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Responding to ‘Cynical Theories’ – A Critique of Postmodern Theory

Cynical Theories” – by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay – is a thorough critique of postmodernism as exemplified by Foucault, Derrida and Lyotard from the 1960s onward; as well as the Applied and ‘Reified’ (in the authors’ words) postmodernist intellectual movements which have followed. This is a response that book.

The period of ‘high postmodernity’ saw thinkers like Foucault, Derrida and Lyotard adopt an approach of irony and ‘playfulness’ in response to capitalist domination, the decline of communism as a perceived alternative, and the hopelessness which followed. The ‘applied’ phase sought to apply postmodernism to concrete issues, and in this sense saw a re-emergence of some kind of hope on the Left after the decline of communism. Meanwhile what the authors call the ‘reified phase’ saw postmodern Theory increasingly seen as representing ‘The Truth’ about society, which cannot be questioned. The original postmodernists were sometimes criticised for taking deconstruction too far, or because they could “afford” to be ‘playful” and “ironic” (being white, middle class and male) (p 48). The objective reality of certain oppressed groups was to be accepted; and not subjected to deconstruction. ‘Reconstruction’ was seen as being as important as deconstruction. (not entirely a bad thing!) What has come to be described as “Standpoint Theory’ has seen an abandonment of ‘scientific truth’ and its replacement with group experience. What some people call ‘Identity Politics’. ‘Standpoint theory’ has it that people are defined by their social location in a landscape of privilege and oppression.

Indeed science, empirical knowledge and notions of ‘progress’ are sometimes seen as part of the “Western Enlightenment’ tradition; and that is dismissed as an Ideology of Western domination. As well as being oppressive of ‘other ways of knowing’ (for example, mystical spiritual traditions, paganism, witchcraft). In reality these traditions should also be open to criticism; but the Enlightenment saw a general scepticism about ‘the spiritual’; and an unwillingness to engage (though arguably if the Enlightenment should be subjected to criticism, so too should ‘other ways of knowing’). Science especially is seen as holding great “prestige”; and that can be a cover for domination (as in the past, where racist colonialist discourses were legitimised (falsely) in its name). Certain racial, sexual, gender and other groups are seen as oppressed by dominant discourses; and therefore, are represented as ‘authentic’. After Foucault; ‘Power’ is seen as operating in all discourses and social relationships; sometimes rendered invisible or obscured by dominant ideologies. Many also accept Derrida’s critique of ‘binaries’ such as sex (male/female) which are maintained through language; and believe those binaries need to be ‘blurred’, ‘disrupted’ or ‘turned on their heads’. Hence there has arisen notions of ‘Intersex’ and ‘Queer’ sexuality which are not ‘heteronormative’.

The authors object to the way in which this ‘postmodern Ideology’ is enforced. While they identify ‘applied postmodernism’ and ‘reified postmodernism’ as being intolerant of debate; ostensibly to prevent hostile discourse causing trauma to marginalised groups; instead, they promote liberal notions of free speech. Here, ideas must be subjected to criticism if they are to develop and evolve. Marxists would argue that the “dialectic” must be enabled to do its work through open class struggle. And they see dialectical logic at work in other social relationships as well.

Suppression of debate is counterproductive. This reminds the reader of the stance taken by communist, Rosa Luxemburg in supporting free speech in Revolutionary Russia; just as the Bolsheviks were consolidating their control. For the authors the ‘authoritarianism’ of postmodernism runs parallel to that of Communism. That many communists (Martov, Kautsky, Luxemburg) opposed the suppression of the working class ‘supposedly for its own good’ is not acknowledged; and it can be assumed that the authors simply haven’t engaged with Marxism in such a way as to be aware of this diversity. The authors also assume capitalism is ‘self-correcting’; going ‘hand in hand with Liberalism. But capitalism makes the same old mistakes – overproduction, monopolism, planned obsolescence, gross inequality.

There is a self-correcting element in liberalism – interpreted as liberty – but liberty can be applied to socialism as well as capitalism.

In the name of liberalism, the authors also defend universalism, science and secular humanism. They believe “truth” can be arrived at via scientific/empirical method, and that science points towards our common humanity. Hence; although a ‘scientific Ideology’ had been distorted in the past to justify colonialist racism; eventually the rigorous and authentic Scientific Method itself helped break down the very Ideologies of racism which previously tried to use science as a ‘cover’. Here they actually share cause with orthodox Marxism. For many postmodernists, however, oppressed groups have their own “ways of knowing” which only they have access to; and which need to be empowered for their liberation. Here the oppressed must speak for themselves; hence diversity quotas and the like.

In response it could be argued that highly developed empathy enables some people to identify with and begin to understand the positions of oppressed groups and individuals. There is the Weberian notion of social-scientific ‘Understanding’. (Verstehen). Also, some arguments deserve to be heard because of the quality of their arguments, and the broader social urgency; as opposed simply to the Identity of the speaker. Finally; ‘white’, ‘male’ and ‘straight’ people have the potential to develop discourses of self-understanding which do not simply reinforce or render invisible previous binaries of domination. For the authors such perspectives should be rigorously criticised; but not silenced. For instance: Whereas it might be useful for a white male to subject himself to criticism using Feminist methods; he should be able to arrive at critical self-understandings of his own as well. He should not be banned from speaking for himself because in some contexts he is seen as enjoying privilege. But he must listen to Others also. At the end of the day, however, ‘inclusion’ brings us into relation and dialogue with one another, and that itself can lead to ‘progress’.

“Applied” and “Reified” postmodernism attempt to read racism, sexism and prejudice into all manner of discourses. Often this simply involves rigorous analysis revealing past prejudices; which can lead to recognition, and ultimately healing. A ‘critical’ perspective can simply involve SENSITIIVTY to the perspectives of Others. But on the other hand it can be taken to extremes; where any ‘slip’ can lead to ostracism, or even the destruction of careers. As the authors write:

“At best, this has a chilling effect on the culture of free expression…as good people self-censor to avoid saying the ‘wrong’ things. At worst, it is a malicious form of bullying and – when institutionalised – a kind of authoritarianism in our midst” (pp 14-15).


“We see radical relativism in the form of double standards, such as assertions that only men can be sexists and only white people can be racist, and in the wholesale rejection of consistent principles of non-discrimination. In the face of this, it grows increasingly difficult and even dangerous to argue that people should be treated as individuals or to urge recognition of our shared humanity in the face of divisive and constraining identity politics” (pp 17-18).

It is desirable to include marginalised groups. And efforts must be made to create a welcoming environment. But representative democracy is also about electing a person who has the belief systems and policies which accord with one’s own beliefs and interests. Or at least it should (there is a ‘tribal’ element to politics also). Quotas can potentially prioritise representation of groups over representation on the basis of preferred ideology and policy. Marginalised groups can be included via various bodies; such as the ‘Voice to Parliament’ suggested for indigenous Australians. They can also be included via ‘deliberative democracy’ and ‘co-determination’. And affirmative action for women can proceed in the form of reserved seats in parliament; so there is still a contest of ideas and values during pre-selections. But where people no longer have the choice to elect the person who best represents their values and interests – on the basis of the quality of their politics and policies – representative democracy is circumvented.

All that said, there is a history of racism; expressed through Colonialism, Imperialism, Capitalism, Slavery. And there is a history of sexism as expressed through a Patriarchy which employed a binary Ideological logic to render women (falsely, but according to its premises) irrational, fragile, unsuited to public life, and so on. In the West, much of this Patriarchy has been broken down by Second Wave feminism. But women are still excluded from many professions; are disadvantaged in the labour market with the devalorisation of professions which are dominated by women (eg: aged care); and in many Western countries women are still restricted in their participation in public life, and the relative levels of prestige of some women’s sport.

Finally, until relatively recently homophobia was entrenched in law and culture; but is now being broken down in popular culture, with gay marriage, and the permeation of postmodern scepticism of strict binaries through broader society. The authors argue, however, that it is liberalism which has seen non-hetero-normative sexualities accepted as ‘natural’ and ‘normal’.

Traditionally, postmodern approaches have been critical of ‘metanarratives’ (eg: Western Progress through Liberal Capitalism and Science; or the Marxist critique of Capitalism and of Class Struggle leading to socialism). The authors acknowledge that metanarratives can be restrictive and exclusive; but they believe ironically what they call [postmodern] Theory has become a metanarrative of its own. In reality we need metanarratives to contest economy and society in a globalised world. If Leftists do not have their own metanarratives, right-wing metanarratives will ‘fill the vacuum’. But we must be careful not to let metanarratives silence more localised narratives.

As conceived of by Marx, the working class is still the majority class world-wide. Many postmodern approaches tend to downplay the unifying power of class, as opposed to tensions based on race, sexuality, gender and so on.

Class is often problematized as a matter of equalising life-chances through educational equal opportunity and so on. But class oppression is different. By its very definition it involves exploitation and is anti-democratic with regards economic life. Also, by its nature it involves the majority of human beings – who are engaged in capitalist production. Perhaps the working class might no longer be considered the ‘universal historic subject’ as once assumed by Marxists. The working class needs allies. And oppressed minorities could do with the solidarity of a conscious, organised working class. Above everything the working class needs to recover its sense of self. If that condition is satisfied the working class is still strategically positioned – industrially, culturally, electorally – to exert significant power. But this involves a metanarrative of socialism.

For Marx Ideology served the interests of the Bourgeois Ruling Class. It ‘naturalised’ capitalist social relations through nationalism, much of religion, Liberal Ideology; and it obscured working peoples’ self-interest. By contrast, the common Theoretical approach is to see discourses of domination which are often ‘invisible’, but from which white, male, cis-normative people benefit from. Here, Ideology is seen as benefiting the majority, including working people (as opposed to benefiting mainly the ruling class minority).

There is truth in the argument that Power can be subtle and is not at all limited to class. The Foucauldian approach traditionally neglects class and a broader critique of capitalism. Certainly it has no sense that capitalism could be ‘negated’, except in localised ‘micronarratives’. But it has its strengths. Language is not everything. There is a reality outside of language. But language is still powerful; it can be a vehicle for Power. It can be laden with Ideology. It is a PRACTICE which influences how we see ourselves and the world around us on an everyday basis. Giddens would have it that we are all interpreters and active participants in the shaping of language and not just passive recipients. Though Ideological relations of domination and manipulation should not be understated; even though they are not absolute. Though language and knowledge are not necessarily oppressive in of themselves. In the right hands, and of the right quality, they can be liberating.

But from a Marxist perspective, the working class is still an exploited class; and a class which widely suffers alienation (ie: trauma from the menial, physically demanding, meaningless and unfulfilling, repetitive nature of much work). Inequality has reached alarming levels; yet somehow the working class is ‘invisible’ in much postmodern discourse.

The authors are at pains to reject Marxism; and see both Marxism and Postmodern Theory as ‘authoritarian ideologies’. While they see Marxism as ‘in decline’ from the 1960s, Marxism continued for several decades; and morphed into the New Left and Eurocommunism for example. Socialism progressed for several decades in Scandinavia; there were class struggles in Britain and France. Sometimes Marxism morphed into Postmarxism and the works of radical theorists such as Chantal Mouffe. Socialism should not be ‘written off’ with liberalism ‘the only contender left standing’. But neither should liberalism be written off. Whether we describe it as ‘liberal socialism’ or ‘libertarian socialism’ (a term sometimes applied to Luxemburg) there is a socialism which is possible that is open to criticism, development, and account of new realities. Though that socialism should nonetheless ground itself in class struggles and other progressive struggles (p 25).

According to the authors (effectively by the words of Lyotard) postmodern theory “seeks not to be factually true but to be strategically useful: in order to bring about its own aims, morally virtuous and politically useful by its own definitions” (p 38). Theory SHOULD be useful. It shouldn’t exist in a detached sense as if in some kind of ‘ivory tower’. But just because sometimes “the truth” is hard to ascertain doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive towards it, and apply even our own works to rigorous criticism. It is potentially dangerous to suggest ‘striving for the truth’ does not matter.

In the Notes section at the back of the book the authors recognise that Critical Theory originated with the Frankfurt School, and included figures such as Jurgen Habermas – who was a defender of ‘the unfinished project of Modernity’; and who believed in the power of ‘Communicative Action’ to ‘reach understanding’ even in the context of pluralism. It’s important to acknowledge this as there are realms of ‘critical theory’ radically at odds with the model put forward by the authors. Habermas believed a ‘Perfect Speech Situation’ could result in a non-oppressive kind of socialism. That is achieved by bringing various critical traditions – each with its own legitimacy and lines of empirical enquiry – into relation which each other. This manifests as ‘liberation by consensus’. Which is possible because there is an ‘objective truth’ on human liberation which people can arrive at through communication. The later Habermas doubted ethical consensus, but insisted there was a truth which could be ‘got at’ by relating to an objective world. This requires rigorous ‘dialectical’ testing of propositions. But that process is obstructed by the ‘colonisation of lifeworld by system’; where (non-linguistic) systems of power based on money, state and bureaucracy get in the way of Communicative Action. Arguably these are not merely matters of systemic logic; but of class agency. The working-class must arrive at class consciousness (and socialist consciousness), and must organise in order to change the world. The bourgeoisie, while sometimes captive to their own Ideology, are also often not beyond deliberately distorting the truth to preserve their position. But limiting oneself to language; as opposed to the objective functioning of capitalist economies; can create a veritable “prison house” (Jameson) which limits clarity, perception and understanding. For some however (eg: Mouffe and Laclau) the earlier Habermas is too optimistic. Mouffe proposes a counter-hegemony in the context of robust pluralism. She doesn’t presume humanity to be capable of a rational consensus on values and socio-economic organisation. But she does presume a majority can accept pluralism on the basis of shared freedoms.

