Friday, March 30, 2012

America: A Global Serial Killer by Solomon Comissiong

The United States is a bizarre and dangerous country, a nation with "sociopathic tendencies riddled throughout its institutionally racist society." Like a psychopath unfazed by other people’s pain, the general American (white) population appears "completely desensitized to what should be seen as a massive, one sided, blood bath" committed in their name.
"They expect the majority of us not to connect crimes like the murder of Trayvon Martin to the crimes of murdering Afghan and Iraqi children via airstrikes, drone strikes, night raids, and war in general."
A serial killer is a person who kills multiple people within a period of time----their motivation is often predicated on some sort of psychological gratification. And mass murderers usually murder multiple victims in the same place at the same time. This is often done by an individual, or more. These two profiles fit America and her various organs, almost perfectly. Since the inception of this white settler state (America), it has worked hard to perfect its serial killing ways, especially when murdering people of color. Whether systematically instituting genocide on the Indigenous people of Turtle Island (North America) or killing tens of millions (conservatively) of enslaved Africans – it made no difference to the European barbarians that initiated the bloodbath. And in 2012 it makes no difference whether it is a 17 year old black boy from Florida, named Trayvon Martin, who was murdered in cold blood by a neighborhood "watchman", or 16 Afghan civilians mass slaughtered by a member (and his accomplices) of the US military – America consumes lives with a voracious appetite. America has a particular taste for non-white lives. This country devours people of color.

America has never allowed its artificially manufactured (and stolen) borders to prevent it from initiating killing sprees. A simple look at the mass carnage caused by US military campaigns of aggression, the world over, will irrefutably highlight that fact. And when America kills its victims (men, women and children), it, like most serial killers, shows little or no remorse. It is adept at justifying its crimes against humanity. However, the US rarely sees its inhumane and violent actions as crimes of any sort. America has sociopathic tendencies riddled throughout its institutionally racist society. If America had even one iota of remorse for the countless lives it has taken (most being people of color), it would have stopped its murderous ways a long time ago. Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq are merely recent examples of America’s reckless, yet calculated, killing sprees. The US government is built to uphold imperialism, among an amalgam of nefarious characteristics – this country's military is a most powerful tool at its disposal.

"This country devours people of color."

The civilians they murder are deemed "collateral damage". Over 90 percent of persons killed in US military "engagements" since Vietnam are, in fact, civilians. Those totals, in the case of Iraq, hover right around one million killed. Americans, by and large, are completely desensitized to what should be seen as a massive, one sided, blood bath. Americans, however, are easily programmed and will virtually fall for whatever propaganda is thrown their way. Most Americans are not able to see beyond the coordinated program of indoctrination they have received since childhood. They have been trained not to critically think; therefore they accept almost whatever messages that are methodically presented to them.
In March 2012 Americans, like the rest of the world, were fed a heaping helping of bullshit, otherwise known as Kony 2012. Besides they fact that Kony 2012 is a well-produced psychological operation aimed at reinforcing US military operations throughout Central and Eastern Africa, it is blatantly hypocritical. If most Americans were not so indoctrinated with "American Exceptionalism," they would understand a few basic things regarding their own mass murdering government. The US government and its military have taken far more lives of children of color than Lord’s Resistance Army "leader", Joseph Kony, could ever dream of.
Through deadly sanctions on countries like Zimbabwe and Iraq, the US has ripped the life away from innumerable children. Through military engagements of imperialism and brutal aggression, America has slaughtered innocent civilians in places like Panama, Iraq, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Libya – to name a few. Where are the white liberal reactionaries, like Invisible Children, when it comes to speaking out against the destruction of children from these countries? Where is the 30-minute, Hollywood production styled video detailing the role America has played in committing crimes against humanity and why it should be brought to justice? Where are their tears of sorrow and anger demanding that the selective International Criminal Court bring US government officials, from multiple presidential administrations (including the Obama administration), to the Hague?

"Over 90 percent of persons killed in US military "engagements" since Vietnam are, in fact, civilians."

