Sunday, April 29, 2012

American Insurgents: book and events posted by Richard Seymour

The latest book, American Insurgents: A Brief History of American Anti-Imperialism, will be hitting the shelves soon - certainly it should already start to be available in the US, and will be arriving in the UK very shortly.  I will be doing a launch in the UK probably next month, but US readers should be aware of the following events that will take place while I'm visiting to do my PhD research:


If you do happen to be one of those east coast socialist intellectuals I've been reading about, make an effort to come to one of these events.  I'll make it worth your while.

The other thing is, there will be a paperback version of The Liberal Defence of Murder.  It will have a new chapter taking things up to date, and will be released (when else?) on 4th July.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Jim Wolfreys on the French elections posted by Richard Seymour

This is a detailed talk that explores the context of the far right's success.  Well worth watching:

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mayor debate posted by Richard Seymour

The organisers of tonight's mayoral debate, London Citizens, took it upon themselves to vocalise #whatlondonwants.  That is, as a civil society organisation rooted in the churches, synagogues, mosques, community groups, trade unions and so on, it drafted a moderate agenda for very mild and temperate social reform, and put this to four of the mayoral candidates: Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone, Jenny Jones and Brian Paddick.  The agenda included things like community land trusts and cracking down on dodgy landlords, extension of the living wage, more power and money for civil society groups like London Citizens (this is called better government), safer streets, jobs for young people, and so on.

The actual debate was surrounded by much adornment and ballyhoo.  A school choir singing "Lean on Me" while the audience clapped.  Many upbeat preacher types exhorting the accomplishments of community and the power of positive attitudes.  Headteacher types treating the audience like a school assembly.  Children summoning all their courage to mumble their scripted words.  "Community leaders" aplenty - a slimy phrase which I detest.  I thought to myself: what this event really needs is some corrosive cynicism.

Of genuine interest, however, were testimonials from campaigners and workers, relating stories about a side of London that seemed to make Boris Johnson's head slowly sink forward into his big fat-fingered hands as if to be cradled to a gentle sleep.  The most shocking example was of cleaning workers in Hilton hotels, overworked, given no overtime remuneration, and payed such a miserable sum that after rent and utility bills they have only £7 a day to spend on essentials.  In London, that's an impossibly small sum.  You might want to bear that name in mind: don't caught in a bad hotel.

A few points about the main debate, then.  First, quickly, it was only out of politeness that Brian Paddick was actually invited.  He's a nice enough fellow for an ex-copper, and he's sporting some very sexy new glasses.  And I thought to myself, I thought: "blimey, Brian, you ain't as ugly as I thought".  And he even has some policies that aren't complete dogshit.  But he's a Liberal, ergo he's a dead man walking.  And he didn't do anything to improve his chances.  If Jenny Jones wasn't such a repellent candidate for the Greens (more in a momen), they would easily take third position.  Aside from anything else, Paddick is far too fond of cliche phrases along the lines of: "not just once a year, but 365 days a year", "taking this forward", "passionate about London ... passionate about people", "same old punch and judy politics".  And I thought to myself, I thought: it's lucky Siobhan Benita isn't here as she would have nothing left to say.  Which just goes to show, Brian Paddick is not a natural politician.  He would be far happier giving up all this lark, growing his hair a bit longer and living with some scrumping hippies in the West Country.

Second, this was a naturally Labour audience.  It always is.  The organisers make a point of being polite to the point of obsequious to all the candidates, and this ensures a warm reception for everyone.  This was true during the general election, when Clegg and Cameron were both feted with every sign of being returning footballers holding aloft a shiny new cup.  Yet, despite this, you may recall, Gordon Brown carried the event on a wave of euphoria, and had one of his few real moments during that campaign (because he sounded briefly and vaguely like a Labour person).  So, it's Labour territory.  This was Ken's to lose; and, he didn't lose it.  His fares policy was extremely popular, but not as much as his pledge to restore the EMA for London students.  The latter, I would think, he should probably be making more of.  His housing policy is pretty bland and not that distinguishable from his rivals.  On the police, he hasn't changed his schtick - he's about getting Londoners and coppers 'on the same side again', and putting more officers on the beat.  Soft on police crime; soft on the causes of police crime.  But it was mainly on issues of national significance that he pulled ahead of his rivals.  He beat on the government's public spending cuts, and said that as the economy had just tipped into recession it was obvious they'd taken the wrong course.  (Well, they don't think so).  He also hammered the bankers, and said that the problem was fundamentally about how they and their greed had been allowed to set the tone in politics and industry for a generation or so.  This was all very popular.  So, I think he was the de facto London Citizens candidate.  And I think he will push Johnson very close in this race.

Third, Boris Johnson confirmed every thesis I have advanced about his campaign, which makes me even cleverer, if that is possible, even cleverer than you imagined me to be.  First of all, Johnson wanted nothing to do with being a Tory.  He did not once rise to defend Tory ideas.  The only whiff of it was when he gently patronised the audience over the call for youth jobs, by saying: "I don't want to create 100,000 new jobs if there aren't young people out there with the skills and the aptitude to do them".  But this was small beer when he wouldn't even defend public spending cuts - far from it!  When his chance came, he rose to echo Ken Livingstone in saying that, of course, Mr Obama was absolutely right and one should never cut public spending in a recession.  He then went on to list his various investments.  Then there was the dog that didn't bark.  You see, when faced with a simultaneous campaign to impose a Living Wage and create jobs, the Tory's instinctive response is to say, "no, you create jobs by cutting wages.  You can have high wages and high unemployment, or low wages and low unemployment.  But you can't have high wages and low unemployment, by the power vested in me by hidden hand of the free market."  Boris?  He was all for the living wage, all for more jobs, all for everything the London Citizens wanted.  And, well, if he was inconsistent or coy, he is such a skilled gaffeur that he could amiably bumble and bluster his way out of tight spots.  He didn't even raise an eyebrow when he said he would put Ray Lewis - yes, Ray bonkers Lewis - in charge of the Living Wage.  Now, of course, it's true that Boris was addressing a Labour audience.  But this hesitancy to come out as a Thatcherite, the unwillingness to be seen dead near the government's policies, the desire to come through this without bearing any of the stigma of actually being a Tory, is indicative of what he's about.  Boris Johnson wants to lead the Conservative Party.  Moreover, his willingness to publicly bash government policy - such as the granny tax - shows that he is unafraid of anything his old friend Cameron might do to him.  He knows the leadership is weak.

