Up there with best articles on UnHerd! Thank you.
I was about to write the same. Instead, I will just agree with you. The constant attacks on wokeism here are a little boring. Time to get a wider view.
Yup, I was discouraged by the start and then he sneaked up and ambushed me with his brilliant analysis.
He’s a good writer describing realities all too familiar to me. Glad to become aware of his writing and substack. He is another repentant Leftist expressing reality through his formerly rose-colored glasses – now noticing red is actually the color of spilled blood.
His indiscriminate use of the grossly simplistic abstractions “capitalism” and “globalism” which, while popular, hide as much as they reveal of the circumstances displays the incompleteness of his repentance.
Personal property and trade have been central to human flourishing since before there were words for the concepts. Socialism didn’t and doesn’t change that, it simply places control over the resources money represents into a self-appointed elite who justify their totalitarian and historically murderous means via a utopian vision.
The West, specifically America’s founders, recognized that they themselves, a new elite, couldn’t be trusted to wield totalitarian power, nor could a democratic mob be trusted, hence, the birth of the republic.
Those founders believed in God but recognized that religious belief can become totalizing and thus separated it from the government while recognizing that those values were central to human flourishing. Our good author similarly returns to our human concept of god, place, and natural law to find firm footing.
The point is this: his repentance will be complete when he takes back the high ground ceded to the ideologues by using distorted terms like “capitalism” and puts his brain nearer his feet.
To illustrate, compare the following. 1. Putin’s CZARist-like control of Russia was enabled by co-opting and holding half of each oligarch’s wealth as ransom to the will of his post-communist police state. 2. Xi’s utter control via the Communist party of all wealth held by the Chinese or “invested” by foolish outsiders who think they can take that money out again. 3. The emerging control of the “West” by Tech oligarchs and multinationals – via the WTO and other shadow organizations.
They all have or seek centralized control of capital, i.e., the resources money represents, and are using modern tech and human greed and fallibility to enable it. Putin and Xi ascended via utopian dreams crushed or sustained via totalitarian, utopian belief systems that replace God with “progressive” rationalism. They assume humans are perfectible via those belief systems and those repackaged beliefs are ascendant in the West. The “corporations” and the “globalists” are the symptoms and the means, not the root cause.
Just read C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man, he laid it out a very long time ago.
Since Paul won’t plug himself, I will. Paul runs a substack called Abbey of Misrule that is excellent. He’s in the middle of a series of essays about the Machine. If you like his work here, support him there.
I have long maintained that the only people to benefit from globalisation are large corporations.
But as soon as I open my mouth to make any criticism against the new world order I’m accused of being a nationalist – and therefore I must also be a racist homophobic right-wing extremist. It’s a fate that awaits anybody who questions whether globalisation is a good thing.
You’ve missed out the “Brainless, Swivel-eyed Loon” or does that only apply to Brexiteers.
Yes, I’ve had to contend with this accusation from progressive friends, branding me as a right wing extremist, for being critical of corporate capitalism!
This excellent essay certainly helps us develop this discussion.
Yes, the fact that people on the “left” now think of anti-globalism as being far-right xenophobia has been a great triumph for corporate capitalism.
Which is ironic, because once upon a time it was mainly those on the Left who were fighting against globalisation. I think the big mistake many on the Left make is to equate love of one’s country and the wish to ensure one’s country thrives with jingoistic nationalism. I think most ordinary people feel the former very strongly, without being militaristic, and feel affronted by those who pour scorn on them for it. It’s a similar story with large scale immigration, beloved of globalist elites for providing a ready-made, pliable workforce for them, yet questioning immigration levels is considered unacceptable in many progressive circles, tantamount to racism. The slightest bit of practical thinking shows how ridiculous this idea is: if I have a boat and there are 40 people on it, and its carrying capacity is 40, then taking on 20 extra passengers is a bad idea, not because I don’t like the people who want to get on my boat, but because I don’t want the boat to sink.
Once again I am impressed with Paul Kingsnorth’s ability to recognize, identify, and articulate the the real malady which is ravaging modern life. Most everyone else gets lost in attacking symptoms of the disease while the condition of the patient deteriorates. My thanks, again, to UnHerd for providing a platform for Paul and for introducing him to me.
