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25

Why Aren’t We Winning? A Critique of Today’s Left

8
terms
5
notes

Williams, A. and Srnicek, N. (2016). Why Aren’t We Winning? A Critique of Today’s Left. In Williams, A. and Srnicek, N. Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. Verso, pp. 25-50

a social relationship that advocates the creation, development, and maintenance of social structures for the equitable distribution of management power (part of anarchist theory)

26

Responding to the twentieth-century failures of state-led political change, horizontalist movements instead advocate changing the world by changing social relations from below. They draw upon a long tradition of theory and practice in anarchism, council communism, libertarian communism and autonomism, in order to – in the words of one proponent – ‘change the world without taking power’.

they summarise it as:

  1. rejecting domination
  2. limited to direct democracy
  3. "prefigurative" politics
  4. direct action
—p.26 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago

Responding to the twentieth-century failures of state-led political change, horizontalist movements instead advocate changing the world by changing social relations from below. They draw upon a long tradition of theory and practice in anarchism, council communism, libertarian communism and autonomism, in order to – in the words of one proponent – ‘change the world without taking power’.

they summarise it as:

  1. rejecting domination
  2. limited to direct democracy
  3. "prefigurative" politics
  4. direct action
—p.26 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago

an economic system based on participatory decision making as the primary economic mechanism for allocating the factors of production and guidance of production in a society

31

The participatory economics (Parecon) project, for instance, envisions direct democracy at every level of society; but this vision for a postcapitalist world translates into endlessly ramifying staff meetings over every detail of life – hardly the inspiring stuff of utopian visions.

—p.31 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago

The participatory economics (Parecon) project, for instance, envisions direct democracy at every level of society; but this vision for a postcapitalist world translates into endlessly ramifying staff meetings over every detail of life – hardly the inspiring stuff of utopian visions.

—p.31 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago
32

[...] the problem of democracy today is not that people want a say over every single aspect of their lives. The real issue of democratic deficit is that the most significant decisions of society are out of the hands of the average person. Direct democracy responds to this problem, but attempts to solve it by making democracy an immediate and bodily experience that rejects mediation. Similar preferences for immediacy in democracy also hold back its spatial scalability. To put it simply, direct democracy requires small communities. [...]

—p.32 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek 2 years, 2 months ago

[...] the problem of democracy today is not that people want a say over every single aspect of their lives. The real issue of democratic deficit is that the most significant decisions of society are out of the hands of the average person. Direct democracy responds to this problem, but attempts to solve it by making democracy an immediate and bodily experience that rejects mediation. Similar preferences for immediacy in democracy also hold back its spatial scalability. To put it simply, direct democracy requires small communities. [...]

—p.32 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek 2 years, 2 months ago
36

[...] the problem is that direct actions generally act on surface effects, patching the wounds of capitalism but leaving the underlying problems and structures intact. [...] While direct action can have real successes, it remains localised and temporary, and in this it remains folk-political. Direct action can be effective in mitigating the worst excesses of capitalism, but it can never address the difficult problem of attacking a globally dispersed abstraction, often focusing instead on intuitive targets. The project of an expansive left – a left aiming to transform capitalism in fundamental ways – remains absent.

—p.36 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek 2 years, 2 months ago

[...] the problem is that direct actions generally act on surface effects, patching the wounds of capitalism but leaving the underlying problems and structures intact. [...] While direct action can have real successes, it remains localised and temporary, and in this it remains folk-political. Direct action can be effective in mitigating the worst excesses of capitalism, but it can never address the difficult problem of attacking a globally dispersed abstraction, often focusing instead on intuitive targets. The project of an expansive left – a left aiming to transform capitalism in fundamental ways – remains absent.