Finally, and apologies for the slight change of tone, but just who the fuck does Jenny Jones think she is?  If you want to patronise and berate people, probably you shouldn't stand for election.  If you don't like the sound of other people's voices, maybe just go stand in a corner.  Of course, this will sound harsh.  But when I tell you that, first of all, she was boring - very boring - you will begin to see my point.  And patronising.  She patronised the audience not just on the detail of policy, but in every nuance of her tone.  Like Brian Paddick, she had a few policies one wouldn't completely turn one's nose up at, but I got the feeling she was there mainly to heighten her profile in the GLA and shore up Ken for a future working relationship.  And when she opposed the idea - advanced by London Citizens - of free transport for students, she did so in a tone of voice that was rather like mummy saying 'you can't have that, but it's for your own good'.  She explained that her opposition was partially on the grounds of environmentalism, which strikes me as both dishonest and reflecting the worst elements of green anti-consumerism.  After all, it isn't as if most students have any choice but to use public transport - all keeping these punitive fares does is ensure that they spend more of their money on the necessary commutes, and less on things they need.  Then, when booed for this policy, she chastised the audience "no, you're not allowed to boo me, they [the organizers] said so".  Not a joke, this - complete poker-face all the way through.  Yes, it's true that the organizers had proscribed booing, but a) this is a pretty risible, pettifogging prohibition at a political debate, and b) if you're a politician and you get an audience this friendly booing, blame yourself.  You fuckwit.  Jenny Jones lost votes tonight.  And if this is her form, which I believe it is, she's a terrible candidate. 

So there you are, London.  Your choice.  You lucky, lucky city.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bloggery posted by Richard Seymour

Just to point out, I figured out that the best way to overcome the problem with the comments was to shift to a new domain.  If you recall, the issue has been caused by the fact that Google insisted on introducing new country-specific URL codes for Blogspot blogs, ending in .co.uk, .co.ca, .co.au, etc., depending on where you accessed the blog from.  This meant that an individual post might have several URL codes.  Disqus, the comments service I use, would then treat each version as a separate article with a separate comments thread.  There's no good reason that I can see for Google having imposed this change without allowing any opt-out.  But that's what you get with a free service.  So, the solution I have decided upon is to purchase a new domain, www.leninology.com.  From now on, you should in theory find yourself being redirected to this domain if you try to access via www.leninology.blogspot.com, but it would be easier for you just to bookmark the new URL.  This does involve a 'year zero' for comments, until I can get Disqus to 'migrate' the threads.  But in the long term it will solve the problem with the comments thread and also give us internet 'personhood' about ten years after everyone else.

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Quebec's extraordinary student rebellion posted by Richard Seymour

Students in the UK who are struggling to mount an effective resistance to the coalition's policies, and to the neoliberal orthodoxy in their universities, would do well to study what's happening in Quebec right now - the biggest student uprising you've never heard of. This is an information quarantine that needs to be broken, so that we can mine the strategic lessons from this movement. We are well used to seeing students brutalised by riot police in the UK; we are less used to scenes like this. I don't have time to write it up now, but here's some socialist pedagogy:

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Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Left Front and the Fascists posted by Richard Seymour

I don't have time to digest and analyse this as thoroughly as I would like, but yesterday's elections in France deserve some kind of discussion on the blog.

Following his victory in Bradford West, George Galloway's article in the Morning Star argued that the conjunctural factors making his success possible were the same that are undoing the neoliberal consensus in France and Greece, and shortly across the EU.  There are, caveats aside, obvious parallels between Galloway and Mélenchon; we will see whether a UK equivalent to the Left Front emerges.  If yesterday's election results in Paris are anything to go by, you might think this a rather worrying comparison.  Not only did Mélenchon not receive the 15-17% the polls promised him (far less the 19-24% an internal government poll prophesied back in April), but the Front National gained a fifth of the vote. 

We should keep this in perspective.  First, the total left vote is (I am assured) the highest since 1988.  Second, the Left Front has still improved the radical left vote since 2007, in a situation where that was by no means a guaranteed outcome given the sharp decline in working class struggles over the last few years.  11% for a radical left candidacy is far from insignificant.  We should have problems of this kind, where millions of votes for the radical left is a disappointing result.  It is particularly not to be sniffed at when Mélenchon so rattled the capitalist class that the president of the French business confederation MEDEF referred to him as the heir of Terror.  And what did Mélenchon say to induce such drool-spattered venom?  Oh, this:

"Anything above €360,000, we take it all. The tax bracket will be 100%. People say to me, that's ideological. I say too right it is. It's a vision of society. Just as we won't allow poverty in our society, we won't allow the hyper-accumulation of riches. Money should not be accumulated but circulated, invested, spent for the common good. ... Look, we have to smash this prejudice that the rich are useful just because they're rich."
The Left Front seems to have really shaken things up and even, in the short campaign, forced the establishment parties to make some concessions.  Sarkozy adopted a Mélenchon policy of pursuing tax exiles and forcing them to pay their taxes.  Hollande adapted to Mélenchon's rhetoric, eventually sounding 'left-wing' enough to give the jaded, faded old liberal hack Nick Cohen "an erection".  (Do I really misrepresent him?)

But with the results as they are, it is now the fascists who are exerting the stronger gravitational pull on the mainstream.  Both Sarkozy and Hollande have cited Marine Le Pen's strong vote as a reason to be all the more protective of France's borders - exploiting legitimate fears which we must not ignore, you know the drill.  I am assured by people who know better than I do that the FN also adopted a sort of 'Strasserite' platform of protectionism and corporatism that went down well with sections of the working class, and may have contributed to their becoming more 'respectable'. 

But the single biggest issue that galvanised far right voters according to the polls was immigration.  Integrally linked to this was Le Pen's campaign against Islam, and the 'footprint' that it is said to be leaving in French cities.  Alas, she was only expressing in radicalised form the Islamophobia that is respectable in almost every section of French society, and in almost every party.   Mélenchon was the only major politician who came out fighting against Le Pen, and defended Muslims against racism.  Unfortunately, even he is compromised by a problematic left-republicanism, which led him to vote for the ban on the 'foulard'.  I am just saying that the racial populist idioms that have availed the far right are bound up with this doomed, crisis-ridden French republicanism, and with the failure of any sizeable section of the French left to come to terms in any meaningful way with the colonial legacy.  This is one issue on which I genuinely don't envy the French left (allow me to have one).  Moreover, there is no national organisation with any weight in France giving expression to its traditions of militant anti-fascism (please don't say SOS-Racisme unless you want me to laugh-barf), which is a serious absence in terms of the impediments that could exist for the far right.

