Our guest for this week’s episode is Michael Tracey, of The Young Turks — Tracey by his own account is a man of the left, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that, to read some of the commentaries that have been written about him online. He’s known primarily known for his iconoclastic views on what he calls “the Russia derangement,” something we addressed on this show all the way back in Episode One, with Tara McCormack.
I encountered Tracey in Chicago last weekend, at the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) Convention. We set this interview up with a view primarily to talking about the Convention, and the state of the American left. In this episode, we do address those topics, including the controversy surrounding the election of Danny Fetonte to the DSA’s National Political Committee, or NPC. But with the tragic news of rightwing violence in Charlottesville, VA this morning (the interview was recorded early afternoon, on Sunday, August 13), it seemed proper to address the rise of fascism in the United States, too. In true form, Tracey has some views on that subject which might not be popular among left comrades — including a defence of the ACLU’s decision stand up for freedom of speech for Alt. Right activists. As you’ll hear in the show, however, he gives a good account of himself, and leaves us with much to think about.
Please enjoy the show. As ever, if you have any feedback, you can reach us on Twitter @occupyirtheory. You can follow Michael Tracey on Twitter @mtracey.
We have a very special guest for this episode. Douglas Lain, of Zero Books. In the interview, we discuss a range of topics, but I think the focus of the interview is on how capitalist narcissism is playing out in leftist online culture.
Specifically we address:
How podcasting has enabled a new debate among the left, concerning the priority of identity;
The rise of the Alt-Left, and whether or how the term functions to smear those seeking to re-assert the priority of revolutionary values in leftist discourse;
We also address the critical reception of Angela Nagle’s sensational new book, Kill All Normies, published by Zero Books … a book that is ostensibly about the emergence of the Alt-Right, but in this conversation, Doug and I focus mostly on the other main aspect of the book, which is Nagle’s explanation of the rise of “call out culture” on the left.
Finally, with the #DSACon17 (the 2017 Democratic Socialists of America convention) starting this week, I ask Doug if he has any advice for delegates to the convention.
This episode we’re talking about the 2017 British General Election, and the surprising performance of Jeremy Corbyn, and the British Labour Party. Our guest is Owen Worth, Senior Lecturer In International Relations at the University of Limerick, in Ireland. Owen specializes in the study of social movements, and has published a number of works on varieties of resistance to neoliberalism, from religious fundamentalism to more leftist expressions. On the day of the election, he had a piece published in the Irish Times, wherein he argued that Corbyn would likely do very well, as a result of the mobilization of large numbers of young “anti-establishment” voters in the UK.
In the interview, you’ll hear Owen refer to something called a War of position. This is a term drawn from the theories of Antonio Gramsci. In contrast with Gramsci’s notion of the “war of movement,” which refers more to the classic revolutionary strategy of trying to seize state power by direct assault, through armed insurrections, mass protest, strikes, and the like, the “war of position” is more about trying to catalyze new forms of social imagination, and encouraging new ideas to which we attach our consent. But what is the axis of those new ideas? In the following, you’ll hear Owen argue that the results of the election suggest British politics is in the process of being rearticulated around what might prove to be an unhealthy battleground, between young and old voters. We talk about the significance of the Corbyn result for Ireland, and the way his performance has been received by the Irish media.
We are seeking participants to contribute to our proposed Venture Research Workshop at the ISA Convention 2018 in San Francisco. If successful, the one-day workshop will be held on 3rd April 2018 and travel grants will be made available. The proposed format is a series of three short panels followed by an open roundtable discussion featuring invited questions on our themes. Participants will also be invited to contribute to an edited volume.
Proposals to participate should be submitted in the form of a short abstract (max. 200 words) addressing one or more of the themes outlined below. Please submit these to Adam Fishwick (email@example.com or @Adam_Fishwick on Twitter) and Nicholas Kiersey (firstname.lastname@example.org or @occupyirtheory on Twitter) by 15th June 2017.
This episode is the first in an occasional ‘book club’ series of podcasts we will be doing, in an around the topic of fully automated luxury communism. This episode’s book is Four Futures, by Peter Frase (which is part of the Jacobin series, from Verso Books).
My guests on the show are Laura Horn and Phil Davis. Laura is a political economist working at the University of Roskilde, just outside of Copenhagen in Denmark. While her own research has mainly focused on dimensions of capitalist restructuring in the European Union, she has a strong political and personal interest in the nexus between political economy and science fiction. Four Futures is one of the texts she uses in her course ‘Repoliticising Capitalism: Contradictions, critique and alternatives’.
Phil Davis is a molecular biologist working in the Biodefense sector in the Washington DC area. He’s currently working towards a master’s degree in Bioinformatics from University of Maryland University College. Four Futures sits at the intersection of his enthusiasm for both left-wing politics and futurology. His hobbies also include music.
If you have any questions or comments, please send us a tweet @occupyirtheory
Kelly has weighed in a number of recent ‘Foucault’ controversies, including the question of whether Foucault was a neoliberal. In this interview, we get into that debate. But I think for most listeners, the interesting stuff will be towards the end, where Kelly talks about Biopolitical Imperialism, and addresses the conflict in Syria.
The podcast was recorded on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. In the interview, you’ll hear Kelly comment on Donald Trump’s pivot a few days previous, on Syria. Two days after the recording, on April 7, the US military launched a cruise missile attack on a Syrian airfield. The attack was carried out in response to a chemical weapons incident in Idlib province, perpetrated allegedly by Syrian state forces. It would be hard to imagine a stronger confirmation of Kelly’s arguments about Biopolitical Imperialism.