—p.36 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek 2 years, 2 months ago
38

[...] Not only were these factories a minor part of the overall economy, but they also remained necessarily embedded within capitalist social relations. [...] Tied to the imperative to create a profit, worker-controlled businesses can be just as oppressive and environmentally damaging as any large-scale business, but without the efficiencies of scale. [...]

not exactly a new idea but just thought I'd save it in case I don't find a better rendition to cite

(referring to worker-controlled factories in Argentina)

—p.38 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek 2 years, 2 months ago

[...] Not only were these factories a minor part of the overall economy, but they also remained necessarily embedded within capitalist social relations. [...] Tied to the imperative to create a profit, worker-controlled businesses can be just as oppressive and environmentally damaging as any large-scale business, but without the efficiencies of scale. [...]

not exactly a new idea but just thought I'd save it in case I don't find a better rendition to cite

(referring to worker-controlled factories in Argentina)

—p.38 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek 2 years, 2 months ago

a range of political philosophies which prioritize the local (production and consumption of goods, government, history, culture, etc)

40

The problem with localism is that, in attempting to reduce large-scale systemic problems to the more manageable sphere of the local community, it effectively denies the systemically interconnected nature of today’s world.

—p.40 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago

The problem with localism is that, in attempting to reduce large-scale systemic problems to the more manageable sphere of the local community, it effectively denies the systemically interconnected nature of today’s world.

—p.40 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago

(noun) a change or variation occurring in the course of something; successive, alternating, or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune; ups and downs

41

It is food that offers the most visceral embodiment of the benefits of the slow lifestyle, overcoming the vicissitudes of fast-paced capitalism by returning to an older culture of savouring meals and traditional production techniques.

—p.41 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago

It is food that offers the most visceral embodiment of the benefits of the slow lifestyle, overcoming the vicissitudes of fast-paced capitalism by returning to an older culture of savouring meals and traditional production techniques.

—p.41 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago

an economic think tank espousing neoliberalism (Milton Friedman, Hayek, etc); founded in 1947

43

Thus was born the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS): a closed intellectual network that provided the basic ideological infrastructure for neoliberalism to ferment. It is no exaggeration to say that almost all of the important figures in the postwar creation of neoliberalism were in attendance at its first meeting in 1947, including the Austrian economists, the UK liberals, the Chicago School, the German ordoliberals and a French contingent.

—p.43 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago

Thus was born the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS): a closed intellectual network that provided the basic ideological infrastructure for neoliberalism to ferment. It is no exaggeration to say that almost all of the important figures in the postwar creation of neoliberalism were in attendance at its first meeting in 1947, including the Austrian economists, the UK liberals, the Chicago School, the German ordoliberals and a French contingent.

—p.43 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago

(verb) to renounce upon oath / (verb) to reject solemnly / (verb) to abstain from; avoid

43

Localism, in all its forms, represents an attempt to abjure the problems and politics of scale involved in large systems such as the global economy, politics and the environment.

—p.43 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago

Localism, in all its forms, represents an attempt to abjure the problems and politics of scale involved in large systems such as the global economy, politics and the environment.

—p.43 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago
46

For centre-left political parties, nostalgia for a lost past is the best that can be hoped for. The most radical content to be found here consists of dreams of social democracy and the so-called ‘golden age’ of capitalism. Yet the very conditions which once made social democracy possible no longer exist. The capitalist ‘golden age’ was predicated on the production paradigm of the orderly factory environment, where (white, male) workers received security and a basic standard of living in return for a lifetime of stultifying boredom and social repression. Such a system depended on an international hierarchy of empires, colonies and an underdeveloped periphery; a national hierarchy of racism and sexism; and a rigid family hierarchy of female subjugation. Moreover, social democracy relied on a particular balance of forces between classes (and a willingness for compromise between them), and even this was only possible in the wake of the unprecedented destruction caused by the Great Depression and World War II, and in the face of external threats from communism and fascism. For all the nostalgia many may feel, this regime is both undesirable and impossible to recover. But the more pertinent point is that even if we could go back to social democracy, we should not. We can do better, and the social democratic adherence to jobs and growth means it will always err on the side of capitalism and at the expense of the people. Rather than modelling our future on a nostalgic past, we should aim to create a future for ourselves. The move beyond the constraints of the present will not be achieved through a return to a more humanised capitalism reconstructed from a misty-eyed recollection of the past.

this is great, and something that I actually hadn't considered before

—p.46 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek 2 years, 2 months ago

