An anthropologist looks at America’s growing proletariat

Summary: Here anthropologist Maximilian Forte looks at America’s changing social structure (the rise of the 1%, death of the middle class) using perspectives from Rome, Marx, and modern identity politics. It’s one of his best essays, worthwhile reading about America’s most serious problem (fracturing our social cohesion, making solutions of the others difficult or impossible).  This is the material that should shape Campaign 2016.

Proletariat

 

The Ultimate Proletarian and
the Neoliberal Condition

By anthropologist Maximilian C. Forte.
From Zero Anthropology
Reposted with his generous permission

 

Middle class to proletariat

The word “Proletarian” has acquired many layers of meaning over the centuries, possibly in part because the many, historically changing situations of proletarians became more complex. Since the advent of western European capitalism in the 16th century, proletarians were defined as “members of the lowest class”. By the mid-1800s, they were “the lowest class” composed of “indigent wage-earners”.

For Marxists, proletarians were defined by their relationship to production — they rented out their labour in exchange for a wage, with wages kept lower than the market value of what they produced, and were separated from what they produced since they produced for exchange, and not for their own use. Lenin’s vision of the future involved a dictatorship of the proletariat, in the socialist phase toward communism.However, as anthropologists have argued, there have been many different degrees of autonomous access to resources among rural proletariats worldwide, simultaneously involved in both production for use (subsistence) and for exchange (cash crops). Some advanced the term “polybian” to describe people with multiple sources of income, besides that earned from wage labour.

Finally, Immanuel Wallerstein cautioned that the ultimate aim of capitalism was not the full proletarianization of workers — that is, reduced to a total dependency on wage labour to sustain themselves, because that would ultimately make capitalists responsible for the welfare and reproduction of the workforce. That is hardly the first priority of those committed to the ceaseless accumulation of capital. The ideal is maximum profit, which means wages held as low as possible. One can depress wages when it is known that workers have other sources of sustenance, where either they have their own plots of land where they can grow their own food and/or participate in the so-called informal economy as hucksters.

But when proletarians have no alternate avenues, then the need for “a job” and for wages, is at an absolute maximum. One of the fatal flaws of neoliberalism is that it has reduced a great many of us to exactly this state of total dependency on capitalists, at the same time as they have shirked all social responsibility (minor philanthropic palliatives aside).

Editor’s note: One of the great innovations of the post-WWII is corporations’ pushing wages below sustenance levels, forcing employees onto food stamps and Medicaid.

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After Orlando, should we repeal the second amendment?

Summary: Orlando, as usual for a crisis in America, brings forth calls to rip another strip from the Constitution. But the Second Amendment worked well for us for two centuries, until conservatives decided America needed more guns in more hands. Orlando is another example of the results. But there are solutions that do not require another amputation on the Constitution. Celebrate Flag Day by remembering the Constitution, and defending it.

Repeal the Second Amendment.”
— Reaction to the Orlando shootings by Erik Loomis (Asst Prof History, U RI).

Constitution & guns

The rule of crises in America is that our elites exploit them to strip away pieces from the Bill of Rights. Both Left and Right are complicit in this. They are a tag-team working against us. Each has their favorite amendments and those they seek to erase.

After generations of this, its amendments have been pruned like the withered branches of an ancient oak tree. Most of the Bill of Rights remain de jure in force but are de facto void.  They attack it to fight “crime” (the 6th largely void for those who fall into our misnamed criminal justice system) and “terrorism” (the 4th being their latest victim). Amendments 7, 8, and 9 are almost dead letters. The third is obsolete.

Now it’s the Left against the second amendment. Not only is this an attack on the Constitution, it’s bad political tactics, self-marginalizing by the Left. See “Why It’s Time to Repeal the Second Amendment” by David S. Cohen in Rolling Stone.

A few more generations it will become a totem, like Magna Carta, or poetry like the Declaration of Independence. (For more about this see Forecast: Death of the Constitution.)

What about Orlando?

Update: a commenter noted that even strict gun-control laws are unlikely to prevent a licensed security guard from getting some form of gun.

We learned to control guns in America, adequately if not as well as have other nations. It kept the rate of mass killings at a high but tolerable level. This system worked for two centuries. It allowed local diversity of laws to suit regional cultures. While we slept, right-wing ideologues — backed by the unassailable might of money — have taken this from us.

Relentless pressure by conservatives at State and local levels have eroded away their gun laws. In 2008 the national legal regime changed with the activist conservative judges on the Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller (conservatives overthrow State’s rights when convenient).

Now we’re going backwards, seeing behaviors unknown in developed nations for many generations — such as open carry of guns. And lots of mass shootings. How many? Life is cheap in America, so the government tracks thousands of kinds of financial activity. But it doesn’t track mass shootings — there are several definitions — just as it does not accurately track shootings by police.

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Our scary future: sexbots are coming, powering the ‘sexodus’

Summary: The war of the sexes has begun a new chapter, with the development of tech sex (as far beyond today’s sex toys as a horse-drawn buggy is to a F-35). It’s too disturbing for most mainstream analysts to see, let alone discuss (other than to condemn). Brave readers will read this post and its pointers to the world of tomorrow. It’s a follow-up to my first post about sexbots: Tech creates a social revolution with unthinkable impacts that we prefer not to see.

Sexbot

The war of the sexes has entered a new era (again), as both imbalances build on both the demand and supply sides.

On one hand, the rewards for men playing the game are not what they were. To mention just two of the more obvious changes A new study in Journal of the AMA shows that 40% of American women are obese — and roughly half of marriages end in divorce, often catastrophically for men (loss of their child plus a decade or two of payments). Hence women’s magazines and websites overflow with whines about men’s “failure to commit” and the “peter pan syndrome”.

On the other side of the ledger, feminism has unleashed women’s hypergamy while men’s economic fortunes fade rapidly (e.g., women are increasingly dominating men at every level from high school diplomas to college and doctorate degrees) — leading to paradise for much-sought-after alpha males, and increasing numbers of celibate omegas.

Society would rebalance, somehow — eventually. But this instability creates an opening for technology to disrupt the game in ways we now can only imagine — with the allure of better drugs (much safer than heroin and booze), the high-voltage excitement of video games (in the near future evolving into virtual reality), and high-tech sex toys (and in the near future, sex bots). It’s the next phase of what British journalist Milo Yiannopoulos calls the “The Sexodus: Men Giving Up On Women And Checking Out Of Society.

“Social commentators, journalists, academics, scientists and young men themselves have all spotted the trend: among men of about 15 to 30 years old, ever-increasing numbers are checking out of society altogether, giving up on women, sex and relationships and retreating into pornography, sexual fetishes, chemical addictions, video games and, in some cases, boorish lad culture…”

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