The Left have always claimed to hate capitalism, but love money, and yes, isn’t it ironic how the Right are now the ones coming to the defence of the working-class?! Then again I guess it’s rather fitting when you see how the so-called “anti-racists” have become the new racists, the “anti-sexists” are the new sexists, and the “anti-facists” are the new fascists!! It’s as if Western society has been turned on its head and it really is quite remarkable just how completely and utterly deluded the Left have become….
A superb essay.
“The Left and corporate capitalism now function like a pincer: one attacks the culture, deconstructing everything from history to “heteronormativity” to national identities; the other moves in to monetise the resulting fragments.”
This single sentence captures so much. Excellent analogy and article.
Really like this piece
As I see it, the Faustian marriage of the corporate capitalism and the progressive Left came as a direct result of the Occupy movement of the early Noughties.
This was the first of two recent existential threats to the corporates etc in recent years. They like to remain invisible whilst manipulating events, and Occupy quite correctly put them in the spotlight. The solution, I believe, was to support the virtuous causes of the Left as a price for their silence going forward. Hence Occupy disappeared (interestingly even Wikipedia pretty much acknowledges this).
Obviously Brexit and Trump (along with Corbyn to some extent?) were the second existential crisis, threatening the stability the corporates desire and shattering their Overton Window, within which they allow the veneer of liberal, democratic politics to operate.
And clearly the fearmongering, authoritarianism of the ‘Covid crisis ‘ has been the solution to this threat, with the corporates and the progressives now in lockstep.
I’d always thought of it as a marriage of convenience/necessity, but perhaps not indeed…
“As I see it, the Faustian marriage of the corporate capitalism and the progressive Left came as a direct result of the Occupy movement of the early Noughties.”
Agreed. I also thought it was exacerbated by the financial crisis. ESG was very much a construct emerging from that to persuade people to invest by traditionally left wing values making it a form of glue that unifies global corporatism and progressive cultural trends.
Yes, the selling of one’s soul is always the price to be paid.
I really felt Trump was what allowed the corporates to solidify the idea among progressives that globalism was a leftist value.
I’m still not sure what I think Trump was really about, what his goals were. But whatever they were, and whether or not he was complicit, he was a very useful element in pushing that viewpoint.
‘Climate change’ is a wonderful case study of KIngsnorth’s thesis. The progressive Left think inhibiting the use of fossil fuels will destroy capitalism; the uber-capitalists see it as a mechanism for re-directing the fees for fueling the world from Arabs and others to …um… themselves. Immigration fits the template too: the Left see it as destroying the bogeyman of the nation state, the capitalists just love that cheap labour. Both ends of the spectrum want disruption for their own reasons. The fight will come when they’ve got the disruption, and then they squabble over the outcome: will a fossil free fuel world lead to us all being kumbaya singing vegetarians in yurts, or will the money for keeping the lights on be going to Wall Street, not Riyadh?
Great comment. I’ve stolen it.
“…was eventually torn up, not by indigenous guerrilleros or a socialist Mexican government, but by a reality TV star-turned Republican US president, who believed that globalisation was a con-job which empowered transnational capital at the expense of nations and their people. Whatever else he may have been wrong about, he was right about that.”
I think you will find he was mostly right an that was why he had to be destroyed
Right on a number of issues, if only because he opposed the elite’s opinion.
Even a broken clock tells the correct time twice every 24 hours! Trump was and is a total fool with no vision whatever. If he did anything right is was by mistake!
That was not a sensible thing to say
i was convinced that trump would get us into a war. I was wrong. Biden actually seems to be sliding us towards war. at some point you have to stop and consider your position. i still think Trump scammed the gaming commission and my fellow tradesman in NJ. I think he is a womanizer, and i hold that against him and other politicians like JFK. Having said all that, Trump was not part of the system, and that seems to be his biggest crime.
Fantastic article. Something predicted by Karl Marx no less. In the Communist Manifesto, he says this about the Bourgeoisie:
Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
But he says this almost with admiration… as if he wants to get a piece of the action. Now that the Boureoisie and the Left have fused, Marx has posthumously fulfilled his unarticulated desires!