For centre-left political parties, nostalgia for a lost past is the best that can be hoped for. The most radical content to be found here consists of dreams of social democracy and the so-called ‘golden age’ of capitalism. Yet the very conditions which once made social democracy possible no longer exist. The capitalist ‘golden age’ was predicated on the production paradigm of the orderly factory environment, where (white, male) workers received security and a basic standard of living in return for a lifetime of stultifying boredom and social repression. Such a system depended on an international hierarchy of empires, colonies and an underdeveloped periphery; a national hierarchy of racism and sexism; and a rigid family hierarchy of female subjugation. Moreover, social democracy relied on a particular balance of forces between classes (and a willingness for compromise between them), and even this was only possible in the wake of the unprecedented destruction caused by the Great Depression and World War II, and in the face of external threats from communism and fascism. For all the nostalgia many may feel, this regime is both undesirable and impossible to recover. But the more pertinent point is that even if we could go back to social democracy, we should not. We can do better, and the social democratic adherence to jobs and growth means it will always err on the side of capitalism and at the expense of the people. Rather than modelling our future on a nostalgic past, we should aim to create a future for ourselves. The move beyond the constraints of the present will not be achieved through a return to a more humanised capitalism reconstructed from a misty-eyed recollection of the past.

this is great, and something that I actually hadn't considered before

—p.46 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek 2 years, 2 months ago

(verb) to give a false impression of / (verb) to present an appearance not in agreement with / (verb) to show (something) to be false or wrong / (verb) to run counter to; contradict / (verb) disguise

47

We do not resist a new world into being; we resist in the name of an old world. The contemporary emphasis on resistance therefore belies a defensive stance towards the encroachments of expansionary capitalism.

—p.47 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago

We do not resist a new world into being; we resist in the name of an old world. The contemporary emphasis on resistance therefore belies a defensive stance towards the encroachments of expansionary capitalism.

—p.47 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago
47

While nostalgia for a lost past is clearly not an adequate response, neither is today’s widespread glorification of resistance. Resistance always means resistance against another active force. In other words, it is a defensive and reactive gesture, rather than an active movement. We do not resist a new world into being; we resist in the name of an old world. The contemporary emphasis on resistance therefore belies a defensive stance towards the encroachments of expansionary capitalism. Trade unions, for instance, position themselves as resisting neoliberalism with demands to ‘save our health system’ or ‘stop austerity’; but these demands simply reveal a conservative disposition at the heart of the movement. According to these demands, the best one can hope for is small impediments in the face of a predatory capitalism. We can only struggle to keep what we already have, as limited and crisis-ridden as it may be. [...]

—p.47 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek 2 years, 2 months ago

While nostalgia for a lost past is clearly not an adequate response, neither is today’s widespread glorification of resistance. Resistance always means resistance against another active force. In other words, it is a defensive and reactive gesture, rather than an active movement. We do not resist a new world into being; we resist in the name of an old world. The contemporary emphasis on resistance therefore belies a defensive stance towards the encroachments of expansionary capitalism. Trade unions, for instance, position themselves as resisting neoliberalism with demands to ‘save our health system’ or ‘stop austerity’; but these demands simply reveal a conservative disposition at the heart of the movement. According to these demands, the best one can hope for is small impediments in the face of a predatory capitalism. We can only struggle to keep what we already have, as limited and crisis-ridden as it may be. [...]

—p.47 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek 2 years, 2 months ago

(noun) the action of the state in taking or modifying the property rights of an individual in the exercise of its sovereignty; differs from eminent domain in that it can also refer to private property taken by a private entity authorised by the government

48

Over the course of three decades, this small community (pop. 2,700) has built up a ‘communist utopia’ that has expropriated land, built its own housing and co-operatives, kept living costs low, and provided work for everyone.

on Marinaleda, Spain

—p.48 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago

Over the course of three decades, this small community (pop. 2,700) has built up a ‘communist utopia’ that has expropriated land, built its own housing and co-operatives, kept living costs low, and provided work for everyone.

on Marinaleda, Spain

—p.48 by Alex Williams, Nick Srnicek
notable
2 years, 2 months ago