Lest I seem to be giving an overly political reading of the fascists' success, allow me to qualify what I am saying.  I can agree, readily and enthusiastically, that certain factors such as the specific composition of classes in France, the large rural population, the way in which its rapid imperial decline and the absorption of the pied-noirs was experienced, the effect of this loss of imperial fantasies of omnipotence on the petty bourgeoisie, and the effect of regionally concentrated long-term unemployment, have presented conditions favourable to the growth of fascist politics in France.  All of these aspects, conjoined with the crisis of the Socialists, the Eurozone calamity, the demise of le petit Nicolas, are undoubtedly present as overdetermining factors in Marine Le Pen's ascendancy.  Nonetheless, ultimately these conditions and the multiple antagonisms they produced have had to be resolved (or not) at the level of political struggle; there is nothing automatic about the way these factors impact on politics.  The fascists continually reconstruct and maintain a fairly huge coalition behind far right politics, (at present, some 6.4m votes) by working on these antagonisms, by producing racist-populist articulations that 'mention', in their own idiom, the conditions alluded to already.  And they can do so to the extent that a) their 'quilting point', the issue of racism around which they organise their whole popular platform, is supplied almost free of charge by the bourgeois parties, and b) the left refrains from efforts at systematically disorganising their actions, at mobilising the constituencies who would be their victims in self-defence.


There's more to say, but I'll leave it for the comments thread.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Marxism 2012 posted by Richard Seymour

It's coming up to that time of year again. The timetable for Marxism 2012 is up on the website. You'll see that I'm speaking on 'Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism in the Liberal Tradition' on Friday 6th June. There'll be time later to explain what that's all about. As for other speakers, well... I mean, do you need another reason to go?

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Tahrir: "the revolution is not over" posted by Richard Seymour

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The material existence of ideology posted by Richard Seymour

In lieu of more substantive matter which I'm busy working on, and because I have so much else to do, I'm just posting up these possibly interesting reflections on ideology which I threw together this morning in a fit of ennui.

Hail to the addressee.
Where do you get those ideas from? There is an extremely high chance that most of them were produced by others for you, that you came by them in schools, your family, from the mass media, maybe a religious institution, from a political party, a trade union, the academia, think-tanks, PR firms or any one of a network of institutions or apparatuses which make it their business to produce ideas for you. (Yes, you - this is interpellation we are talking about here.)  This is how Goran Therborn in one of his early works, The Power of Ideology and the Ideology of Power, visualises the process:



I know this isn't a shock. You didn't really think you came up with those thoughts all by yourself. You are Marxists, and you know very well that ideologies (and sciences for that matter) are produced collectively, even if not in a collectivist mode.  Or, if you prefer, they are historically, socially produced.

But what do those who aren't Marxists think? Aren't they often inclined to believe that somehow their ideas are spontaneous, natural, or arise from a process of open-ended personal reflection? I was going to say it was a particularly petty bourgeois illusion, but it seems to be implicit in ideology as such, the belief that ideas are the result of some inner spark or inspiration: in theoretical language, that agents, rather than being constituted as subjects by ideology, are the constituting subjects of ideology.  "I decide what I think," the subject of ideology says, "I mean, yes, there are all sorts of ideas being presented to me every day, but as soon as I obtain adulthood I am in a position to critically evaluate those ideas.  I choose my ideology; it doesn't choose me."  In this sense, the concept of interpellation is an affront to common sense, for it says that ideology 'chooses' its subject, that it addresses the subject with who she really is, enabling her to become the 'bearer' (Trager) of the role assigned to her by the structure.

We won't spend too long inspecting the structure of this interpellation.  Althusser sets up a primordial 'scene' of interpellation, a fable in which the agent is 'hailed' by the law ("hey you!"), stops, turns, and in the act of turning is subjectivated, accepts that she really is the "you" addressed by law.  Crucially, this submission to ideology involves misrecognition: as with Lacan's 'mirror stage', the resulting identity is a false totalization of the fragments of experience.

The guilty subject
Following Judith Butler, we could problematize this concept along the following lines.  Althusser relies on a complex set of theological figures to set up his notion of 'hailing'.  The very act of 'turning' and thus accepting subjectivation implies an act of conscience, an appropriation of guilt.  For Althusser, ideology is centred around an imaginary 'Absolute Subject' - redolent of Lacan's 'Big Other', the guarantor of the symbolic order - which is experienced by the subject as the source of 'law', guaranteeing that (so long as you are a good subject and 'behave') everything is just as it seems and will continue to be for eternity, and will be okay.  Religious ideology is thus treated as exemplary of ideology as such, the 'naming' in religious ritual typical of subjectivation.  There is no mystery about this - Althusser practised Catholicism long after he became a marxist, and seems never to have got out of the habit of performing some of its rituals.  But this process requires an addressee already predisposed to receiving such a message, already implicated in its terms; that is, it requires a subjection that already presupposes a subject. 

At first it seems as if we're saying that the narrative of the 'scene' of interpellation cannot be 'true'.  But, of course, as Butler also notes, this concept of interpellation is allegorical.  It stages a 'hailing' that never actually literally happens in this way; it narrativises a process or set of processes that is said to be resistant to narrativization.  As Butler has it, "the 'call' arrives severally and in implicit and unspoken ways", which a too literal reading of 'interpellation' might overlook.  There is a long process in which each agent in the division of labour is equipped with, for example, the sorts of linguistic skills appropriate to her location, which will enable her to carry out the tasks assigned to her by the structure: a boss learns to 'speak properly' (ie authoritatively, persuasively, dominatively) to her employees; a worker learns to 'speak properly' (ie deferentially, respectfully, warily) back.  Over time, the agent becomes a subject by internalising the rules and attitudes, materialised in actions, inserted into practices, governed by rituals, which constitute the subject.  The agent, just as she is mastering these skills, submits to the dominant ideology: is 'hailed', 'turns' to face the law, and is subjectivated. The fabular character of 'interpellation' is one reason why the many pointed criticisms of the 'scene' depicted by Althusser - for example, that it is is too dyadic, or is phallocentric - are thoroughly well-founded, yet far from adequate to finish off the concept of interpellation.  The scene could be re-staged in multiple thoughtful and creative ways without losing what is essential.

