Academic journal article Social Alternatives

Hearts Are Trump's: Post-Truth as Intervention

Academic journal article Social Alternatives

Hearts Are Trump's: Post-Truth as Intervention

Article excerpt

The Resistible Rise of Capitalism

King Lear was written at the dawn of capitalism and Lear in Brexitland (Prentki 2016a), a play recently written for the UK-based One Hour Theatre Company, is a provocation at its dusk. It is intended as an intervention into the conventional wisdom which every passing day reveals itself as folly: namely that capitalism is the only system that enables our species to flourish. It is a strange kind of flourishing that not only allows the wildest of inequalities between individuals but also encourages us to bankrupt the natural resources of our planet with the result that all living things will face extinction before much longer. Shakespeare's play ends in bleak irresolution but four hundred years further down the line we are asking the same questions about how to live and what it is to be human. Whether the age is pre-scientific, scientific, or post-scientific, we still struggle to admit that we can barely see enough to see how little we can see.

John Holloway opens his book Crack Capitalism as follows:

Break. We want to break. We want to break the world as it is. A world of injustice, of war, of violence, of discrimination, of Gaza and Guantanamo. A world of billionaires and a billion people who live and die in hunger. A world in which humanity is annihilating itself, massacring non-human forms of life, destroying the conditions of its own existence. A world ruled by money, ruled by capital. A world of frustration, of wasted potential (Holloway 2010: 3).

In a special issue on 'Intervention' for a journal titled Social Alternatives, it might at first sight be expected that readers will be greeted with an analysis of how 'populist' interventions of the past year have shaped politics across the world in countries as diverse as the USA, the UK, Italy and the Philippines. Within the narrow confines of political establishments these changes do indeed present themselves as socio-political alternatives. I would argue, however, that these events are the backlash from the worst excesses of the neoliberal model of globalisation rather than any genuine alternative to it. In the run-up to the UK referendum on continued membership of the European Union, the following incident was recorded as an example of the disconnection between those who have access to and influence upon political discourse and, to use one of Prime Minister Teresa May's favourite phrases, 'ordinary working people':

There's a lady I've been thinking about for the past few days, even though we've never met. She's the central character in a true story told by the Europe expert Anand Menon. He was in Newcastle just before the referendum to debate the impact of Britain leaving the EU. Invoking the gods of economics, the King's College London professor invited the audience to imagine the likely plunge in the UK's GDP. Back yelled the woman: 'That's your bloody GDP. Not ours' (Chakrabortty 2017).

The siren calls to 'make America great again' and to 'take back our country' woke up the nostalgia of the dispossessed for a supposed time past when working people - predominantly white, male, working-class people - had secure careers (Economist 2014). The votes of those said to be 'left behind' by globalisation in the UK, the USA and in France are their only means of exacting revenge for their plight upon those perceived to have caused it. These aspirations to turn back the historical clock are, however, interwoven with other tropes that suggest that the barriers to achieving them do not derive from the systemic operation of neoliberal capitalism but from the numbers of people not like 'us' - Mexicans, Muslims, Poles - who stand in the way of those goals. For example in the UK 'Brexit' referendum many areas with little or no experience of immigration voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU, while other regions with high immigration, and lived experience of cultural diversity, tended to vote to remain (Rosenbaum 2017).

It is no coincidence that the rise of neoliberal capitalism parallels that of individualism in the Western world since the late 1970s. …

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