The Progressive Left turned its back on socialism and embraced monopoly capitalism instead for two main reasons. Socialism doesn’t work and it has never generated the funding for the projects that the Progressive Left favour. Oligopolostic capitalism on the other hand with its increasing corporate profitability and the consolidation seen in many industries produces complacent capitalists who feel that it is worthwhile to pander to the whims of the Progressive Left through their corporate social responsibility departments. NGOs and charities can be trusted to know who is buttering their bread. The second reason is that socialism is the ultimate form of monopoly and it creates its own 1%. It is not that different from monopoly capitalism. The capitalism that the Progressive Left could never embrace is vibrant, low-entry cost capitalism where fortunes can be made and lost quickly, where the ‘wrong’ people thrive, people often from the ‘wrong’ ethnic groups, people who didn’t get accreditation through kneeling before Progressive professors at woke universities.
Multi-national corporations and postmodernism… an alliance made in hell.
The title misled me. I was almost put off until I saw it was Paul Kingsnorth. This articulates where we are with such clarity.
I remember something my PhD supervisor said to me when we were discussing the revolutionary potential of theorists like Foucault who we both used in our work: “Derek, if anything we write was actually, not merely theoretically, threatening to the system it critiques, we simply wouldn’t be permitted to write it”.
I thought at the time, “well, what’s the point?” but have since come to the growing suspicion, brilliantly expressed here by Paul Kingsnorth, that what we were actually being allowed to do was to describe a system from within and that any critiques we might offer had “always-already” been identified and designed in by globalist technocracy, in both its left and right manifestations.
If a few more countries choose to Brexit(sic) then there can be some mitigation of the real downsides of globalisation.
Rather than globalisation I think countries should be sized Down. In New Zealand and Australia (5 and 25 million people), citizens are happier and feel more in control than they do in Canada (35 million).
But Canadians are collectively happier with their governments that the UK (66 million) and the US (270 million).
Smaller countries are more democratic and can adapt quicker to what citizens want. They are also more dependent on collaboration with neighbouring countries; they make the world get on better rather than divide it into big blobs.
It’s interesting that you should mention this as the Scottish leave referendum seems to be a largely positively viewed one in Scotland but portrayed very negatively – aggressively, even – in the rest of the UK (though the press is mostly English-based). To a degree, it’s the same with devolution and the Yes Cymru! movement in Wales. The pro-independence/devolution activists seem to have plans and some drive about them whilst Unionists seem to complain conversely about the concept of breaking up the union and about the state of the UK’s polity without really wanting change in the case of either.
Whilst I’m not certain that Wales and Scotland would do any better if they separated from the UK/England (though both countries’ parliaments do seem to be the driving force behind progressive policies in Westminster: see plastic bag taxes, minimal alcohol pricing, the reintroduction of apprenticeships, lockdown measures, recently debated second home legislation) I have a suspicion, as you say, that they’d benefit socially from a greater degree of freedom from central UK Government. On that note, why England didn’t get the option of its own parliament in 1997, I’ll never know.
Ireland’s a case in point. Too small to be a major target, too nimble to be pinned down, too feisty to keep down and smart enough to extract the best of globalisation and avoid the worst..
See also Iceland, Switzerland, Denmark. The only problem with an independent Scotland is the incompetent nutters in the SNP.
In New Zealand citizens are happier and feel more in control? Do you live in NZ? New Zealand is drifting towards chaos, thanks to 40 years of poor governance. The current government is implementing an unmandated ethostate agenda they kept hidden from the public at the last election. The main opposition party is useless – they’re terrified of offending anyone. Here’s the leader of the NZ opposition, fittingly skewered. I wonder if we’d be better off joining the Australian federation – suitably renamed of course. About 20 yrs ago a local journalist dared to say “Let’s face it – most things are done better in Australia than here”. An unforgettable headline, and it’s still true.
I reckon that we are still too close to the wound to recognize the Islamic reaction to imposed liberal modernity (although we celebrate the Muslims rejection of communism).
Clearly it was Islamism that offered the first true challenge to the liberal hegemony of the 21st Century, but Islam is so divided against itself it’s hardly a worthy challenger.
The Abrahamic Accords were another of those Trumpian strokes of genius the liberals can’t help but despise and destroy.
“Replace everything beautiful with a concrete block that looks the same on every continent and culture”
Now THAT is Disgusting!!!
