The Alienation of Loneliness, Research Time, 14/06/2018

Something generally understood today about capitalism as a concept is that it’s not the same as a market. In any society, there are markets, currency, purchases, and businesses. The transition from the many different kinds of society with markets in them to a capitalist model is a threshold of stratification.

The creation of oligarchs, literally and essentially. What makes oligarchies – the snarling parodies of aristocrats for capitalisms – so destructive is that they’re businessmen. A medieval European aristocracy was a large-scale landholder with many local inhabitants held in bondage. But he didn’t have a drive to buy up all the other aristocrats. It was a static class structure.

What kind of person would choose to have no
one at all? Totalizing self-reliance.
Oligarchs blow class structures to pieces because they never stop accumulating. They want their personal and corporate wealth to measure in the billions and trillions of dollars. They’ll raze economies to do it.

Yesterday, I was talking about the anxiety, fear, and timidity that a brutally competitive working culture and an unstable, precarious economy produce in people across the society. Well, there’s another destructive psychology that brutal capitalism trains in many people.

You separate yourself from the rest of your neighbours, co-workers, friends, everyone you encounter. You come to treat people as a competitor before a friend, or anything else, for that matter.

Marx himself wrote about the alienation of people from their labour and its products in the mid-19th century. But in today’s economy – at least in most of the West – people are alienated from any social connections at all.

It’s a loneliness bred from fear, paranoia, and hostility. It’s a psychological forge of sociopaths and human wreckage.

Jeremy Gilbert discusses how some of the most culturally influential social movements have made ending this alienation their priority and method. One important example was the UK’s Reclaim the Streets movement, which provided an alternative form of social connection whenever they occupied space.

Then, of course, there was Occupy, obviously – its greatest success was as an experimental space to demonstrate that another form of society was possible. Very few of those experiments in social connection could survive the pepper spray that eventually broke up those spaces. But the point was that any demonstration of alternatives had been successful.

When the Soviet Union dissolved, the popular mood and political party leadership across the mainstream board said that there was no alternative form of society anymore except liberal capitalism.

As if there were only ever two forms of society anyway. Nothing works forever. In all the revolutionary movements in social connection and reconnection that flowered over the last decade, all those varieties had one thing in common.

They were different. They were alternatives to the anxious, alienated existence that we’d come to take for granted. They were real.

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