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Technology, Class, and Ideological Realignment

Before we get to my latest essay below—I’ve now opened enrollment for John David Ebert’s 8-week masterclass on the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. The first live group discussion seminar will be Saturday, February 20th at 3pm Eastern. If you’re curious, download the free study guide and/or join us for a private Q&A meeting this Saturday, where you can sniff us out and get answers to any questions you might have. If you’re curious about John’s mastery of the material or his thinking style, I’d recommend his recent appearance on the Other Life podcast. OK—onto my post!


I appreciate Michael Lind's model of the contemporary American class structure. He asks us to visualize two horseshoe structures:

a lower horseshoe whose two prongs point up, and an upper horseshoe whose two prongs point down. The lower horseshoe has the underclass at the bottom/midpoint and the hub city working class and the heartland working class as the points of its two opposing prongs. The upper horseshoe has the managerial elite proper as its midpoint/apex and the professional bourgeoisie and the small business bourgeoisie as the points of its two opposing prongs.

This model is pretty nifty, and it parsimoniously captures some ideological variation as well. Roughly, Lind suggests, the “center,” “left” and “right” map onto the managerial elite, the professional bourgeoisie, and the small business bourgeoisie. True elites just want stability, institutionalized bourgeois professionals want more government funding, and the self-employed want freedom from regulation and taxation. So far, so good.

But his sense of the near future is quite limited. It was only a parting remark, but

Lind suggests that any new cross-class alliance will have to create “powerful mass-membership, working-class organizations..."

I do not think this needs to happen, and I do not think it will happen. This is a powerful meme from pre-digital labor history, but I don’t think it bears much scrutiny. It’s the kind of thing Gen X socialists say when they don’t know what else to say.

I see a very different trajectory.

Consider Lind’s ”small business bourgeoisie,” which currently includes a lot of obsolete business models, like many local brick-and-mortar stores. There is a new player in this class, and it's the bootstrapped internet business—which doesn’t even require computer programming or much startup capital anymore. This includes a whole new breed of "DTC" or direct-to-consumer brands, but also the "creator economy" and even some of the crypto economy.

A non-trivial portion of Lind's "professional bourgeoisie" is defecting from legacy bureaucratic institutions (technologically indefensible prestige cartels), into this new tech-savvy faction of the small-business bourgeoisie. The clearest and most recent example is the massive wave of journalists quitting their jobs in favor of writing independently on Substack. But the 2 million people working full-time as internet “creators” already would have been enough to substantiate my claim.

Then within Lind's "managerial elite" (the major titans of industry and government), there is an increasingly salient cleavage between tech-centric libertarian types and paper-centric bureaucratic types. Think “west coast” figures like Marc Andreesen or Peter Thiel versus “east coast” figures like the Sulzbergers.

The "professional bourgeois" defecting from institutions into the small-business bourgeoisie are doing so because their institutional wage premia are being eroded by technology, so their shift is almost intrinsically tech-centric and libertarian.

We’re beginning to see an ideological realignment where the professional bourgeoisie increasingly defects from the old state-centric, pro-bureaucracy socialism into a new, more tech-centric communitarianism with socialistic longings but libertarian characteristics.

It’s not as contradictory as it sounds. For most left-wing intellectuals since Marx, their ideological alignment with state power was only ever a marriage of convenience. Their ultimate preference is always to abolish the state, but until that’s possible, they love the state as a necessary vehicle moving in the direction of liberation. In the digital age, left-leaning bourgeois intellectuals will retain their radical egalitarianism but their marriage of convenience will now be with technology and private wealth, which they will correctly see as the only viable bulwarks for egalitarian political structures moving forward.

If you doubt that ideologies and alliances can shift so quickly due to external changes in the economic landscape, read this classic political science paper. Is “free trade” a left-wing or right-wing position? There’s no clear answer to this questions, because the content of “left” and “right” party programs fluctuates depending on opportunistic factors. If you look at left-wing parties across time and space, their position on the Free Trade issue is a function of how much land, labor, and capital there is in the country under consideration.

The newfound allies of our defecting professionals will be the tech-libertarian elites and, most confusingly, the working-class heartland—the true believers in the American freedom ethos. This is the only way to understand the new cleavage that puts on one side right-leaning media figures like Tucker Carlson, with defected left-leaning professional-bourgeois figures like Angela Nagle and Ariel Pink, with right-leaning tech figures such as Curtis Yarvin and Peter Thiel, with an army of anti-institutional solo-business creators as big as Joe Rogan and as small as the Patreon podcaster who is barely scraping by but nonetheless paying all of their bills with complete intellectual freedom.

A major catalyst of this realignment will be crypto. Crypto is fundamentally a redistribution of wealth and power away from the managerial elite (whose income is based on legacy cartels and fiat currency) toward anti-institutional outsiders (whose income is based on being correct before being accepted). This is another independent vector of change, which is also intrinsically tech-centric libertarian.

The American class structure is approaching a great schism that might very well make the Civil War of 1861 seem like a sibling rivalry.