However, Butler's case is more complex.  It is not simply that the 'scene' belies the reality of ideology in many ways.  The problem lies in the prehistory of the subject alluded to above; the preconditions necessary for the reproduction of the dominant ideology.  'Interpellation' appears to require an anxious, knowing, 'guilty' agent anxious to acquit herself by conscientiously mastering the skills that will make her a subject.  Doesn't this, as Lacanian critics approvingly suggest, require another dimension to the subject, a materia prima, or rather an immateria prima, a psychic dimension that is radically distinct from any possible incarnation in material practices?  Doesn't it require the resuscitation of the Cartesian subject?  Doesn't Althusser's repudiation of the ontological dualism of the material and the ideal simply collapse into another dualism?  Butler's rejoinder to the Lacanians (in the person of Mladen Dolar) is that: i) it mistakes a grammatical requirement for a pre-existing subject, or psychic remainder, in the context of exposition for a logical requirement; and ii) its rejection of materialist monism relies on a reduction of the material to the phenomenal, or empirically given, so that the absences that punctuate a ritual can be seen as governed by a non-material symbolic order - in counterpoint, Butler deploys the althusserian materialism of articulation, in which these absences are not 'ideal' but are bound to the phenomenon as "its constitutive and absent necessity".

Nonetheless, the terms of Althusser's formulation, the theological figures deployed and particularly the restrictive role of conscience in subject-formation, leave unresolved the question of the failure of interpellation.  In Althusser's terms it is difficult to think how a 'bad subject' could exist, since the very condition of being a subject involves mastering the skills that subject one to the dominant ideology and make one therefore a 'good' subject.  

Now, Butler doesn't do any more than signpost possible ways out of this dilemma: hinting at forms of de-subjectivation which might allow one to oppose the 'law' without denying one's complicity in it.  But it's clear that without resolving this, the danger is either that one collapses into a mechanistic, functionalist account of ideology, or a voluntarism or decisionism predicated implicitly or explicitly on this theological remainder.  Althusser didn't solve this problem.  As Jameson points out, the ISA essay was "programmatic", a manifesto of sorts, an "agenda, still incompletely fulfilled".  And I will have occasion to talk about the politics of this in a future post.  However, I would say that this psychic remainder, this kernel of interiority irreducible to the social and material world, constantly recurs in marxist accounts of ideology, either explicitly or in the form of ambiguities or silences.

Materiality or material determination
The ambiguity, or unresolved tension, in historical materialist approaches to ideology is basically this: is ideology materially determined, or is it a material substance in itself?  This is an ambiguity which persists in one of the greatest marxist writers on ideology, Volosinov who, asserting that his approach is monistic, nonetheless makes this statement: "Every ideological sign is not only a reflection, a shadow of reality, but is also a material segment of that very reality."  Not only, but also.  Not just shadow, but material too.  Does this seem like a detail?  Well, I can't be the only one to have encountered this sort of ambivalence repeatedly.  Goran Therborn, arguing from a post-althusserian perspective, tended to speak of the material determination of ideas, leaving the question of ideology's ideal or material status unresolved.  

Or one encounters more directly formulations which tell us that "mind is developed upon the basis of matter", but that "the human mind cannot simply be reduced to matter". And is this not simply a straightforward exposition of Marx's approach in The German Ideology?  For on the one hand, Marx says that "neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life", while on the other these manifestations are "phantoms formed in the human brain ... sublimates of their material life-process ... bound to material premises".  And so, the ambiguity seems to be resolved on the side of the material determination of ideas, which are but "phantoms".

If in fact the ambiguity is to be resolved in this way, that is if we accept that there is an order of reality that is separate from matter (a subjective reality, a 'consciousness' that is linked to the material world but not directly or wholly of it), then it is surely at the expense of monism.  To say that this is a consequence of such a stance is not necessarily to disprove it.  And it is clear why it is attractive: precisely because of the need to found emancipatory politics on the self-activity of the masses, and therefore the need to explain the bases of resistance.  Somehow, the working class is capable of being an agent of revolutionary change, despite the effects of the dominant ideology.

So when Althusser argued that ideology has no "ideal or spiritual existence" but only a material existence, that it exists only "in an apparatus, and its practice, or practices" - gamesomely suggesting that readers entertain the notion sympathetically on the grounds of materialism - surely he was expressing a conception that was deeply controversial to the majority of marxists.  At least, particularly  for those of a Lukacsian persuasion, such a conception must appear to be complicit in the objectification that is characteristic of ideology as such.  For if ideas themselves are material, then its bearers might well be nothing but objects; nothing but effects of a structure, bearers (Trager) of a role assigned to them by the structure.  There would seem to be no space for will or intention ('consciousness') in such a process.  So, it is this potentially mechanistic consequence of theoretical anti-humanism that is objectionable.

But, returning to Marx's formulation in The German Ideology, if ideas are "only manifestations of actual life", in what sense are they manifest?  To whom and in what they do they manifest themselves, if not in fact in the material practices and apparatuses?  In what sense are ideas other than "actual life"?  Is it not at least arguable that in such moments, Marx was using an old conception (the ideal-material dichotomy) to express an emerging one (the different levels of determination in a complex social whole, the relative autonomy and specific effectivity of ideology)?  Elsewhere in The German Ideology Marx says, in what I think is a satirical moment, that "thoughts and ideas acquire an independent existence" only when a certain division of labour creates agents who produce thoughts and ideas independently.  In other words, the ideological conception of thoughts and ideas having an ideal existence is an illusion that arises from the social practices of petty bourgeois producers of ideology.

Approaching this from another point of view, part of the argument hinges on the base-superstructure metaphor and how it is deployed.  It is difficult to miss the way in which, when some theorists talk about the 'material', they refer to the realm of production, productive relations, commodity circulation - indeed, all that which appears as 'the economy'.  The issue that is being addressed in the language of the 'material determination of ideology' is nothing other than the determination of ideology by productive relations, class struggle and all of the various attributes of the social formation apart from its ideologies.  And a very important reason why people don't want to 'reduce' ideology to matter is precisely because of the need to recognise the specific effectivity of ideology, its peculiar forms and instantiations.  