This comment cannot be upvoted enough. The “left” have the gall to say they support cultural diversity, while their actions undermine and discredit traditional culture.
The most incisive opponents of corporate globalisation today are often to be found on the Right; or at least, not from any identifiable sector of the Left.
What about the food sovereignty movement, and Via Campesina, representing millions of peasants, with its intellectual allies in The Journal of Peasant Studies, and its most successful recent action, the defeat of Modi’s agricultural reforms? What Paul calls the Left is largely the middle class urban left. Urbanization is inherently global, rural cultures are decentralised. Nearly all leftist revolutions were led by the peasantry, including the Zapatistas. Great piece nonetheless.
It’s a fine essay. But… resistance and opposition do not necessarily create a viable alternative to the horrid globalism.
The radicals seem to revel in revolution, but even when successful a few years it’s “Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss”.
Globalism “has all the best tunes”.
I’ve used cliched song lyrics, suggesting that we all know deep down that the game is fixed, the Elite use whoever is handy to maintain their position. What can be done without creating even more piles of bodies?
You can find substantive localist and communitarian political traditions on both the right and left, and both right and left have powerful factions devoted to liberalism and globalism. They seem to flip back and forth as to which allows communitarianism some real room, but liberal globalism has dominated both for a long time.
I find it really frustrating when I talk to people I know, generally sensible, who seem completely unable to see that their own side of the fence is subject to substantive elements which they themselves are opposed to, while the other side has elements that are very close to their own view. I keep thinking that if they could get over the labels they might begin to constitute a significant group of people.
This is a great article.
Excellent essay, I have been saying for some time that the woke and the WEF want to pull apart the warp and weft of the fabric of society and reconstruct it with their authoritarian social model. But I fear the time for erudition is past, it is now time for action, civil disobedience and non compliance with undemocratic diktats are the only way to challenge their huge power structure.
In ‘The Triumph of the Political Class’, Peter Oborne explained why political parties no longer need mass membership to propagate their message. Television and now the internet allow a small group of people in any party to communicate with the electorate. This means that the Democrats in the US and Labour in the UK no longer need people from outside the political class to canvass or push leaflets through doors. Postal ballots registered online mean that drivers are no longer required to take the infirm or disabled to the polling station. Once the working and middle classes were no longer needed to win elections, they lost their influence on the parties they voted for. The Conservatives stopped being conservative and Labour stopped representing the working class. Under Blair and Obama, corporates found that they could outbid the unions and even the previous sponsors of those parties lost almost all influence. In both countries, we are left with two parties representing corporate interests trying to triangulate so that they are disliked less by the electorate than is the opposition party.
A great articulation of what so many people are thinking.
Excellent article. A very impressive way of articulating the current situation. One question I have is the following: Does the Machine really like the abolition of borders? I can definitely see that it enjoys the free flow of goods and capital. But does it favour the free flow of people? During the pandemic, travelling across borders became nearly impossible, and here in the EU has basically undermined the right to Freedom of Movement. So does it really want free flow of people? Or does it see it as a necessary collateral in order to achieve the flow of capital and goods?
I think it wants to control the flow. Because what they would really like is the free flow of workers.
Spot on. Could draw attention to left’s suspicion of, and corporations’ concerted attacks on, small enterprise (major source of vitality, and localism. Also an engine for change – therefore likely to bite both in the bum).
Best line in the article:
“It’s a tradition which takes its stand not according to ideological positioning, but according to actual positioning: on Earth, under the sky, surrounded by people who know where the sun rises in the morning, where they come from and who they are.”
I love being the simpleton, who knows where the sun rises each day. The day that humans can cause the sun to rise in the West is the day I convert to humanism.
A very good, thought-provoking article. I think it’s important not to view the Left as a single, behemoth-like entity, any more than the Right (insofar as those terms still make sense). For example people like me and many of my friends have been concerned for a long time about the damage being done to the natural world through the excesses of predatory capitalism (and also conscious of the exploitation of various marginalised groups like the Mayan Indians in the article by the same forces), yet see the biomedical establishment, big pharma and their approach to medicine as a sprout from the same evil root. Same with transhumanism, genetically modified foods and various other Frankensteinian endeavours. All are driven by a fundamental separation from nature, a deep materialism and a belief that nature is for humanity to use as it sees fit, generally for increase in power, wealth, ‘beauty’ and pleasure and to prolong life. Speaking for myself and many of my friends, we have been horrified by the way the mainstream ‘progressive’ parties have become champions of lockdowns vaccine mandates and other draconian policies.