‘Intersectionality’ is seen as stemming from the work of postmodern feminist, Kimberle Crenshaw. ‘Intersectionality’ is a powerful concept which has come to be deployed by Theorists to explain how people experience ‘intersections’ of multiple oppressions, determined by their social location and identity. That includes race, gender, sexuality, disability, body type, class and so on. Hence a black lesbian woman is ‘triply oppressed’. In a sense this is nuanced; as it accounts for multiple experiences and social locations. By comparison, the original Marxism focused on the labour-capital dialectic.

Crenshaw wanted to both keep the Theoretical Understanding of race and gender as social constructs and use deconstructive methods to critique them. She also wanted to assert a “stable truth claim”: that some people were discriminated against on the grounds of their racial and sexual identities, a discrimination she planned to address legally, using identity politics. She claims that identity categories “have meaning and consequences”. That is, they are objectively real” (p 57). For the original postmodernists “endless examination and deconstruction of categories can enable us to liberate those who do not fit neatly into categories” (p 55). By contrast, from a radical modernist perspective Gloria Watkins is a black feminist who criticises the quest for ‘unstable’ identities; because this prevents oppressed people (such as black women and the working class) from forming an identity from which they can strive for liberation (p 55). Crenshaw’s position can be seen, also, as a kind of response to those such as Watkins; advocating social constructivism; but also arguing those constructions have significant weight.

But the weakness of Intersectionality, and of Identity Politics more broadly is that it does not account for the true uniqueness of individuals’ experiences. For instance; a white working class man who is part of the working poor could be worse off than a black middle class woman; on account of poverty, class stigma, educational disadvantage, and a dead end alienating job. Such nuances are not always considered when people are categorised according to ‘intersections’ which simply establish their identity with regard various marginalised groups. People also have unique belief systems; and this will affect their life experience as well.

On the other hand, there is the assumption that ANY relation between a “privileged” and “oppressed” person is one of “power imbalance”. Because marginalised voices MUST be considered “authentic” their interpretations are accepted without question, and are indisputable. The authors conclude: this “leaves wide open the door to the unscrupulous” (pp 132-133). However, Crenshaw writes:

“social power in delineating difference need not be the power of domination; It can instead be the source of social empowerment and reconstruction.”

Hence a break with ‘foundational’ postmodernism even while continuing it in other ways (p 125). According to this logic, antagonistic identity groups can reconceive of themselves, and in-so-doing resolve their antagonism constructively. This is important, as it suggests dominant groups can reconceive of themselves in ways which recognise the Other; and when this is acted upon it can end relations of oppression. On these assumptions there is nothing ‘essentially bad’ about ‘whiteness’, masculinity etc.

The oppression of the working class, however, will not end under capitalism as the labour-capital relationship has a mechanism of exploitation which is intrinsic to it. Though relations can be reconceived in ways which lead to historic compromises that advance working class interests compared with neo-liberalism (eg: Nordic Social Democracy; though even here Social Democracy is in retreat).

Pluckrose, Helen and Lindsay, James, ‘Cynical Theories – How Universities Made Everything about Race, Gender and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody

Applied postmodern theory tends to see ‘system’ (via knowledge/language/power) as being the problem more so than willing, dominating agents. And again, from a Modernist perspective Habermas also saw [capitalist] system as ‘colonising’ ‘lifeworld’. The reality is an interplay of system and agency. Capitalism itself has systemic imperatives ; and those imperatives have achieved a global scale. At the same time capitalist Ideology is hegemonic and virtually unchallenged. Even Social Democratic parties have accepted the retreat of the welfare state, not only embracing the consequences of capitalist imperatives; but sometimes even internally embracing aspects of its neo-liberal variant. But amidst all this there are political actors. The bourgeoisie understands its interests and is organised. Those oppressed under capitalism must also collectively perceive their position, and organise for socialism.

There’s nothing wrong with an applied theory which aims to inform historical agents who will change the world. The problem is an arbitrary hierarchy of perceived identity-based oppression – which does not strictly accord to the real world. That is, the categories aren’t sufficient to explain things in their complexity; and some are often arbitrarily prioritised over others. Reality is more complex. And along the way the objective reality of class has been abandoned; or treated like ‘just another identity’. This is important because CLASS is a social relationship and potential identity and source of consciousness which can unite the majority rather than just dividing them against each other. Sensitivity to the problems of various identity groups could be integral to healing the divisions within the working class. But class is the central social relationship of capitalism. Social Justice activism has been so successful that in some cases it has turned oppression on its head. But ‘turning oppression on its head’ is not the same as abolishing it. The way forward is to roll back all oppression and alienation; and work towards the kind of society where all can lead happy, free, meaningful lives – without oppression, alienation, exploitation or prejudice.


Pluckrose, Helen and Lindsay, James, ‘Cynical Theories – How Universities Made Everything about Race, Gender and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody, Swift Press, London, 2020.


This article was originally published on ALP Socialist Left Forum.

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  1. DrakeN

    The major problem in these discussions can reasonably be described as “intellectual incest”.
    So many theories on the theories of others, so much discussion on concepts which have little basis in everyday realties, and so much jargon which excludes involvement by more independent and intellectually unfettered minds.
    From the perspective of one who has read widely, observed in depth but who has never become involved in the rhetorical ‘churn’, it represents bullshit breeding bullshit from within its own cesspool.

  2. Arnd

    I quite agree, Drake … – except what’s the solution?

    In reflecting about the human condition, and about those aspects of it which one doesn’t approve of and would want to see ameliorated, there invariably develops a certain hierarchy of abstraction(s).

    From the complex, nuanced and multilevel vagaries of everyday communal life, we abstract certain principles which are intended to make this life a bit more predictable – the law of the land.

    Not everybody abides by this law of the land. Consequently, we now must find ways of compelling potential delinquents – and structures of revenge and punishment emerge, and must be imposed and enforced … – which inevitably generates its own set of problems, mostly of the “quis custodiet ipsos custodes” version (and see how I used four words, which to those on the know summarises a major field of political philosophy under heated disputation for at least two and a half thousand years – since long before Socrates!)

    So we progress from law to jurisprudence – to “law”, and to principles about the law – which the prudent legislator, be it an autocratic ruler, an absolutist king, or a democratically elected representative body really ought to keep in mind when making law. Because there have been many instances throughout human history where laws were enacted and enforced which turned out very badly for the constituency and its overlords.

    And thus we proceed from life, to law, to jurisprudence, to philosophy of law, to political philosophy and its single most important sub-category, political economy, and further on to philosophy proper, including ontology and epistemology.

    It is an unfortunate fact that the attainment of any sort of fluency in these concepts, and the development of the capacity to use and reference them with any sort of cognitive dexterity – sufficient dexterity on embark on an academic career, say – takes time and effort – time and effort that can then not be deployed to develop other capacities – playing piano at concert pianist level, say, or learning to repair motor vehicles, build houses or train horses …

    There is something to be said for Jean Jacques Rousseau’s approach of insisting that the education of young men (we’re talking over two hundred years ago) include the development of practical proficiencies, like a manual trade or suchlike.

    I sometimes do wonder what university philosophy, humanities, law and economics departments would look like if there was a much greater general insistence that aspiring pointy-heads and administrators develop and prove their capability to make their own practical contributions to the greater social good, before presuming to theorise about how others ought to conduct their lives.

  3. Joe Carli

    Arnd April 24, 2021 at 3:46 pm

    “I quite agree, Drake … – except what’s the solution?
    In reflecting about the human condition, and about those aspects of it which one doesn’t approve of and would want to see ameliorated, there invariably develops a certain hierarchy of abstraction(s)”

    My brickie mate once worked for Bianco Builders where the practice was to promote faster work by giving the foreman of the brickie gang a bonus for every thousand bricks laid…so the tradies were chivvied along faster, faster…until one brickie, in cutting a brick in half with his trowel got his thumb in the way and nearly severed it at the first joint…There was much blood and confusion with the other workers gathered around in sympathy..The foreman, noticing the stoppage, rushed to see the problem to be confronted with multiple explanations and opinions of solutions….

    “Gimmee a look!” the foreman demanded….and after cursory examination, dismissed the wound with a contemptous ..: “Ahh…it’s nothing….you worry too much…lay bricks!!”

    Which I may offer here as a universal solution to the many philosophical dilemmas of these times..

    So go forth, young warriors and “lay bricks”.

    Ps. I wondered how long it would take you to turn up, Arnd…and btw…you got mail!

  4. Lawrence Roberts

    A clever and incisive review by Dr. Tristan Ewins which delineates where we are now. It is significant that gains and acceptance of attitudes to gender politics have been made since 1967 by a minority and without much recourse initially to the political process.

    Marx and Foucault both researched historic statistics, Marx drew conclusions from his analysis but the working classes were the last to read them. The 12 hour, six day week with no holidays was common in the 19th century and it wasn’t altruism that got rid of it.
    Michael Foucault was more interested in power and to my mind how the industrial revolution was implemented in Europe. He didn’t use British data but his results would have been the same. Isolate, alienate and incarceration in the poor house, the work house or the asylum for those who did not play along.

    We are at a most significant time; to state the obvious. Climate upheaval, artificial intelligence and robots, the old working class has morphed into a new smaller subclass which will expand dramatically in this decade.

    What happens next? I note that Hayek the economist wrote that Universal Basic Income, though he did not call it that, was a very possible solution.

  5. paul walter

    That is a very, very clever piece of writing that I Intend re reading further -as long as it takes- as it “dense” and a worthy dialectic of our age to help in a serious realignment of perceptions and action.

    I feel so, so much fonder of Tris for the effort involved in this piece.

    More to come, as one sage wit once put it.

  6. Arnd

    “That is a very, very clever piece of writing that I Intend re reading further …

    Yes, it is a very welcome critical engagement from the left with the pedantic identity politics that have now comprehensively replaced and suffocated all of the revolutionary impulses that fuelled Rudi Dutschke’s hopeful embarkation on “The Long March Through The Institutions” in the late 60s. If Pluckrose and Lindsay’s critique of Critical Theory prompts the revolutionary left to take a critical look at their own failures and complacencies over the last half century, it was not in vain.

    “Applied postmodern theory tends to see ‘system’ (via knowledge/language/power) as being the problem more so than willing, dominating agents.”

    Except that was a major original insight of orthodox Marxism already: Even if an individual capitalist hates and despise his or her role as “dominating agent” assigned to them by “The System”, they are still powerless to act otherwise. Marx made special mention of Robert Owen’s endeavours at New Lanark as salutary lesson in the ultimate futility of individuals trying to override the systemic prerogatives of capitalism on an individual ad hoc basis.

    A more modern example might be the reservations sometimes raised in connection with the commercial attitudes and activities of the Mondragon Cooperatives in Basque Country in Northern Spain.

    Tristan, who rightly points to the reliance on its self-correcting tendency of social science that Pluckrose and Lindsay share with Marx, even if without realising, seems himself somewhat unaware of this “amoral systems analysis approach” that is the foundation of Marx and Engels’ dialectic historicism.

    Tristan gets (almost) full marks for admitting the complete, and help- and hapless capture of Social Democrats worldwide by neo-liberal precepts and reasoning – they, just like Margaret Thatcher herself – fully subscribe to the shop keeper’s daughter’s TINA (There Is No Alternative) bourgeois ideology, as so aptly characterised by Marx and Engels in the Manifesto:

    “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

    Except, of course, that Thatcher kept curtsying to the Queen. Whereas Keating – he who casually endorsed “economic rationalism” (which, of course, isn’t – either rational or economic, that is) and then went all out to co-opt the working class into it with his carefully laid superannuation schemes – put his hand on the Queen’s back. YOU DO NOT PUT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR QUEEN!! You … You … You colonial oik!

  7. Tristan Ewins

    Arndt ; I realise Marx said there were systemic imperatives under capitalism which went beyond the reach of isolated individuals (even capitalists) to control. But nonetheless I argue there are willing agents who undermine the class struggle ; without which the class struggle’s logic would have played out. Instead socialism is in retreat and we have a government whose policy is informed by the IPA. What is necessary is ‘will formation’ ; without which people may remain isolated, and the class struggle stunted. BTW I’m very sympathetic to Marx but not a ‘pure’ Marxist. Along with some of the Austro-Marxists I believe in free will ; and the future is not certain.

  8. leefe

    Yet another critique of intersectionality that does not understand what it is.

    “But the weakness of Intersectionality, and of Identity Politics more broadly is that it does not account for the true uniqueness of individuals’ experiences. For instance; a white working class man who is part of the working poor could be worse off than a black middle class woman; on account of poverty, class stigma, educational disadvantage, and a dead end alienating job.”

    This sounds like he thinks intersectionality is a kind of hierarchical points table to give everyone an objective score in the Oppression Olympics. It doesn’t work like that and it was never intended to. It is about recognising the impact of various systemic influences on personal outcomes.
    You’re white? Then your colour/ethnic background do not have negative impacts on your life.
    You’re cis? Then your gender identity does not have negative impacts on your life.
    You’re straight? Then your sexuality does not have negative impacts on your life.
    You’re a bloke? Then your sex and/or gender do not have negative impacts on your life.
    You’re able-bodied (including mental health)? Then disabilities do not have negative impacts on your life.

    Everyone experiences difficulties in life. Intersectionality is about recognising the external systemic difficulties imposed upon individuals by societies. It does not ignore individual experience, it does not say that such things do not matter, it simply puts a greater emphasis on consideration of those influences which are common to all members of a given demographic before consideration of individual experience.

  9. Stephengb

    Yes DrakeN et al – you are spot on the money I did say something similar to a previous essay from Dr Ewins. In that case the essay was so convoluted that I was forced to give up after the second paragraph.

    Dr Ewins is clearly a very well read achedemic, however as I said before he needs to understand that we are not all achedemics, familiar with the works of Foucault, Marx, Crenshaw or any number of philosophers.

    However Dr Ewins, in this case the exsay was worth reading and yes I understood it sufficient to observe my own thought, regarding the exploitation of the working class by the capitalists.

    I would postulate that it’s not just worker v capitalist, or even Left v Right, but as I pointed out in another essay by John Lord, I believe the issue is far far more aged (biblical even) it s the notion of the unique standong of Emperors, Kings even Pharo’s v the peasantry (the great unwashed).

