The Shifting Plate Tectonics of Late Neoliberalism

I thought this was a good summary of the strange alliances unfolding as the plate tectonics of politics shift, from Rosi Braidotti’s Post Human Knowledge pg 34-35:

Former liberal thinkers turning arch-conservative, in response to the current US administration’s preference for white supremacy, is becoming a salient feature of the contemporary American theory wars (Lilla 2017). The blanket-term ‘political correctness’ is resurrected and adopted as a term of abuse by both right-and left-wing populist movements, with leftists like Žižek not only supporting President Trump but also blaming the progressive Liberals for the rise of the far-right. This perverse political climate of over-indulgence for illiberal, authoritarian systems and movements also results in the resurgence of the anti-theory tactic that was widely used back in the 1990s. Namely the double charge of cognitive relativism and of anti-scientific methods, against any critical discourses that reflect the experiences and interests of social minorities and those who are excluded from the new economy. These tactics, spearheaded today by gurus of white masculine prowess like the Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson (2018), are particularly harmful for the Humanities, as they challenge their scientific credibility.

In keeping with the bigotry of the times, these neo-conservatives adopt a heavily moralizing language, accusing the critical and theoretical Humanities of nothing less than ‘corruption’ and betrayal of their allegedly moral mission. But cultural differences across the Atlantic persist and, in a spectacular reversal of a time-honoured reactionary tradition, right-wing populist movements in the European Union have come out in favour of feminist and gay rights. This is the case notably in France, where the National Front, under the influence of its former deputy leader and gay activist Florian Philippot took a firm stand against the ancestral homophobia of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s party. This turnabout happened even earlier in the Netherlands, where Pim Fortuyn first, and later the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders embraced the LBGTQ + cause. The most recent phenomenon occurred in Germany, where Alice Weidel, an out lesbian, became the leader of the Parliamentary group of the far-right party Alternative for Germany. These hyper-nationalist and racist political organizations make an instrumental use of LBGTQ + and feminist issues, as an example of alleged Western superiority over Islam. This opportunistic tactic–which is also known under a variety of terms, including ‘sexual nationalism’, ‘homonationalism’ and ‘queer nationalism’ (Puar 2007)–is an attempt to enlist the transformative and radical social project of feminist and LBGTQ + rights to a xenophobic civilizational campaign against Islam.

This extract from Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? by Derrick O’Keefe conveys an earlier example of such a tectonic shift. From loc 626-641:

But Michael Ignatieff, an avowed devotee of “negative liberty,” went much further than mere compliant silence. Building up through the Balkan wars of the 1990s, he would end up advocating the violent, coerced road to “liberty” espoused by the neo-conservatives. In this endeavor he would be joined by Hitchens and a host of other ex-Trotskyists as well as Left apostates from other backgrounds. Had Isaiah Berlin been around to witness the ascendance of the neo-cons, he might have argued that they were just consistent monists who had switched teams halfway through the game, transferring the class or nation benefiting from their all-encompassing vision for violent and purifying transformation.

Michael Brooks captures this well on pg 8 of his Against The Web. They are reactive partisans of modernity who have been brought together by a shared “devotion to affirming capitalism when its legitimacy is under threat”:

That Harris is an atheist with some socially liberal domestic policy positions, that Rubin is a married gay man, that even Jordan Peterson never quite calls himself a conservative—all of this helps them brand themselves as unclassifiable renegades even as they share elements of an unmistakable anti-left agenda. They all defend the capitalist economic order domestically and American imperial hegemony globally. They all see themselves as defenders of a poorly understood (and frankly historically illiterate) construct called “the West.” They all defend what they imagine to be “biology” against feminists, and at least some of them—like Sam Harris, who’s supported the odiously far-right and overly bigoted Charles Murray—defend a similar stance when it comes to race. Crucially, in all of these areas the IDW promotes narratives that either naturalize or mythologize historically contingent power relations—between workers and bosses, between men and women, they are old school reactionaries.

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