“On account of its federal status [as a Schedule I drug], most big law firms don’t want to touch weed,” [attorney Amanda] Connor explains. “Ethically, lawyers aren’t supposed to give advice about illegal activities. Major firms are afraid to lose clients.” Her boutique firm may be the only one in the country that takes marijuana providers through the entire byzantine process, from licensing to opening a shop.
Another renegade is Boulder, Colorado-based marijuana tax law attorney Rachel Gillette. She recently sued the IRS—and won—on behalf of a client who was denied an abatement of a 10 percent penalty for paying his taxes in cash. But cash was the only option: Because of federal law, marijuana enterprises deal only in cash, as banks shun them. “It’s a difficult situation for many marijuana businesses, with regard to banking,” says Gillette. “Most banks do not take marijuana business accounts, even in states where…
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The Case for “Neoliberal Ideology”
Central Research Question: What is “neoliberal ideology”?
Key Words: Neoliberalism, ideology, markets, democracy, subject, postmodernity
This is a proposed investigation into the dominant form of contemporary ideology, which I refer to as “neoliberalism”, and how it has come to occupy a paradoxical role of hegemony that does not acknowledge itself. I hypothesise that, contrary to mainstream critiques, neoliberalism represents a new ideological compass, more attuned to the postmodern turn across the Anglo-American imaginary and, partially as a result of this [re]configuration, one that has been denied a thorough mapping not delimited by positivist economism, nor absolute emphasis on cultural exchange.
The imprecision and so unworkability of “neoliberalism” as a term has become a truism shared across the political spectrum (Jessop, 2013). The degrading of neoliberalism’s discursive efficacy – dismissed by some mainstream commentators as a pejorative lacking in academic rigor – has resulted in, rather than a unifying, critical device of radicalism/opposition, a shared confusion over the term’s contours. For example, is neoliberalism simply an extension of class conflict, or does it denote a new kind of subjectivation entirely? Further still, are these mutually exclusive interpretations?
This pointed ambivalence with which “neoliberalism” is treated is mirrored in mainstream understandings of the role of ideology, which has also had its plausibility called into question (Žižek, 2012). An influential, Fukuyaman “vision of a New Man who has left behind all the old ideological baggage” (ibid. p38) claims that, religious and ethnic difference aside, there has been a “collapse” of speculative “ideas and consciousness” (ibid.) marking the end of ideologies. This denial of alternatives has not hindered a proliferation of the term itself, which has been used in increasingly disparate contexts. For instance, the austerity policies imposed by so many post- financial crisis governments have regularly been deemed “ideological” in their gestation and application, underlining a widespread misunderstanding of the neoliberal propensity to operate against typical neoclassical economics principles.
This uncertainty of neoliberalism and ideology invites further exploration. I hypothesise that, contrary to the above, neoliberalism is comprehensible as an ideological [re-]configuration of competing and unstable impulses. Further, neoliberalism denotes a new ideology, one deeply inflected by the “cultural turn” of the 1980s and the epistemic freedoms afforded by postmodernity. In acknowledging what is new about neoliberalism, presumed social understandings and practices (e.g. engagement in democratic procedures) can be re-examined, allowing us to find in contemporary phenomena alternative diagnoses not only of what neoliberalism “looks like” but also how it is reproduced. How I plan to approach this investigation is detailed below.
- Neoliberalism and Postmodernity
Neoliberalism is the quintessential ideology of capitalist postmodernity. Arguing this position will be the focus of the first chapter of this project. There is an immediate historical link between the schools of neoliberalism and postmodernity; both share a lineage of thought that predates their simultaneous crossover into political office (in the case of the former) and the academy (the latter). Furthermore, the opportunistic and hybridised tendencies of neoliberalism share with postmodern perspectives a celebration, and crucially utilisation, of the heterogeneity that its own perspective unearths.