Invisible Children and organizations of their ilk are frauds and supporters of US military campaigns of murder. That is why these con-artists will say nothing about the mass murder of 16 Afghan civilians (including 9 children) carried out by Staff Sgt. Robert Bale (and his accomplices). Staff Sargent Robert Bale was trained by the most fierce and effective killing machine known to man---the US military. Actions like his were routinely carried out by US soldiers during the Vietnam War. The precedent has been established that if you are US military personnel and you do something like that, you will most likely get away with it, just as American police officers regularly get away with killing unarmed black and brown people. Even though the thuggish so-called "neighborhood watchman" that killed our young brother Trayvon Martin in cold blood was not a real police officer, his actions were not unlike that of many American police. The institutionally racist and lethal US system of policing facilitates a culture that allows cops to kill unarmed men of color. The excessively flawed and corrupt judicial system, then allows these police officers to get away with it. The American prison industrial complex feasts on black and brown people, yet detests the taste of racist corrupt cops.
George Zimmerman’s actions in killing Trayvon Martin were similar to the actions of the police officer that, in 2010, murdered Aiyana Stanley Jones, a seven year old African/black girl, in Detroit. His actions were also not unlike that of murderous police who killed the likes of Sean Bell, Timothy Stansbury, and Oscar Grant, to name a few of the countless African/black people that have been murdered within the US, by its state sponsored "law enforcement".
Those who are surprised by the recent murder of our young brother Trayvon Martin are either delusional or disingenuous, including US president Barack Obama. When president Obama recently said, "I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen," he knows very well how something like the coldblooded murder of an Africa/black boy happens. It happens in America all the damn time! How quickly Obama supporters forget that it was he who refused to send a US delegation to a United Nations Conference on Racism (Durban Review Conference). Perhaps president Obama believes institutional racism had nothing to do with the death of our brother Trayvon Martin and the non-arrest of the thug (George Zimmerman) that killed him. If president Obama believes that, he is as delusional as many of his supporters who cling to the myth that he actually gives a damn about the black community.

"The institutionally racist and lethal US system of policing facilitates a culture that allows cops to kill unarmed men of color."
It was candidate Obama in the summer of 2008 that justified the wrongful verdict that allowed the police officers who murdered Sean Bell, to be fully acquitted. Obama said, "The judge has made his ruling, and we’re a nation of laws, so we respect the verdict that came down." He made these comments as rightfully infuriated black people were peacefully protesting the unjust verdict. He made these comments as if he had the authority to speak on behalf of African/black people. Obama was concerned with his presidential campaign and making sure he did not make white liberals too uncomfortable. Those people had every right to peacefully rally and protest as they did.
Despite Obama making those callous statements about the Sean Bell murder verdict, he can now display himself as if he has been a strident opponent to the kinds of crimes that are routinely committed upon African/black people in America. He can do this because he knows very well that most of his supporters back him unconditionally, regardless of what he does. If they (many Obama supporters) gave a damn about justice, they would have been protesting his presidency long ago, especially given the fact that he has continued and expanded the war mongering ways of his dim witted predecessor, George W. Bush. Obama, like the American "justice" system, is banking on these rallies in protest of the murder of our young brother Trayvon Martin to die out after some time, even if the murderous thug (George Zimmerman) goes free.
There are protests each time a person of color is killed in cold blood by the police, and rightfully so. However, each time, after a few rallies, the chants of injustice grow fainter by the day. Some of us seem to forget that the same old system, and society, that makes these crimes possible, is still intact. Those that support and uphold this system can behave like chameleons as if they are genuinely concerned with the systematic killing of people of color, like Trayvon Martin. They do this while playing significant roles in upholding a system of human destruction. They expect the majority of us not to connect crimes like the murder of Trayvon Martin to the crimes of murdering Afghan and Iraqi children via airstrikes, drone strikes, night raids, and war in general. The same way we see Trayvon Martin as our brother, is the same way we must see children from other countries, whose lives are being lost each time the US government’s military decides to bomb their villages in to oblivion. And we must (as a collective) be much more consistent in our work, before and after, injustices that fall upon children like Trayvon Martin and Aiyana Stanley Jones.

"Each time, after a few rallies, the chants of injustice grow fainter by the day."
If we become more consistent and organized with our work we may be able to prevent these murders from ever happening. However, if we don’t, the kind of scum that uphold and operate their state sponsored crimes, within this system, will continue to do so---unabated. We all have a role to play in confronting this unforgiving and destructive system. Raising awareness is imperative (rallies, utilizing progressive media, community forums, teach-ins, etc.). Mobilization and organizing is crucial (domestic and international legal tactics). Consistent and uncompromising political actions will be paramount. Developing and sustaining strategies is vital. Committing ourselves to put an end to institutional racism, white supremacy and imperialism must be a goal we seek. These are a few of the types of strategies that must be employed, community by community and state by state. They all must be done consistently and by a critical mass.

