Will the Democratic party recuperate from Late Capitalism’s biggest joke


By ann summers

banksters.jpgBecause you voted for Trump and regret it doesn’t mean you should disavow politics in the future and there may be hope for some transformational movement and/or candidates.

Assuming you believe in an emancipatory left, you’ve stuck it out because regrouping can take place as the Democratic party tries to recuperate and resist.
Slavoj Žižek, a Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic, does fit a philosophic model which insists that making things worse might eventually make things better. And even if that makes us rationalize a fervent commitment to specific candidates rather than concepts, voting for Ur-fascism should seem anathema.

Then again, some people really did vote for Trump, even if it was against their interests. More importantly that new way should revive a Democratic party whose emancipatory optimism predates the Centrist Turn following the Vietnam War. But the 2016 result, however disappointing, signifies that we on the left need to find a new way past Clinton and Sanders to win 2018 and 2020.

the Left alternative … should be a project of new and different international agreements — agreements that would establish control of the banks, agreements about ecological standards, about workers’ rights, healthcare, protection of sexual and ethnic minorities, etc.

The reality is that the Trump regime is a kleptocratic gang and could insert a new group of rump capitalists at the Federal Reserve in 2018 as Agent Orange continues to destroy the American experiment.

Abrogating environmental agreements will continue to serve profit by deregulating and redistributing national wealth (Looting the Treasury) to the ruling classes.

Similarly the inability to get to single-payer might doom any possibility of universal healthcare. Trump simply wants more profits regardless of who dies.

We already know the unrestrained sexism and racism of Lord Dampnut and his cronies, since Žižek thinks of populism as having some core democratic values which tend to disappear in the US context, Trump being a Lester Maddox with more money.

The next elections should be between Trump and Sanders.

One assumes that Žižek would like a return to Sanders the ideological platform, rather than Bernie the personality, because 2020 means something more suited to correct and transcend the Trumpian catastrophe. 2020 must not be Trump v. Sanders, and as much as we hope for it to be different, new candidates and a new Democratic party must be created.


Slavoj Žižek claims Hillary’s loss was necessary for the long-term survival of the Democratic party.

“The inertia of status quo should somehow be broken and open space for a new political reconfiguration. I think this is the only chance for the left,” he said.


“We encounter here the old problem: what happens to democracy when the majority is inclined to vote for racist and sexist laws? I am not afraid to draw the conclusion that emancipatory politics should not be bound a priori by formal democratic procedures; people quite often do not know what they want, or do not want what they know, or they simply want the wrong thing.”


“Trump is a paradox: he is really a centrist liberal, and maybe even in his economic policies closer to the Democrats, and he desperately tries to mask this. So the function of all of these dirty jokes and stupidities is to cover up that he is really a pretty ordinary, centrist politician.”…

Chiefly, that the emancipatory left must engage in the process of reform, and demand what is prima facie politically and economically possible within the current system, but nonetheless designated impossible for ideological reasons. The example of this, he returns to time and again, being the introduction of universal healthcare in the US – an achievement worthy of the highest praise for Obama and countless thousands of Americans who worked to realise it over decades, but not one that can be linked categorically to the radical left.


Parodying Trump is at best a distraction from his real politics; at worst it converts the whole of politics into a gag.

The process has nothing to do with the performers or the writers or their choices. Trump built his candidacy on performing as a comic heel—that has been his pop culture persona for decades. It is simply not possible to parody effectively a man who is a conscious self-parody, and who has become president of the United States on the basis of that performance.”[3]


Populism and PC are thus the two complementary forms of lying that follow the classic distinction between hysteria and obsessional neurosis: a hysteric tells the truth in the guise of a lie (what it says is literally not true, but the lie expresses in a false form an authentic complaint), and what an obsessional neurotic claims is literally true, but it is a truth which serves a lie.