After the supposed death of grand narratives, the “unleashed multitude” of postmodernity has often been interpreted in only two, broad ways. Firstly, the chaotic potential of exploded hierarchies, exposed relations of power and control in previously seemingly stable constructs (e.g. the family unit) evokes a powerlessness and fear of complete disorder, or paralogical thinking which, in its very [potential] radicalism, has had the effect of dismissal and depoliticisation. A cursory glance at the heartlands of neoliberalism suffices in proving however that there would appear to be no immediate absence of control, or breakdown in systems of power/control. How then is neoliberalism shaped by postmodernity? The alternative interpretation considers enforced homogeneity to be the only possible, non-chaotic outcome. In a twist on the Fukuyaman vision of an eternal, global liberal-capitalist order, this approach is epitomised in the re-framing of postmodernism as itself a grand narrative, and so not so much a breakaway from the ideals of the Enlightenment and the modernist era as its continuation (Gane & Gane, 2007: 128-131).
My proposal rejects both interpretations of political postmodernity, and instead seeks to incorporate the postmodern complication of the locations and interactions of power with a circuitous understanding of neoliberalism. I suggest instead that neoliberal praxis operates from a postmodern perspective; with no grand narrative to emulate or serve as a guide, the space for neoliberalism’s reproduction is precisely in the uncertainties and “chaos” of its epistemology. This is not to say that power has been democratised or even radically overhauled in this period, but its transformation under the ideological dominance of neoliberalism is reason enough to rebuff the suggestion that neoliberalism – and indeed the “postmodern turn” – is simply the continuation of previous relations.
- Neoliberalism and markets
The relationship between neoliberalism and postmodernity, in which the latter serves as a lens or perspective incorporated within neoliberal modes of reproduction, provides the toolkit from which I will draw new analyses of how institutions of [neoliberal] power combine in a new ideological formulation to transform environments. The second chapter will concentrate on the neoliberal market. The unison of state and big business, in their operation, staffing and regulation, has been co-ordinated especially aggressively over the last thirty years. Government initiatives (e.g. the Reagan antitrust initiative) which expressly facilitate and/or maintain industry monopolisation demonstrate not only a new normativity in governance, they also hint towards a profoundly new conceptualisation of how the individual relates to market exchange: Why shouldn’t government run on the principles of efficiency and value for money? It’s what you would do yourself.
It is this latter inference that is at the crux of [postmodern] neoliberal ideology and its ramifications on social understandings of the market. As Foucault (1979/2010) noted and, arguably, reinforced, the conceptual market – the realm of exchange – has become a primary “site of truth” in the neoliberal world. In conjunction with the emphasis on deterritorialised capitals (e.g. cultural/financial) we have observed “an accountable and financial subjectivation… generating a relationship of the individual subject to him- or herself that is homologous to the relationship of capital to itself… human capital to be indefinitely increased” (Dardot & Laval, 2013: 15). In other words, market exchange has by some accounts become the essential measurement of life itself. If we accept that “The market is in human nature… [that it is the] proposition that cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. It is the most crucial terrain of ideological struggle” (Jameson, 1994: 281) then it stands that any exploration of contemporary ideology must look closely at how “the self” has been marketised. In doing so, we come closer to an understanding of neoliberalism as a transversal, “new spirit of capitalism” (Boltanski & Chiapello, 2007) and more than purely an economic or cultural transformation.
- Neoliberalism and democracy
The credibility of liberal democracy as a cornerstone of Fukuyama’s “eternal present”, as well as an ultimate justification for state policy, has been critiqued anew since the global financial crisis. The declining voter turnout and consistent drop in party membership predate 2007 by decades, but an enclosed “politics of the possible” after 2007 demonstrated state acquiescence to the demands of the financial markets, rejuvenating claims that the West operates as “post-democracy” (Crouch, 2011). The subtleties of this thesis speak directly to an understanding of neoliberal ideology as a postmodernist phenomenon, for instance in the continued salience of the democratic event as a humanising and legitimising symbol.
This I suggest is an important introduction in how neoliberal ideology manifests as both a material and discursive device, and employs its own contradictions as a source of reproduction. When the usually astute Jodi Dean (2011) writes that “Claims for post-politics are childishly petulant… Leftists assume that our lack of good political ideas means the end of politics as such… If the game isn’t played on our terms, we aren’t going to play at all” she misses the great reveal of the post-democracy thesis. Political conflict patently endures, and calls for voter abstention, despite the many well-known stymies of liberal democracy, have been met lukewarmly by Right and Left alike. My alternative diagnosis will address the successes that neoliberalism has had in shutting out challenges to its own directives, and the relocation of power away from the ballot box.