Remember that only one percent of the US population actively participated in the Civil rights Movement. It won’t be easy, however – freedom, justice, and equality seldom are. I can’t think of any better way to honor the lives of young people like Trayvon Martin and the countless Afghan and Iraqi children who have perished because of American military aggression and sanctions. There can be no justice without peace. Right now the US is facilitating violence and injustice throughout the globe (including within its own borders). Untold lives depend on our unrelenting commitment towards tangibly creating a society founded, not on injustice and inequality, but on peace, justice, and equality----FOR ALL.

Solomon Comissiong is an educator, community activist, author, public speaker and the host of the Your World News media collective ( He can be reached at:

Source :

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Sustainable Prosperity: A Greek Perspective II" by Michalis Theodoropoulos

In Worldwatch Institute Europe’s second article examining the current situation in Greece we explore the particularities behind the current social situation, the ongoing changes taking place within Greek society and the notion of sustainable prosperity as viewed from a Greek standpoint.
Worldwatch researcher Eirini Glyki [ ] interviews Michalis Theodoropoulos [ ], European Parliament assistant for the Greek Green Ecologists and responsible for environmental, food safety and health issues:

What was Greece’s relation to sustainable prosperity in the past? What is this relation in the present?

We need to define sustainable prosperity first. Do we mean in terms of GDP and consumption increase, or in terms of the Human Development Index and social welfare? Or merely the idea that the past was more prosperous than the present?
Greece following the tragic aftermath of World War II and the succeeding civil war went through a restructuring process under the sponsorship of the USA and the funds of the Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP). These funds were used to build necessary infrastructure and supposedly boost production and consumption of goods.
Political instability until the late 1970’s, lack of planning and large internal migration from rural areas to city centers, rendered production patterns fragmented and unsustainable, while consumption was kept on basic needs. Big industry was never really developed; exports were never that important; agricultural production covered mainly internal needs but sufficiently. Society was still living in conservation status, saving rather than spending, secured by family bonds and trust in social institutions rather than in state welfare and the corrupted political system that followed. People worked hard but lived a rather descent and modest life, rich in spirit rather than material goods, small was still beautiful. The environment was kept in quite pristine condition, although there was a total absence of environmental protection.
Then the 1980’s came, along with EU subsidies and private bank loans, living conditions and the socio-economic fabric changed. Tourism became the main industry and subsidized agricultural production gave rise to monoculture of environmental stressful products. Small industrial units operated uncontrolled without any environmental consideration and there was a considerable shift from production of goods to service provision. A new middle class started to emerge, with an urge to spend more than it earns, to consume more than it needs.
During the 1990’s and till 2005, GDP increased along with stock market and property loan bubbles, people seemed to be happy to be able to consume more with easier loans, while at the same time refrained from their financial obligations to the state, as there was no payback in terms of public welfare. Prosperity seemed to be a benefit for many and living conditions improved, although the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. Bigger, easy and more was the beauty of the time.
Under the current crisis and austerity policies, prosperity really seems a thing of the past, as wages, pensions and social welfare are diminishing. A whole generation that invested in this lifestyle saw its aspirations and jobs getting evaporated. Although according to OECD, the Greek workforce is amongst the hardest working in the EU (although not that productive in GDP terms), austerity is affecting mostly the working and lower classes: unemployment is reaching 20%; the same percentage of the population at present lives in breadline conditions and new-homeless people pack in city centers by thousands.

Has the economic crisis triggered a change of views amongst Greek people?

Although there is widespread criticism against the political establishment and significant social turmoil, the majority of the Greek people are still entrapped in a certain lifestyle and political system, numb and afraid, waiting for help from above (politicians, the state, God, etc), or an easy way out.
Fortunately, there is a worth-noticing critical mass of people and movements striving for change, although in tight oppression and significantly fewer in numbers. Despite that, hundreds of thousands of people protest in massive demonstrations against the austerity policies and the colonial-type loans, while at the same time many thousands of people are creating their own post-crisis environment, smaller self-managed systems within the system, cracks in the existing monetary-based economy.

In the present, what are the attitudes of Greek people concerning their living model?

There is widespread consideration about the deterioration of living conditions in Greece at present, great anxiety and uncertainty about the future. Environmental considerations fall short when there is no guaranteed income and when there will be a privatization of public natural resources and services, in order to repay the usurious loans Greece received as bail-out.
Although the majority of the people are entrapped in city centers and certain lifestyles, a critical mass of the crisis generation has found ways to make cracks in space and time, either in the city, or in view of a reoccupation of the countryside. Sooner or later, people will have to start considering living with less but in better conditions, if not by choice, by need for sure. Bankruptcy is around the corner and people start considering life after money and debt.