  • In a homologous way, PC is “like lying with truth. It says the right things, but it somehow comes across as wrong nevertheless.
  • Populism, on the other hand, is somewhat like telling the truth in the form of a lie. It says all the wrong things, yet we feel that something about it is nevertheless right.”[4]

The populist protest displaces onto the external enemy the authentic frustration and sense of loss, while the PC Left uses its true points (detecting sexism and racism in language, etc.) to re-assert its moral superiority and thus prevent true social-economic change…

We can thus discern on the horizon a perverted situation in which the official “Left” is enforcing austerity politics (even as it advocates for multicultural and other rights) at the same time that the populist Right is pursuing anti-austerity measures to help the poor (even as it advances a xenophobic nationalist agenda). That is the latest figure of what Hegel described as die verkehrte Welt, the topsy-turvy world.

And what if Trump moves in the same direction? What if his project of moderate protectionism and large public works, combined with anti-immigrant security measures and a new perverted peace with Russia, would somehow work? …

And could we not say exactly the same about the Left liberals horrified by Trump?

Ils ont peur qu’il ne soit une catastrophe. What they really fear is that he will not be a catastrophe…

One should get rid of the false panic, fearing the Trump victory as the ultimate horror, which made us support Hillary in spite of all her obvious shortcomings.

Trump’s victory created a totally new political situation with chances for a more radical Left. Today’s liberal Left and populist Right are both caught in the politics of fear: fear of the immigrants, of feminists, etc., or the fear of fundamentalist populists, etc.

The 2016 elections were the final defeat of liberal democracy, or, more precisely, of what we could call the Left-Fukuyamaist dream, and the only way to really defeat Trump and to redeem what is worth saving in liberal democracy is to perform a sectarian split from liberal democracy’s main corpse – in short, to shift the weight from Clinton to Sanders.The first thing to do here is to accomplish the move from fear to Angst: fear is the fear of an external object that is perceived as posing a threat to our identity, whereas anxiety emerges when we become aware that there is something wrong with our identity itself, with what we want to protect from the feared external threat. Fear pushes us to annihilate the external object; the way to confront anxiety is to transform ourselves…

The next elections should be between Trump and Sanders.

Elements of the program for this new Left are relatively easy to imagine. Trump promises the cancellation of big free trade agreements supported by Clinton, and the Left alternative to both should be a project of new and different international agreements — agreements that would establish control of the banks, agreements about ecological standards, about workers’ rights, healthcare, protection of sexual and ethnic minorities, etc.

The big lesson of global capitalism is that nation-states alone cannot do the job, and only a new political International can maybe bridle global capital.


OTOH an unbridled global capital could veer toward a collapse under what some have called late capitalism. Any new Democratic party should have better sense of regulatory scope and scale beyond more progressive taxes and free college.

The real problem will be whether it swings toward the left or toward the real yet uncertain Trumpian coup d’etat, fulfilling some vague objectives of late capitalism as Trumpian neoliberalism achieves peak chaos.

Whether it’s the amusing “deconstruction of the administrative state” or “reinstating Glass-Steagall” the realities of late capitalism are represented in Trump’s self-dealing using some time-honored tools of usury and the manipulations of money, value, and data emblematic of #TrumpRussia.


The 2016 perfect Stormfront came from capitalism’s POTUS45* as the intersection of post-Reconstruction Jim Crow racist resentments, the success of PBO focusing those resentments, and the fervor of some variant of post-Soviet post-fascism, also ethnically driven.

Late capitalism whether Mandel’s or Jameson’s, embodies the ironies of the period, as postwar nuclear defense policies have allowed for the expansion of hybrid/asymmetric warfare, whether for postcolonial ethnic liberation or hegemonic re-annexation.

It was Duke University’s Fredric Jameson who introduced the phrase to a broader English-speaking audience of academics and theorists. “It was a much older and more popular term in German,” Jameson told me. (Spätkapitalismus, for those wondering.) “It’s very interesting! It’s kind of—how should I say it—symptomatic of people’s feelings about the world. About society itself,” he said, a little surprised and a little chuffed to hear that the term was finding wider appreciation. “It used to be a sort of taboo outside of the left to even mention the word ‘capitalism.’ Now it’s pretty obvious that it’s there, and that’s what it is.”…