This fracture of power is another indication of neoliberalism’s imbrication in postmodernity. The paradoxical and unstable relocation of that power, in the marketization-subjectivation and accountability of the self, but also in increasingly “offshore” directives, aligns with what Jameson (1991) calls postmodern schizophrenia, and the delinking of “unrelated presents in time” (27). This will take my analysis past democratic procedures per se, and towards the co-optation of progressive movements in the neoliberal age. As cultural theorists of the 1980s who centered the question “Who am I? Where am I from?” (Hall et al, 1997) as a rebuttal to the economism of the New Right would attest, the extraordinary achievement of neoliberalism is to provide within its own perpetual, directional transformation a plethora of answers.
With this project I hope to add to an emerging debate, which questions both the significance of ideology, particularly in the post- Cold War West, and the comprehensibility of neoliberalism as a specific ideological form (see Davies, 2014; Dardot & Laval, 2013). As Mirowski (2013) points out, the neoliberal “thought collective” has from its beginning been a deliberately multi-scalar pursuit of transforming knowledges. Crucially then, I shall endeavour to compose a thesis that acknowledges the insight of multiple disciplines; radical geography (Springer, 2012), critical theory (Baudrillard, 1983), cultural theory (Hall et al, 1997) and so on. The task is not to homogenise these perspectives, but to take from them the problematisations which best highlight my central thesis: neoliberalism as postmodern ideology.
An undertaking such as this is to some degree speculative. However it would be misleading to conclude that this approach is not already being pursued by critical writers in the field. Re-visioning neoliberalism as an ideology which “captures” its own antagonisms, and then uses their inculcation as a springboard for reproduction, has been engaged in with real success by feminist writers exploring the fate of second- (and third-) wave feminist praxis (Fraser, 2013). In fully acknowledging this dynamic of reproduction, I intend to avoid cherry picking the social empowerment/capitalisation that neoliberalism has afforded and setting them aside as a brief marriage between it and postmodernity. Instead, I posit that neoliberalism ought to be understood as a form of ideology that functions primarily as a hybridised process alongside the transformative potential of postmodernity.
The question of methodology in a paper such as this, which sets out explicitly as an investigation drawing on multiple bodies of knowledge, and addressing what I suggest is a postmodern ideology, is potentially awkward. Indeed ensuring a consistent methodological approach is the primary obstacle I foresee in completing my thesis. There are several facets to my proposal which I hope will guard against this tension becoming detrimental. Firstly, there is a flexibility afforded by a paper engaging creatively with existing theory. A hermeneutic approach between disciplines, held together by the initial argument “neoliberalism as postmodern ideology”, is consistent with Springer’s (2012) contention that a thorough mapping of neoliberalism must be flexible enough in its methodology to reflect not simply a “bottom-up” or “top-down” dichotomy, but its immanent hybridisation.
Secondly, my proposal’s inclination towards anti-positivism corresponds with an area I intend to spend time on in the second chapter: methodologies of neoliberalism. The embedding of market rationalities within the self – and the subject – is epitomised in the misapplication of evolutionary science with sociology more generally, such as the common misunderstandings of “social Darwinism” which apply the “survival of the fittest” mantra to ideational progress. This observation informs my own methodology, initially as a warning not to expect any empirical “answers” or “explanations” for neoliberalism; Mirowski (2013) has written at length about “agnotology” and the production of misinformation in neoliberal times. More than this, if my assertion of “neoliberalism as postmodern ideology” is serious, it ought not be surprising that fluidity – or inconsistency – will have to serve, not as obstacles but as catalysts, for this new understanding of contemporary ideology.