On the one side, we will have a tech-centric libertarian camp connecting all of the most forward-thinking and freedom-focused people up and down the class hierarchy, boasting a fundamentally new and censorship-proof monetary system and wealth base.

On the other side, we will have everyone whose income is based on having paid dues to a legacy institution, plus the black urban underclass that the institutional bourgeois is essentially holding hostage (exploiting this faction's historical investment in the Democratic party, leaving them nowhere else to go, like abusive husbands do to their battered wives).

The big question is whether the captains of the sinking ship accelerate their bellicosity or ask for a lifeboat. In many ways, crypto provides the best thermometer for this growing cleavage: If the institutions gradually buy into crypto, then I would expect the USA to gradually morph into a tech-libertarian patchwork where all national and state bureaucracies gradually recede into nothingness and all power passes through blockchains.

If the US government tries to institute an outright ban on crypto—like Nigeria is doing right now—then all the crypto millionaires, the small-business intellectuals, and the freedom-loving rednecks would galvanize into a proto-secessionary unit. They would have most of the guns in America, and most of America’s greatest minds.

In the face of serious aggression from US institutions, this camp could either double-down on one of the untraceable cryptocurrencies and alternative networking models like Urbit, to sustain the true American nation in the shadow of the usurper government, or it would simply purchase a small country somewhere else.

Either way, we win.

The Two Meanings of Reaction (Excerpt from Based Deleuze)

The following is an excerpt from my short book Based Deleuze, which will be published on September 20th. Pre-order here and you’ll receive it by email as soon as it’s released.


Discussing the ideological valence of great thinkers is difficult because they have little use for the crutches of ideology. The difficulty is particularly acute today, when ideological labels are used so loosely, and often with ulterior motives. I should therefore clarify, at the outset, what I mean by "reactionary" in the subtitle of this book.

In some sense, Deleuze was explicitly anti-reactionary. He was anti-reactionary in the sense that he was anti-reactive, in the spirit of Spinoza and Nietzsche. To be a reactionary, in this pejorative sense, means to be always responding to active, superior forces, instead of becoming an active force; to be captured by sad affects, to be resentful, and to think and act with these as one's motive forces.

This common sense understanding of reactionism partially maps onto the modern political-ideological sense of the word. The data show that conservatives are more reactive to disgusting stimuli, for instance (Inbar et al. 2009). Experiments have shown that even just the presence of foul odors can make people slightly, but measurably, more conservative (Schnall et al 2008). Conservatives are more likely to see threats and reactively demand "law and order." Edmund Burke watched the French Revolution with horror, and famously wrote about his reactions. Henceforth, we'll refer to this aspect of reactionary or conservative politics as reactivism. I prefer reactivism to reactionism because it will remind us that left-wing progressive activism is much closer to this sense of "reactionary" than we are accustomed to thinking. Reactionary politics in this sense, reactivism, can be a failure mode of left-wing politics no less than right-wing politics.

Things get confusing because modern society also calls reactionary whatever transgresses left-wing or progressive norms. Nietzsche, for instance, is seen by many as a reactionary, even though one pillar of his whole life's philosophy is a contempt for reactive tendencies. Since World War II, any sufficiently disagreeable and strong-willed individual eager to avoid reactivism — who wishes to constitute an authentic, healthy, and autonomous existence — will generally be coded as reactionary. Even if their political beliefs are ideologically ambiguous or ambivalent. Strong and uncompromisingly active drives get coded as "reactionary" if the individual is not plausibly linked to the larger collective liberation struggle of some officially marginalized group. It is only in this sense of the term that we will find a "reactionary" component in the philosophy of Deleuze.

This latter sense of "reaction" is a recurring, subterranean tendency that can arise from the Left as well as the Right. It is most likely to emerge from the Right, but in periods when "the Left" becomes especially, excessively decadent - the responsibility to transgress "The Left" occasionally falls to an otherwise proper leftist.

This is how we will understand Deleuze's “reactionary leftism.”

Deleuze’s Troublesome Inheritance (Excerpt from Based Deleuze)

Now that the book is a little more than 75% done, I figure I should start posting some excerpts. Did you know Deleuze’s parents were both fascists? Good son that he was, though, he never disavowed them. Very naughty, today’s Antifa would say, but very based. Not because fascism is cool — Deleuze was unambiguously anti-fascist, as am I — but because honoring your mother and father is far more important than signaling games. Your mother and father are immanent, molecular parts of your life, whereas public signaling games have only to do with molar institutions. Verbal statements can significantly and advantageously affect interpersonal relationships (what Deleuze and Guattari mean in their discourses on collective “enunciation”), but as soon as you start making statements for the purpose of manipulating public consequences — you're captured. So it would never make sense to throw your father under the bus, even if he is a literal fascist, just to show some random journalist you’re on her team. Get it? Probably not! That’s why I’m writing Based Deleuze.

I’ll also paste here the current table of contents, as of today.