After all, the question of 'reduction' shouldn't really arise otherwise: it is not a question of saying that ideology is 'reducible' to matter; merely that it is itself a material process.  'Reduction' only comes into it because the ontological problem of the status of ideology (as matter, or ideal substance) has been interjected into the epistemological problem posed by the base-superstructure metaphor (of the relationship between economy, politics and ideology in marxist theory).  And if I'm right in suggesting this, then surely the ISAs essay opened up a potentially fruitful terrain of investigation in solving this latter problem, drawing attention to the various mediating levels particular to ideology (actions, practices, rituals, apparatuses), but also opening up the field of the specific institutional preconditions of ideology.  Not only that, but this demarche is conducted within a sophisticated and potentially dynamic account of the determination and overdetermination of ideologies by the whole complex structure which it is articulated to; that is, it allows us to shift the terms of the problem from the 'material determination of ideology' to that of the complex and mediated determination of ideology by the sub-structures with which it is articulated.  I just suggest we consider it - in the name of materialism, say.

But that still leaves us with the other dilemma.  So, we hypothesise that ideology has only a material and no spiritual or ideal existence; that the relationship between ideology and 'politics' or 'the economy' is not that between matter and the ideal.  Doesn't it still seem that, for the masses to be capable of conducting a revolutionary self-emancipation, we need some notion of resistant interiority, some equivalent to Chomsky's (obviously deliberately simplified) notion of an 'instinct for freedom'?  That is, a conception of 'human nature' as an active constituent in the process of subject-formation?  It will not be sufficient to clarify, as Marta Harnecker exhaustively does, what theoretical anti-humanism does and does not entail for the self-emancipation of the working class.  The point is that the problem is raised about how to understand the basis for resistance, including resistance to the dominant ideology.  And, as we have said, that problem wasn't satisfactorily dealt with in the terms of Althusser's original formulations.  

I don't propose, in this post, to articulate the solution that evaded both Althusser and Butler.  I merely want to reiterate that we can't fall back on any conception of 'interiority', which risks reifying socially, ideologically produced divisions (the interior-exterior division is nothing other than the mind-body problem in another idiom anyway).  Still less can we find salvation in 'human nature'.  Insofar as it goes beyond a simple description of biological needs (for food, warmth, sociality, orgasm) or needs derivative of those (eg, the need to appropriate knowledge which meets those primary needs), which by itself would be neither 'interior' nor an adequate explanation for social resistance, and proceeds into a theology of some 'natural' state of unity with our 'species-being', alienated since the Fall, it restores idealism.  What theories of 'human nature' must invariably do is eternize contingent and historically produced relations and situations.  Such solutions are worse than the problem they address.  If a theory of subjects capable of explaining resistance is available, it must be on the terms of the materialist approach to ideology; that is, of ideology's purely material and not spiritual or ideal existence.

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Monday, April 09, 2012

The state in capitalist crisis (part one) posted by Richard Seymour

In trying to think through the changes that we're going through, that are being imposed on us, we constantly find we have to account for the state's role in managing and mediating the crisis and the forms it takes. For what is happening now, unmistakeably, is the re-organization of the state's presence directly in productive relations; its provision of investment conditions; its socialization of the costs of investment; and its disciplinary apparatuses.  In the terms used in a previous essay, it is a process of state re-formation, given the name of 'austerity' because of its implications for popular constituencies historically benefiting from the welfare state.  And I wanted to know whether it was possible to say anything general about this subject; that is to say, whether there are principles governing marxist research into the role of capitalist states in specific crises that are distinct from those governing marxist research into capitalist states tout court.  This is the first in a series of posts trying to work out what these might be.

Before proceeding with this, I want to point out that the return of 'the state' (or a theoretical concern with the state), however tentative at the moment, is the result of two developments: first, the anticapitalist movement and it sequel in the Occupy movement; second, the aggressive assertion of imperialism and thus the re-emergence of anti-imperialist critique during the last decade.  This means that the discussion of capitalist state in crisis must be a strategic one, conducted with a view to confronting the state as a factor in our struggles over the social product.  But it also means that we cannot begin to discuss the reorganization and fiscal down-sizing of welfare states without situating them in relation to the imperialist chain, and the patterns of exploitation of the dominated societies.  To put it simply; the politics of austerity cannot be decoupled from the question of inter-imperialist rivalry between the US, EU and China, and their competitive alliances in the Middle East, and sub-saharan Africa.  And since I intend to focus on austerity in the UK, its unique position as an 'Atlanticist' EU member, the once favoured 'link' between the US and Europe, must play a role here.  Both of these issues will be raised in more detail in future posts.

***

First, I think it's important to say that while austerity has as its primary justification the imperative of reducing public spending, cutting the deficit and thus maintaining the fiscal 'credibility' of the British state with financial markets, and while suppressing the growth of the state budget is a real institutional commitment, the policies introduced under its rubric are much broader than those which could plausibly be related to cutting spending.  Whether it is cuts to the minimum wage, the introduction of private provision in the NHS and schools, or changes in the tax structure to benefit the wealthy, these are policies whose overall thrust is unlikely to increase revenues to the Treasury.  In fact, as regards the changes to public services, the involvement of private companies such as Virgin, as well as the wasteful 'markets' imposed on providers, will probably drive up costs and lead to further fiscal crises.  No one is suggesting that the state will stop collecting the taxes to fund core services such as pensions, healthcare and education.  And even if they are under-funded, and the provision is rationed in ways that favour residents of relatively wealthy, middle class areas, it is highly unlikely that the costs will stop increasing.

This isn't to say that the welfare system isn't being pared down drastically, with lamentable results for millions.  But I think it is best, following Claus Offe, to characterise welfare state capitalism as a form of crisis management: or, more accurately, a crisis-ridden form of crisis management.  And despite its limitations, capitalism cannot simply wish away this form of intervention.  The fact is that, just as in the most controversial reforms being undertaken the state isn't so much withdrawing from the provision of public services as out-sourcing and marketising it, so in general the state isn't so much cutting its costs as shifting them around.  No doubt there is an aim to suppress costs, and this commitment is institutionalized in various ways, but I would be surprised if the capitalist state in the UK cost much less in 2022, as a proportion of GDP, than it has over the last two decades.  In the period from 1987-2007, during which there was only one recession of medium severity, public spending was generally kept at or below 40% of GDP, a feat last accomplished during the high growth years of the 1950s.  In a period of sustained crisis, this becomes extremely difficult because not only is growth depressed and social overheads inflated, but the relative costs of investment are higher, and the capitalist class constantly needs incentives from the state to put its money into circulation.  Even once the crisis recedes and a period of relative capitalist dynamism resumes, this particular neoliberal format of capitalist dependency on the state will continue to drive up costs.