Yet there is another stream of consciousness that also seeks to improve our life on Earth, not through conquest and dominion but through healing, reconnection and a rediscovery of reverence. I don’t like to attach a Left or Right label to this because those labels are fundamentally oppositional, but if anything this movement is opposed to the materialism of modern technocratic world order. I think Paul Kingsnorth speaks to this consciousness, and even more so the marvellous writer Charles Eisenstein. I think there are a lot of people who once identified with the mainstream Left who are gravitating more towards this outlook. Eisenstein puts it well when he says that the task is not merely to oppose the technocratic vision of progress, but to show that there is a better kind of progress possible: a progress that comes out of really learning how to live together at a community level, working together to solve problems, and rediscovering and honouring the sacredness of life in all its forms.
I think the American principal of capitalism – never give a sucker an even break – has become universal, and a large part of business is all about transferring wealth from poor and stupid peoples pockets to the pockets of the rich and clever, and never mind all that old guff about doing something useful, or giving good value, or fairness and decency: if I can convince you that your ‘needs’ mean you pay more than someone else for your electricity, why shouldn’t I, assuming I am without shame and limitlessly greedy?
I wish there was more than one “thumbs up”, Keppel Cassidy.
This is flippant, but the scenario described in the article reminds me of Terry Pratchett’s novel Interesting Times:
“Look,” he said, rubbing his forehead. “All those people out in the fields, the water buffalo people… If you have a revolution it’ll all be better for them, will it?” “Of course,” said Butterfly. “They will no longer be subject to the cruel and capricious whims of the Forbidden City.” “Oh, that’s good,” said Rincewind. “So they’ll sort of be in charge of themselves, will they?” “Indeed,” said Lotus Blossom. “By means of the People’s Committee,” said Butterfly. Rincewind pressed both hands to his head. “My word,” he said. “I don’t know why, but I had this predictive flash!” They looked impressed. “I had this sudden feeling,” he went on, “that there won’t be all that many water buffalo string holders on the People’s Committee. In fact… I get this kind of … voice telling me that a lot of the People’s Committee, correct me if I’m wrong, are standing in front of me right now?”
As the article says, the corporations and elites are one step ahead of even this: the revolutions are dispensed with and used as a token gesture of change behind which things can quietly grind on in their current direction.
Agreed. The world never really changes, does it?
“If you have ever asked yourself what kind of “revolution” would be sponsored by Nike, promoted by BP, propagandised for by Hollywood and Netflix and policed by Facebook and YouTube, then the answer is….”
find out who controls them
I would suggest a explanation for the most recent change in the nature of the Left, and its embrace of (and embrace by) not capital, but the professional managerial class (actual capitalists, the people whose claim on profits is the fact that it is their resources at risk in a venture, control very little of the economy: 80% of the controlling share sin US companies are voted not by capitalists, but by the professional managers at Blackrock, Vanguard, State Street and Berkshire Hathaway.)
The economic program of the Left once it shifted from defending the interests of commoners (the bourgeoisie included) against the nobility to defending the interests of the working class against capitalists had been socialist (the brief flirtation with anarcho-syndicalism was quickly stamped out by capitalists and socialists alike). Socialism does not work. Hayek and vonMises told us why, even as Lenin was trying to make it work, and it was the very things that Hayek and vonMises warned about that collapsed the Soviet economy and eventually, with it, the Soviet Union. This has not been lost on Leftists (at least the ones who have even a modicum of economic literacy). (cf. also, Tony Blair, “We are all Thatcherites now.”)
The only viable economic programme that indulges the statist impulse of the no-longer anarcho-syndicalist Left is essentially fascist: Keep the market economy, which needs to allow concentrations of wealth to function properly, but have the state meddle via social control in all aspects of life. “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing opposed to the state,” but with private corporations, nonetheless. And, who else likes that model? Professional managers who can float in and out of top positions in commerce, industry and finance, government or non-profits (or occupy posts in all of them at once), who can have their interests protected against shareholder and worker alike by doing things (not necessarily profitable to the shareholder) at state behest, like instituting diversity, equity and inclusion programs or achieving “carbon neutrality” (and keying their bonuses to them, rather than to delivering shareholder value, or improving the workplace environment).
