Friday, January 24, 2014

artificial negativity and the big society...,

itself | What is required, as opposed to artificial negativity, is ‘organic negativity’. Here, small communities or regions with practices sufficiently outside state-capital and its codes, resplendent with robust traditions, are capable of truly opposing the state and capital – a thesis that should be certainly familar to readers of this blog in its ‘the church as anti-capitalist’ modulations. In part, for a community to have organic negativity it must partially reject modernity as such. Hence Telos interest in all manner of communities and movements that it believes to be examples of organic negativity. Piccone’s personal favourite was the formulation of postmodern popularism and federalism. One example of this, he believes, was in the original project of the United States where local federated direct democracy combined with minimal centralised government designed to foster collaboration between individual and culturally specific and geographically delimited political communities. Everything, for Piccone, goes sour in the aftermath of the American Civil War. The punishment of the South for its practices of slavery leads to the centre, previously with strictly delimited functions, claiming control over the federation hegemonically. These “unbearable new relations of domination imposed after the Civil war” by the industrial North and Washington lead to resistance from the Midwest and the South against the destruction of their particularity. For Piccone the Klu Klux Klan (I kid you not) are self-defence organisations against the Northern occupation as Birth of A Nation allegedly shows. Hence “America is no alternative to Europe, but its future” – organically negative communities federated beyond the nation state, examples of which Piccone finds apparently across the Midwest and, presumably if he were still around, The Tea Party Movement. Pursuing further instances of artificial negativity lead to a collection of various instances: radical orthodoxy (where liturgy provides a critique of the flat empty time of modernity and connects the local particularities with the transcendent while not erasing their particularity), the French New Right (which broadly agrees with the analysis of modernity and liberalism proffered and recommends ethno-cultural regionalism against the nation-state and liberal European treaties) and one of its practical substantiations in the Italian Lega Nord. If artificial negativity is what is created, it is the ‘new class’ that is the creator. Piccone theorises that mostly The New Class is adapted from Marxist analyses of Stalinism, which claimed that the brutality of Stalin was the result of a formation of a new bureaucratic class of elites which replaced the bourgeois as the oppressors of the massed proletariat. In Telos’ analysis, the New Class similarly replaces the bourgeois in a Marxist analysis, but they are political and cultural as opposed to economic oppressors. Telos had always been indifferent to quantitive social science and the jettisoning of economics and political economy was the hallmark of Telos’ analyses even before its interest in organicity, yet after this turn any concern with the economic as significant category becomes itself complicit with artificial negativity – hence organic negativity is not concerned with economics but culture and politics, and indeed, capitalism is far from the enemy provided it is localised. The New Class is the embodiment of everything that Telos believes to be wrong and which is opposed by the forces of organic negativity: modernity, universality, human rights, large-scale capitalism and the welfare state, abstract individualism, rights discourse, the modern state, formal contractualism, multi-culturalism, affirmative action, repression of organic tradition etc. The New Class have had a fairly long history, and have flowed through a number of forms, including the New Deal and contemporary political correctness – Piccone sometimes traces the movement back to the 19th century, but some contributors, as we know, radical orthodoxy, trace it far further.

 The case of multi-culturalism provides a vital illustration for Telos of the New Class at work and the distinction between artificial and organic negativity. The New Class divides society up into often arbitrary racial groups whose needs can be reflected in and satisfied by the state, allowing the state to interfere with their affairs – artificial negativity. Yet those apparently ethnically delimitated communities who have, in common parlance, kept themselves to themselves and not joined the mainstream of American culture and the New Class politics have been those who have flourished most – an example of organic negativity. To give a flavour – Piccone thinks African Americians have fallen prey to the New Class, but Asian Americans and Italian Americans have not, the kind of posit derived from the French New Right.