    There is no doubt from my reading of social media that the voting public in the US, UK and here, is a 50/50 split between the ideological Left Right nonsense, when the real ideology, we should be fighting, is the age old ideology that Shelly characterised as the “few” versus the “many”, the ideology that Corbyn has (in my mind at least) also recognised as the true enemy.

    In the case of the modernity it started long before the enlightenment, with Feudalism, but which is now called Neoliberalism, this New Feudal era has begun, it began in late 1970s and has been spectacularly successful in the US, the UK and In Australia.

  10. Tristan Ewins

    Leefe ; I believe intersectionality has its strengths relative to Marxism because of its broad scope. Though class remains essential to understanding capitalism, exploitation, oppression. The problem with emphasizing the privilege of straight white men is that a lot of these are underclass or working class and don’t feel very privileged. I would say also on the Left it’s a liability to be a white straight male. At least in my experience. You say intersectionality looks of systemic disadvantage. That’s very well ; but if we have the opportunity to be more nuanced and look at SPECIFIC peoples’ experience then we should do so. Especially if we’re going to make judgements about them. I also remain convinced that quotas can have a negative effect on representative democracy ; as we’re representing identities rather than policies and ideologies. As I said I’m happy to have seats reserved for women, though: as at least in that scenario you have competing candidates with competing policy agendas and ideologies. Intersectionality has great potential. But don’t forget social class. And don’t assume straight white men have nothing to contribute ; otherwise Marx would never have got anywhere.

  11. Tristan Ewins

    Also I just had an article on Aged Care knocked back because of diversity quotas. Sometimes the ISSUE and the experiences of the vulnerable people it affects is more important than the diversity quota. If Labor doesn’t develop a stronger policy ahead of the election the whole issue will go on the backburner ; and a $90 million Royal Commission will be a wasted opportunity, having achieved nothing much in the way of policy change.

  12. Joe Carli

    From…: https://polyfeministix.wordpress.com/2021/04/24/the-tancredi-dilemma/

    ” Since the end of the generations that saw Keating pass the baton to Howard, who in his own mean-spirited way did a “Tiberius” and prepared a “Satyr” for the people of Australia with his paving the way for a far right infection into the LNP that even HE couldn’t see the damage he was inflicting, there has been an endless stream of younger blunt-weaponised LNP members fumbling around The House and the authorities, corrupting without thought on the consequences, every authority, every bureaucracy and oversight office so that now we have no confidence .. and rightly so! … in any judgement brought down on any investigation of possible departmental fraud or high political office corruption … the individualistic operations of many members of the parliament to feather their own nests or those of their backers has totally corrupted the system … so that even our voting system, once the yardstick of safe, secure and fair elections copied around the world, is now tainted with an air of doubt .. if not absolute distrust and scorn!

    Even those of us on the left of politics have had to watch unbelieving as we see our representatives go to water in the face of right-wing wedging and bluff … their fear of a MSMedia attack on their persons driving them to shelter and hide .. Their now plump and shiny selves, from the largesse of many years in office losing that “lean and hungry look” so necessary in a political animal needed to shift the corpulent carcass of LNP dead-weights so welded to their seats.

    And what of the so-called base of left-wing supporters of the socialist side of politics?…THOSE “finishing-school financiers” have now embraced the infantile “soft-cuddly” political toy of “identity politics”…giving them a safe-harbour platform to speciously condemn or cancel out the more broader political ideals that would assist in the preferred party of the left gaining office…their screeching for “a fair go” for their preferred political/social flavour of the month drowning out or successfully wedging all other reasoned claims for a hearing, so that in the end there is little more than a cohort-grumble of multi-topic discontent to combat an onslaught, come an election, of right-wing, singular-targetted propaganda.

    The Tancredi Dilemma is needed again to have the middle-class burn some of its own … be that middle-class of the left or the right, they have to waste some of the dead-wood and decrepit stooges laying like rotting logs across the path …”

  13. Kaye Lee

    Thank you leefe for so eloquently expressing my unease.

    Class is a self-limiting construct. It’s only real if you subscribe to the idea that others can limit your potential and opportunity, that others decide on the hierarchy of relevance – and ‘others’ REALLY want you to believe that.

    It’s interesting that the term “identity politics” is never ascribed to coal miners or religious freedom warriors.

  14. Arnd

    So what are you saying, leefe: as able-bodied straight white guy, I’m at the top of the intersectionality food chain … – and I therefore owe everybody else an apology, for oppressing them, and for raping them, and for stealing their land … – and for existing at all, really …? And when others, of more “diverse” backgrounds, speak of their experiences, I must – what? Maintain respectful and even deferential silence, and nod in solemn agreement, no matter how ill-informed a contribution to public discourse is being made?

    Are the only people permitted to talk about cancer treatment those who have, or have had cancer, and must we earnestly listen to their emphatic advocacy of Black Salve … – or may we value the contributions of a straight, white, male oncologist, despite the fact that he has no personal experience of suffering the effects of chemotherapy?

  15. Arnd

    Thanks for your replies, Tristan. This is the sort of exchange I was hoping to have when I joined the local Labor Party back in 1995. It never happened, unfortunately.

    I lasted all of two years before giving up. Though I made a few friends, and thus maintained a most indirect and peripheral exposure to policy discussion within Labor – but noted nothing that would face persuaded me to join in again.

    “If Labor doesn’t develop a stronger policy ahead of the election the whole issue will go on the backburner …”

    Quite plausibly, this is what will happen. The formulation of a more humane aged care policy – or refugee policy, or banking policy, or reconciliation, environment, labour law, environmental … crucially depends on a novel understanding to all matters economic. Neo-liberalism – even and especially the social-democrat neo-liberalism of Hawke, Keating, Blair, Schmidt, Schröder, and now Starmer – must go!!

    In this respect, social democracy has two major interconnected problems. First, they don’t properly understand either nature or magnitude of the problems we – global humanity at the beginning of the Anthropocene – are facing.

    And second, even if they did, and were to articulate a corresponding policy platform, and took policies based on that platform to an election, they wouldn’t get voted into office, anyway.

    What we need is a paradigm change. We need to develop and communicate a new understanding of ling-existing problems – stephengb’s allusion to “biblical” is entirely apposite!

    Political science has developed the concept of the “Overton Window”, which frames the “possible political discourse”. Politics outside of this Overton Window are not accessible to politicians. Most importantly, it is not politicians themselves who can shift this Overton Window, so as to make their preferred policy options accessible and “thinkable” enough for public discourse.

    Hillary Rodham, in her now famous 1969 Wellesley graduation speech, fell into exactly this trap: ” “For too long, our leaders have viewed politics as the art of the possible. And the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible.”

    She failed at simultaneously a) shifting the Overton Window, and b) exploiting the possibilities thereby opened up.

    The Labor Party, and social democracy worldwide, basically need someone else – for going on thirty years, I was looking to academia, but to no avail – to delineate and explain to the public, and to the commentariat, the problems of our times, in a manner that makes them understandable for the great unwashed, and that manages to the greatest degree possible to combine objectivity and both impartiality and the appearance of impartiality – which would then clear the field for Social Democrats to design, propose and take to elections their preferred partisan policy solutions to those problems.

    This would have been my advice to Kim Beazley during his “policy finding mission” following Labor’s 1996 federal election defeat. “Hasten slowly,” I would have said. Forget winning the next election – for which Beazley tried to rally the troops – and concentrate on developing a policy platform that enables policy formulation well into the next millenium.

    Now, twenty-five years later, and Labor is still trying to beat the LNP at their neo-liberal game.


  16. Stephengb

    Well said Arnd.

    I suspect Dr Ewins speaks from a knowledge gained from a purely achedemic view, with little actually experience, in a real world.

    It took a mere 3 months to learn the (book) how a B747 is constructed and works.

    It took 4 years of practicle experience on the aircraft to become sufficiently competent to sign for its airworthy status.

    Books are all very well Dr Ewins.

  17. Tristan Ewins

    I’ve had almost 30 years of experience in the Labor Party. And I know about poverty first hand.

  18. Arnd


    But if you had a free hand, Tristan, and didn’t have to consider internal party politics or, in the first instance, at least, even voter preferences, what sort of basic principles, policy platform and policies would you propose?

    I mean, you can clearly think beyond the need to appease identity politics, and you seem to have based your understanding of contemporary politics on an analysis of underlying perennial class antagonisms.

    What do we do to defuse those?

  19. Arnd


    Class is a self-limiting construct. It’s only real if you subscribe to the idea that others can limit your potential and opportunity, that others decide on the hierarchy of relevance – and ‘others’ REALLY want you to believe that.

    Is that copied straight from some American self-improvement manual endorsed by the Oprah Book Club?

    Yes, a classless society is very much a major item in my catalogue of desiderata – but it is a major item precisely because I can recognise that we do not, as yet, live in a classless society … – and that class affects everything we do. Whether we like it or not. And whether we acknowledge it or not!

  20. Lambchop Simnel

    Astonished at that comment from Kaye Lee of all people.

    Class is not “self imposed” it is something imposed in the interests of an (unconscious?) self perpetuating hierarchy on individuals. Burma is the current example.

    I’ve had a strange couple of days. I could easily go out and get drunk and I haven’t done that for nearly 35 years.

    No wonder the interests of Oligarchy have been advanced so rapidly over the last thirty years!!

  21. Tristan Ewins

    I don’t think you ‘defuse’ class tensions for a start. You harness them for progressive change. My medium term objective is to raise progressive tax by 5% of GDP and direct this into the social wage and welfare state. Aged Care, Socialised Medicine including mental health and dental , Pensions, Infrastructure in all areas, Free Education of high quality, public housing, subsidies for co-ops , restructure Awards in favour of the low-paid , have an active industry policy, organise in the labour movement and deliver the goods to arrest its decline. I’d also like to see a ‘democratic mixed economy’ with a public interest in insurance, banking, defense industries, resocialise the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, restore the Australian National Line, socialise currently for-profit Aged Care at a fair but not excessive rate, fund the ABC, Stop Mandatory Detention, Make a big public investment in renewables infrastructure and research and development. Long term I’m a Socialist. I want a democratic economy that implements the principle “from each according to ability, to each according to need’. But right now I can’t see the path from here to there. Central to all this is the understanding that the majority are exploited and disadvantaged under capitalism.

  22. Tristan Ewins

    Kaye Lee ; I just think we’ve lost sight of the fact that the majority are exploited and disadvantaged under capitalism. We need an alliance between the broad working class and the identity movements. That involves recognition that the majority are often f*cked over pretty badly by capitalism. And talk of privilege should occur under those assumptions.

  23. Lambchop Simnel

    Just a derail.
    So disappointed in some one I had the highest regard for. The motives I guess at and they are pathetic.
    They come from such a basic (wilful?) misreading of the text that you can only wonder at the psychosis as evidence of the class system, including a feminist reading that confronts rather than denies realities

  24. Lambchop Simnel

    Chopped off.

    Yes, indeed, various aspect s of class, including gender and race are most of all obvious as evidence of a crude and incomplete project that places civilisation as insufficiently evolved to care for humanity at this stage in history, anymore than the feudalism it grew from.

    “Not in out time
    or our children’s time
    Or in their children’s time”.

    It may be helpful to understand the in feeds that construct capitalism, but the song remain the same as to its existance and divisiveness is unhelpful if understandable.

    History, including the various divisions of labour, holds the key.

  25. Kaye Lee

    I guess I should ask what people think defines “class” in Australia.

    Is it what school you went to? Is it your address? Is it your income? Is it your wealth? Is it who your parents were/are? Is it your occupation? Is it your level of education? Is it what car you drive? Is it your skin colour? Is it your table manners?

    I didn’t say class was self-imposed…I said it was a self-limiting construct. You can let others try to suppress you or you can refuse to let that happen. I remember being told girls weren’t good at maths. I ignored that because I knew it wasn’t true. I was told at Uni how “well” I had done to get there. I pointed out that I came from a school that was selective on intelligence, not money or sporting prowess. I endured my boyfriend’s friends incredulity that he was dating someone from the western suburbs of Sydney and then just smiled as all of his private school friends hooked up with my very clever girlfriends.

    Some people certainly start behind the eight-ball in life and do not have the help that I have received. What we must do is give everyone the opportunity and support to achieve their potential. “Class” is an anachronism that we should utterly reject.

    You can accede to others’ historical claim to superiority and you can pretend their greed is just part of the natural order…. or you can call bullshit. I call bullshit.

  26. Tristan Ewins

    The fact is that the majority of Australians must sell their labour power to survive. The reality is most people have no alternative. A lot of people are in dead end, alienating jobs. Most people don’t have control over their daily labour. Few people have opportunity for creative expression. Also the capitalist class benefits from the maintenance of a ‘reserve army of labour’ (unemployment) which is used to discipline the broader working class. For this reason Jobseeker is kept at the minimum they can get away with. More people have access to education ; but these days some kind of tertiary education is necessary for ‘a foot in the door’ in the labour market. User-pays makes education less affordable, accessible and fair. No matter how much initiative I have, the fact remains there is a capitalist class that dominates political and economic processes, directly or indirectly. Remember when Rudd tried to introduce the mining super profits tax, and the destruction of his government. This is what happens when you take the ruling tax on. But what’s worse, they try and impose their neo-liberal Ideology on the rest of us in the name of ‘small government’ and the like. Hence Aged Care reform gets dumped in ‘the too hard basket’ because it would involve billions in new spending annually. To fight back and win we need to cast these class differences into clear relief. We need to make peoples’ economic self-interest plain as against the top 10 per cent ; and even more so the top 1 per cent. Bringing those differences out into the open – as opposed to denying them – is how you achieve change.