It was my pleasure recently to be invited by the ‘Always Already Podcast’ team to put in a guest appearance on their show, and respond to their recent episode on Martijn Konings’s fascinating book, The Emotional Logic of Capitalism. They offered me a 10-minute slot, and ran it in Episode 19 of their Epistemic Unruliness series. Below, you can find a slightly edited and extended version of my remarks, which were provoked by their own engagement with Konings’s book, but also by my own, continuing work on austerity and recession in Ireland. For ease of reading’s sake, I have added in some material from remarks I made at another talk I gave on February 17, this year, at Ohio State’s ‘Research in International Politics’ (RIP) group, entitled Austerity as Tragedy? From Neoliberal Governmentality to the Critique of Late Capitalist Control:
On this week’s show we talked about the New McCarthyism with our guest Dr Tara MacCormack, a Lecturer at University of Leicester. Tara writes on security, foreign policy, and legitimacy. Among other things, she is interested in how traditional conceptions of military and territorial security have been displaced in the last few decades, by the concept of human security. In 2010, Tara published a book with Routledge entitled ‘Critique, Security and Power: The Political Limits to Emancipatory Approaches.’
Our conversation this episode addressed a number of topics, including the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, reaction to the resignation of Lt. General Michael Flynn as national security advisor, the role of the the “pro-war left” in promoting the New McCarthyism, and the question of left strategy in the aftermath of the protests against Milo Yiannopoulos, at the University of Berkeley.
Dan O’Brien (29/10) claims that because there are no self-described neoliberals, it is not possible to engage with their ideas. But surely he would not deny the historical existence of self-described free market radicals, like Milton Friedman and Gary Becker, or the historic influence of their ideas on government policymakers, like Paul Volker and Margaret Thatcher.
Neoliberalism, quite simply, is a theory that advocates applying the laws of the market to as many domains of human existence as possible, as intensely as possible. Neoliberals take up the ideas of early liberals, like Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Those thinkers had faith in the virtue of market-based competition as a mechanism for optimizing the distribution goods and services. Moreover, they believed the experience of buying and selling in the marketplace was a moral corrective, producing over time a class of responsible and capable citizens, named ‘entrepreneurs’.
An essay I co-wrote with Iver B. Neumann, ‘Worlds of Our Making in Science Fiction and International Relations,’ has just been published in a volume entitled Popular Culture and World Politics: Theories, Methods, Pedagogies’. The book is published by E-International Relations, and is edited by Federica Caso and Caitlin Hamilton. The book is available on Amazon, or as free-to-download PDF.
The piece is largely devoted to the question of defining science fiction, and its interest to IR scholars. Here’s an excerpt:
“Taking this broad array of artefacts seriously, then, as artefacts proper to the literary genre of science fiction, the question becomes one of how consumer expectations are subject, among other things, to the expectations generated by the conventions of this genre. Following Cultural Studies theorists like Darko Suvin, we recognise that science fiction is ‘a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author’s empirical environment’ (suvin, cited in Freedman 2000, p. 16). The term ‘estrangement’ (rus. ostranenie), coined originally a century ago by russian formalist Shklovsky, is that which gives the text the power, implicitly or explicitly, to give the reader over to a sense of the possibility of another reality. By contrast, ‘cognition’ refers to that which enables the text to rationally account for the way this alternative reality actually works. It performs this operation by posing explicit differences between the inner workings of its narrative world and those of our own.
As Freedman (2000) stresses, however, operations of estrangement are not in and of themselves all that politically significant. Texts orientated more towards estrangement, such as tolkien’s Lord of the rings, can be read for all intents and purposes as fantasy. Texts that focus more on cognition, on the other hand, tend towards realism at the expense of imaginative difference, thus potentially stretching the limits of the genre too far in the opposite direction. For this reason, as freedman cautions, the exact parameters of science fiction as a genre are somewhat difficult to nail down. For freedman, what is essential ultimately is the ‘cognition effect’, that is, ‘the attitude of the text itself to the kind of estrangements being performed’ (Freedman 2000, 18, emphasis in original). Thus, even though actual science may someday supersede the cognitively rational elements of a particular science fiction text, it should remain a part of the genre because the author originally understood what he or she was writing to have a potential cognitive validity. On this account, a definition of the genre would necessarily exclude the Lord of the rings, but it would feasibly include the more traditional estrangement-centric ‘pulp’ of Hugo Gernsback’s 1929 Amazing Stories, of which Star Wars would naturally be considered a contemporary exemplar.
For the sake of precision, however, we might want to narrow this definition down a little. By the time Shklovsky came up with the term ‘estrangement’, the idea that alternative realities were not only part of literature’s remit, but one of literature’s defining traits, was already firmly ensconced. A romantic such as Coleridge defined poetry in terms of a willing suspension of disbelief. Thomas more’s Utopia was first published in 1516. Indeed, taking into consideration that older literary traditions are basically part of religious traditions, and noting that religion is a social phenomenon that by definition operates with more than one reality – there is the profane and visible reality, and then there are one or more alternate realities – we would argue that the existence of what Suvin refers to as ‘an imaginative framework alternative to the author’s empirical environment’ is the historical literary rule. It was only with the coming of modernity that the possibility of a wholly disenchanted literature emerged. In light of this, the oft-heard throwaway line that all literature is science fiction cannot be written off without argument.”