Relatedly, it would be mistaken to conclude that what is happening is a de-regulation of capitalism; it is a re-regulation.  This is true not only in the sense that even supposedly privatized utilities quickly accumulate a plethora of regulations and government interventions just to prevent the most egregious abuses and keep the system basically functional, but above all in the sense that the state's regulative powers are becoming all the more necessary to capitalism in a period of organic crisis, even as their limits are disclosed.  For example, it is a well-known factoid that the number of financial regulations in the neoliberal period, and particularly after the repeal of Glass-Steagall, actually increased dramatically; because the financiers had more freedom did not mean that they were less regulated.  The regulatory structure was simply reformed to increase their powers; this only appears to be a contradiction in terms if you assume that real freedom is 'negative freedom'.

So what is happening under the rubric of austerity is neither simply cost-cutting nor de-regulation, nor any kind of withdrawal of the state from 'the economy'.  Rather, the combined effect of the measures will be to shift the balance of power between classes, as condensed in the institutional ensemble of the state, in such a way as to fundamentally enhance the advantage of capital, with the rationale being a 'growth model' in which such policies are said to improve the wealth of the whole society through a temporary tightening of the belt.    The logic is clear, for example, from Vince Cable's argument for freezing the minimum wage for under 21s: lower wages equals (more profitable investment therefore) more growth and more jobs.

***

One of the arguments we have made against austerity is that the fiscal crisis isn't really real: the debt can be paid off through growth, which won't be assisted by austerity politics.  And in a sense, this is true.  The idea that the UK is in a situation like Greece, held over a barrel by bankers, the IMF and EU finance ministers, is palpably absurd.  The UK's debt situation is far from unmanageable in either historical or comparative terms.  Further, the UK ruling class has sufficient clout that were it, through the state, to embark on an alternative growth pact for one reason or another, few international creditors would be seriously alarmed.  Actually, given the way speculators and lenders are responding to austerity programmes once they are imposed, a stimulus-based strategy might actually endow them with more of that fabled 'confidence'.

But there is nonetheless a 'rational kernel' in the notion of a fiscal crisis.  The capitalist welfare state, even in the neoliberal period, demonstrates a tendency (note, tendency) to exceed in expenditures what it is able to collect in taxation.  The reasons for this can be enumerated thus: i) the periodic crises of accumulation, which not only reduce tax receipts in the short-term but result in pressure from business, on pain of investment strike, to reduce taxes on profits and investment; ii) the pressure from popular constituencies for services and provisions, based on expectations raised by the welfare state itself, which acts as a limiting factor on any fiscal cut-backs that state personnel are able to make; iii) the tendency for long-term regulative and growth strategies coordinated through the state (and here I don't mean just the 'Fordist' corporatist strategies deployed in the post-war era) to fail in the context of unplanned, competitive and exploitative production relations.  The latter results not just in sectoral imbalances within 'the economy', but more importantly sustained sectional struggles within the capitalist class, and class struggles over the social product which always upset any long-term calculations, and make it impossible for a capitalist state to impose a rational, planned growth strategy even through its considerable leverage as a factor in production.

The attempt to get this tendency under control has been an institutionalised commitment of capitalist states throughout the neoliberal era.  In the United Kingdom, this has taken the form of constant class struggles with public sector workers to facilitate down-sizing, as well as the embedding of policies such as 'Compulsory Competitive Tendering' based on the orthodoxy of public choice economics, which holds that bureaucratic budget-maximising is responsible for spending increases.  It has also, due to the first factor mentioned above, resulted in a shift of the structure of taxation so that employers pay less, and workers more, toward the 'social overheads' of capital - that is, the reproduction of labour power in its complex forms, as well as of the growing 'reserve army' of labour.  With the increase in VAT and various indirect taxes, and the cuts in corporation tax and other taxes on profits, this trend is being amplified.

More broadly, the suppression of public spending, as an element in the austerity formula developed in West Germany, has been institutionalised in the EU since the Treaty of European Union, and certainly since the Stability and Growth Pact in 1997.  How well has this gone?  Well, the Pact ruled that member states should have a public deficit at no higher than 3% of GDP.  Prior to the crisis, this was achieved by most member states, barring 'periphery' economies like Hungary, Greece and Portugal.  We have seen that, despite being 'peripheral', such economies can nonetheless can have disproportionate significance, condensing all the weaknesses and instabilities of the system in one 'weak link'.  At the moment, however, the problem is far more general: across the Eurozone at the moment, the public deficit is more than twice the permitted level.  And the Merkozy axis aims to drive this back down by forcing punitive austerity measures on the weakest economies.

***

But there is another aspect of the transformation we are witnessing, and here we have to return to the commodification of health, education, and social security.  The state is not just a political factor in the capitalist mode of production, securing the 'general conditions' for the reproduction of capitalism but otherwise abstaining from direct involvement in 'the economy'.  In several respects, even if not in its totality, it acts as a capitalist.

The capitalist state doesn't only reproduce the capital-labour relation externally in relation to its action (infrastructural investment, social outlays), but also internally, through its exploitation of waged labour in nationalized or semi-nationalized industries.  Whether it is in the direct ownership of post, banking, or railway companies, or in the heavily subsidised, incentivized and bailed out industries such as cars, energy, armaments and, of course, finance, the state is involved not just in appropriating surplus value through fiat, the better to invest it for the 'general good', nor just in realizing surplus value or redistributing it but, in a number of key instances, extracting surplus value.  It is true that, in the neoliberal period, the British capitalist state has taken the lead in withdrawing from the direct or complete ownership of productive industry, but it has still been involved in putting part of the total surplus value back into circulation as capital in various industries.  And even where it doesn't directly extract surplus value, it is involved in the realization of surplus value generated by productive labour, just as capital-intensive industries are.

What appears to be happening with the re-commodification of core services is that the government is giving capital-intensive industry sectors that work in the orbit of the national state - those involved in financial and other services particularly - the option of realizing a considerable share of the surplus value produced across the economy.  This sort of action can temporarily act as a spur to investment, in a way that benefits the politically powerful sectors of capital, but it also contributes to solving the underlying crisis of profitability to the extent that the spread of 'market conditions', the erosion of 'spaces of resistance' in the welfare state, and the suppression of wages that it allows affects the general balance between capital and labour to the former's benefit.

***

Some general features of austerity, then:

1) the state is not withdrawing from 'the economy' - it is never absent from 'the economy' - but changing its mode of presence in productive relations.

2) the state's cost-cutting commitments are subordinate to its crisis-management commitments, the former tending to be defeated by the latter due to the growing relative costs of investment and the long-term tendency toward crisis.