  27. Tristan Ewins

    The working class are the wage labourers ; capitalists are those who live primarily by expropriating surplus value from workers in the form of dividends and profit. But the ruling class tries to divide us against each other ; white collar workers are told they’re ‘middle class’ (a myth) ; low income workers are exploited – but are then used to wedge those on welfare. Achieving solidarity amongst a diverse working class is key to achieving change. Rebuilding ‘a sense of self’ for the working class – a class consciousness – is part of this process.

  28. Kaye Lee

    How about, instead of yet another class war, we just embraced humanity and truth. Capitalists cannot survive without workers and researchers, and workers do not have the capital to make their ideas a reality, so let’s aim for mutual recognition and benefit rather than just ceding power to the people who have the money but not the foresight to understand the value of investing for the long term. As a society, it is to everyone’s advantage to help those who need it.

  29. Tristan Ewins

    no, workers don’t have capital ; because that money is expropriated from them. A ‘compromise’ is possible if you look to the Nordics. But they’ve been going backwards there for decades as well. We can’t depend on the Gina Rineharts and Twiggy Forests of the world -because they believe their own Ideology. Twiggy genuinely believes the Indue card is ‘for our own good’. The only way you win and keep reforms is through political and industrial strength. There are notable exceptions such as Warren Buffett. Engels, also, was technically a capitalist ; but used the proceeds to fight against the system and ultimately make himself redundant in that capacity. A ‘long fight’ is full of historic compromises, though.

  30. Stephengb

    Tristan EwinsApril 25, 2021 at 4:34 pm
    I’ve had almost 30 years of experience in the Labor Party. And I know about poverty first hand.

    Well Sir, that tells me that you have been subject to the single Labor party ideology., one eyed perhaps ?
    So are you Right Faction Labor or Left Faction Labor.

    Labor and Right faction – what a joke?

    WOW the Labor Party (you know, that communist party in disguise) a’Right Faction’ !!!!!

    Dr Ewins – over the 30 years have you not thought that a Right faction in Left Party is questionable ?

    30 year experience in the Labor Party,.

    I did 50 years in aviation, I know almost nothing about other industries. I would never presume to offer my aviation wosdom as relevant to someone else’s industry, it might have some similarities but I would presume.

    30 years, WOW then you will be aware of the Neoliberal economic narrative constantly on display from Albo and his finance shadow Jim Chalmers in particular. You will be well aware that they constantly use Neoliberal economic narrative in lock step with the LNP.

    I supported the Labour Party and the Labor Party for 50 years, then learnt a bit about economics, the law, and then the Neoliberal Agenda, now I see the similarities in economic narrative between the LNP and Labor.

  31. Lambchop Simnel

    Good explanation, Tris. A child could understand it.

  32. Lambchop Simnel

    Stephen (“that communist party in disguise”) gb the existence or otherwise of right factions is irrelevant since the Labour party was absorbed into the system generations ago (nordic or no nordic).

    Labor is only relevant when in discussing commodification and reification, concepts others are fail to grasp. Put simply, large parts of the population are pretty much brainwashed and the evidence actually shows in the child like faith that Labor can change anything.

    To say the class system “isn’t imposed” is a naivety beyond consideration, Kaye Lee, deeply rooted in the obsolete characterisation that goes with “free will”. Can’t you see how much more complex socialisation and individuation are than that?

    Some feminisms, originating in Marxism, of course DO see the connection and much of THAT is basic to the modern version.

  33. Tristan Ewins

    The Labor Party partly reflects the changes going on in broader society ; Labor adapted to gender and sexuality movements where that was becoming the ‘common sense’ in broader civil society ; But that also required people working within the Labor Party to make it reality. Sometimes Labor has tried to lead to the Left ; like with the Mining Super Profits Tax and Superannuation Tax Concessions. The real right-wingers are those who grasp at every setback to create a mindset of defeat and retreat. I’ve been in the Left since 1994. But we need people like Wayne Swan who’s in the Right who we can link up with to press reform when in government. The Accord gave up too much for too little in return. However with pressure within and without Labor Governments can still deliver, and are worth fighting for. But disappointments are nonetheless common. What we do achieve, though, is because some people choose to stay and keep fighting.

  34. Stephengb

    Dr Ewins

    The Neoliberal Agenda loves those wedded to the Left v Right, it divides the very people who would fight injustice and inequality but are too busy being destracted with the false flags, the current Left v Right both of whom are as neoliberal as each other, the Left being a cap shift Title case Neoliberal rather than the Right caps lock NEOLIBERAL.

    Both the Left and Right are wedded to ‘privatisation’, ‘individual responsibility’, ‘deregulation’, and the so called ‘free market’. The choice is just less or more.

    What we realy need to focus on the Neoliberal Agenda not their false flags.

  35. Arnd

    I don’t think you ‘defuse’ class tensions for a start. You harness them for progressive change.

    Mmmyeeahh …?! Maybe so. But if so, Labor has well and truly made a hash of it all. A bad one.

    As a teenager in the seventies in what was then W.Germany, I joined the Socialist Youth (affiliated with the Socialist International, like the German SPD, and the ALP, back then). I remember being told that we need to curb our youthful enthusiasms, be realistic, and continue to support “the lesser of two evils”, namely the social-democrat establishment. The problem is that after almost 50 odd years of supporting “the lesser evil”, we are still worse off than before. Nor as badly as if we had supported “the greater evil” – the reactionaries – but still worse off rather than better off.

    This has been the dynamics for a long time. As you (seem to) concur with Pluckrose and Lindsay:

    In the Notes section at the back of the book the authors recognise that Critical Theory originated with the Frankfurt School …

    And as I commented on this site a few weeks ago, the Frankfurt School developed on the back of a few over-educated pointy-heads attempting to grapple with how exactly it came to pass that the German Sozialdemokraten voted with the reactionaries of the German Reich in favour of war credits, thereby committing German workers to fight the Kaiser’s war against the armies and navies fielded by various assorted ruling members of his extended inbred family – rather than making common cause with their French, British and Russian comrades, and advance the international revolution.

    Things in Australia have not been a lot better, I don’t think. Sure, Oceania at the turn of the last century was widely deemed “the working man’s paradise”. French writer Albert Métin went as far as calling it “Socialisme sans doctrine”.

    Except, of course, this “Socialisme” played out on stolen land, and was for whites only. Aborigines or Chinese need not apply! In that respect, intersectional feminism and identity politics did draw some long overdue attention to serious shortcomings on the left side of politics – but these identity politics haver now become a most welcome distraction behind which to hide the social-democrat sellout to neo-liberalism.

    My medium term objective is to raise progressive tax by 5% of GDP and direct this into the social wage and welfare state.

    Revive the post-WWII Keynesian compact, in other words. I’d be negotiable on this – now, after a solid 40 years of very determined neo-liberal pursuit of the “no such thing as society” agenda.

    But let us not lose sight of the basic fact that the Keynesian compact did run out of steam in the 70s, in part because of the economic dynamics of capitslism reasserting themselves in the form of “stagflation”, and partly because it fell victim of its own successes, in that the condition of the working class, and opportunities for advancement of its members had improved enough to blunt the urgency of collective action – see Kaye’s comments.

    My point is that revisiting Keynesianism would be retrograde in its own right, and can at best be a short-term stop-gap measure, to enable the slightly more effective administration of the capitalist class conflict.

    It is not a policy platform to confidently chart a political path for the next few decades.

  36. Zathras

    Warren Buffet isn’t the enlightened exception that he seems to be. His predatory behaviour toward people living in US mobile home parks shows him to be just another aggressive capitalist without conscience but with friendly window dressing.

  37. Tristan Ewins

    Restoring a mixed economy will improve cost structures that flow through to the entire economy. For example, if the NBN remained a natural public monopoly ; and was made ‘fiber to the home’. Natural public monopolies would improve efficiency. Government Business Enterprises could enhance competition and consumer outcomes. (eg: the banks) Ironically, socialisation ameliorates capitalist contradictions. Even capitalists themselves would benefit from it. Intervention within the labour market for full employment would increase government revenue ; some of which could go into services and infrastructure ; with much of this helping the private sector as well as workers and citizens. All that’s stopping it is Ideology and its enforcers in the media. And a mix of neo-liberalism and defeatism in the ALP.

  38. Tristan Ewins

    re: the ALP ; I think the Left needs to court relative progressives in the Right to cross factional lines and support progressive policy. Maybe even try and convince some of them to split and form a ‘center-left’ faction that shares power with the Left. And ENGAGE with them. Tribalism locks people into factions. The Left has good ideas ; it just needs to convince some to ‘cross over’ if it cannot get the numbers in its own right. If it CAN get the numbers it needs to pace itself ; but deliver steady reform. Raise progressive tax by 1.5% of GDP (in a Labor first term) and invest it in Aged Care, Medicare Dental, Mental Health, public housing.

  39. Kaye Lee

    ” To say the class system “isn’t imposed” is a naivety beyond consideration, Kaye Lee,”

    I didn’t say THAT either. Once again, what I ACTUALLY said was that class is “a self-limiting construct.”

    I asked what people think defines class in Australia because I genuinely don’t know. Wealth? Income? Address? School? Job? Parents? Is it lineage or current prestige? Does class change with circumstance?

    There are many contributing factors to disadvantage, discrimination and oppression – poverty, racism, gender (still), education, health, domestic violence, sexuality, religion… I am not implying it is all down to “free will”. As leefe said “It is about recognising the impact of various systemic influences on personal outcomes.”

    PS Arnd, patronising putdowns are a perfect example of how oppression isn’t all about class.

  40. Tristan Ewins

    Kaye Lee: The point is that class isn’t just a construct ; its the objective social relation of wage labour to capital ; within that there are the majority of workers, ‘the labour aristocracy’ and the working poor. All are exploited under capitalism. All suffer because of capitalism’s failures. But the Right try and play upon differences to divide them against each other. Kaye Lee, the problem with saying class is ‘a self-limiting construct’ makes it sound like class is how we see ourselves ; as opposed to objective social and economic relations. But (radical postmodern) theorists today think deconstruction can go too far ; and that ‘stable identities’ are necessary to forge a perspective from which to fight for liberation. The working class also needs an identity from which it can build for solidarity and class struggle. But the only way to truly liberate the working class is to abolish class relations ; that is – relations of exploitation of wage labour. There’s also the broader problem – with modernity broadly and not just capitalism – of alienating labour. Some jobs won’t be as fulfilling as others ; some will be demanding and menial. A socialist society might ameliorate that by improving wages and conditions and shortening the working week ; and providing further support through the social wage. The hope is that with automation the most demanding and menial jobs will be abolished. But the gains there need to be socialised rather than going to capitalism’s bottom line. Also ; technically Marx said a class is formed amongst the proletariat when workers achieve class consciousness. So there’s some basis to say ‘class is how we see ourselves’. In the sense that a class is formed when people become conscious of the nature of the social and economic relationships they’re engaged in. Later Marxists distinguished between ‘class in itself’ and ‘class for itself’. The latter is what we need to achieve if we’re to challenge neo-liberalism, and eventually capitalism.

  41. Tristan Ewins

    But it’s best to main to idea of ‘class in itself’ AND ‘class for itself’ ; because even if people aren’t conscious of the social and economic relationships they’re involved in – those relationships are still objectively real.

  42. Stephengb

    Dr Ewins

    Bob Hawke and Paul Keating created a neoliberal ALP, they called it econpmic rationalism, they introduced privatisation, deregulation and suppressed people power by restricting the right to strike. This is your Right Wing Faction of the ALP.
    Over the last 24 uears the ALP have been on ppwer for 6 years charecterised by infighting whilst power mad neoliberalists behaved more like Attilla the Hun, in their desire for the reins of power.

    Right now I see your 30 years in the ALP as being part of theroblem fpr the ALP, a part pf the reason why they remain in the politocal wilderness, whilst the Oligarch’s Neoliberal Agenda is pursued with increasing confidence by their political wing (the LNP). The LNP under the guidance of the IPA and the Oligarchs tar the ALP as the Stalinist communist party and does so with the assistance of the ALP Right Faction.

    The current ALP did not reverse Work Choices and refused to acknowledge that restricting union strike power is a major hurdle to the wage stagnation.
    The current ALP still will not tackle the clearly monopolistic price gouging that privatosation has forced on those who can least afford it.
    The ALP still has not understood that universal health care is increasingly being eroded to become a health care that benefits the rich at the expense of the poor (thanks Bob). The current mix of public and private health care is being destroyed by the private health sector.
    The ALP has only just discovered the deeply bias of the commercial media (it has taken a Laborr depossed ex-Labor PM ).
    The ALP ushered in the destruction of the Universities and the elitism in the ability of ordinary folk to become educated (can’t have the peasants becoming elites can we).
    The ALP cannot even bring themselves to acknowledge their neoliberal folly over the last 40 years, preferring to venerate (decorate to hero status) two men who ushered in the Last 40 years of declining wages, living standards, health care, poverty and homeless ( let’s not mention the “no children in poverty by 1999 – we won’t mention the 1.1 children in poverty by 2021)..

    So Dr Ewins ask yourself what is it that has made the ALP so spectacularly effective, since Kevin 07.
    Ask yourself just what is it you think that you and your so well educated ALP lower case neoiberal members have ctually achieved for the ordinary folk in the last 38 years? (
    Yes the peasantry not the achedemics, you lot are doin’ alright mate thanks to that LEFT WING NUTTER Whilam.).

  43. Stephengb

    Sorry didn’t have time to correct the spelling problems caused by my workers (thickened) forefinger.

  44. Arnd


    All that’s stopping it is Ideology and its enforcers in the media. And a mix of neo-liberalism and defeatism in the ALP.

    And above all the fact that the ALP, and its”thought leaders” especially, genuinely do not understand the problems we are facing. As your comment illustrates:

    Restoring a mixed economy will improve cost structures that flow through to the entire economy.


    Ironically, socialisation ameliorates capitalist contradictions. Even capitalists themselves would benefit from it.

    You come soooo close to precisely diagnosing the limitations against which the post-WWII Keynesian compact ran up in the late 60s/early 70s, and which rang in the rise of neo-liberalism. Yet, you then “ironically” propose the original economic malady as curative to neo-liberalism.

