Really excellent follow-up to the previous ‘Mall Goth’ post here over at Totalitarian Collectivist. I’m really grateful that the previous post was taken in good spirits — it was intended as such but I was slightly anxious it would be seen as too much of an attack on Amerifriends — so I’m thankful that the yank-splaining has been embraced and further yank-splained.
I am also happy to be corrected — and rightly so — on my not so generous reading of the post-industrial American landscape and the further detail supplied here regarding the position of retro-futurism is great. It’s not something I have any personal experience of — something which evidently showed — and, in response, TC has done well to emphasize our similarities in this regard, which is great to see.
There is nothing in TC’s post I disagree with and so this is more of a blogged excuse to implore you to read it for yourself if you enjoyed my last post. Most of the references made are wholly new to me as well so I greatly appreciate the response and the reading list I’m now working through.
However, I suppose there are a few things I’d like to say that are related to the comment below which are not so much in response to what TC has said and more just me thinking aloud about them and extending them a bit because they have made me reflect a lot more on where exactly the impetus for the last post was coming from. (For what it’s worth, it was already half written before I saw TC’s post which helped me focus in on what I was trying to say better.) I liked this bit in particular:
A Duginist part of me sees Xenogothic’s claims that Britain can resist America as a call for an inward turn. The island that gave the world capitalism rediscovers its love of the land and resists the sea. To resist the corrosion of American capitalism the valorization of British truth is needed, a cultural turn to coincide with the Corbynist call to renationalize.
This picks up on the peculiar cyclone that is British politics at the moment. I was certainly aware of the irony, in the back of my mind, whilst writing the previous post, that this was a bare-faced example of the pot calling the kettle black. The last thing I wanted to do was be all high and mighty about how gross the infectiousness of American capitalism is when the UK was Patient Zero, and I do have a genuine interest regarding America’s break with European sensibilities that I’ve written a chapter on in Egress.
Nevertheless, I think this hypocrisy will always be an issue for any post-capitalist politics that grows out of this weird little island, and one that has a tendency to come across as a largely patronizing position in terms of our broader relationship to the world. This wasn’t the drive behind my last post although, in hindsight, I see there’s a danger that it might read that way. Nevertheless, TC’s extension of their own post has helped crystallize where I think the anxious undercurrent of that post came from, and that is the current backdrop of our imminent general election and our relationships with Trump’s office in particular.
Take this excellent point:
The working class may be wary of what they are being sold, but the real export of the American elite is to their brother-elites. American ideology and its valorization of power, money, and the notion of an elite at all is shared by the British elite without question (though in the question of original capitalist sin, the blame is squarely on the Brits). The grey goo of America is not just a cultural reality but economic and even if Americans are aware of it (and many are) that awareness does little to stop it.
The cultural specificity of America is made a universal through the buying and selling of what constitutes culture in every country that America touches. We may not understand but in a tragic way we don’t need to. I traveled through Europe for the first time recently and found a continent eager to speak English and sell me what it could.
The brutalizing universalism of America’s flavor of capitalism brings up the question between the possibility of communism as emerging from the global homogeny that arises through the standardizing effects of capitalism (all those juicy quotes from the manifesto about the obsolescence of family and religion) or from the specificity of culture and tradition.
I suppose this is what I was pointing to in the last point regarding the reterritorialisation of poshness on both a cultural and political level and this should have been emphasised more. It is precisely this exchange — the persistent reterritorialisation of Reaganomics on the one hand and the persistent reterritorialisation of British poshness on the other — that many rightly lament. The love-in between Donald Glover and Phoebe Waller-Bridge is, unfortunately, just another example of this weird connection happening across what would otherwise be a cultural gulf. And I think this is a symptom of the same universalisation that TC is writing about.
Beyond the Phoebe Waller-Bridges of this world, it is the suggestion that the NHS may be up for sale — even indirectly, through the hiking of pharmaceutical costs — that is the central charge being laid against Boris Johnson by Jeremy Corbyn throughout this year’s winter general election campaign. It is also a charge that speaks to his apparent complicity with Trump, foreshadowing a renewal of the “Special Relationship” to the levels of sycophancy that the Bush / Blair years have since been defined by in public memory — that is, a relationship in which our prime minister is little more than a neoliberal lapdog, moronically licking the toes of the world’s biggest idiot in exchange for biscuits. It is this — more than our Brexit debacle — that signifies Britain’s current attitude of protectionism, I think. Many of us don’t want the NHS opened up to a free(r) market. Many of us don’t want our politics opened up to the new brand of Trumpian electioneering. (Although it’s arguably far too late for the latter.)
This is to say that Brexit is only framed as an inward turn because those are the fears that the Tories and Brexiteers have excessively exploited among some voters. The reality is that a Boris Brexit is an emphatic return to a Thatcherist love of the free market. And “free” is, of course, the operative and implicitly Americanized word. “Free” here means “deregulated”, “reckless”, “selfish”. In this sense, as far as many Conservatives see it, the EU is not a free market at all. It’s defined by the many restrictions and rules of neoliberal bureaucracy and what they really want to do is loosen things up a bit so they can access a wider market with less restrictions and basically hitch a ride on the flows of a far more virulent American imperial-capitalism. The moral panics that have come with this are the creeping privatization of the NHS and an influx of chlorinated chicken. (An odd pairing, admittedly, but that’s what they’ve gone with.)
It is in this push-pull that the cyclonic nature of our politics finds itself encapsulated at present. The scars of former industries are not just a dystopian wasteland of past failures but also a haunting reminder of what can happen to communities and institutions when belligerent capitalists don’t get their way. They gut them. Up to now, the NHS has been a concrete ceiling — or what Land might call a ‘decelerator’ — for the capitalist class that cannot be overcome but, nevertheless, cuts have been made and contracts given over to private companies and the slow creep of a dormant Thatcherism into that crowning socialist achievement genuinely puts the fear in the people who know that any sickness could later exacerbate their enslavement to the landlord class through the imposition of an avalanche of debt.
The centrality of American capitalism, specifically, within this fear at the moment makes me think that TC is absolutely right that “the real export of the American elite is to their brother-elites.”
However, TC’s post also reminded me of that gross self-aggrandisement that the Tories were trotting out when their election campaign first started. They kept talking about how the Conservatives are the oldest political party not just in the country but in the world and that is why they can be trusted with all these things. It was this weird flip of landed gentry entitlement into “we’ve got the most experience running things” (which basically sums up the Tory conception of meritocracy).
But the Tories also want to get in with the new money. They want to get in with Trump as the new kid on the block who might be a wild card but still represents their interests. And despite the illusion of the royal family’s apparent snubs to Trump recently, the Boris/Trump (or Farage/Trump) alliance carries a foul taste that is all too reminiscent of the Epstein/Prince Andrew “special relationship”. Far more is shared between brother-elites than we could probably even imagine.
Again, TC has already said it all, but it bears repeating ad nauseum. Especially today.
If you’re in the UK, get outside and vote Labour.