3) state institutions act within a context of a class struggle between labour and capital, and as such their policymaking must respect the relative strengths of each (hence, the state acts as the material condensation of the balance of class forces), but the state also has a form-determined selectivity in favour of the capitalist class.  These factors determine the form that crisis management takes.

4)  nonetheless, the state acts not on behalf of capital 'in general', but in the interests of hegemonic fractions of capital, and any charge that state managers are behaving 'ideologically' and 'non-pragmatically' must be understood in those terms.

5) the relationship between the state and the social formation that it regulates and reconstitutes is permanently characterised by dysfunction and disequilibrium. This is not to take the absolutist position that there is in essence no distinction between 'Keynesian' and neoliberal remedies.  The fact that 'Keynesian' solutions based on demand management and state investment, cannot resolve the crisis in the long term doesn't mean that they cannot play a role in abating the most egregious features of the crisis.  But the fact is that 'Keynesian' welfare and nationalization policies, by raising expectations of the state, and by empowering resistances, can only in the long run deepen the dysfunctions of capitalism.  As such, they make most sense in the context of a 'transitional' approach, of which more will be said in future posts.

These are not quite the theoretical principles that I sought at the beginning of the post, but rather theoretically informed descriptions.  But in future posts, we can deepen these observations by drawing more on Offe's analysis of the 'contradictions of the welfare state', and the 'crisis of crisis management'.

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Galloway to speak at Marxism posted by Richard Seymour

Given all that has happened, this is certainly worth plugging:

Galloway's magnificent by-election victory in Bradford West shocked the political establishment. He trounced Labour and won an overall majority of votes cast.

The result sums up the anger at the pro-austerity consensus of the three main parties. As Galloway put it: "who would have thought a backside could have three cheeks?"

We are very proud to announce that he will be speaking at the opening rally of Marxism 2012, helping to give the event a flavour of how resistance can break through

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Of media bubbles, comfort zones and twitstorms posted by Richard Seymour

You know, I like Mehdi Hasan, or those bits of him which can be read.  He makes the right enemies, opposes Islamophobia, is antiwar and is far more critical of both Obama and the Labour leadership than most in his position are willing to be.  I also notice when he RTs my stuff on Twitter, and glow a little inside.  (Oh, save your sanctimony, I need the approval.)  But then this: a big whatthefuck sandwich.

In effect, I would argue, the article faces in two directions simultaneously.  Formally, it is addressed to British Muslims, a wake-up call, an appeal to get their skates on and join in more in wider political issues.  Substantively, it is addressed to a wider audience, as an explanation for the seemingly inexplicable and aberrant behaviour of Muslim voters in Bradford West.  It says, Muslims are obsessed with foreign affairs, and thus appear to be foreign; they care only about war and don't join in the wider arguments about inequality or the NHS; they respond only to that which specifically affects Muslims as Muslims, the least expansive kind of identity politics, and in effect isolate themselves from wider British public life.  Acknowledging the chilling effects of so-called anti-terrorism legislation on political activism by Muslims, it nonetheless blames them for inhabiting an "antiwar comfort-zone" and exhorts them to abandon it.

Addressing Bradford specifically, the article insists that Muslims weren't enthused by the anti-austerity message of Respect, and only knew that its candidate George Galloway was antiwar and pro-Muslim.  The authority for this piece of information is a local Labour student.  So there you have it: the degeneration in our parliamenary democracy, the fragility of mountainous Labour majorities (demonstrated well beyond Bradford West), the collapse in coalition parties' support, the polarisation and volatility of politics in the age of austerity... all of this can be set aside, for the main cause of the result in Bradford West is a political pathology among British Muslims.

Okay.  This isn't the worst example of its kind.  Given the source, it is a disappointment, but you come to expect this from pundits.  And most of the British punditocracy just did not get it about Bradford West; never mind foresight, twenty-twenty hindsight would have been nice.  They were left trying to cobble together ersatz explanations from an impoverished analytical language that rarely knows how to ascribe political and tactical intelligence to voters.  Watch them at work on the television: the same old dull, leaden psephological cliches from the same dull, leaden pollsters and pundits which we've been hearing for forty years to no avail: voters are becoming less tribal, more like consumers, sick of party politics they gravitate toward single-issue campaigns, except for Muslims who vote en bloc along tribal lines etc etc.  So, Hasan's piece hardly stood out. 

However.  If you follow me on Twitter, you might already know that I took some of this up with Hasan.  I asserted that the article was filled with unfounded, unfair and patronising generalizations about British Muslims that would do nothing but feed into the stereotypes which Hasan usually opposes, and I challenged him to back up his assertions.  This generated a terrifically rancorous twitstorm.  What struck me is that those defending the piece, including Hasan, have one argument, and one argument only: he is a British Muslim and is thus perfectly placed to make the kind of judgement calls that he made in this article.  That is the only defence offered, the only defence available.  Variations on the theme were offered: you, ghetto leftist, shouldn't attack someone with Hasan's record; you, provocateur, have stepped over the line this time; you, non-Muslim, have no basis for disputing Hasan's arguments; how many Muslims have you met, known or been related to anyway?  I will spare you the various tiresome interjections along the lines that "guys, this is booooring, please stop".  As if they don't know what Twitter is; as if they don't know how to scroll past lines of text.

In essence, the defence rested on an appeal to authority.  In fact, for it to be coherent, for it to sustain the sorts of arguments made by Hasan without external support, it really has to be an appeal to omniscience.  So, now, I have to explain that an argument stands or falls on its merits, on the proofs that can be assembled for it, not on the merits of the person making it?  I doubt it.  I doubt that a simple logical fallacy is responsible for such a streak of emetic twaddle.  I assume that, to defend it on such sycophantic and illogical lines, either you have to be sympathetic to the thesis in the first place, hence grateful that a person of suitable authority gave voice to it, or you must have a conception of political etiquette (cf. 'coalition-building') in which one doesn't publicly criticise luminaries, or at least not too strenuously, and always 'constructively', ie on favourable terms.  Talk about comfort-zones. 

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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Protests and Police Statistics in South Africa: Some Commentary posted by Richard Seymour

Guest post by Prof. Peter Alexander*


On 19 March the South African Minister of Police, Mr. Nathi Mthetwa, informed parliament about the number of ‘crowd management incidents’ that occurred during the three years from 1 April 2009.[1] Table 1, compares the new data with similar statistics for the preceding five years.