Is, in your opinion, Greek society ready to move away from consumerism?

Consumerism in Greek society does not go back more than two generations. People will have to re-evaluate their financial and social institutions when the crisis really hits the bottom. Sustainable practices from the past, such as barter economy, solidarity networks, mutual assistance, community orchards, cooperatives, collective housing, reoccupation of public spaces and many more, have already shown signs of hope.
The younger generations, although entrapped in widespread commercialized consumerism, are ready and willing to revitalize traditional practices and consumption patterns followed by their grandparents. Following the inspiring example of Catalonia [ ], several self organized initiatives have sprung lately also in Greece, setting aside intermediaries, creating subsystems of their own, reclaiming public life and space.

Currently, what - if any - are the movements within Greek society shaping up to be?

Beyond the crisis there is a growing number of people that have decided to take their future in their hands and reinvent the collective We. You may move faster when you are alone, but you can go further if you collaborate. Local exchange trading systems without money, eco-communities, cooperatives of producers and consumers, worker cooperatives, urban community orchards, traditional seed banks and seed exchanges, collective management of public goods, public assemblies and self-organised social centers, are just few of hundreds of grassroots initiates that have sprung during the last two years in Greece. An indicative list can be found here. [ ]

What are, in your opinion, the changes needed to be made in order for
Greek society to be viable?

Greek society needs a shift in its collective consciousness. As we exit the century of Self, we need to reinvent the new collective We, as much as, we need to redefine basic humanistic values and fundamental rights. We need a change of paradigm, a change of narrative, a change in our collective imaginary institution of society, in order to live our utopias, in order for the younger generation to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
We live in a period of historical developments, the end of an era and the beginning of another one. We need to find sustainable ways for the ecological transformation of society and the economy. We need to aspire confidence and optimism for the future. It is our duty not only to create the conditions for this transition but also to toll the whole society along this way, by promoting best practice examples and realistic but at the same time radical solutions.
Now many say that a new Marshall Plan is needed, a Green New Deal, focused on green investments and the ecological transformation of the industry. This is much needed, as much as we also need a shift towards degrowth targets, especially for certain industry sectors, such as energy, transport, automobile, chemicals, agriculture, while at the same time re-localize production and consumption. It is certain we need to start thinking of prosperity being decoupled from growth as determined by the current form of capitalism.
Greece specifically, could find solutions in dramatically cutting down military expenditure, taxing the Church’s wealth, as well as taxing the wealth of the richest 1-2% of the population and the financial stock exchange transactions. Moreover, at a larger scale, the “free -corporate- market” and banking system (including rating agencies) need to be regulated, in order to serve public interest instead of just being profit driven.

In your view, what does this crisis point out considering the existing living model and economic system? What are the connections of this crisis to sustainable prosperity?

It is my view that this current crisis, is a systemic restructuring of the current monetary-based economic system, purely profit driven, resulting to the economic elite accumulating further wealth and power. This clearly shows the default of the existing “neoliberal” policies, as well as of the current development patterns. The current economic system seems to have lost its morality by ignoring the human factor.
Unsustainable recipes of the past, as practiced in Greece, focusing on economic growth, GDP increase, over-consumption of natural resources, even at the expense of human lives, should be an example to avoid in the future as we strive to make a transition into societies with prosperity for all. In order to achieve sustainable prosperity, the current production model based on productivism and monetary-based economy should be replaced by a resource-based economy, a combination of green investment aiming at the ecological transformation of the economy and society, coupled by degrowth elements (live a better life with less material goods and fewer working hours) and a conscious lifestyle by everyone.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