Baudrillard, J. (1983/1988) Simulacra and Simulations in Selected Writings (ed. Mark Poster) (2nd ed) (Stanford: Stanford University Press)
Boltanski, L. & Chiapello, E. (2005) The New Spirit of Capitalism (London: Verso)
Crouch, C. (2011) The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism (Cambridge: Polity Press)
Dardot, P. & Laval, C. (2012) The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society (London: Verso)
Davies, W. (2014) The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition (London: Sage Publications)
Dean, J. (2011) Post-politics? No, thanks! [available online at: http://future-nonstop.org/c/b122b85eff80835dfd654453d325ba0b]
Foucault, M. (1979/2010) The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-1979 (tr. Burchell, G.) (London: Palgrave Macmillan)
Fraser, N. (2013) Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis (London: Verso)
Gane, M. & Gane, N. (2007) The postmodern: after the (non-) event in Goulimari, P. (eds) Postmodernism: What moment? (Manchester: Manchester University Press)
Jameson, F. (1991) Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press)
Jessop, B. (2013) Putting neoliberalism in its time and place: a response to the debate Social Anthropology/ Anthropologie Sociale 21.1: 65-74
Hall, S. (eds) (1997) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (London: Sage Publications)
Mirowski, P. (2013) Never Let A Serious Crisis Go To Waste: How neoliberalism survived the financial meltdown (London: Verso)
Springer, S. (2012) Neoliberalism as discourse: between Foucauldian political economy and Marxist poststructuralism Critical Discourse Studies 9.2: 133-147
Žižek, S. (2012) Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (London: Verso Books)
|“Popular culture is one of the sites where this struggle for and against a culture of the powerful is engaged: it is the stake to be won or lost in that struggle. It is the arena of consent and resistance. It is partly where hegemony arises, and where it is secured. It is not a sphere where socialism, a socialist culture — already fully formed — might be simply “expressed”. But it is one of the places where socialism might be constituted. That is why “popular culture” matters. Otherwise, to tell you the truth, I don’t give a damn about it”|
(Stuart Hall, “Notes on Deconstructing ‘the Popular,’” pp. 227-39 from People’s History and Socialist Theory, edited by R. Samuel. London: Routledge 1981)
It’s (still) 2015. Celebrities sub-tweet, celebrities unfollow other celebrities, celebrities use emojis with ironic detachment, and celebrities raise the spectre of the “other” online. I imagine that the Nicki Minaj – Taylor Swift feud, played out over Twitter last month, functions as anathema to scores of “serious” academics across the world. Who cares, right? Outside of the obvious answer to that (clue: lots of people care) the more interesting question in this case is why people care, and more pertinently still, why should those of us who claim professional or ethical loyalty to the academe, or some other co-ordinate of “proper” knowledge, consider this is a worthwhile subject for analysis? Hall lays it out in inimitable style above, but I would like to focus on the specific guise of the backlash that followed this “twitter beef” becoming “big news”. The urge to denounce this feud’s right to attention, I think, reveals more clearly the dynamics which bore the feud itself. Below I attempt to answer the question of why this is a sociologically important event via an interrogation of three observable techniques, employed as shutdown devices intended to de-legitimize any such “serious” debate: (1) the “race card” angle, (2) the “anti-feminist” angle, and (3) the concluding, overarching “SJW bullshit” angle. The shared characteristics of these ostensibly disparate strategies argues for the renewed importance of intersectional praxis in combating all manner of oppressions, and the fallibility of disregarding popular “moments” such as Minaj-Swift as “meaningless”.
For those unfamiliar with the details of this case study, I will gladly provide a brief overview. After the MTV VMA (video music awards) nominations were released, global star (and criminally underrated rapper) Minaj posted a number of tweets focused on the struggles experienced by women of colour – even women of colour who sell millions of records and maintain massive visibility across cultural platforms – with regards to industry platitude. Quoted below:
“If I was a different “kind” of artist, Anaconda would be nominated for best choreo and vid of the year”
“When the “other” girl drops a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination”
“If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year”
Not the most provocative set of statements, but enough to prompt much online back-and-forth as to latent racism embedded in the music industry – back-and-forths that Minaj was happy to correspond with. As it happened, fellow nominee Swift also felt comfortable corresponding with the premise, albeit offering an analysis more explicitly personal than structural:
“@NICKIMINAJ I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot..”
Finally, after Minaj replied that Swift had not been the target of her ire, the latter offered what she no doubt considered a reconciliatory, open hand of sisterly solidarity:
“@NICKIMINAJ If I win, please come up with me!! You’re invited to any stage I’m ever on.”