    This, in a way, sums up all of Labor’s hapless self-paralysation: the last thing we need to do right now is to increase the efficiency of capitalist wealth accumulation and wealth concentration. Ever sharpening wealth accumulation and wealth concentration is precisely the underlying problem of our times.

    What you have just done, is justifying the restoration of a mixed economy according to the precepts and calculus of capitalist profit maximization – and that is PRECISELY the kind of insidious social-democrat neo-liberalism that I have been railing against for thirty years.

    Tristan, difficult as it is, you must get this capitalist calculus out of your head! Do not just seek to sophisticated it further.

    I know whereof I talk: I took myself through the same-self process of discovery and deconstruction thirty years ago, and I recognise your arguments just about verbatim. I also remember this process of deconstruction as supremely disorienting and intellectually dizzying, as we as quite painful at a personal level. It has the potential to unravel virtually all you think you know about yourself, and fatally undermines precisely the “stable [class] identities” that you seem “necessary to forge a perspective from which to fight for liberation.” Or in other words, to successfully fight for liberation, you must first conceive of your potential for freedom (from the impositions of the capitalist class antagonisms) – that is, you must conceive of yourself as a classless human in theory, before attempting to turn that theory into reality. (With a nod to Hegelian dialectics, which proceed from the abstract, through the negation, to the concrete.)

    This, in effect, is where Labor, and the unions, have gone wrong since before all my living memory, and just can’t get out of their own way: they conceive of themselves as mere guardians of the interests of the working class. We’re the the working class to cease to exist as a separate class, there would be no need for the Labor hierarchies anymore, either.

    Yet that possibility is simply unthinkable for Labor and union careerist.

  45. Harry Lime

    Admirable debate taking place here,I Think the current score is 17 games all in the fifth set.
    There is a possible way out of this…. Everybody VOTE GREEN…I’ll just get into the bunker.

  46. Arnd


    I asked what people think defines class in Australia because I genuinely don’t know.

    Within Marxist thought, “class” is a crude, but highly effective and very instructive simplification to enable a synoptic analysis of the dynamics of a capitalist economy. It very specifically does not serve the purpose of classifying, let alone judging and assessing the moral merit of individual people – or as leefe put it, to establish some sort of “hierarchical points table to give everyone an objective score in the Oppression Olympics”.

    “Class”, in this Marxist sense, refers to your position and function within the capitalist wealth accumulation and concentration mechanisms. At its crudest, you are either a member of the toiling classes who have a significant portion of the products of their labour expropriated from them, or you are a member of the social superstructure in whose hands this expropriated wealth accumulates.

    Indeed, the class conflict operates one further level of abstraction up – it is not a conflict between individual workers and individual investors, but it is a conflict between the working class as a whole and anonymous capital – and thus can cut across individual people, like, for example, the self-employed carpenter Arnd Liebenberg, who, in his capacity as on-site employed carpenter, will loudly decry the exploitation visited upon him by his employer, the business manager of Arnd Liebenberg Carpentry and Joinery. As I explained in a discussion with some obscure Communist League of Australia going on three decades ago, “rolling the capitalist class conflict into the one person does not eliminate it, it merely brings it into razor-sharp relief.”

    And this is what it is about: like many other people I know, I quite like designing, building and renovating houses. What turns this activity into an absolute pain-in-the-arse imposition is the fact that I have to shape and administrate this activity according to the precepts of capitalism.

    Does class change with circumstance?

    In its Marxist definition and application? Most definitely! Read the Communist Manifesto:

    The lower strata of the middle class — the small tradespeople, shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants — all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialised skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production. Thus the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.

    Of course, Marx himself is somewhat unhelpful with his undisciplined use of the word “class”, rigorously pitting “Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master(3) and journeyman” against one another in a simplified dichotomy one moment, yet in the next breath, he talks of “lower strata of the middle class”, a turn of phrase which necessarily implies the existence of a lower and upper class also.

    Broadly speaking, capitalists are those who derive a return on investment, and workers are those who are remunerated on what they produce by their own labour. Capitalists receive leveraged income – and workers are those whose output is used to leverage the income of capitalists.

    Of course, a few bad investments can have a formerly wealthy capitalist drop into the toiling classes – and a successful and well remunerated worker can rise to live off his investments. Many try to achieve exactly that – and thereby drive the real estate investment and price bubble that is giving financial and political managers and administrators of the greater common good, as well as the inexorably growing number of impoverished and expropriated suffering from housing stress, ever greater headaches.

    Maybe, for the purpose of analysis of economic dynamics, it could be useful to, distinguish between two (abstract) classes. Whereas for the purposes of more comprehensive and fine-grained social analysis, distinguish between social strata, which can be defined as your specific purpose requires – wealth, disposable income, education, health …

  47. Arnd

    There is a possible way out of this…. Everybody VOTE GREEN

    That’ll end life as we know it very quick-smart.

    Not necessarily for the better, though!

  48. Joe Carli

    Arnd…I am amazed that a person like yourself, dependent upon “earning his salt” via the tyranny of the pragmatic world of weights and measures goes on to embrace the loquatiously verbose world of aesthetic explanations from the “pointy heads” of academia (no disrespect, Dr Ewins…I admire your continued tenacity), when all the time – YOU -as much as – I – have lived the experience of “master / slave ” work relationship described in the workplace situation in my first comment ( “. . . You worry too much…lay bricks!” ) above…..The basic theory of class comes down through that example…We have the corporation (The Building Co’ )having access to large amounts of credit to organise a large building project that it hopes to achieve enormous profit from ( you know builders!), but cannot build ANYTHING themselves…so needs to hire trades to get access to that profit..and the banks that finance the project want to see it finished…so we have trades on site under the Capitalists manager (the foreman) who is vicariously given power under threat to “hire and fire” the trades in the name of the financiers…HIS power is encouraged with the promise of a bonus for increased productivity by chivvying on the workers…The workers, being the ONLY source of skill that can create the finished product is ironically, on the lowest rung on the ladder as far as remuneration goes…HE is a PAYE employee…and so when an accident inevitably happens, the reverberations of the stoppage CAN BE felt right up to the bank financiers…hence the power of the Unions to cause havoc with a unspoken threat to “down tools” in the middle of a concrete pour…THIS “power” of the withdrawl of labour at just the right time and place…be it deliberate or – in the case of the brickie’s thumb above – accidental is the “log-splitter” driven to the heart of the system that must be once again understood and realised as a power-tool and THEN USED MOST EFFECTIVLY to disrupt the middle-class management elite to break the back of its economic and political power….I repeat…TO BREAK THE BACK OF MIDDLE-CLASS ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL POWER….and unless it is done…and done soon, there will possibly be no society to manage.

  49. Kaye Lee

    “Ever sharpening wealth accumulation and wealth concentration is precisely the underlying problem of our times.”

    I agree. And yet that is precisely the aim of our government. Tax avoidance is a sport in this country. Deregulation is the mantra of conservative governments. All the tools we have to enforce compliance with the social contract are being undermined. From the workers, we want higher productivity and efficiency dividends but the rewards all go in one direction. Company profits soar whilst wages stagnate. Welfare recipients are deliberately kept below the poverty line.

    Scott Morrison said “The key to meeting our climate change ambitions is commercialisation of low emissions technology. We are going to meet our ambitions with the smartest minds, the best technology and the animal spirits of capitalism.”

    Just as when he was Social Services minister he said “welfare must become a good deal for investors – for private investors. We have to make it a good deal – for the returns to be there, to attract the level of capital that will be necessary.”

    The responsibility for the government to protect us from the consequences of the rapacious greed of corporations has disappeared.

  50. Arnd

    Well, Joe, I have an admission to make (I meant to email it to you, but I might just as well make it now): yes, I am a carpenter (cert. III trade qualification equivalent as highest formal educational attainment) – but I did grow up in a solid middle class academic, wall-to-wall books family. And not just any academic field, but the field of education, and worse still, of educational reform (Italians have been active in that area: Reggio Emilia, Montessori). Only much later did it occur to me exactly how close to the cutting edge of academia I grew up: education is how we acquire and transmit knowledge. Change that, and you change the whole of a society’s epistemology. There can scarcely be an activity with greater revolutionary potential – as anybody, from the Jesuits to Mao, and everyone inbetween, has realised.

    You know how working class kids who’ve made good, with University degrees and bug careers, sometimes note how they just can’t shake their background, and the impostor syndrome that comes with it!

    Well, fur me it works in reverse: educated middle-class I am, and have always been. Without realising at first – you grow up in certain circumstances, and it is those circumstances that you take as given, and as baseline reference. Only much later – as my initial apprenticeship excursion into the strange world of the working man – in preparation of architecture study – stretched out to many more years, then decades, and now permanence, did I turn my capacity for abstract academic reasoning, that I had absorbed without even really noticing, to more acute analysis of my own situation – and I almost invariably did so with a curiously de-personalised and detached attitude, largely free of any plaintive aspects or sense of betrayal: an analytic evaluation of study subject A. Liebenberg, as he meanders his way through late-stage global corporate consumer capitalism on a dying planet, an ongoing study which, incidentally, happens to be conducted by one A. Liebenberg.

    But even now, many decades after my parents somewhat ceremoniously dropped me of for my first day of my apprenticeship, and after having also had a a spell as long-haul truck driver in Australia and Europe – how much more blue-collar can you get? – , I still feel kind of out of place in most any commercial setting. It’s just not my natural environment.

    But I’ve lived here long enough to know that the academics and administrators who presume to govern and regulate my day-to-day life have no fucking idea – and what’s worse, don’t even know that they have no fucking idea.

    … and unless it is done…and done soon, there will possibly be no society to manage.

    That is how it will play out, unfortunately. Humanity will once more descend into a very dark hole – before it will get better again. Simple logic dictates that would be foolish in the extreme to expect the current crop of career administrators to make the fundamental changes required to “The System” – which, after all, is the system to which they owe their personal successes – to avert this fate.

    A self-referential race to the bottom, supervised by the conceited administrators and enforcers in the service of The Emperor With No Clothes.

  51. Michael Taylor

    Tax avoidance is a sport in this country.

    Ain’t that the truth!

    Imagine my horror when John Howard wanted to give Kerry Packer a state funeral.

    John Howard wanted the govt to pay for a state funeral for one of Australia’s biggest tax avoiders.

    I could be wrong, but didn’t Packer once brag about his tax dodging skills?

  52. Michael Taylor

    Found it. I was off the mark a bit but here is something from the SMH:

    “… he believed Australian [sic] who didn’t minimise their tax needed ‘their heads read’.”

    My apologies to Mr Packer. There are, of course, zillions of legal ways to minimise your tax (especially if you’re a billionaire).

  53. Joe Carli

    Thank you for that honest reply, Arnd….and here I was starting to suspect you of being just another working stiff with too much an interest and belief in the teachings of Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”!….but no…seriously…I now realise where your lucid language is derived from…a language that I have to confess a certain envy of…as you can see by my choice of words, I am somewhat starved of linguistic variety…and to make note of your feeling strangely out of place in the blue-collar world…I too feel out of place writing stories and placing them into a middle-class environment (the working classes rarely read my kind of stories ) seeking acknowledged ability for my efforts…and I am reminded by a line in Dickens’; “David Copperfield” (I think) where the aristocratic boor reminds David that..”You may dress like us, talk like us, and behave like us….but you will NEVER BE one of us…”

    But then…I have learned a lot in my travels and I have come to be so very comfortable in my own working-class skin and can both appreciate and laugh at my fellows without fear or favour..at least with a lifetime of visible and tactile evidence of my physical labours dotted around the communities where I have lived and worked, I can truly say that I have earned my salt…

  54. Joe Carli

    Arnd……You have mail…

  55. Tristan Ewins

    Monopolisation can be fought with strategic deployment of Government Business Enterprises. Efficient Natural Public Monopolies may pass some efficiencies on ; but they can socialise some of the gains as well. If you want to stop wealth concentration what can you do? Tax progressively. Regulate the labour market. And if ever people realise its necessity – wealth and inheritance tax on large inheritances and concentrations of wealth. And how to do all this while remaining part of the global economic system – because ‘going it alone’ isn’t an option.

  56. Arnd

    And if ever people realise its necessity – wealth and inheritance tax on large inheritances and concentrations of wealth. And how to do all this while remaining part of the global economic system – because ‘going it alone’ isn’t an option.

    Now we’re getting closer. But this sort of thing is strangely absent from general public debate, as well as Labor internal debate – when, really, it should be front and centre.

  57. Lambchop Simnel

    Read somewhere Morrison doesn’t like post modernism.

    “Put away thy Marx
    pick up thy Yuval-Davis”

  58. Lambchop Simnel

    The last has piqued my mind.

    Partly Kaye Lee’s last also, which made a fair point as to self interest and got the writer back to things like “intersectionality” eg, how you cop it twice if you are black AND working class.

    Bel Hooks, the black US feminist, was sour of on Academic feminism because she felt it saw no further than the problems of middle class white feminists The problems faced by wealthy white movie stars, say, against those faced by the millions comprising the lumpen proletariat while
    Gaytri Chakravorty Spivak and others expanding the definition to include “subalterns” in colonial societies, where intelligent coloured people played second fiddle to white morons.

    Which brings me to my next point, the suggestion of “class” applying to anyone “othered” in the interests the ruling elite.

    Congrats to Kaye Lee and Michael Taylor for providing us with the contexts of social security and tax dodging which form part of that component of the psychotic neo liberal mindset, childish arrogance.

  59. Lambchop Simnel

    And if the absolute elites are also stuffed psychically, then the system does eat its own and Tristan is fairly right in suggesting these things are going to take a while to sort out over history, if at all.

    If a biological component is stronger for we “Naked Apes”, will it be that we are what we are until stuff is bred out of us by evolution. But will we still be “human” if we turn ourselves into zombies either?

    Let’s hope it is only cultural, but I think not somehow.