In his canonical 1984 essay and 1991 book, both titled Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Jameson argued that the globalized, post-industrial economy had given rise to postmodernist culture and art. Everything, everywhere, became commodified and consumable. High and low culture collapsed, with art becoming more self-referential and superficial. He told me he saw late capitalism as kicking into gear in the Thatcher and Reagan years, and persisting until today. “It has come out much more fully to the surface of things,” he said, citing the flash crash, derivatives, and “all this consumption by mail.”…

Those cerebral outlets helped to fuel renewed interest in Marx and critical theory, as well as late capitalism. David Graeber, a leading figure in Occupy and the coiner of the phrase “We are the 99 percent,” for instance, wrote a long essay for The Baffler that touched on Jameson, Mandel, corporate profitability, flying cars, and, of course, late capitalism. The novel A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism came out to good reviews in 2011. Pop-scholarly uses of the phrase started showing up in more mainstream publications, soaked up, as though by osmosis, from these publications and thinkers on the far left.

  • The same happened on social media, itself growing rapidly as the recession gave way to the recovery. There were just a handful of mentions of “late capitalism” on Twitter before 2009, a few hundred in that year, and perhaps a few thousand in the next, many referring to college coursework….

This usage captures the resurgent left’s anger over the recovery and the inequality that long preceded it—as well as the rage of millions of less politically engaged Americans who nevertheless feel left out and left behind. “I think it’s popular again now because the financial crisis and subsequent decade has really stripped away a veneer on what’s going on in the economy,” Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, told me. “Austerity, runaway top incomes, globalization, populations permanently out of the job market, competition pushed further into our everyday lives. These aren’t new, but they have an extra cruelty that is boiling over everywhere.”

The current usage also captures the perceived froth and foolishness of Silicon Valley. The gig economy in particular provides plenty of late-capitalist fodder, with investors showering cash on platforms to create cheap services for the rich and lazy and no-benefit jobs for the eager and poor. At the same time, traditional jobs seem to be providing less in the way of security, stability, and support, too. “There’s this growing discussion about how work is changing,” Carrie Gleason of the Fair Workweek Initiative told me. “The idea of what stable employment is, or what we can expect in terms of stable employment, is changing. That’s part of this.”

  • “Late capitalism” skewers inequality, whether businesses’ feverish attempts to sell goods to the richest of the rich (here’s looking at you, $1,200 margarita) or to provide less and less to the rest (hey, airlines that make economy customers board after pets). It lampoons brands’ attempts to mimic or co-opt the language, culture, and content of their customers. Conspicuous minimalism, curated and artificial moments of zen, the gaslighting of the lifehacking and wellness movements: This is all late capitalism….


Finally, “late capitalism” gestures to the potential for revolution, whether because the robots end up taking all the jobs or because the proletariat finally rejects all this nonsense. A “late” period always comes at the end of something, after all. “It has the constant referent to revolution,”

William Clare Roberts said. “‘Late capitalism’ necessarily says, ‘This is a stage we’re going to come out of at some point, whereas ‘neoliberalism’ doesn’t say that, ‘Shit is fucked up and bullshit’ doesn’t say that. It hints at a sort of optimism amongst a post-Bernie left, the young left online. Something of the revolutionary horizon of classical Marxism.”…

That it has strayed so far from its original meaning? Nobody I spoke with seemed to care, Jameson included, and the phrase has always had a certain malleability anyway. Sombart’s late capitalism differed from Mandel’s differed from Adorno’s differed from Jameson’s. “Late capitalism” often seems more like “the latest in capitalism,” Konczal quipped.

This late capitalism is today’s, then. At least until the brands get ahold of it.

Trumpism functions as a brand promoting the re-regulation of banking, which might seem superfically a good thing even as it corrects far too late, the neoliberal financial deregulation that has continued to sour the left on the 1990s history of Clintonian economic policy, and its potential return in 2016. It was an election of late capitalist brand management.

That dissatisfaction created the Sanders insurgency with the inevitable, stereotypical struggle within the Democratic party which allowed yet another celebrity GOP candidate to slither into the White House. Notwithstanding the other variables of #TrumpRussia and the incompetence of Democrats in district reapportionment, the Democratic party has a lot of work to do in 2018 and 2020.


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