Naturally, this was considered by some to be an open hand of condescending, pig-ignorance; the kind of sincerity offered by an empowered actor who does not know how to respond to bell hooks’ adage that “it is what we do with our privilege that matters”, other than to take “share your platform” in the most literal way. Cue a spiral of twitter antagonism, profitable certainly for the medium (all that freely uploaded content!) and quite possibly both main parties. The furore quickly enveloped the mainstream media’s portrayal of Minaj and Swift too, worthy of the echo-chamber reputation of social media.
Angle #1 The “Race Card”
For its part, the response from “white media” has been inevitably prickly and sensitive about being called out by Minaj; as if being challenged on racial bias is worse than that bias existing in the first place.
Nosheen Iqbal in The Guardian, 22nd July 2015
I love reading the comments sections on articles, any articles, but particularly of the sort quoted above. As is so often the case with online material, they showcase an anonymous anger completely at odds with whatever – and it’s a rare piece of writing that manages to avoid this trap, to be fair – position the author, the original poster (OP), set out. Anecdotal by nature, they still provide an insight into voices without a body, which is to say the invisible architecture that ideology leans on. In Iqbal’s article, the first three comments illustrate this point rather explicitly:
“Red meat for identity-politics journos. No fan of Swift but she was right to shut this race-bating bs down.”
“Another article on this non-event. Good work Guardian.”
“Pretty sure it’s about Nicki Minaj making everything about herself and people making every little thing a racial issue.”
And here’s the rub; these comments are ten a penny in the anonymous terrain of the internet, but will still be passed over as facile – which is to say illegitimate – evidence of the micro-aggressions that greet so many people who “call out” racism. I’ve written before about the irony inherent in a process whereby those who make an observation of discrimination are just as likely to be as, if not more, damaged by the resulting fracas. The burden of proof, applied strictly to the perceived receiver of aggression, thus has its bar further raised.
In this case, the idea that Minaj had somehow invented the possibility of her being the subject to a racist music business seems, to me at least, laughable. But look carefully at some of those comments. “Red meat” “race-baiting” – Minaj is promoting, reproducing, not letting go of racialised prejudice. It’s a persistent motif. Ultimately, the accusation then being levelled at Minaj, or anyone who differentiates themselves from a “colour-blind, post-patriarchal, classless” [hegemonic] body is that of exclusion. Ergo, Minaj is the real perpetrator of racism, for having the temerity to separate herself from “other girls”. Sara Ahmed puts it beautifully thus: “The judgment of exclusion is a mechanism for concealing how exclusions already operate.”
This reversal – the accuser becoming accused – is a common occurrence in popular culture. Azealia Banks (you’ll know “212”, and I wholeheartedly recommend checking out her album “Broke With Expensive Taste”) has been one of the more vocal, and so concurrently, paradoxically, one of the most guilty, advocates for highlighting the double-standards cast upon women of colour in the music business. Her critique of pop star Iggy Azeala, and the wider phenomenon of appropriation of black culture (which did not begin nor end with the Rolling Stones) was, to pervert the aforementioned phrase, “red meat” to those decrying use of the “race card”. Banks was guilty of “not letting go”. She was bitter, hysterical, and a bitch – unsisterly, which leads very nicely to angle number two.
Angle #2: “That’s not feminist!”
Funnily enough, Minaj has spoken lucidly before about the insane expectations levelled at all women in the music business, contradictory identities that have to be maintained. “When you’re a girl… you have to be, like, everything” – surely something anyone who falls outside of hegemonic standards has empathy with, the exhaustion of having to permanently “fit in”. The problem seems to arise when those experiences are seen to override one another. Hence, presumably, Swift’s rebuttal that Minaj should not resort to “pit[ing] women against each other”. Minaj was not acting in solidarity. But what type of solidarity was Swift expecting? The only conclusion to be drawn is that this imagined solidarity occludes calling out the specific barriers that black women of a similar money-generating capacity as Swift endure as a standard. Symptomatic of tensions in the wider pro-feminist community, no amount of straw-man framings of an “oppression Olympics” can assuage the varied conjoined history of feminist and anti-racist movements. In such a context, and embedded in such a history, Minaj’s intervention, whether or not it was “pitting women” against one another, is strictly feminist.
