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Episode 19: Generation Left, with Keir Milburn & Chairman Moe’s Magic Contradiction

Welcome to another episode of Fully Automated! Our guest for this episode is Keir Milburn, Lecturer in Political Economy and Organization at the University of Leicester. Keir has a new book out, called Generation Left. I had a chance to discuss the text recently, with my Columbus, OH-based friends, Chairman Moe’s Magic Contradiction (AKA Charlie Umland and Jim Calder). We liked it so much, we thought we’d reach out to Keir and see if he’d come on the show, to discuss.

American audiences may have heard Keir interviewed by Chuck Mertz a couple of weeks ago, on This Is Hell! We’re kind of hoping this could be a good companion episode to that interview, as we go deep into some aspects of the book that Chuck didn’t have time to address. And there is a LOT going on in this book! It starts by questioning the popular notion that Millennials and Zoomers are a bunch of entitled snowflakes, and suggesting that this myth is actually doing quite a lot of work, politically, in dividing young and old members of the working class, giving them over to the idea that they have fundamentally different interests.

But of course, as with many myths, an investigation of the facts produces a rather different persecutive. It turns out, says Keir, that the generations are stuck in rather different material trajectories. One statement Keir makes early in the book really caught our attention: “the older generation are still tied to the neoliberal hegemony of finance while the young seek to escape it.” But these trajectories are not a given. To the contrary, the logic of neoliberalism forces the Boomer generation to hold onto its material advantages, as a retirement strategy. And, as it does this, it condemns Millennials and Zoomers to a life of debt and forces them into a culture of cynical entrepreneurialism.

In the show, we talk with Keir about the role of events in composing generations. Events, he says, can disrupt our accepted ways of making sense of the world, and lead to the emergence of radically new social energies. But not every disruptive event will necessarily lead to some kind of new configuration, nor will every new configuration necessarily be a progressive one.

One particular event, the 2008 financial crisis, of course looms large in Keir’s story. Unleashing austerity on the developed world, it represents in a sense the apogee of neoliberal governmentality. Milburn cites academic theorists like Wendy Brown, Maurizio Lazzarato, and Jennifer Silva to try to explain how neoliberal capitalism tries to get us to think and act as if there is no alternative to neoliberalism, even tho we all know its not working — we know we can’t all be entrepreneurs. (This reminded us a bit of Adam Curtis, and his hyper-normalization documentary). A key figure for Milburn here is Mark Fisher, and his argument about consciousness deflation.

Whatever we want to call this system (authoritarian neoliberalism? zombie capitalism?), clearly it is making us sick. Throughout the text, Milburn make repeated reference to how we are living in the midst of an epidemic of “depression, insomnia and mental distress.” Yet there’s kind of a mystery to unpack here. He cites Jennifer Silva, for example, to explain how capitalism prefers us to internalize these issues, making them questions more to to do with our emotional and psychic resilience, than anything to do with the structure of the economy.

And, as he argues, this way of thinking about our mental wellbeing even showed up in the “assemblyism” of the occupy Wall Street movement. Nevertheless, he insists, Occupy’s approach to the collective discussion of experiences and struggles did offer therapeutic and even political potentials to the young people who participated. And, as we discuss in the show (admittedly not in nearly enough detail) there are things we can learn here, very much in the spirit of the late Mark Fisher, that might be applied to a new model of treating mental and material health.

Today, the reputation of neoliberalism is today irredeemably tarnished. The question before us is how to build and leverage democratic competence and confidence, to build a new order in the face of zombie neoliberalism. We ask Keir about his own podcast, ACFM, and the role the suggest that might yet be played by the so-called “weird left,” as a way of engaging in consciousness raising. He acknowledges that while counter-cultural practices sometimes get a bad rep (and deservedly so), subcultures like punk and DIY do still offer the possibility of “conscious raising” that could meaningfully counter some of the “consciousness deflating” pressures of neoliberalism.

In the closing chapters of your book, however, Milburn is under no illusions: the left has a long history of melancholia. Ultimately, to succeed, says Milburn, generation left is going to have to bridge the generation gap. As he points out, this won’t be easy — boomers are dependent on financial instruments, 401k, stock markets, property values etc. Equally, we know that as much as they depend on these financial assets, they have very little control over them: 85% of the stock market is owned by the top 10%; property values are dependent on development funds, retirement funds, university endowments, etc. So, considering these interests, it may be hard to bring working class boomers around!