Table 1. Crowd management incidents[2]



Peaceful
Unrest
Total
2004/05
7,382
622
8,004
2005/06
9,809
954
10,763
2006/07
8,703
743
9,446
2007/08
6,431
705
7,136
2008/09
6,125
718
6,843
2009/10
7,897
1,008
8,905
2010/11
11,681
973
12,654
2011/12[3]
9,942
1,091
11,033

In 2010/11 there was a record number of crowd management incidents (unrest and peaceful), and the final data for 2011/12 are likely to show an even higher figure.[4] Already, the number of gatherings involving unrest was higher in 2011/12 than any previous year. During the last three years, 2009-12, there has been an average of 2.9 unrest incidents per day. This is an increase of 40 percent over the average of 2.1 unrest incidents per day recorded for 2004-09. The statistics show that what has been called the Rebellion of the Poor has intensified over the past three years.

In 2010 the Minister of Police explained that: ‘the Incident Regulation Information System (IRIS) classifies incidents either as crowd management (peaceful) where the incident is managed in co-operation with the convenor and the police only monitor the gathering, or as crowd management (unrest) where the police need to intervene to make arrests or need to use force when there is a risk to safety or possible damage to property’.[5]

‘Gatherings’ may be sporting activities, for example, but the majority are related to protests of some kind.[6] During 2007/08 to 2009/10 ‘the most common reason for conducting crowd management (peaceful) gatherings was labour related demands for increases in salary/wages’. For the same period, the most common reason for ‘crowd management (unrest) was related to service delivery issues’.[7] The Minister’s new statement does not include similar information for 2010/12.

According to the minister’s 2010 statement the average number of participants in gatherings defined as ‘crowd management (peaceful)’ was 500 (2007/08) and 4,000 (2008/09), and the average number in those defined as ‘crowd management (unrest)’ was 3,000 (2007/08) and 4,000 (2008/09). In the new statement, the minister declined to put a figure on numbers of participants.

For the first time, the minister was asked to state the number of arrests that had occurred with crowd management (unrest) gatherings. These were given as 4,883 (2009/10), 4,680 (2010/11), 2,967 (1 April 2011 to 5 March 2012). These figures give the average number of arrests per unrest gathering as, respectively, 4.8 (2009/10), 4.8 (2010/11), and 2.7 (2011/12).[8]

Table 2 is based on a breakdown of crowd management incidents in each province as provided in the 2010 and 2012 ministerial statements. As we have shown previously, these figures (and the data in general) do not necessarily give a precise indication of the number of incidents.[9] There can be administrative weaknesses and human error. Nevertheless, they probably provide reasonably reliable approximations. Gauteng had the largest number of peaceful incidents and the largest number of unrest incidents, but it also has the greatest population, so this is not surprising.

Table 2. Total crowd management incidents, 2007/08 to 2011/12, by province and category,
and propensity to participate in crowd management incidents.



2011 population estimate[10]
Peaceful incidents
Peaceful incidents per thousand
Unrest incidents
Unrest incidents per thousand
Gauteng
11,328,203
9209
0.81
1097
0.10
Limpopo
5,554,657
4066
0.73
222
0.04
North West
3,253,390
6980
2.15
695
0.21
Mpumalanga
3,657,181
1944
0.53
358
0.10
KwaZulu-Natal
10,819,130
8555
0.79
546
0.05
Eastern Cape
6,829,958
3578
0.52
322
0.05
Free State
2,759,644
2606
0.94
413
0.15
Western Cape
5,287,863
3148
0.60
599
0.11
Northern Cape
1,096,731
1990
1.81
243
0.22

Table 2 also compares numbers of incidents with size of population (as estimated by StatsSA for 2011). We need to add the rider that figures are for numbers of gatherings, and these can vary in size. However, when we take population into account North West and Northern Cape come out on top. Since it is likely that most of the peaceful incidents are related to labour protests and many are sporting events, the unrest incidents are probably more pertinent as a gauge of the scale of service delivery protests in particular and the rebellion of the poor in general. It is notable that the three poorer provinces (which are also the most rural) – i.e. Limpopo, Eastern Cape and KZN – have a lower propensity towards unrest incidents than other provinces. The implication, reflected in other studies, is that the rebellion cannot be explained in terms of poverty as such. It is mainly a movement within urban areas, but within those areas most participants and leaders can be regarded as poor, with a high proportion coming from informal settlements, where services are especially weak.

The main conclusion we draw from the latest police statistics is that the number of service delivery protests continues unabated. Government attempts to improve service delivery have not been sufficient to assuage the frustration and anger of poor people in South Africa. From press reports and our own research it is clear that while service delivery demands provide the principal focus for unrest incidents, many other issues are being raised, notably lack of jobs. As many commentators and activists now accept, service delivery protests are part of a broader Rebellion of the Poor. This rebellion is massive. I have not yet found any other country where there is a similar level of ongoing urban unrest. South Africa can reasonably be described as the ‘protest capital of the world’. It also has the highest levels of inequality and unemployment of any major country, and it is not unreasonable to assume that the rebellion is, to a large degree, a consequence of these phenomena. There is no basis for assuming that the rebellion will subside unless the government is far more effective in channelling resources towards the poor.






[1] The minister was responding to a question raised by Mr M.H. Hoosen of the Independent Democrats. See National Assembly (2012), 36/1/4/1/201200049, Question No. 397, 19 March. I am grateful to Mr Hoosen for asking this question.
[2] Data supplied by ministers of police in response to parliamentary questions, with the exception of 2004/05, where the statistics come directly from the South African Police Service’s IRIS. See Natasha Vally (2009), ‘National trends around protest action: mapping protest action in South Africa’ (Centre for Sociological Research and Development Studies Seminar, University of Johannesburg); Peter Alexander (2010), ‘Rebellion of the poor: South Africa’s service delivery protests – a preliminary analysis’, Review of African Political Economy 37(123), pp. 26-27; National Assembly (2010), 36/1/4/1/201000030, Question No. 194, 19 April.
[3] For 2011/12 the figures are for the period 1 April 2011 to 5 March 2012.
[4] Ibid.
[5] National Assembly (2010).
[6] Vally (2009).
[7] National Assembly (2010), National Assembly (2012).
[8] National Assemby 2012.
[9] Vally (2009), Alexander (2010).
[10] Statistics South Africa, Mid-year Population Estimates (2011).



*Peter Alexander. South African Research Chair in Social Change and Professor of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg

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