This is a valid hypothesis.
A very good picture of the inversion taking place in the West at the point were the rationale of technologically driven market forces, confronts the historical rationale of many existing nation state boundaries. A credible forecast is for a re-ordering of existing statehoods, with the UK now being the least immune among developed countries. Scottish independence, and a united Ireland, (following on from Brexit) may show the way to the rest of the world, including the Russian Federation.
It’s very real worry if we go our own ways and keep bickering whilst some large, strongman nations stay united, isn’t it? I’ve been really interested by the dynamic of devolving nations the last few years as it seems to be the richer ones that most want to leave their unions. Flanders has historically spoken more openly about splitting with Wallonia than otherwise; Catalonia wanted to leave Spain; the UK left the EU. Even in Wales, the tiny Swansea suburb of Mumbles has tried to install its own Mayor separate from Swansea’s, as Mumbles is so well off thanks to the taxes of its rich, seaside residential area!
Free trade allows one to market one’s wares in Beirut, Birmingham, Boston, or Beijing. It is liberating. Do corporations take advantage of this? Of course. The big dogs always have advantages. Get over it. Only when these advantages are used to fix prices and stifle competition are they nefarious.
Open borders attack property rights. We, as a group through our governments, OWN the ‘public lands’, and, individually, the private lands. Thus, allowing uninvited hordes to pour into a country is an offense against the populace, the landowners.
Globaliziation is neither good or bad, or it is both. But it ain’t going away.
It’ll go away as homo sapiens civilization collapses under the weight of excessive numbers & an unlivable environment. And the sheer inability to move widgets round & round the world any longer.
We evolved to thrive in isolated hunter/gatherer bands of max 150 people. Hence tribalism. THAT’s what ain’t goin’ away.
this is a piece to be reread. One of the best things I have come across in the last 12 months. What has happened to the Left. It is in a cul-de sac.
Identity politics is also divisive I think as it is based on grievance, it needs victimhood and punishment for the accused. Its also somehow very dull.
This article explains why I, an ‘entitled’ member of the U.K. elite, supported Brexit.
Excellent article. Truly excellent. You’ve hit the nail on the head. The urge to unify the world can be followed as far back as the first civilizations, who destroyed the shrines, temples, and altars of those they conquered, and from there traced through the Greeks, the Caliphates, the colonial empires of Europe, and so on. Local populations resisting a unifying outsider is a theme of human history that runs far deeper than the nuances of socialism vs. capitalism, and historically speaking, the unifiers face long odds of lasting more than a few decades. Sometimes quickly and sometimes after a long struggle, the unifiers are overthrown. I suspect this time will be no different, if hopefully less violent. The final paragraph captures an excellent point. If Donald Trump had not been so personally objectionable to so very many on so many levels, he might have shocked our political system as completely as FDR. A more competent and well-spoken version still might (DeSantis 2024?).
Yes and no. The defining characteristic of the left has always been its relationship to power; it is animated by traditional imbalances of power. Like the dog who finally catches the car, the left has become disoriented with its increased political power. To fill the void, the left has taken on suspect missions such as universal COVID-19 vaccination.
Kingsnorth analysis is all very well and discribes how we have ended up where we are, however, his suggestion that the only rational thing to do now is stay put in a traditional rural community ( don’t most of us live in cities and work in offices and factories) is simply not a realistic option for a majority and even if it was, would probably not offer protection from the forces of globalization for very long.
Maybe we need a new political movement, a synthesis of what is best of the Left and the Right.
…spot-on, well said. Exactly the reason I come here…
It’s a difficult argument to defend indeed. But in total, I have a hard time believing that having access to vaccinations, non-native food sources and life changing technology has harmed the world’s poor and that they would have been better off being shut out of these things. But perhaps they would have in some ways.
I usually respond by pointing out that the poorest people in the UK have access to better healthcare than Queen Victoria.