For most of my adult life I have held in mind a reasonably homogenous conception of feminism. This is to say, I hadn’t yet been exposed to the theory – and fact-checking – offered by the likes of Crenshaw, hooks, Lorde, Collins et al. A consequence of having not been exposed was not seeing. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism… these were distinct entities, axes of oppression which were unified simply by being oppressive. The art of Minaj, for instance, was perpetuating the objectification of women in the male gaze, nothing more. The racism she might have suffered was, again, something completely different. Of course, anyone with a passing understanding of feminist history (and mine is certainly still no more than “passing”) will be well aware that it is a history of fracture, across all these indices. That awareness can lead to seeing new things, or seeing things anew: Minaj’s “Anaconda” lyrics (“Fuck those skinny bitches in the club”) not to mention the video, or Banks’ frustration with how “bigger” women have been thrown into the fashion industry spotlight by white celebrities, suddenly don’t seem so “anti-feminist” either. They seem a sincere engagement with a history of misogynoir.
What Swift’s comment reveals too is how unremarkable, and unremarkably reproduced, this blindness remains. That such an empowered, smart woman – she who single-handedly defeated Apple – can casually imply that Minaj is renegading on the sisterhood by asking questions based on her experience as a woman of colour demonstrates just how easily enacted this colour-blind feminism is. So it proves. “That isn’t feminist” has been an accusation thrown against, just recently, feminism that centers the experiences of transgendered people, sex workers and women of colour. We can argue over whether Amnesty’s shifting approach to sex work decriminalisation is the best strategic approach to ensuring the wellbeing of sex workers; but anti-feminist? The hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen was similarly accused of being inflammatory and divisive. In these cases the “anti-feminist” angle strikes me as an accusation grounded in hostility and delegitimation reminiscent of the “race card” angle: not only are you wrong, you are guilty of the same crime you accuse us of.
Conclusion: “SJW Bullshit”
The “Angry Black Woman” archetype that the national media uses to harm Nicki Minaj is also used to justify Sandra Bland’s death. Discussing Nicki isn’t frivolous. People say discuss State violence, not pop culture. As if they are not connected via misogynoir. #SayHerName exists because once State violence is discussed, people center Black men. Thus, I already know the “discuss Sandra not Nicki” rebuttal is about erasure of both, actually. “Ignore famous Black woman!” “Focus on Black men for State violence!” – Gradient Lair(“There Is No Nicki Minaj vs. Sandra Bland. Black People Can Discuss Both”)
That twitter interactions increasingly provide the ground from which think-pieces spawn should be reason enough to reject any approach to legitimate knowledge which dismisses out of hand celebrity, or social media, or bad spelling. That in this case many have successfully connected the dots between the Minaj-Swift event and wider issues around contemporary feminism and anti-racism, as well as their internal schisms, proves further that in Hall’s words, quoted at the top of this piece, “popular culture matters”. The dots connected might at times be spurious, but the same accusation could be levelled at a good deal of the Financial Times’ output too. As articulated in the Gradient Lair quote, there is no frivolity in exploring the links between physical violence and poverty, and the meaning we ascribe to popular culture/events. Rather, it is an often alarming journey into the symbiosis between the two.
In the final instance, many such pieces are fobbed off as being much ado about nothing, storms in a tea-cup: Social Justice Warrior industrial product, all too eager for affirmation. This kind of “SJW bullshit” angle is ubiquitous online, but follows the trope image of a workplace table full of suited white men, all turned aside to look at the solitary woman / person of colour. “Well, you’re the only one who thinks we’re a sexist/racist organisation”, or something to that effect, is the common caption. Only now, and most interestingly, we are increasingly led to believe that the table is full of people claiming that the organisation is in some way discriminatory. A more honest cartoon, according to many, would feature one solitary person with their hand up, whispering “I don’t think this organisation is especially sexist/racist” while his colleagues holler all sorts of outlandish claims to victimhood.