    No, I am not pushing biological determinism, but I think it is far more fraught than people think and Tristan’s idea derived of Marx of removing the guilt/greed/dominance factor is looking forward.

    Kaye Lee adds, “why not kindness”, but “kindness” seems a currency in short supply in the current socio cultural mix at our time in proceedings; has too many uses elsewhere…

  60. Wam

    The essence of class is to have someone below you and someone above telling you there is someone below you.
    In my youth, women were temporary workers and unimportant beyond women’s work.
    This attitude was deeply entrenched in the psyche of men and women, despite the experience of the power of women during the two world wars, showing it was utter bullshit.
    For men 1st and 2nd class was defined by singlets. My closest friend was from Broken Hill, with 4 sisters because his dad was desperate for an heir. When I wore a blue singlet to a teacher’s camp, he was horrified because I was not working class ‘you are management’.
    No wonder my mum always bought dad white singlets. We lived in trust conjoined houses and on the weekend all the men working outside had white singlets.
    Thank goodness we paid for Scummo to fly to a god meeting where he could reveal the the evil one is in control of social media. I must check the background of posters to see if there is any ungodly science behind it.
    Tax rorts are for the rich. When packer bought a $5m ring that should have been classified as paid for by income and taxed as such.
    What happened to Glenda sluga bitcoin?

  61. Tristan Ewins

    It’s a deception to infer only blue collar workers are working class ; all wage labourers are working class ; And some white collar workers don’t do as well as their blue collar counterparts.

  62. Arnd


    … a language that I have to confess a certain envy of…

    I mean, suit yourself, Joe, and I appreciate the flattery – but I really don’t see what you might have to be envious of. It’s the other way round, if anything.

    Now … (I hope you don’t mind too much me saying this, but) as for the clarity of your insight into political philosophy: it may be that, at this stage, and at a guess supported mainly by gut feeling, and therefore subject to revision … – I prefer mine to yours. And I speculatively propose, that it might be my relative clarity of insight into the subject matter, more so than a gift for wordsmithing as such, that provides the base for your niggling sentiment of envy.

    Mine may well (indeed it often does!) come across as unduly conceited attitude – but I am not sure how to help that. It was just under 30 years ago that I had what is commonly known as a “Eureka moment”, where all the confusions, about good intentions and bad outcomes, about private vices and public virtues, and unintended consequences, which I had accumulated during the preceding two decades of intermittent rumination, resolved beautifully, and with the self-explanatory elegant simplicity that I had been looking for. This moment of I sight and resolution did bring with it a certain personal humiliation – I refer to it, not as my Eureka moment, but as my “Ahhrsoo(le!) moment: How utterly simple! How utterly stupid not to have thought of this in the first place”. I remember quite clearly having to make a conscious choice, between hanging on to the comfortable middle-class conceit that I had grown up with – or dropping this conceit so as to enable myself to discover The Truth. Which included The Truth about myself, and some uncomfortable, outright embarrassing, and even shameful truths about myself at that.

    At that moment, I did have the advantage of not having made any major middle-class educational or career investments, and thus was relatively much more free to arrive at conclusions as dictated by logic, and irrespective of my position in life – I simply didn’t have one! “Freedom”, as they say, “is just another word for ‘nothing left to lose’!”

    In short, I managed to establish – so far only for my own benefit – a reliable reference point from which to survey all of contemporary disputation of political philosophy and political economy. And I can report that that reference point has never yet let me down. Wherever I might find myself in the thickets of disputation, I can very quickly re-establish my bearings – on the exceedingly rare occasion that I have lost them in the first place

    Joe, I do have a niggling feeling that you yourself might not be as sure-footed?

    But we may yet find opportunity to further compare notes.

  63. Arnd


    Along with some of the Austro-Marxists I believe in free will …

    For a fairly involved complex of reasons which I might end up outlining in more detail if we were to continue this exchange, I am probably a good deal more sceptical about Free Will.

    A fairly comprehensive exploration of the concept, and the implications of different theoretical positions about it for real life, and the individual and collective political, economic and social reality we construct for ourselves, provided some of the early basics on which I built my subsequent understanding of political philosophy.

    Because of its complexity, I was going to leave the subject well alone … – except today The Guardian offered a Long Read on exactly this subject: The clockwork universe: is free will an illusion?.

    Tristan, I don’t know how much enthusiasm for further reflection you have left – I am certainly running out of puff – but I would suggest that, wedged between Marx’s “Sein bestimmt Bewusstsein” (being determines consciousness) and Kant’s “Dictate of Reason”, there is precious little room for Free Will.

    Which, for a Marxist conception of historiology and sociology (even only a loose one), is an issue of central importance.

    But nonetheless I argue there are willing agents who undermine the class struggle ; without which the class struggle’s logic would have played out.

    Already Socrates argued, and to my mind rather persuasively, that “Virtue is knowledge”. And that reasoning has repeatedly been picked up by other prominent philosophers since. Meaning that the “willing agents” of the reaction only did what they did because they didn’t know any better?

  64. Arnd


    The essence of class is to have someone below you and someone above telling you there is someone below you.

    And that, amongst other things, explains the extraordinary prevalence and resilience of both the myth of a classless society and of racism in the US, and to a lesser extent in Australia -John Steinbeck famously observed the almost complete lack of working class consciousness in the US: workers do not think of themselves as exploited labourers, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

    In these countries, so some thinkers claim, the class conflict has to a significant degree been shifted to, and overlaid on a demarcation line defined by skin pigmentation. I consider this analysis relevant – even the lowliest “white trailer trash” can be appeased by the ruling class and its demagogues into believing that there is someone lower than themselves, and that they are a part of the ruling “powers that be”.

    Which, in my view, makes it all the more important to pro-actively work towards the establishment of a truly classless society, and the concurrent elimination of the ersatz-classism calked ‘racism’.

  65. Joe Carli

    You must have thought-over the wording of that missive for some time, Arnd…not a long time perhaps, but a concentrated time..and I note your post is at 4: 14 pm…after work? But truly, I do envy those with a solid vocabulary to draw from…it has been my bane as an amateur writer having to consciously struggle to find the mot juste that fits the space…especially in a poem…and I still shake my head in respect for Yeats where he used the word ; “gyre” in his “The Second Coming” poem, when I could never in my life have thought of anything better than “vortex” or some other inadequate noun..so it was not base flattery that I gave you, but sincere respect…I am too lazy to now seek linguistic competence…easier to reach for the thesaurus.

    And yes..you are correct in your assessment of my not being so sure-footed on the slippery sands of political philosophy, and again, in my doubt of appropriate conclusions, I reach for the simple solution..STALINIZE THE BASTARDS!…but there is another reason for my doubt..it is that I cannot shake this deep suspicion..perhaps; superstition of a pagan respect for the vagaries of chance..the gamble of fate.. and I live in subtle fear of that moment when, due to a lack of diligence of observation, or just plain “putting the mozz on myself”, I become another statistic to blind chance and bad luck. I recall back in my younger years the news report of a young man celebrating his 21st birthday at The Morphett Hotel, going to the toilets when the half-glass door he was about to go through suddenly, with a gust of wind from another person entering from outside, slammed shut..the glass shattering and a long sliver piercing his chest right through his heart, killing him instantly…..what were the chances you may ask?….the pagan in me says too risky to ignore.

    Seriously..I fear the uncertainty of life…I am always watching..always cautious when driving and out in public…after all, you never know.. and it’s those little bastard accidents that get you in the end…not the big ones..those sneaky little ones..and it is that uncertainty that finds its way into my political/social philosophy so that in seeking a certainty, I am willing to chance it with a kind of absolutism…perhaps even a communism of doctrine.

    I noted earlier that you may have written your treatise after work…I too, though in retirement was busy at work today…I was plastering the repairs to the limestone walls of the stables where the old wall was fretting away quite badly at the base..so I replaced the stones lost and now was plastering the surface with lime-mortar….You may be aware of using lime-mortar, Arnd…it takes some preparation with leaving the milk-like mixture of hydrated lime and water sit for around a week before mixing in the clean sand..it then is a pleasure to use and the fact that lime mortar does not set like concrete mortar, but rather “cures” lets one work the surface for longer. There is a certain, solid feeling of achievement when one constructs or renovates with one’s hands..I need not extrapolate to yourself…it is in that feeling of tactile achievement that I find solid footing in my class-identity and social loyalty…Here is a short piece I wrote explaining my mood.. https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/nailing-down-a-pine-floor/

    The debate above you have with Dr. Ewins has delved into a deeper philosophy than I could match..Though I do have a reading of many of the “persons of influence” mentioned, I have not the memory to draw from those tomes to grace the pages with any real positive addition..and I now restrict my philosophic observation to older writers from an older time…Gibbon, Mommsen, Machiavelli, Veblen and those primary sources of Roman history..

    But there, I have rambled on and somewhat away from where I started and where I intended to go…but that in itself gives clue to a catch as catch can thought process that could be considered my failing……..or success…take which one you will..and good luck to you!

  66. Tristan Ewins

    The problem with refusing free will is that no-one can point out the stage at which mechanical relationship turn into a different quality: sentient consciousness. that suggest there must be a transcendent element in consciousness ; and that would also support free will. Which is not to say people aren’t trapped in malign Ideologies that divide them against each other and prevent solidarity. Will mobilisation is bloody hard – but it’s possible. Otherwise in Adorno’s term we’re in a ‘bad totality with no way out’.

  67. Doctor Wu

    Joe … You have nothing to envy in people who know and use more and different words than you to explain their views. Your last post demonstrates intellectual and personal honesty on several levels … I myself had a sandstone education in history, philosophy and chemistry, then spent many years at the benches of analytical laboratories. I know (too) many words. And I have a technical understanding of the science of probability and its explanations for the random events that perplex us all. And yet, amid all this education, empirical data, and logical reasoning, there remains an ineffable but very real factor that many academic inquiries miss … It’s a matter of forests and trees Joe. Detailed inspection of the one can lead to neglect or ignorance of the other. You fear that you have rambled. Not at all, but allow me to ramble and cite a few lines from TS Eliot …

    “Words strain,
    Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
    Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
    Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
    Will not stay still.”

    In terms of any purchase on reality offered by education and arcane language, I prefer simple words used to describe simple experiences. Those can be many things, some agreeable and some not, some reflective of my experiences and some not. However, their value is that they do not depend on words. They reach for a “truth” predicated on empirical, rather than vicarious, experience and interpretation.

    The present debate is both interesting and stimulating in many aspects. But Joe, please do not doubt the value of your contributions.

  68. Arnd

    … we’re in a ‘bad totality with no way out’.

    That’s precisely why I do not refuse Free Will point blank! But I do insist that it is much, much more constrained than most would realise – and would want to realise (because to do so basically unravels all established assumptions about the human condition on which we base our individual and collective lives and social interaction.

    Will mobilisation is bloody hard.

    It is! A crucial aspect of this will mobilisation, to my way of thinking, is the insight that we do not, as yet, have the capacity and room to exercise our free will, and that to a much greater extent than most would realise (by several orders of magnitude) we still are bound into precedent, tradition, habit – and unexamined precedent, tradition and habit at that.

    To have at it from a different angle: the civic project, which began in earnest about 250 years ago, with the American and French revolutions, looks like it is nearing completion. Francis Fukuyama was so confident of it that he famously declared the “End of History”. A little prematurely, as it turns out.

    Two things about this supposed completion of the civic project: 1) it is a good deal further off than most seem to think, and the remaining gaps are greater than middle class opinion leaders realise – we’re still talking “chasms”, rather than mere “gaps” …, and 2) nobody seems to have given much thought as to how society and humanity is to operate and interact once this project is indeed completed.

  69. Joe Carli

    For you…Dr. Wu…..

    The final fall of Delphi.

    “Tell the king…..
    The fair wrought hall is fallen,
    No more hut, nor prophetic laurel,
    Its waters murmur, sigh and sorrow,
    The spring of eloquence is quenched….”

    Tell the folk :
    Delphi ; the house of Apollo is fallen.
    The Oracle speaks it’s last,
    In stuttering tongue, before dusk,
    And cometh now an age of gilded lust.

    Tell the people :
    The Gods are gone, their whispered scent
    From spring and bough wisdom sent
    Is barren now….rubble strewn,
    Where once was beauty marble hewn.

    Tell them all :
    The temple walls are forlorn and broken!
    The paths of herb and steps awry,
    Beast debased, their perfumes descry,
    Man’s heart’s desire…now a banker’s token.

    Yes!..Go!..Tell the Kings of the world:
    Of the thousands who have homaged Delphi,
    Now..only two of us stand on the Sibylline Rock
    ….in the pouring rain….
    Two stand ; the merchant and the poet..

    ….but only one of us is crying.

  70. Arnd


    … easier to reach for the thesaurus.

    That’s what I do. And Wikipedia.

    Every once in a while, I trip up and have to wipe a bit of intellectual egg of my face. Like the occasion when I made some hifalutin and profound statement about the rule of law, and totally embarrassed myself by muddling natural law and common law. But so what? A certain brazen shameless is the order of the day. As long as you don’t completely go overboard – like a certain Scotty from Marketing and his assortment of boorish incompetents, for example, who don’t just have lots of unexamined opinions, but consider it their god-given right – nay: duty – to whack others over the head with them. Hard.


    Yup! That’s what I had you down for! Only I didn’t dare put it quite as bluntly. But I’m grateful you did. And I am even more grateful that you have enough self-awareness and personal honesty to raise the motivating sentiment for that preference: “… I live in subtle fear …”

    I’m probably a bit different to you: I (used to) ride motorbikes. Including the Putty Road. I try not be stupid about it, but I can’t change the bottom line: a little diesel spill on the wrong spot on the road, and I’m cactus. Dead, or in wheelchair for the rest of my life. Still I went, looking for this elusive perfect curve, with that perfect shift between forward deceleration and centrifugal side acceleration and back again, and the slight dip in the front forks, and that smooth change from engine braking to engine driving, without upsetting the drive train … I do need to get another bike again!