To fix this, he claims, we will need to engage in a “dual strategy.” On the one hand, we will need to get serious about wielding the power of the state, and building economies of the commons, to show Boomers that socialism can work for them, too. On the other hand, however, we will need to build political movements capable of holding our representatives in the state to account. This isn’t going to be easy, however. Time and resources are thin on the ground. Solidarity economies, UBI, UBS, etc, can be one answer here. But, as he concludes, the key fact is that we need to build these alliances. If the generation gap really is a class gap, as he argues, then solidarity economies and the like may be the vital tool we need, to help us achieve the the kind of inter-generational unity we need, if we are ever to win.

#EISAPEC18 CfP — Technological Change and the Shape of an IR to Come (S43)

The below is a call for papers for the section, Technological Change and the Shape of an IR to Come, at the 12th Pan-European Conference on International Relations (EISA), Prague, September 12-15, 2018

This section seeks to advance discussion at the intersection of speculation on future trajectories of International Relations as a discipline, and the increasing focus on utopian and/or dystopian visions and imaginaries in the domain of popular culture. We invite contributions that navigate and challenge the horizon of the possible within and beyond the discipline. Specifically, we seek papers that have an explicit forward-looking dimension in their method and/or approach, on the spectrum between scenario-based analysis or forecasting, and storytelling or speculative academic fiction.

Not to be confused with a call for works in the genre of futurism (i.e., prediction-making), contributors to these panels are invited instead to investigate their own disciplinary perspectives to assess possible times ahead. Panels may, for example, want to examine possible trends based on the confluence of a number of issues pertaining to technological change: How are current anxieties over automation and universal basic income reflected in IR, or affiliated literatures? Conversely, what role might IR have in narrating the complexities of a global order where ‘fully-automated luxury communism’ is not only possible but actively demanded? Or, equally, in reaction to such demands, to what extent might current trends in digitalization and media bespeak a re-modulation of social order around novel modes of control, and securitization? Finally, what can we say of the multitude-style content of the hashtags, memes, and aesthetics of newly invigorated ‘millennial’ leftist movements as they embrace and reorient, for example, the iconography of Soviet-era space exploration, in a politics of race- and gender-based liberation?

Panels should advertise in advance that they are actively soliciting audience involvement in their proceedings. We invite papers that address the themes indicated in the suggested panel titles below, but will consider alternative full panel proposals:

1. Back to the future? Engaging the techno-utopian visions of IRs past
2. A phantom menace? Emancipation and the specter of luxury communism
3. Battle at the binary stars? The politics of race, gender, and millennial singularity
4. Elysium? Fully-automated consumption vs the speculative limits of ecology
5. Age of Ultron? Artificial Intelligence and our possible global ethical futures
6. Orphan Black? Post-scarcity and intellectual property law

Details:

  • Venue: University of Economics (VSE) and Institute of International Relations (IIR), Prague
  • Dates: September 12-15, 2018
  • Conference Theme: ‘A New Hope’: Back to The Future of International Relations Section
  • Section Title: Technological Change and the Shape of an IR to Come (S43)
  • Closing date for submissions: February 1, 2018
  • Official conference hashtag: #EISAPEC18

For more details, and the submission form, see the Conference website: www.eisapec18.org

Sincerely,
Nicholas Kiersey (Ohio University): kiersey@ohio.edu
Laura Horn (University of Roskilde): lhorn@RUC.DK
– Section Chairs

So, this just happened…

Swoon...
Swoon…

So this is definitely one of the more cool things to happen in my life…

 

Battlestar Galactica & International Relations


Battlestar Galactica & International Relations

Battlestar Galactica and International Relations (Hardback) – Routledge.

Just a brief note to let you know the book I co-edited with Iver Neumann, Battlestar Galactica & International Relations, is now available. You can buy it on Amazon in hardback and Kindle formats here. A cheaper, paperback version of the book will be coming later this year. This project has been over two years in the making, and started with a random encounter at the bar at an ISA convention in New York. As the convention was taking place, the cast and crew of the show were addressing the United Nations, just up the road, on the plight of child soldiers! We were pretty blown away by the idea that such an encounter was even possible. And we got talking… well, what WAS “BSG’s” political message, anyway? At the following year’s ISA in New Orleans, we held a panel wherein we discussed some ideas about the show and noticed that, well, some IR folk were *serious* fans of the show:

bsg panel

Continue reading Battlestar Galactica & International Relations