      But now we're playing an entirely different ball game. Succeeding at politics, for the foreseeable future, is not a matter of dealing with the massive surface level differences you might have with your opponents across the aisle, it is first and foremost an exercise in recognising that the 20 year old, the 40 year old, and the 60 year old in your party might as well be different species in the way they construct and process meaningful statements about the world.

      We've engaged in that recognition process *somewhat* since the election, sure, but it's been mostly devoted to basic demography without a deep philosophical component. If technology has had as massive an effect as Chapman suggest, our old school tools for understanding age groups may not be up to the task we currently face. We need to drill down to what it means *in general* to be a Baby Boomer and then at the particular intersection of the countercultrual mode with liberal ideas so we can understand how fundamentally different it feels for the Gen Xer or the Millenial. Otherwise we might tear ourselves apart.
    • Foo wrote:

      to suss out what's "really going on" with Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials.

      The Baby Boomers did *not* live through WWII. They were raised in this hypocrisy but couldn't justify it, and they reacted predictably:

      Hippies and Evangelicals may not agree on any particular "matters of fact" but they operate in much the same way structurally.

      You make a lot of good observations. I think that while the differences between generations are substantial, how they react to one another tends to be very similar. Parent's just don't understand, as they say. Old and stubborn. Young and naive.

      Baby Boomers are oft criticized, but, in context, their parents were pro-segregation and their great grandparents were pro-lynching. In due time, millennials will be the stubborn bunch.

      It's well feasible for new major cultural issues to arise. Animal rights for example. Perhaps, in 40 years, people view farming animals as creating lots of suffering. Old millennials will say "I've been eating ham sandwiches since I was a kid. Don't change it.", and it would be much similar to the gay marriage argument and the slavery one.

      You're right in that conservative and liberal Baby Boomers share a common thread. Both leaned toward idealism. Young idealist liberals were hippies, but the older variety nowadays that wants to make America the way it used to be rather than accept change is no less wishful.

      As far as the nationalism, hysteria, racial strife and so on, it may always continue. America has always gone through ups and downs. Lots of progress, but also the adoption of new nationalities to vilify, and the realization of more mistakes the country has made, as well as the backlash to prevent them from being rectified.

      I don't intend to sound acerbic or witty at all, but the United States is a country of fourth generation immigrants who are resistant toward second generation immigrants. The poor man from Italy who came to the U.S. to build a better life and the Polish refugee from WWII that was fed in America are now the ones averse to muslims and Mexicans coming in.

      I think the left-wing tends to think that America can't relapse and that things will always improve in an upward trend, no matter how slow, but history moves in cycles. We're never beyond or past racism. We just deal with it (or not deal with it) in different ways. This is normative thinking on the part of the left-wing.

      Millennials have one thing in common with other generations. They think that they're going to be the one to fix the world and change humanity where their parents generation has failed.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Inverted ().

    • But this is what I am (Or Chapman is really) pointing at when using the term "old school tools of demography". We appreciate that there's certain tension between generations that spring up and play themselves out over and over again; that the same sociological forces which led the elder generation of ancient Greece to condemn reading now lead the elder generation of modern America to condemn Ipads. We accept that, but wonder if there's not something novel and *unique* about demographics today which requires that we go beyond that level of analysis.

      The perturbation on the old system is the effect of technology. I've quoted Bakker on this before, but I think he says it well:

      The example I always like to give is that of a medieval yeoman chewing his callouses in some German field. Not only can he assume that his son will by and large share his experience, but that his grandson will, and his great-grandson, and so on. His space of experience, thanks to social immobility and a creeping rate of technological change, possessed an almost preposterously deep horizon of expectation.

      Given this simple conceptual cartoon, we can understand ‘modernization’ or ‘progress’ as the accelerating retreat of our horizons of expectation. We can’t even reliably predict what our own lives will look like in twenty years time, let alone the ‘experiential space’ our children will some day inhabit. This gives us a way (and nothing more) to understand, for instance, the obsolescence of aging, the reason why the respect once accorded to the elderly seems to have all but evaporated in contemporary consumer society: their experiences no longer apply the way they once did.

      What is being suggested is that the broad trends in "meaingness" which used to persist for centuries are now being truncated by technological effects and lasting mere decades. If that's a "real" effect it needs to be recognized over and above surface-level pundit-style analysis.
    • took me a while to read the above to posts because i have had no computer access for a while, but it is an interesting analysis, i don't care to disagree with it all that much


      but @Foo, sure it is a compelling narrative and explanation when taken on its own terms. but how can you take such an analysis that uses generation as its preferred taxonomisation but ostensibly ignore divisions such as class, race and gender? even if we suppose that it is only really relevant to the anglosphere and primarily only the USA, the material realities and thus cultural contexts of a poor urban 22 year old blackman from south carolina in 1965 would be completely different to a white woman of the same age in upper class los angeles.

      isn't a narrative derived from something as imprecise as generation questionable as a sociological analysis of our generation of meaningness?

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Lucretia ().

    • @Lucretia:
      Well, taking this further, when the 60-year-old feminist, the 40-year-old feminist, and 20-year-old feminist discuss "feminism", they are in all likelihood talking about completely different feminisms, and very possibly not realising it.

      Feminism is not a concept that is fundamentally unchangeable. People apply it to very different philosophies. The same can be said for most civil rights movements. But most people (even aspiring adherents, and especially not critics) don't understand the difference. So for example when a person posts a news story about black people torturing a white youth in the name of BLM or whatever movement they claim to be acting on behalf of, the poster thinks it's a valid indictment of BLM as a whole and all types of civil rights movement.

      Basically, people are trying to pigeonhole people into as broad a group as possible and simply not understanding that it just doesn't make sense anymore. Another example: Muslims being held accountable for things other Muslims did. People WANT to be able to use induction like they've always done paint with a broad brush, and it's becoming more and more apparent that that doesn't really reflect reality. People are individuals.

      The post was edited 2 times, last by LeoBravo ().

    • agreed on all fronts, but for the purposes of discussion:

      agreed on the line of feminists, trans exclusionary radical feminists are about as similar to intersectional feminists as capitalists are to marxists, yet both feminisms are purport to be pro women and both economic philosophies purport to be anti poverty.


      I do however find it interesting your individualist slant though. It is a philosophical point of view that has a lot of history beginning with western enlightenment liberalism. But is it is less so shared by other cultures such as many east asian and indigenous ones that value the clan/community as a unit over its atomistic individuals

      How do then respond to two groups that may disagree with the fundamentals of your philosophy:

      Indigenous peoples who value tribe, who feel they are being exterminated and that individualist concepts of human rights undermine the existence of their communities (i.e. the group rights vs. Individual rights debate)

      Sociologists, in particular postmodern, postpositivist ones who recognise intersections, that nevertheless may feel as though your focus on individualism makes their entire field of study useless, yet nevertheless they have excelled in helping public policy through theoretical understandings of culture/community


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      sorry still on my phone, v bad spelling