Mr. Kingsnorth makes some valid points but I find his overall analysis to be reductive and selective. Yes, its true that some of the Left has unfortunately veered down the rat-hole of identity politics and that Trump did self-servingly rail against the globalists (while his son-in-law was out cutting deals all over the middle east) but such a screed calls out for names and places rather then simple polemic. To find out what the Left is really thinking these days, as opposed to the caricature presented above, perhaps a visit to some uber-Leftist publications might be helpful: how about Jacobin or even that old standby. The New Left Review .
Far from seeing Leftism being corralled by corporatism, a curious reader will find the familiar fusillades against capitalism. “Wokeism,” not be be confused at all with leftism, is indeed rampant on social media and corporations have cynically bought into a lot of it, but serious thought can only be found elsewhere.
I would also hardly call an organization like Extinction Rebellion, the labor unions organizing at Starbucks and Amazon, or the new government in Chile for that matter as being in bed with corporatism.
As a long term & (until recently) quite active member of the Labour party, I wish I could agree with this criticism. Sadly I think Kingsnorth has nailed much of what’s wrong with us. Yes there are some true worker & nature friendly elments in ‘broad sense’ Left, as per your examples, but in most parts of the world they are far from the mainstream. The only assertion I could strongly disagree with regarding UK is that the Left is hostile to religion. (Though sadly that does seem have became the case across the pond these last few years, even before anti Christian hate went into overdrive after the Roe v Wade ruleing).
Indeed progressive forces are in the minority almost everywhere which is why we are in the fix we are in. The Fox news and MAGA crowd in the U.S, have turned traditional leftist causes like labor rights, human rights and environmental justice into cartoon straw men. They take what is happening on campuses and social media, both of which are largely irrelevant in the scheme of things, and try to paint all progressive causes with the same brush. The problem is that it’s working because the left, as usual, is divided against itself with the ‘woke’ contingent using up all the oxygen. As for anti-Christian hate…I am not sure that’s a thing. Disgust at so-called Christians backing a moral midget like Trump and supporting gun rights while banning abortions…well that’s just hypocrisy isn’t it? I doubt Jesus would be bucking for the 2nd amendment.
That’s good to hear that anti Christian hate may not be a thing, you probably have a better handle than me on what’s happening in the US.
Why do you call Ex Pres Trump a “moral midget”? Or does morality simply consist of any breech of woke ethics? I am not religious, but It is perfectly valid for anyone to oppose abortion on grounds of convenience which applies to the vast majority of abortions. I would also suggest that should you or I live in the USA we would in all probability own a gun.
I have friends who moved to the states many years ago, and all three families have at least one gun in the household, much of urban America is still the “Wild West”
Hear, hear! Fabulous article. Thank you!
Long on indignation, but remarkably short of construction. But then I’ve never been particularly leftist in my views as revolution appears to be great on breaking things and bad at building.
Brilliant article. I limit myself to sending one per month to family, and this was it.
But I was struck by the concept of “leveling,” given the historic Levellers movement in the 17th century in response to enclosures, excesses and new ways of thinking in the context of the English Civil War and greater literacy/print production, etc.
“Levelling” has saved the lives of many and social justice remains important. How to retain and fight for this Christian, basic fundamental human value without it being marketized by Global Capitalism is an important question today. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and all of that.
I think grounding such a movement in spiritual humility and self-reflection–like King’s movement–is going in the right direction. Contemporary lynch mobs are just psychologically identical to lynch mobs and witch-hunting mobs of earlier eras. If they don’t operate out of radical faith and humility, they/we seem destined as humans to reinvent exploitation of others in every generation.
Great article, didn’t see that one coming. Thanks.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but what does bug me here is that this article seems to ignore the fact that there are plenty of progressives still around with working class roots. As an anecdote, my parents still espouse progressive values. They both came from working class roots, and while they both experienced some college (a few classes), neither attained degrees. My father worked factory jobs his entire career, and my mother worked as a secretary. They still vote Democrat, because in general, the values expressed on those platforms represent the values that they hold.
When NAFTA was passed, my parents were vehemently opposed to it. Let’s not forget that NAFTA was a product of Bush Sr’s pro-globalization push, further expanded under Bush Jr. My parents believed that NAFTA would lead to a massive reduction in manufacturing jobs (what my dad did) that would be bad for the country. They also believed that it did not have strong enough environmental and human rights provisions. Both of these criticisms were true, and continued to be true until the treaty was dissolved.