"The Privatisation of Stress", by Mark Fisher from Soundings magazine

Ivor Southwood tells the story of how, at a time when he was living in a condition of underemployment - relying on short-term contracts given to him at the last minute by employment agencies - he one morning made the mistake of going to the supermarket.1 When he returned home he found that an agency had left him a message offering him work for the day. But when he called the agency he was told that the vacancy was already filled - and upbraided for his slackness. As he comments, `ten minutes is a luxury the day-labourer cannot afford’. Such labourers are expected to be waiting outside the metaphorical factory gates with their boots on, every morning without fail (p72). In such conditions:
daily life becomes precarious. Planning ahead becomes difficult, routines are impossible to establish. Work, of whatever sort, might begin or end anywhere at a moment’s notice, and the burden is always on the worker to create the next opportunity and to surf between roles. The individual must exist in a state of constant readiness. Predictable income, savings, the fixed category of `occupation’: all
belong to another historical world (p15).
It is hardly surprising that people who live in such conditions - where their hours and pay can always be increased or decreased, and their terms of employment are extremely tenuous - should experience anxiety, depression and hopelessness. And it may at first seem remarkable that so many workers have been persuaded to accept such deteriorating conditions as `natural’, and to look inward - into their brain chemistry or into their personal history - for the sources of any stress they may be feeling. But in the ideological field that Southwood describes from the inside, this privatisation of stress has become just one more taken-for-granted dimension of a seemingly depoliticised world. `Capitalist realism’ is the term I have used to describe this ideological field; and the privatisation of stress has played a crucial role in its emergence.2
Capitalist realism refers to the widespread belief that there is no alternative to capitalism - though `belief’ is perhaps a misleading term, given that its logic is externalised in the institutional practices of workplaces and the media as well as residing in the heads of individuals. In his discussions of ideology, Althusser cites Pascal’s doctrine: `Kneel down, move your lips in prayer, and you will believe’: psychological beliefs follow from `going through the motions’ of complying with official languages and behaviours. This means that, however much individuals or groups may have disdained or ironised the language of competition, entrepreneurialism and consumerism that has been installed in UK institutions since the 1980s, our widespread ritualistic compliance with this terminology has served to naturalise the dominance of capital and help to neutralise any opposition to it.
We can quickly grasp the form that capitalist realism now takes by reflecting on the shift in the meaning of the famous Thatcher doctrine that `there is no alternative’. When Thatcher initially made this notorious claim, the emphasis was on preference: neoliberal capitalism was the best possible system; the alternatives were undesirable. Now, the claim carries an ontological weight - capitalism is not just the best possible system, it is the only possible system; alternatives are hazy, spectral, barely conceivable. Since 1989, capitalism’s success in routing its opponents has led to it coming close to achieving the ultimate goal of ideology:
invisibility. In the global North at least, capitalism proposes itself as the only possible reality, and therefore it seldom `appears’ as such at all. Atilio Boron argues that capitalism has been shifted to a `discreet position behind the political scene, rendered invisible as the structural foundation of contemporary society’, and cites Bertolt Brecht’s observation that `capitalism is a gentleman who doesn’t like to be called by his name’.3
The depressing realism of New Labour
We would expect the Thatcherite (and post-Thatcherite) right to propagate the idea that there is no alternative to the neoliberal programme. But the victory of capitalist realism was only secured in the UK when the Labour Party capitulated to this view, and accepted, as the price of power, that `business interests, narrowly conceived, would be henceforth be allowed to organise the shape and direction of the entire culture’.4 But perhaps it would be more accurate to record that, rather than simply capitulating to Thatcherite capitalist realism, it was the Labour Party itself that first introduced capitalist realism to the UK political mainstream, when James Callaghan gave his notorious 1976 speech to the Labour conference in Blackpool:
For too long, perhaps ever since the war, we [have] postponed facing up to fundamental choices and fundamental changes in our economy ... We’ve been living on borrowed time ... The cosy world we were told would go on forever, where full employment could be guaranteed by a stroke of the chancellor’s pen - that cosy world is gone ...
However it is unlikely that Callaghan foresaw the extent to which the Labour Party would come to engage in the politics of `corporate appeasement’, or the extent to which the cosy world for which he was performing the last rites would be replaced by the generalised insecurity described by Ivor Southwood.
The Labour Party’s acquiescence in capitalist realism cannot of course be construed as a simple error: it was a consequence of the disintegration of the left’s old power base in the face of the post-Fordist restructuring of capitalism. The features of this - globalisation; the displacement of manufacturing by computerisation; the casualisation of labour; the intensification of consumer culture - are now so familiar that they, too, have receded into a taken-for-granted background. This is what constitutes the background for the ostensibly post-political and uncontestable `reality’ that capitalist realism relies upon. The warnings made by Stuart Hall and the others writing in Marxism Today at the end of the 1980s turned out to be absolutely correct: the left would face obsolescence if it remained complacently attached to the assumptions of the disappearing Fordist world and failed to hegemonise the new world of post-Fordism.5 But the New Labour project, far from being an attempt to achieve this new hegemony, was based precisely on conceding the impossibility of a leftist hegemonisation of post-Fordism: all that could be hoped for was a mitigated version of the neoliberal settlement.
In Italy autonomists such as Berardi and Negri also recogised the need to face up to the destruction of the world within which the left had been formed, and to adapt to the conditions of post-Fordism, though in rather a different manner. Writing in the 1980s, in a series of letters that were recently published in English, Negri characterises the painful transition from revolutionary hopes to defeat by a triumphalist neoliberalism:
We have to live and suffer the defeat of truth, of our truth. We have to destroy its representation, its continuity, its memory, its trace. All subterfuges for avoiding the recognition that reality has changed, and with it truth, have to be rejected ... The very blood in our veins had been replaced.6
