This isn’t just about George Floyd. That much at least we can agree on. And it’s clear that there are at least two future crisis-histories waiting to be written for the moment America’s snuff flick cherry was popped and the country tumbled into full mass-traumatic aftershock hypnosis. One future narrative will certainly be the unlikeliness of the manic wide-eyed “Oh yes, we will!” – defiance with which the nation’s suicidal intra-elite dispute took the next turn for the worse in yet another game of chicken – that most American of all games – to project the tried and tested US hybrid warfare apparatus inwards.
But a second crisis will have to be faced regardless of who wins the stand-off behind “George Floyd.” Behind the current eruption of unleashed popular energies, discourses like Cliodynamics, Peter Turchin’s idea of crisis cycles due to elite overproductions, and notions like the “Anthropocene” in demand of “Terraforming” systems of global management have been patiently assembled over the last decades. While these ideas are distinct and bear their own particular implications and political solutions, they still point towards an emerging global imaginary which cannot help but conceiving of human life as biological totality and suggests the necessity of postliberal management systems. On this, both the populist right and the globalist left are in an unlikely fundamental agreement which is to gain in profile in the coming years.
Humans as biomass? Although the right has imagined the left as naive deniers of biology, such a view barely stands up to historical scrutiny. It was the academic left who organized the mass rollout of orthopsychiatric post World War II reeducation programs tailored to the cultural profile of the fascist enemies Germany and Japan and later prepared woke-capital’s antecessor culture by psycho-forming the US population into submission with F-scales and Hollywood series. Despite being charmingly outpaced by technological development in some instances, Jacques Ellul’s book Propaganda is still instructive because it so meticulously illustrates how already by the 1930s all great powers had constructed sophisticated sociotechnical apparatuses which married the social and psychological sciences with the mass media of communication for an increasingly precise project of social engineering. The evolving infrastructure of dual-use electoral and advertising micro-targeting in the 1980s which today finds its perfection in the mass rollout of cheap black-box algorithms has always been a political bipartisan affair stripping the populace down to the social-biological constitution of its most intimate sentiments and all too predictable emotive reactions. In this psychocultural arms-race the left has merely been more cynical in understanding the power of dangling pathos carrots in front of the populus while at the same time effectively remote-piloting masses with messages micro-tailored to race, gender and intelligence milieu against its political enemies.
The globalist left’s crisis culminating in the election of Donald Trump and Brexit is closely related to this organization of domination and is above all double territorialization crisis: On the one hand, the social-engineering deformation of culture has led to a crisis of elite reproduction. Westerners today look with discipline-envy upon the quiet and confident smirk of East Asian elites who are becoming majorities in all of their universities and can only juxtapose a shoddy Potemkin village of financial hyperbole, sclerotic capital, and entrepreneurial rhetoric less and less covered by an adequate supply of home-grown talent and a secure technological advantage. Here too, we find the devastating consequences of the politics of a paranoid elite perpetually obsessed with forestalling the specter of potentially hostile majorities and forgetting that history moves on elsewhere.
On the other hand, the globalist party has been failing to impose its dream of a one-world government via the militarily-backed expansion of its financial system. The latter was to freeze the unpredictability of global industrial capitalism via fund-mediated oligopoly co-ownership structures, and financial capitalism’s executive muscle of hostile transnational speculation, corporate raiders and activist investors. The unfazed rise of Deng Xiaoping’s China, who sacrificed a generation of Chinese to recuperate the dignity of the Middle Kingdom, and the reemergence of Russia under Putin humiliating and chasing its robber baron oligarchs to London, were treason against the e pluribus unum of an ugly globo-culture pacification under one transnational market imagined by an arrogant “international community.”
Today, the project appears stalled, and this panicked and wounded global elite has reverted to holding the world hostage in a never-ending barrage of psychological operations to delay Western majorities implementing imperial rollback and the inevitable emergence of a global multipolar order. In the process, it recycles as hysterical protest veto-actors those it despises and had discarded as useless before: frail, obese, and asthmatic bodies shouting programmed slogans speak for themselves as the ugly human ruins of a West which has too long depleted its substance to create growth incubators for global multinational industries. Today we find them in a stand-off paralysis against the last aging and vanishing reserves of common-sense civic sentiment.
The current uproar of the populist right as thymotic revolt against prescribed slow death by globalization grows from being instinctively and aesthetically repulsed by this spectacle. Too proud and of too much middle-class sensibility to prematurely buy into post-humanist nihilism, it cannot bear the denigration of human form envisioned by the left and its global onslaught of therapeutic neutralization and psychopharmaceutical sterilization systems. The right finds its counter-proposal in the original subjectivity ideal of an outdated 19th-century European humanism, imagined as assemblies of armed, well-read and capable citizen collectives, steadily struggling against universal innocuousness to convert responsibility into a bargaining chip for a minimum of autonomy and decentralization. This is why right-wingers have set themselves up as online entrepreneurs of harsh hormetic truths, long cycles, and productive disillusionment. Their dangerous and destabilizing business is the exoterization of the esoteric which finds its expression in the popularization of realist revisionism and biopolitical power-knowledges. While this is a fundamentally sane development, too often this opposition remains emotionally stunted in echo-chambers of indignation and masochistic passivity being too shellshocked and scandalized by what it uncovered.
Yet nationalist opposition collectives in particular must move on to a sober and programmatic realism with a global and long-term outlook. In a 21st century of declining transaction costs for technology transfers and diffusion of destruction potential, the dominant paradigm will be arms control – in the widest sense. So far, being perpetually locked out of serious power, the populist right has had the luxury of being able to avoid such questions of responsibility. It has yet to devise a long-term strategy on how to integrate its clinical eye, its desire for space and speech with the reality of a global and human totality, evolving trade and technological complexity and security dilemmas. Tragically aware of “having been put out to pasture,” it is after all not too far away from BLM’s animating force: That in the end, if history is to progress meaningfully, farming practices in the human zoo should opt for a “cage-free” label. The difference is that the demoralized and depressed basis of the left seeks ego-death via deresponsibilization and psychiatrization while the right-wing wants to hold on to an ethics of decentralization via individual responsibility, historical identity, and vitality.
This instinct is a sign of its health and a real political program which could be pursued and developed further. It must not shun questions of global totality and responsibility. If the right wants to avoid the usual cooptation of its politicians whenever they reach real power which comes with uncanny perspectives it must start to find answers to the first question of every serious anarchist: In the absence of a central authority, how to effectively and humanely organize stability and security. In answering this question it must not forget its original motive, spirit and political qi which is its conception of the humane: Right-wing humanism is a revolt against last-man harmlessness.
Nicolas Hausdorf tweets at @dcntrrr.