I can’t imagine how exhausting, and dispiriting, such a dynamic – of a similar ilk to the “political correctness gone mad” narrative – might be perceived by those experiencing the commonly invisible (to those who can’t see) barriers and exclusions that come with occupying an inherently disempowered position in society. It is a bitter realisation that the accusations thrown at ethnographic investigations of popular culture (the medium is every-day, it’s crass, it’s common) mirror, to some extent, the manner in which micro-aggressions inform the daily life of marginalised peoples, equally mundane and ritualistic. This is what those who decry “identarian/identity politics” rarely seem to grasp. Prejudice and discrimination manifest in structural arrangements, and in elite-level representation. They also communicate in popular mediums, they are lived and every-day. They are endless and they intersect and are, well, messy. But it is so important to avoid the pitfall of dismissing the “drama”; as the Gradient Lair article quoted above puts it, when a figure demands we discuss one manifestation of discrimination and not the other, what is at stake is often the erasure of both.
Great portrayal of a significant moment in British leftism
In the last days, the Labour mainstream has not so much fallen as fully leapt into a fit of apoplexy. The cause an opinion poll – by no means solid, by no means a guarantee of future stock value – placing Jeremy Corbyn as the likely winner of the party’s leadership contest. Labour MPs, some now publicly flagellating themselves, nominated Corbyn for a ‘balanced debate’, but apparently couldn’t countenance that it might actually lead anyone to, you know, debate. Corbyn’s moment of popularity is thus sketched as, among other things, “the emotional spasm…an apocalyptic tendency”. John McTernan – a prime mover in the utter implosion of Labour in Scotland – was invited to hold forth on national TV as an oracle nevertheless, where he showed off his great talent in persuasion by calling Labour supporters “morons”. John Rentoul, that other great passé hack, thought recognising the left-wing appeal of the SNP as a factor in Labour’s…
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“Gendered transgression is made palatable through an aspirational model of mainstream, cissexist beauty standards. There is no mention of anything that could be deemed political: questions of legal status, legal protections, access to healthcare, rates of violence, discrimination, mental illness. Even gender neutral pronouns and titles are ignored.”
This week alone, three cis writers of my acquaintance have written, been commissioned to write or have appeared on the radio to talk about how gender fluidity is so in right now. The conversations inevitably centre on Ruby Rose – with a touch of Miley Cyrus for diversity. Here in the UK, we had a two page spread in the main evening paper – I’ve lost count of the online pieces from more mainstream lGbt media orgs treating gender beyond the binary as the next bang-on trend. I’ve personally had more newspaper requests for tell-all photo features on this ‘new’ story in the past few months than in the past few years.
As a trans activist, as an artist, I’ve been pushing for greater media awareness, presence, for over a decade. This should feel like a victory – albeit one of many necessary changes to be made. So why am…
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Yanis’ version of events, which are pretty damning IMO
The Eurogroup Meeting of 27th June 2015 will not go down as a proud moment in Europe’s history. Ministers turned down the Greek government’s request that the Greek people should be granted a single week during which to deliver a Yes or No answer to the institutions’ proposals – proposals crucial for Greece’s future in the Eurozone. The very idea that a government would consult its people on a problematic proposal put to it by the institutions was treated with incomprehension and often with disdain bordering on contempt. I was even asked: “How do you expect common people to understand such complex issues?”. Indeed, democracy did not have a good day in yesterday’s Eurogroup meeting! But nor did European institutions. After our request was rejected, the Eurogroup President broke with the convention of unanimity (issuing a statement without my consent) and even took the dubious decision to convene a follow up meeting without the Greek minister, ostensibly to…
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I wrote something hopefully a little more lucid regarding the similarities between “professional outrage” and “political correctness” as shutdown devices, and its meaning from the perspective of a “feminist killjoy”, over at the very cool Feminist Academic Collective site.
I can’t stop thinking about “professional outrage” as a framing device deployed to delegitimize opposition to hegemonic structures. Particularly interesting has been the migration of “professional outrage” from a pejorative used more commonly, at least in my lifetime, by those of a socially conservative persuasion, towards one that has found a fecund existence in leftist discourse. Tracing this transformation almost inevitably involves highlighting the experiences of various feminist projects. Why is this link to feminism so unsurprising? It might have something to do with the fact that, while feminist perspectives have undergone well-documented struggles in finding a political voice on the right-wing, they have all too often been treated as peripheral on the left-wing too.
“Political correctness” – inherently “gone mad” – is a term more comfortably associated with the likes of The Daily Mail and UKIP. Easy targets for our [feminist] ire, propagating myths of how oppressed…
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