We are currently living with the effects of the left’s failure to rise to the challenge that Negri identified. And it doesn’t seem a stretch to conjecture that many elements of the left have succumbed to a collective form of clinical depression, with symptoms of withdrawal, impaired motivation and the inability to act.
One difference between sadness and depression is that, while sadness apprehends itself as a contingent and temporary state of affairs, depression presents itself as necessary and interminable: the glacial surfaces of the depressive’s world extend to every conceivable horizon. In the depths of the condition, the depressive does not experience his or her melancholia as pathological or indeed abnormal: the conviction of depression that agency is useless, that beneath the appearance of virtue lies only venality, strikes sufferers as a truth which they have reached but others are too deluded to grasp. There is clearly a relationship between the seeming `realism’ of the depressive, with its radically lowered expectations, and capitalist realism.
This depression was not experienced collectively: on the contrary, it precisely took the form of the decomposition of collectivity in new modes of atomisation. Denied the stable forms of employment that they had been trained to expect, deprived of the solidarity formerly provided by trade unions, workers found themselves forced into competition with one another on an ideological terrain in which such competition was naturalised. Some workers never recovered from the traumatic shock of seeing the Fordist-social-democratic world suddenly removed: a fact it’s worth remembering at a time when the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is hounding claimants off Incapacity Benefit. Such a move is the culmination of the process of privatising stress that began in the UK in the 1980s.
The stresses of post-Fordism
If the shift from Fordism to post-Fordism had its psychic casualties, then post-Fordism has innovated whole new modes of stress. Instead of the elimination of bureaucratic red tape promised by neoliberal ideologues, the combination of new technology and managerialism has massively increased the administrative stress placed on workers, who are now required to be their own auditors (which by no means frees them of the attentions of external auditors of many kinds). Work, no matter how casual, now routinely entails the performance of meta-work: the completion of log books, the detailing of aims and objectives, the engagement in so-called `continuing professional development’. Writing of academic labour, the blogger `Savonarola’ describes how systems of permanent and ubiquitous measurement engender a constant state of anxiety:
One of the more pervasive phenomena in the current cod-neoliberal academic dispensation is CV inflation: as available jobs dwindle down to Kafkian levels of postponement and implausibility, the miserable Träger of academic capital are obliged not just to overfulfil the plan, but to record ... every single one of their productive acts. The only sins are sins of omission ... In this sense, the passage from ... periodic and measured measurement ... to permanent and ubiquitous measurement cannot but result in a kind of Stakhanovism of immaterial labour, which like its Stalinist forebear exceeds all rationales of instrumentality, and cannot but generate a permanent undercurrent of debilitating anxiety (since there is no standard, no amount of work will ever make you safe).7
It would be naive to imagine that this `permanent undercurrent of debilitating anxiety’ is an accidental side-effect of the imposition of these self-surveillance mechanisms, which manifestly fail to achieve their official objectives. None other than Philip Blond has argued that `the market solution generates a huge and costly bureaucracy of accountants, examiners, inspectors, assessors and auditors, all concerned with assuring quality and asserting control that hinder innovation and experiment and lock in high cost’.8 This acknowledgement is welcome, but it is important to reject the idea that the apparent `failures’ of managerialism are `honest mistakes’ of a system which sincerely aims for greater efficiency. Managerialist initiatives served very well their real if covert aims, which were to further weaken the power of labour and undermine worker autonomy as part of a project to restore wealth and power to the hyper-privileged.
Relentless monitoring is closely linked to precarity. And, as Tobias van Veen argues, precarious work places `an ironic yet devastating’ demand on the labourer. On the one hand work never ends: the worker is always expected to be available, with no claims to a private life. On the other hand the precariat are completely expendable, even when they have sacrificed all autonomy to keep their jobs.9
The tendency today is for practically all forms of work to become precarious. As Franco Berardi puts it, `Capital no longer recruits people, but buys packets of time, separated from their interchangeable and occasional bearers’.10 Such `packets of time’ are not conceived of as having a connection to a person with rights or demands: they are simply either available or unavailable.
Berardi also notes the effects of digital telecommunications; these produce what he characterises as a diffuse sense of panic, as individuals are subjected to an unmanageable data-blitz:
The acceleration of information exchange ... is producing an effect of a pathological type on the individual human mind and even more on the collective mind. Individuals are not in a position to consciously process the immense and always growing mass of information that enters their computers, their cell phones, their television screens, their electronic diaries and their heads. However, it seems indispensable to follow, recognize, evaluate, process all this information if you want to be efficient, competitive, victorious (p40).
One of the effects of modern communications technology is that there is no outside where one can recuperate. Cyberspace makes the concept of a `workplace’ archaic. Now that one can be expected to respond to an email at practically any time of the day, work cannot be confined to a particular place, or to delimited hours. There’s no escape - and not only because work expands without limits. Such processes have also hacked into libido, so that the `tethering’ imposed by digital telecommunications is by no means always experienced as something that is straightforwardly unpleasant. As Sherry Turkle argues, for example, though many parents are increasingly stressed as they try to keep up with e-mail and messages while continuing to give their children the attention they need, they are also magnetically attracted to their communications technology:
They cannot take a vacation without bringing the office with them; their office is on their cellphone. They complain that their employers rely on them to be continually online but then admit that their devotion to their communications devices exceeds all professional expectations.11