As to that point, lest we fall for some myth that Donald Trump was a populist hero, let’s recall recent history. Trump did push to kill NAFTA. It’s not clear that he actually understood what was in NAFTA, but it was a convenient target. His replacement, USMCA, is essentially NAFTA with a few changes to encourage more North American (note: not just US) production and to modernize some of the terms. But it is still very much a globalizer’s vehicle. Trump’s anti-globalization image was a ruse, built on xenophobia and an appeal to social conservatives. He was no real hero for the working class.
In the mid 2010’s, US manufacturing job counts were on the rise. Despite a small downward blip, this trend continued once Trump took office. However, in 2019, this number plummeted by over $2 million jobs, back below 2012 numbers. Trump was no working class hero. He’s a showman, who knows how to appeal to those from whom he needs something.
I tend to think you are right, Trump was no more effective than other leaders at opposing globalism, and probably by design.
But he did appeal to a desire to repudiate globalism which appeals to base, and which weirdly no longer seems meaningful to the left.
I agree with your assessment of Trump. I don’t think he ever believed or even understood the things he said. He just knew how to read the room. The fact that when he read the room, he ended up sounding like a populist revolutionary speaks to how much anger there was and is. The fact that he was treated by the elites , who spared no effort or expense to destroy him, as a legitimate threat reveals their own fears of popular uprising against globalism. I often wonder if the very visceral reaction of the media and political establishment to Trump didn’t actually make him more popular than he would have been if they just ignored him or laughed at him and treated him like the buffoon he pretty clearly is. There certainly could be populists from the left, and I hope one can break through, but after seeing how hard the Democrats worked to keep Sanders off the ballot, I can’t say I’m terribly optimistic.
Como siempre, Paul acertado, pese alas dificultades de intentar interpretar una realidad tan compleja como la de las izquierdas fascinadas por el capitalismo. Muchas gracias y seguiré leyendo sus ensayos muy atentamente.
Thanks for a great read!
For those who may be interested, Enrique Krauze’s book Redeemers includes two chapters discussing, respectively, the postmodern Marxist “Subcomandante Marcos“–EZLN’s nominal leader–and Bishop Samuel Ruiz (heir to the position held long ago by the great Bartolome de las Casas)–who, inspired by Vatican II, brought “democratizing” reforms to the Church there. Krauze’s rich discussion of the relationship between these two (educated, middle class) men and the peasantry of Chiapas draws out many of the complexities surrounding efforts to resist the present global regime.
Not sure that the “United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement”, which *replaced* NAFTA, is a whole lot better.
The enemy’s name is “Progressive Neoliberalism”.
A really great piece. It brings together many strands of a now familiar thesis, but PK uses his own and the Zapatistas’ experience very effectively to make it hit home. Particularly good on the alignment between the cultural left and the economic right. I was in my first year of law school in Canada, and a keen student of international trade law, when the Zapatista revolt broke out. It’s always helped me think critically about free trade, including the processes and contents of deals cut under the magical ‘free trade’ banner. One quibble (though PK is right about the broader point) is that NAFTA was not torn up: it was tweaked and then relabelled for political/presentational reasons and is now titled CUSMA (in Canada).
Excellent. Thank you. Still trying to comprehend how corporate capitalism works so well with the modern left. Is this because the left has changed and become middle class? No longer concerned with class struggle, it does not challenge economic power; it shares many of the same instincts, so an easy alliance to make
Of course, this is just the latest in lefty rubbish.
The left started with the Communists fighting for the workers against the bourgeoisie.
Lately, it’s the Allies fighting for “oppressed peoples” against the “white oppressors.”
Now Klingsworth proposes the idea of “reactionary radicals” fighting for the “populist opposition” against the “Machine.”
In other words, every lefty needs an enemy.
PK is decidedly not a liberal, much more of a post-liberal or capital L classical Liberal. I think you need to go re read this article and some of his linked substack essays
The Left has always been right about the negative effects of globalisation? I suggest you read the Communist Manifesto, which embraces it…and rightly so, as creating the necessary preconditions for the transition to socialism. It’s the Right that has always been for protectionism… viz Hitler and Trump.