    And, I am almost certain, that also serves as most suitable analogy for our differing philosophical perspectives: we might both subscribe to communism – but you would prefer a state-administrated and state-underwritten form of communism, whereas I am firmly in the camp of libertarian communism – or anarchist communism, to you.

    I think of Marx’s insistence on concentrating all economic power in the hands of the state, on top of all political power, as a means of eventually transcending (aufheben, sublating) it, as perhaps his greatest single error. With the benefit of 20/20 vision bestowed by hindsight, of course – but certain errors you really do not want to repeat. And in my mind, the ones perpetrated by Stalin and Mao feature prominently amongst them.

    I do stick with German-American anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker, who insisted that: “Socialism must be free, or must not be at all”. It seems that Rosa Luxemburg understood this, too: “Freedom is always the freedom of the dissenter”.

    Stalinism (or Putinism, or Duttonism, or Mick “Young people should have a little fear of police” Fullerism) invariably ends up causing more problems than it solves.

    So say I, anyway!

    Hence, my habitual scepticism of any Labor “big state authority” solutions to economic problems – sure, we rely on governments to manage, and wherever possible, solve our problems – but I would want governments to solve problems in such a way as to distribute and devolve both political and economic power, not concentrate it.

  71. Joe Carli

    Arnd….My last motorcycle was a Kawasaki 500cc. Mach 1 triple model H1(B). I have a picture of a broody, moody-looking youth sitting astride it (me) from a day long gone by….had heaps of motorcycles…mostly two-ies…and yes…the search for the elusive “The Right Line”.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7LwEG7Tptc took our little crew out on many a Saturday morning into the hills around Adelaide risking life and limb for that adrenalin rush…but no…I now wouldn’t climb aboard a bike to ride in traffic for quids!…

    ” . . . I know now ; with mortality being the only certainty, the whole world runs on bluff. ”


    Come Saturday Morning.

  72. GL

    A true classless human society is, and always will be, a utopian fantasy because there will always be someone (or a group of someones) who feel that they will be better suited to run everything. It just ain’t going to happen, end of story.

  73. DrakeN

    That’s about it GL.
    So often the philosophising writers fail to understand the huge diversity of behaviours and predelictions in humanity as a whole; from those who sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others to those who exploit the sacrificial lambs at every opportunity.
    But, as the ‘Great Bard wrote: ” ‘t was ever thus.”

  74. Joe Carli

    Gl and DrakeN…so after approx’ three score and ten comments, many of which reach out to the humanist ethics in us all, we now come the full circle back to the cynicism and author that first kicked off the commentary…..could THIS be the “proving of the theory” that it is impossible and futile to contain fire and water in the same vessel?

  75. GL


    You are quite welcome to, borrowing a partial phrase from Monty Python, dream your dreamy dreams, but the reality is that it will never happen.

  76. Joe Carli

    GL…it is cynicism that destroys dreams…destroys societies..destroys us all….and it’s a bloody shame.

    ” And this is why we, as a species may not survive. We have been hollowed out, gutted like a dead fish! We now are so untrusting, so protective of our sensitivities, so afraid that we will not allow another too close lest they seek to hurt us emotionally. Perhaps losing our collective confidence in ourselves to survive emotional trauma. Many young people do not enter into relationships anymore, choosing instead to conduct temporary “meetings” that demand no commitment, no deep emotional give and take where those “secrets” of heightened pleasure or pain are nurtured and ensconced within our psyche … and we, as a species are getting weaker for it … for if we cannot trust ourselves with holding that secret of emotional pleasure to carry as a talisman through rough life, then what trust will we allow others that we hold dear to have their own private “suitcase” with their own private desires … and will we destroy our own relationships from a desire to destroy the entrusted confederacies of others?”

  77. Arnd

    Here we go: the abominable no-men strike again! It’s their determined defeatism, more than the evil deeds of the top 1% themselves, that is to blame for the creeping, but persistent degradation of matters generally.

    Joe, I did live in Adelaide for a few years myself. But I didn’t have a bike at the time.

    Though when my wife and I met, I took her across the Hay Plains to Adelaide, and back along the Grand Ocean Road, on my trusty K100.

  78. Joe Carli

    “. . . I took her across the Hay Plains to Adelaide, and back along the Grand Ocean Road, on my trusty K100.”…..Christ!…my arse is aching just thinking about it!…THAT would’ve tested the relationship!
    Wouldn’t even think of suggesting such a project to my missus…but she’d ride a horse to the ends of the earth!

  79. Arnd

    Yeah … – so my daughter discovered horses, as many little girls do – and took my wife along for the ride. I keep telling her that horse riding is actually more dangerous than motorbike riding. But she don’t care.

    And – apropos your short story on the subject – my daughter, now all grown up and at uni, had her first ride on a stallion a few weeks ago. Quite the event, apparently. Said she: “He could have easily killed me. Which is not the issue, any horse can kill you! But he knew that he could kill me. If he wanted to!” In the event, he was the nicest horse to ride. Very communicative and responsive. A supremely courteous, gallant and chivalrous stallion, I guess. But not to be messed with.

    I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere? One that might be a bit lost on the “command and obedience” hierarchical crowd.

  80. Joe Carli

    The courage of some women when it comes to handling stallions is something to be amazed at..and I wonder if they are cognizant of the terror of the danger..THAT is the thing makes many a brave man quiver…the fear of the danger rather than the actual thing itself..

    The woman who bred our horses (Holsteiner Warmbloods) is Swedish and as tough as nails…SHE would have no trouble handling that stallion in the story I wrote…as a matter of fact, I contacted her upon writing that story and I sent her a copy, confessing that I was a tad hesitant in telling her of it as I knew she’d be quite capable of handling any wild stallion…but then the story was a metaphor…

    My wife rode on one of those “stock-route rides” up through the Flinders Rangers some years back…I was the back-up with the car and float…I tell you what…SHE got some saddle-sores on that ride….I was called upon in a husbandly/gentlemanly manner to apply the healing balm ointment to those most delicate of locations….a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do…

  81. Michael Taylor

    One of my older brothers – an ex-shearer – loves the Outback. There wouldn’t be a dirt road in Australia he hasn’t travelled on (except those in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands – of which he is jealous of me – because I have … I had a permit to travel there when with ATSIC in Port Augusta).

    Anyway, there’s a station west of Alice Springs he visits a lot. This station had a cook who everyday would do the cooking in a little tin shed, even when the temperature would be as high as 56C, so you can imagine how hot it would be in there on the best of days, let alone with a hot stove.

    Not once, not once did she ever complain. Not once. Never.

    The last my brother heard she retired and moved to Alice. When she retired she was 83.

    You just gotta respect people like that.

    Me? I’m a real moaner. I complain whenever the temp reaches 30.

  82. Lambchop Simnel

    Thank goodness it is only about cynical theories, can you imagine the discourse if it involved cyclical theories.

    Two things, two words the thing seems to hang on, class and intersectionality.

    Who “owns” the term? Does it only apply in Patriarchal systems as some essentialist might claim? Eg why black women are persecuted more than white women, who are persecuted enough. It becomes a closed discourse in itself without consideration possibly for historical origins for example, since its key object is removal of patriarchy rather than some academic conversation on historical obscured(?) origins, since patriarchy is not necessarily the same thing as Marxian “class” against the measuring stick of history, in the context. eg, is something biological rather than processive and formulative.

    But I won’t go further here, because there are so many permutations and someone as far down the food chain as me would probably stagger under the weight of all those ifs and buts. Even a dill could see that history, pol economics, anthropology, sociology etc all play roles in a discussion.

    So we go to class. Pomo’s have correctly sort to identify the nature of a class system, eg the role of patriarchy for example. That is because the dialectic is not stifled but ongoing and can be developed, after all we can’t deny the proposition made earlier that earlier Marxists erred in seeking “the state” to impose the Fair Go with Stalinist (and) Fascist totalitarianism the result. Hence many progressives believe you can soften and even change the system incrementally, by men being broken out of their masculinist conditioning for example. But if there is a biological core or component at the centre of it all, as some here have suggested, doesn’t change become problematic?

    And doesn’t the system itself seem self replicating? Don’t even the elites and bosses seem chained to their habituations and conditioning, way back to childhood? So we get generation after generation of upper class twits and wife beating reactionary subjectives.

    Love the article because, not despite it asking more questions than it answers and think I will give it and its high class answer more than one more read in the near future.

    But that is because I can do that, against some unwashed gasping coronavirus victim in Delhi struggling for his or her last breath,

  83. Doctor Wu

    Lambchop Simnel … “But if there is a biological core or component at the centre of it all, as some here have suggested, doesn’t change become problematic?” … Indeed. This concept does not receive a lot of serious objective consideration in this forum, yet there is significant empirical evidence in physiology and psychology that supports the idea. [Supports, but not necessarily proves.] Theory arises when the known evidence cannot adequately explain the phenomenological world. Or, when the evidence is conflicted. Theory is validated by the acquisition of further data and subjecting those to the theory. If they do not confirm the theory, it is back to the drawing board for a re-think … Ignoring a putative biological component, and instead concentrating on social, political, ideological and cultural values, and conditioning, will not assist anyone in understanding the matters under discussion … I am definitely not saying a biological component is the only or primary operative mechanism in action here, but that it is not even considered as a possibility worthy of discussion in this forum is disappointing to say the least.

  84. Lambchop Simnel

    Seems a fraught conversation, doesn’t it Dr. Wu.

    Many “known unknowns and unknown knowns”, to quote one of the special minds of our century.

  85. Doctor Wu

    Yes LS. Those very ones. Modern formal scientific method describes them as errors of two types: error that is there but is not measured; and error that is not there but is measured. “Fraught” alright. But also confounding, and branching onto all manner of tangents. Some useful for expanding understanding, and some not. [Sigh.]

  86. Arnd

    Further on the subject of “abominable no-men”, I just reminded myself of R.H. Tawney, who pegged them a hundred years ago in the introduction to The Acquisitive Society:

    It is a commonplace that the characteristic virtue of Englishmen is their power of sustained practical activity, and their characteristic vice a reluctance to test the quality of that activity by reference to principles. They are incurious as to theory, take fundamentals for granted, and are more interested in the state of the roads than in their place on the map. And it might fairly be argued that in ordinary times that combination of intellectual tameness with practical energy is sufficiently serviceable to explain, if not to justify, the equanimity with which its possessors bear the criticism of more mentally adventurous nations. It is the mood of those who have made their bargain with fate and are content to take what it offers without re-opening the deal. It leaves the mind free to concentrate undisturbed upon profitable activities, because it is not distracted by a taste for unprofitable speculations. Most generations, it might be said, walk in a path which they neither make, nor discover, but accept; the main thing is that they should march. The blinkers worn by Englishmen enable them to trot all the more steadily along the beaten {2}road, without being disturbed by curiosity as to their destination.

    Wikiquote offers a whole stack of pithy quotes from that book. Quotes which, without any exceptions, could have sprung from the pages of The AIMN – except that Tawney writes just a little more elegantly, and spends more of his effort trying to investigate causes, consequences and remedies, and wastes less time trying to invent ever more derogatory invective for politicians of whom he disapproves.

  87. Tristan Ewins

    It’s common on the Left to say Marxism still has analytical usefulness but should not seek state power on account of previous Stalinist disasters. In response I point to the Austro-Marxists and Eurocommunists. The State should never be stifling and omnipresent. But a strong public sector – which also supports the spread of the co-operative and mutualist sectors – could be a good thing. We shouldn’t be complacent in the face of privatisation. The argument we need is “what kind of democratic mixed economy do we want?” ; and “how are we going to get there?”. Finally: “what are the limits of capitalism as we know it?’. “What compromises will we need to make along the way?” ; and “Is it possible one day to achieve a fully democratic economy based on the maxim “From each according to ability, to each according to need”. Interestingly one good outcome of focusing on marginalised groups is the advancement of this principle ‘in the here and now’. But we shouldn’t forget the majority working class who are exploited, oppressed and manipulated under capitalism as well. Focusing too much on their ‘privilege’ can make us forget they are also exploited and oppressed under capitalism ; and need to be politicised and organised.

  88. Lambchop Simnel

    Ahhh, Tristan, if only…

    Many places including this one had that up and running well into the eighties of last century, when the neo cons and neo libs, aided by rats in the ranks, tore the thing down for plunder and the control instinct. Don’t forget, “Reform is permanent”.

    We must add, a good idea tho provided the Murdoch types lack to power to rip down and plunder a civil society.

    Sorry, pessimism rules..

  89. Arnd

    It’s common on the Left to say Marxism still has analytical usefulness but should not seek state power on account of previous Stalinist disasters.

    I wish it was as common as you say, but it doesn’t seem so, at least in my experience.

    It does sum up my attitude quite neatly, though. Except that I extend it not just to the Marxist left, but to every other political persuasion also, including non-marxist left, bourgeois progressives, bourgeois conservatives, loony reactionaries, and (Pentecostal) Christians. I think there ought to be a rather comprehensive moratorium on the increasingly ruthless pursuit of raw political power in the absence of discussion and explanation as to the ends and purposes of such political power.

    Looked at from that angle, I can see some of the positive points of the neo-liberal demolition of the post-WWII Keynesian compact: I fully agree that state authorities really are not the most efficient hands-on managers of large-scale commercial activity. On the basis of that agreement, I go so far as to declare myself exactly one half of a neo-liberal.

    What the neo-liberals (conveniently?) forgot to include in their economic analysis is that private interests are, on the whole, no better at managing large aggregations of commercial activity. Both Big State and Big Business encourage the kind of inertia, sloth, rent-seeking, complacency and inertia that is counter-productive to The Greater Common Good.