Practices ostensibly undertaken for work, even if they are performed on holiday or late at night, are not experienced simply as unreasonable demands. From a psychoanalytic point of view, it is easy to see why such demands - demands that cannot possibly be met - can be libidinised, since this kind of demand is precisely the form that the psychoanalytic drive assumes. Jodi Dean has convincingly argued that digital communicative compulsion constitutes a capturing by (Freudian/Lacanian) drive: individuals are locked into repeating loops, aware that their activity is pointless, but nevertheless unable to desist.12 The ceaseless circulation of digital communication lies beyond the pleasure principle: the insatiable urge to check messages, email or Facebook is a compulsion, akin to scratching an itch which gets worse the more one scratches. Like all compulsions, this behaviour feeds on dissatisfaction. If there are no messages, you feel disappointed and check again very quickly. But if there are messages you also feel disappointed: no amount of messages is ever enough. Sherry Turkle has talked to people who are unable to resist the urge to send and receive texts on their mobile telephone, even when they are driving a car. At the risk of a laboured pun, this is a perfect example of death drive, which is defined not by the desire to die, but by being in the grip of a compulsion so powerful that it makes one indifferent to death. What’s remarkable here is the banal content of the drive. This isn’t the tragedy of something like The Red Shoes, in which the ballerina is killed by the sublime rapture of dance: these are people who are prepared to risk death so that they can open a 140 character message which they know perfectly well is likely to be inane.
Public renewal or private cure?
The privatisation of stress is a perfect capture system, elegant in its brutal efficiency. Capital makes the worker ill, and then multinational pharmaceutical companies sell them drugs to make them better. The social and political causation of distress is neatly sidestepped at the same time as discontent is individualised and interiorised. Dan Hind has argued that the focus on serotonin deficiency as a supposed `cause’ of depression obfuscates some of the social roots of unhappiness, such as competitive individualism and income inequality. Though there is a large body of work that shows the links between individual happiness and political participation and extensive social ties (as well as broadly equal incomes), a public response to private distress is rarely considered as a first option.13 It is clearly easier to prescribe a drug than a wholesale change in the way society is organised. Meanwhile, as Hind argues, `there is a multitude of entrepreneurs offering happiness now, in just a few simple steps’. These are marketed by people `who are comfortable operating within the culture’s account of what it is to be happy and fulfilled’, and who both corroborate and are corroborated by `the vast ingenuity of commercial persuasion’.
Psychiatry’s pharmacological regime has been central to the privatisation of stress, but it is important that we don’t overlook the perhaps even more insidious role that the ostensibly more holistic practices of psychotherapy have also played in depoliticising distress. The radical therapist David Smail argues that Margaret Thatcher’s view that there’s no such thing as society, only individuals and their families, finds `an unacknowledged echo in almost all approaches to therapy’.14 Therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy combine a focus on early life (a kind of psychoanalysis-lite) with the self-help doctrine that individuals can become masters of their own destiny. Smail gives the immensely suggestive name magical voluntarism to the view that `with the expert help of your therapist or counsellor, you can change the world you are in the last analysis responsible for, so that it no longer cause you distress’ (p7).
The propagation of magical voluntarism has been crucial to the success of neoliberalism; we might go so far as to say as it constitutes something like the spontaneous ideology of our times. Thus, for example, ideas from self-help therapy have become very influential in popular television shows.15 The Oprah Winfrey Show is probably the best-known example, but in the UK programmes such as Mary, Queen of Shops and The Fairy Jobmother explicitly promote magical voluntarism’s psychic entrepreneurialism: these programmes assure us that the fetters on our productive potentials lie within us. If we don’t succeed, it is simply because we have not put the work in to reconstruct ourselves.
The privatisation of stress has been part of a project that has aimed at an almost total destruction of the concept of the public - the very thing upon which psychic well-being fundamentally depends. What we urgently need is a new politics of mental health organised around the problem of public space. In its break from the old stalinist left, the various new lefts wanted a debureaucratised public space and
worker autonomy: what they got was managerialism and shopping. The current political situation in the UK - with business and its allies gearing up for a destruction of the relics of social democracy - constitutes a kind of infernal inversion of the autonomist dream of workers liberated from the state, bosses and bureaucracy. In a staggeringly perverse twist, workers find themselves working harder, in deteriorating conditions and for what is in effect worse pay, in order to fund a state bail-out of the business elite, while the agents of that elite plot the further destruction of the public services on which workers depend.
At the same time as a discredited neoliberalism plots this intensification of its project, a kind of right-wing autonomism has emerged in Phillip Blond’s Red Toryism and Maurice Glasman’s Blue Labourism. Here the critique of social-democratic and neoliberal bureaucracy goes alongside the call for a restitution of tradition. Neoliberalism’s success depended on its capturing of the desires of workers who wanted to escape the strictures of Fordism (though the miserable individualist consumerism in which we are all now immersed is not the alternative they sought). Blond’s laughable `Big Society’ and Glasman’s disturbingly insular `white working-class’ `communities’ do not represent persuasive or credible responses to this problem. Capital has annihilated the traditions that Blond and Glasman hanker after,
and there is no bringing them back.
But this should not be a cause for lament; far from it. What we need to revive is not social formations that failed (and failed for reasons that progressives should be pleased about), but a political project that never really happened: the achievement of a democratic public sphere. Even in Blond’s work, the lineaments of a hegemonic shift can be discerned - in his startling repudiation of the core concepts of neoliberalism and his attack on managerialism; and in the concession that, contra Thatcher, it turns out that there is such a thing as society after all. Such moves give some indication of the extent to which - after the bank bail-outs - neoliberalism has radically lost credibility.
The recent upsurge in militancy in the UK, particularly amongst the young, suggests that the privatisation of stress is breaking down: in place of a medicated individual depression, we are now seeing explosions of public anger. Here, and in the largely untapped but massively widespread discontent with the managerialist regulation of work, lie some of the materials out of which a new leftist modernism can be built. Only this leftist modernism is capable of constructing a public sphere which can cure the numerous pathologies with which communicative capitalism afflicts us.

