Spinning Our Own Futures, Research Time, 14/05/2018

This has been a busy weekend for me. It was my first working in the campaign office of a major party’s election race in a densely populated urban district. It’s intense sometimes, but it’s so much fun.

I went on a little reflection on Twitter last night, about how happy I am that the New Democrats have stopped pandering to the ideology of marketization. Often, that’s called capitalism or neoliberalism. But I feel like using a more descriptive term that isn’t quite as much of a catchphrase as those two.

The words ‘neoliberalism’ and ‘capitalism’ work as tribalisms as much as descriptive terms themselves. So let’s try getting more explicit so you can really see the process in the word.

I'd love one day to ask Andrea Horwath to compare how she felt on
the campaign trail in 2014 to 2018, when the messaging she was
delivering was so different each time. I'd like to know which set of
talking points – taxpayers or care – is closer to her heart. I have a
decent idea, but I want a better picture. To contribute to her
posterity, if not my own writing career.
There’s a discussion New Democrats in Canada have been having for decades. It’s whether the party crafts its policy with an eye to winning power or an eye to political principle. Well, the general idea of running every institution in your country on free market principles is running out of steam – a good plurality of us now know that total marketization leads to the disaster of oligarchy.

So you don’t have to choose principle or power. Western people are catching up to the reality that marketization’s marketing is a pack of lies. The principles of the people are now our principles. Now we start the job of repair.
• • •
I still see parallels in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. As I slowly assemble the research points for Utopias, I feel like this book will be one for our time. By the time I’m probably ready to publish the thing in the early-mid-2020s, it should catch the wave of democratic pushback against 21st century fascism. It’s just building steam now.

In Deleuzian Concepts, Paul Patton writes about the concept of utopian thinking that emerges from Deleuze’s thinking. See, one of the reasons why utopian thinking has been largely dismissed over the last few decades is the totalitarian character of state governments run on marxist principles.

The Soviet Union, Mao-led China, Khmer Cambodia. They were all states that killed millions to remake their population’s culture according to radical communist programs. It was – to the tune of genocide after genocide – the biggest mistake of the Western left. The notion that a state could craft cultural transformation through police and military action.

To craft a population in your own image takes weapons much more
subtle than gulags and secret police. You need ideas, and you need
the people to embrace these ideas on their own terms. Only then
will people ever accept an idea – if they've thought of it themselves.
Gilles Deleuze calls philosophy utopian. Paul Patton calls Deleuze’s political thinking utopian. I consider my own approach to political activism utopian. But it has a very different meaning than the utopian thinking of those old statist totalitarian leftists.

A philosophical concept gives shape to an ongoing development – in many contexts, like thought, technological invention, psychotherapy, politics. Not as a blueprint of the perfect endpoint – that’s the totalitarian way of thinking.

The diagram of a concept is like a character sketch, or a personality profile. But of a complex transformation – like someone re-evaluating his morality, developing or implementing a new kind of machine, or managing a centreless political movement.

When you know the personality of a political movement in this sense, you don’t think in terms of an endpoint. You think in terms of potential – what that movement can do as it adapts to the dynamics of a world in flux. As the world always is.

Utopia properly done is a style. How you adapt to the problems that life will throw at you. How a culture develops, grows, changes. There is no endpoint. Only stopping eventually.

One day the sun will burn the oceans away. Then there’ll be no more politics.

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