Monday, January 6, 2014

Against catastrophism

The tenth of Benjamin's Theses on the Philosophy of History, the one that follows the famous passage about Klee's angel, says in part that 'Our consideration proceeds from the insight that the politicians' stubborn faith in progress, their confidence in their "mass basis", and, finally, their servile integration into an uncontrollable apparatus have been three aspects of the same thing'.

Our professional politicians are doing the same thing, in the UK, Australia, the US. Servants of a market they neither can nor will attempt to rein in, confident that they speak for the bigotry and avarice they ascribe to us citizens, the only difference from post-Weimar fascism is that they no longer believe in progress.

Benjamin warns that we will have to change our customary thinking if it is not to play into the hands of these servile politicians. He saw the need for socialists to abandon the idea of progress tainted by its association with inter-war European fascism. Today however, there can no longer be any doubt that both the market and our polity embrace the catastrophic consequences of neo-liberalism as their own; and that therefore radical thought must abandon its own love affair with the spectacle of catastrophe – its enchantment with eco-apocalypse and the collapse of community.