Current Table of Contents

  1. Bearing One’s Cross
  2. A Troublesome Inheritance
  3. From Christ to the Bourgeoisie
  4. Becoming Imperceptible
  5. HBDeleuze
  6. Accelerate the Process
  7. Becoming Minority
  8. Deleuzo-Petersonianism
  9. Autocracy, Capital, Bureaucracy

Excerpt from A Troublesome Inheritance

Let us consider a psycho-biographical approach to understanding the ideological valence of Deleuze’s thought. Political ideologies are known to be heritable — probably somewhere between 30% and 60% heritable (Hatemi et al. 2014) — so an author’s family background must provide at least some hints about an author’s ideological center of gravity. Most attitudes show a higher correlation with parental attitudes later in life, suggesting that individuals early in life experiment by deviating from their inherited center of gravity, before eventually settling their viewpoints somewhere closer to that center of gravity.

According to the joint biography of Deleuze and Guattari by Françoise Dosse (2011), both of Deleuze's parents were ideologically conservative. Louis Deleuze was an engineer and small-business owner, before he closed-up shop to become an employee of a large aerospace engineering firm. Louis disliked the Popular Front, the left-wing coalition that came to power in 1936, instead favoring a relatively small paramilitary party known as the Croix-de-Feu. Originally consisting of World War I veterans, this faction was financially supported by French millionaire and benefactor of Mussolini, Françoise Coty. The party had a Catholic bent because the Catholic Church prohibited Catholics from supporting the monarchist Action Française. The Croix-de-Feu was essentially a French equivalent of the Nazi party in Germany and the National Fascist Party in Italy, although this tendency in France was much weaker (the party enjoyed only about a million members at the height of its popularity).

After the Popular Front came to power, Louis and his wife, Odette, were horrified by the empowerment of working-class people. The Popular Front passed policies such as mandatory paid vacations for all workers. Gilles recalls Louis and Odette disgusted to find working-class people on the beaches of Deauville, where the Deleuze family vacationed in Normandy. “My mother, who was surely the best of women, said that it was impossible to go to a beach with people like that on it (Dosse 2011, 89)." Notice that Deleuze does not disavow his mother or her disgust, prefacing his recollection with an emphatic endorsement of the woman.

§

To be clear, I don’t argue that Deleuze was sympathetic to fascism, but his writings and interviews are filled with ideologically devilish statements such as this one. Why? Nobody really knows. Now that I'm about half-way done with the book, I'm more convinced than ever that I have the answer. If you haven’t already, pre-order now. You know you want to!

"There Is No Left" with Aimee Terese

Aimee Terese (@aimeeterese) is co-host of the podcast What's Left? In this long talk, we discussed: why Aussies are good for American politics, the internet vs. Brooklyn, sugar-free Red Bull, is there even a Left?, John McAfee, the Harvard Prof who got played, the family, TradCath leftism, and quite a few other things.

Other stuff mentioned: True Anon Pod, The Good Ole Boys

Huge thanks to all my patrons who help me keep the lights on.

If you'd like to discuss this podcast with me and others, suggest future guests, or read/watch/listen to more content on these themes, request an invitation to the forum.

This conversation was first recorded on July 24, 2019 as a livestream on Youtube. To receive notifications when future livestreams begin, subscribe to my channel with one click, then click the little bell.

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Democrats wanted strongman rule way more than Republicans — until Trump arrived

Democrats wanted strongman rule until Trump arrived

That graph is from the new book by political scientists Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart (2019), Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism.

Just finishing the book now. I'd call it a rigorous validation of the conventional wisdom of the moment.  Certainly required reading for anyone with weirder theories about the culture wars. This will probably serve as the baseline model for some time.

Our theory argues that a cultural silent revolution has heightened polarization over cultural issues in the electorate, provoking an authoritarian backlash among social conservatives. We hypothesize that socially liberal values are spreading through intergenerational population replacement and demographic shifts, causing traditionalists (concentrated among the less-educated and older birth cohorts) to feel threatened, perceiving that respect for their core values and social mores is rapidly eroding. These developments have cumulated over time to reach a tipping point in high-income Western societies…

If you read between the lines there are some more tantalizing insights, such as the one dramatized in the graph above. I would like to write a longer review, but we'll see.

Patrons may have noticed this in my hard drive a week or two ago.

Hate Speech, Feminism, and Paganism with Nina Power and DC Miller

Nina Power is a philosopher and writer, and DC Miller is a writer best known for his opposition to the Shutdown LD50 campaign. This talk has become quite a scandal. In response to this talk, someone wrote a ridiculous Open Letter Concerning Nina Power, and Nina just today published a response. You can watch the original conversation here, on my Youtube channel.

Other Life is a pretty punk-rock-DIY affair, run by one person — and I'm not an audio engineer. As this podcast becomes more popular, I'm aware that I really should up the production quality. If you strongly agree, become a patron; influxes of support incentivize me to invest in production quality. Big thanks to all the current patrons, for helping all this to exist.

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