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e-flux conversations

Rainy Fascism Island

How to characterize this period post-crash, or post-post-crash if we assume that the measures taken (austerity, the destruction of the welfare state) have largely been set in motion, if not completed? The deliberate shifting of blame that saw the public sector punished for the crimes of the private allowed various other modes of the dis- or rather misplacement of resentment to be mobilized. The targets are the same as they ever were—migrants, the un- or underemployed, those in need of help or support—but, given that the structures that enabled help and support had largely been dismantled even before “austerity” measures were imposed, there seems little left to attack. Those outraged by people receiving benefits, or those telling people to just get a job, must know that what meager benefits there are do not support a life, and that in many places there simply are no jobs to get. But nevertheless, resentment remains, or at least, somehow, a fantasy version of it can be mobilized such that resentment acts as a kind of looping device, self-nourishing and ever-expanding. What should we call this state of affairs? How best to identify it, in order to redirect or dismantle its energies?

The first element of the post-post-crash could be described as a “post-political antipolitics.” Both UKIP (the UK Independence Party who won the European elections) and Britain First (a British National Party splinter group who have almost half-a-million Facebook likes) are explicit in their opposition to politics and politicians as such: those in power are simultaneously elite, out of touch, corrupt, indifferent to the plight of the “British” person (not-so-veiled code for white, Christian, capitalist or entrepreneurial, property-owing, xenophobic). Existing politics on this model is complex (read Brussels “meddling” with rules and regulations), bureaucratic, hypocritical, and lethargic. It matters not at all that the opposition to this has no content at all—UKIP famously have no manifesto in the usual sense of the word, only their stated opposition to Europe and immigration fronted by a collection of members who invariably say something racist, sexist, ableist, or homophobic in public and promptly resign (or often not). Their leader, Nigel Farage, a former stockbroker who narrowly avoided death in a light aircraft crash during the 2010 elections, seems to have based his entire campaign on ensuring that there are hundreds of photographs of him drinking pints of ale in pubs whilst looking like he’s just told an offensive joke to some creepy mates.

Thus institutions end up filled with those who want nothing more than to destroy them—the European Parliament a shell stuffed with people shouting about how pointless it all is and how the whole thing should just be abolished. It is consequently possible to imagine every existing institution occupied by those who most want it abolished—prisons are already such a place, or schools, perhaps—but the banks are not yet filled with anticapitalists. To imagine a world in which prisons, asylums, and holding centers were not run but destroyed by those whom they seek to capture is to rethink the principle of institutions as such: Why do these places exist? In whose interest do they continue to exist? What would it take to negate them, forever?

The battle over space, or rather the false image of space peddled by those who seek to mobilize the energies of post-political antipolitics, is the second central element of this period. It is an old story—“we” are running out of room, there are too many people here already, resources are “scarce.” This is not a position confined to the center-right and far right of course, as it is also the “logic” of all the major parties: immigration is a “worry” for all of them, because it is supposed to be a “public” worry. But beneath the continuities lie subtle shifts in rhetoric and policy that replace one public—that of a people who welcome immigration, who themselves migrated to Europe decades ago or more recently—with an imaginary public that is always against those it deems to be “other.”

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