This article is from issue 48 of the journal Soundings and is exclusively available online at NLP.

Mark Fisher writes regularly for frieze, New Statesman, Sight & Sound and The Wire, where he was acting deputy editor for a year. He is a Visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths,  University Of London, and maintains one of the most successful weblogs on cultural theory, k-punk (

1. Ivor Southwood, Non-Stop Inertia, Zer0 2010.
2. See Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? Zer0 2009.
3. Atilio Boron, `The Truth About Capitalist Democracy’, Socialist Register 2006, p32.
4. As argued by Jeremy Gilbert in, `Elitism, Philistinism and Populism: the Sorry State of British Higher Education Policy’, 2010,
5. See Stuart Hall and Martin Jacques (eds), New Times: The Changing Face of Politics in the 1990s, Lawrence & Wishart 1989.
6. Antonio Negri, Art and Multitude, Polity 2010, p10.
7. Savonarola, `Curriculum mortis’,, 2008.
8. Phillip Blond, The Ownership State: Restoring Excellence, Innovation and Ethos to Public Services, ResPublica/Nesta 2009, p10.
9. Tobias van Veen, `Business Ontology (or why Xmas Gets You Fired)’, 2010,
10. Franco Berardi, Precarious Rhapsody: Semiocapitalism and the Pathologies of the Post-Alpha Generation, Minor Compositions 2009, p32.
11. Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less from Each Other¸ Basic 2011, p264.
12. Jodi Dean, Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive, Polity 2010.
13. See Dan Hind, The Return of the Public, Verso 2010, p146.
14. David Smail, Power, Interest and Psychology: Elements of a Social Materialist Understanding of Distress, PCCS 2009, p11.
15. See Eva Illouz, Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism, Polity 2007.