  90. Joe Carli

    ” . . . but should not seek state power on account of previous Stalinist disasters.”……Now hang on a second!..just bloody hang on….Let’s get a bit of perspective in here…”Stalinist disasters”??…are we talking about the time when the Nazi war machine was busy making its way right to the front door of The Kremlin?…The entire she-bang of Hitler’s finest slaughtering its way through the Crimea etc without any hinderence from the Allied powers?..and then Stalin led Soviets REALLY defeating and breaking the backbone of Nazi military forces in the East…minding the Western Nazi Army could’ve held on indefinately had Joe S lost his forceful power in pushing right back to Berlin..breaking the spirit of the Nazi resistance…( I wrote a short story on the subject..remember?…and I was shit-canned by some for it..: https://theaimn.com/kapitan-kemps-diary/ )

    And the framing of The Cold War was entirely a manufactured aggression by Britain and America because they had to create a communist bogeyman to deflect and subdue rising radicalism in their own countries dating from between the wars…see ; John Dos Passos ..”USA”…Stienbeck; “The Grapes of Wrath” etc..

    And as for State-run enterprises not being most efficient…well, in SA. we had an Electricity Trust, a Housing Trust, the Engineering-Water & Sewerage (EW&S), PMG (future Telstra), Hospitals, all three tiers of education and so many more State Authorities that ran most efficiently..Highways – Railways – Airways…so efficiently in fact that the Neo-Liberal fraternity of “Old School Tie” MAATE! network couldn’t wait for the Liberal Gov’t to get into power after Dunstan so they could get their greedy, f#ckin’ useless hands on them!!

    No…I don’t buy that “fire and water CAN be contained in the one vessel” schlock…State run, Big Bureaucracy govt’ is the best way to regulate and contain the excesses of so many varieties of human greed and excess.

    “ Wars and panics on the stock exchange, machinegun fire and arson, banckruptcies, warloans, starvation, lice, cholera and typhus : Good growing weather for the House of Morgan” (USA..John Dos Passos).

  91. Arnd

    Not quite so fast, Joe: Stalin’s Purges were staged before Nazi Germany ever attacked Russia, and even before Hitler and Stalin (and von Ribbentrop and Molotov) became besties … – for a little short while, until Germany attacked Russia, and never mind the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression pact that had so neatly divvied up Eastern Europe between the two thugs.

    And South Australia’s fortuitous run of state enterprise came to an ignominious end with the collapse of the State Bank of South Australia, during the Bannon Labor government – an event that once again does not bear out the proposition that governments are capable business managers within the context of capitalist market economies.

    Which brings me to to taking issue with Tristan’s idea that: ‘The argument we need is “what kind of democratic mixed economy do we want?'”. As if there was one singular optimal arrangement, which, once established, can keep running indefinitely, and requiring minor administrative adjustments at the most.

    Whereas I would insist that optimising economic cooperation amongst a population is a moving and continuously evolving target.

    In hindsight, I attribute our current economic woes world-wide in large part to the Social-democrat inability to think beyond the post-WWII Keynesian economic compact, and conceptualise exactly the kind of economic alternative that Marge T. convinced everyone didn’t exist.

    I am happy enough to accept that Social-democrats in the 70s were taken by surprise by stagflation and once again rising unemployment, and, on the western side of the Iron Curtain, could not very well agitate for state socialism, even if they wanted to.

    But we are now over forty years on. Even if we agree that in the short term, a mixed economy of some sort is the best practicable alternative to selling everything to US investors or Chinese so-called “Communist” Party interests, it ought to be supported by some long-term thinking outside of the Keynesian MMT box.

  92. Tristan Ewins

    Joe I was arguing that’s a common argument ; I wasn’t saying I agreed with that argument (about Marxism).

  93. Joe Carli

    Now. Now. Arnd…I see you are shafting an umbrella up to cover a whole variety of generalisations there in your comment…let’s just have a quick squizz at them…

    As for Stalin purging, isn’t THAT common pracitice in EVERY radical swing of political leadership from one side of the political spectrum to the other…and I recall a certain pact between Poland and France In A.J.P.Taylor’s excellent thesis of “The Origins of the Second World War” where those two nations were secretly at an advanced stage of intention to annex certain territory from the weakened German State… and didn’t Howard purge each and every dept’ and authority and jurisprudence seat in his three terms of office..and sure, he didn’t create gulags, but he did exile so many competent heads that they were in effect “driven into the wilderness” of a lonely early retirement.

    As for The State Bank of SA collapsing, that is true, but a quick check on just WHO were the “capable business managers” in situ when the SHTFan would reveal a coterie of private-schooled, sand-stone uni’ educated, card-carrying members of the Liberal Party only too keen to show their mustard at economic incompetence that we are all now seeing in practice with the current incumbents…

    And your suggestion for ..: ” . . . insist that optimising economic cooperation amongst a population . . . ” sounds suspiciously to me like some sort of black-money economy…and hey!…don’t think I am so pure of ethics and heart to be against such policy…hell..I’ve worked for builders who paid their “favourite tradies” from a suitcase full of cash in the boot of their car…worked well for a lot of people!… But c’mon…you’ve seen those masses who queue for days just to get tickets to a Collingwood / Carlton grand final clash at “The G”…you reckon THEY’D be open to risking secure income for a ” I’ll chance-it” style of life?….certainty is spice of suburban Friday night / Family night at the local KFC franchise !

    Further.. on the “Chinese Communist party”….why the doubt?…Is it because we are told that the middle-class is now the major class of influence there?…I would rather suggest the image of a rising middle-class we get presented with by western media is in reality the Chinese workers now reaping their reward for years of dedicated loyalty…the worker gets wealthier through their just rewards…and sure, there are billionaires a-plenty, but there, I point to the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who was criticised for allocating provinces to speculators who got very wealthy from them…but then he (Vespasian) would “squeeze” them and their wealth into the treasury when they returned to Rome…he called them his “sponges”…I see several Chinese billionaires are right now being “squeezed” into the Chinese treasury….History repeating and all that?

    No..I repeat…and history has shown that a strong, BIG-Bureacracy and strong central government is the best solution to ensuring those ticket-holders queued up at “The G” can continue to hold that little bit of heaven in their hands and the vision of a Collingwood victory heaven in their hearts!

    And talking about “The G”…here’s an example of the chivalry that existed once upon a time in that morass of anger and excitement…:

    Many years ago, back in the 70’s, I was working in Melbourne, and on a Monday morning smoko, this young labourer told the gathering there about an event he witnessed at the footy at “The G” (MCG) that Saturday…it seems at the height of the action between (I think) Collingwood and Essendon..(the lad was a Essendon supporter and the foreman a die-hard ‘Pies), at some place in the spectators area where it gets a bit rough (I’m not savvy with the G), this young woman who had been drinking a fair bit got all agitated about her team losing and getting sledged by the opposition supporters there, started hitting those next to her with her big leather handbag…This caused everybody to press back away from her so that soon, with her swinging that bag around by the long, leather sling/handle, there was a circle of tight-pressed people just out of reach of that weapon as it swung around and around..
    It wasn’t long before some became agitated themselves and started calling and shouting..:
    “Hit the moll, hit the moll….someone just hit the moll!”
    And then, out of the perimeter of the crowd steps a kind of “Sir Galahad”..and with a chivalrous determination, steps straight up to the woman, who stops swinging her bag and stands wearily next to him as he moves in a circular motion slowly around that space saying all the while in a calming, gravitas tone, both hands slowly pumping up and down like he was bouncing a basket ball in each…:
    “No…no..no-one hits the moll…no-one hits the moll, no-one-hits-the-moll…”
    Chivalry is not dead, what?

  94. Arnd

    Somehow, between my phone and this website, the internet has disappeared four attempts to post on this thread. If this post goes up, I’ll tap out yet another reply to you, Joe, and to Tristan. Let’s see …

  95. Arnd

    Well, that went up. So here we go:


    State run, Big Bureaucracy govt’ is the best way to regulate and contain the excesses of so many varieties of human greed and excess.

    It may well look like that – at first, and for a little while. The first generation, or thereabouts, whilst state authorities are on the ascent to commercial supremacy.

    But once established, the rot will set in just about inexorably: once all, or at least substantial commercial powers have been concentrated in state hands, I see no reason to assume that those unconscionable career operators who are possessed of a disproportionate interest in working those powers who currently cool their heels on private enterprise, will increasingly usurp and turn towards their own ends, state bureaucratic control of economic enterprise and decision making. Mercenary types will go where commerce happens. Simples!

    Now, the above was my reply that I tried to post repeatedly, before you made your offering, including:

    As for The State Bank of SA collapsing, that is true, but a quick check on just WHO were the “capable business managers” in situ when the SHTFan would reveal a coterie of private-schooled, sand-stone uni’ educated, card-carrying members of the Liberal Party only too keen to show their mustard at economic incompetence that we are all now seeing in practice with the current incumbents…

    Just as I was sayin’ …

    As for:

    … is in reality the Chinese workers now reaping their reward for years of dedicated loyalty…the worker gets wealthier through their just rewards …

    China becoming the workshop of the globe has in large part to do with western capitalist overlords outsourcing production to bottom bargain basement wage third world countries, for extra profit. In other words, the ascent of the Chinese working class is tightly interwoven with the deteriorating situation of the western working class. It’s all about the Chinese ruling class colluding with the Western ruling class to set the toiling classes of their hemispheres against each other. One of the oldest games in the book!

    At heart, though, capitalism – whether the neo-liberal market capitalism of the West, or China’s party-feudalistic Confucian state capitalism – is and remains an unsustainable Ponzi scheme. The longer we keep it afloat, the worse it will be when it finally does collapse.

  96. Joe Carli

    There was a time in the middle period of the Roman Empire where the State was “governed and managed” without an Emperor for several years on only the established structures of a solid beauracracy…THAT is the beauty of BIG beauracracy in that it can be self-managing.

    I can see where your theory of China / Western capitalism comes from..it [appears] to be interconnected and in its present form it could well be…but we must remember that the central govt’ of China can and has in the past changed policy at the flick of a switch without public protest of any substantial disruption…we saw the swift and thorough lock-downs without much complaint in the pandemic…and once this Belt & Road initiative becomes a working reality, I suspect self-centered, capitalist States like Aust’ will be left like the suspect grogan floating in the South Pacific…unsightly, untouchable and unwanted…

    Also, the presumption of an inevitable corruption inherent within State Authorities can only happen within a certain demographic…that of the corruptable private-educated, egotistical psyche’d middle-classes…and THAT is precisly why Mao wiped the slate clean of the middle-class with the cultural revolution and it has been rebuilt and remastered to serve the State…NOT the other way around…I wrote of it on this site..here : https://theaimn.com/a-cultural-revolution/

    But I’m not so niaeve that I’d swallow capitalist/communist ideals like a cure-all panacea…but I do have more confidence in a “China-style” economic future for the working classes than the dog-eat-dog USA one..

  97. Arnd

    About ten years ago, Belgium ran with it a government for nearly two years.

    Joe, you seem to subscribe to “Strong State Communism” even more emphatically that I realised at first – and without bothering with any notions of the eventual “Withering Away of the State” and “the governance of people giving way to the administration of things” at all. I can only reply with Lord Action’s “Power corrupts. And total power corrupts totally”.

    I think that the Chinese once again picking up on their 2,000 year history of bureaucratic centralism is mainly about them reverting to form. Together with their expansionist Belt and Road drive, which is a departure from their 600 year history of isolationism, it may very well enable them to better muster and co-ordinate their national resources than the West with its hollow finance capitalism structures, and its attitude of pecuniary despotism aggravated by neglect (not “tempered”, as in the original quote about the Austro-Hungarian empire). Individual western collaborators, like Andrew Robb and his $880,000 Landbridge consultancy, can be expected to play their part in the accelerating western sell-off to China. Why anyone would expect any good to come from this beats me.

    What can I say? Other than: 1) You are, of course, welcome to your views. But I don’t share them. At all! And: 2) Nobody gives a fig what either you or I think, anyway.

    The discussion had strayed some distance from the original subject. Or has it? Even allowing for overblown western media reporting, the CCP does seem to have a problem with minority identities and diversity which I don’t necessarily wish to see replicated in the West. We have enough of our own problems, with high and still rising incarceration rates split along racial demarcation lines.

  98. Joe Carli

    Arnd…having very little deep knowledge of Chinese machinations re politics and future directions, I fall back onto my readings of the “organic natures” of human behaviour patterns from western literature…most particularly the writings of Machiavelli’s “Discources of Titus Livius” , Mommsen’s “Roman Histories” etc…and yes…no-does really give a fig about our conclusions and I feel like one of those little kids sitting with his pad,watching and marking trains as they steam past onto an inevitable destination….comrade…

    Ps..You really ought to answer your emails..

  99. Joe Carli

    ” And this conclusion can be drawn, that where the people is not corrupted, tumults and other troubles do no harm; but where corruption exists, well ordered laws are of no benefit, unless they are administered by one who, with extreme strength, will make them be observed until the people become good [cured]; I do not know if this ever happened, or whether it be possible that it could happen; for it is seen (as I have said a little above) that a City coming to decadence because of the corruption of its people, if it ever happens that she is raised up again, it happens through the virtu of one man who is then living, and not by the virtu of the general public, that the good institutions are sustained: and as soon as such a one is dead, they will return to their pristine habits, as happened at Thebes, which by the virtu of Epaminondas, while he was alive, was able to maintain the form of a Republic and Empire, but after his death returned to its first disorders: the reason is this, that one man cannot live so long that the time will be enough to bring a City back to good habits which for a long time has had evil habits. And if one of very long life or two continuous successors of virtu do not restore it [the state], so one which lacks them (as was said above) is quickly ruined, unless it should be made to be restored through many dangers and much bloodshed. For such corruption and little inclination for a free society result from an inequality that exists in that City; and wanting to bring them to equality, it is necessary to use the most extraordinary means, which few know or want to use, as will be described in more detail in another place.” …(Machiavelli..; “Discourses”)

  100. GL

    “Ps..You really ought to answer your emails..”

    Good dog, that’s not a very pleasant thing to say to someone who takes the time out to reply to your comments. It almost comes across as a threat even if it isn’t one.

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