Hello out there -
I wrote a new essay: What’s After Neoliberal Meditation?
It’s a response to Ron Purser’s new book, McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality. In my essay, I explore a few fun things:
The impasse between neoliberalism’s ethos of radical individuality and meditation’s ethos of radical interdependence.
This led me to ask what really *is* neoliberal capitalism, and how does it operate upon the consciousness of citizens?
What moves might a culture make that wants to move beyond this standoff?
I looked into 3 ‘moves’:
2.1 Stretching Subjectivity - like we might atrophied limbs. A sort of culturally sanctioned gymnastics for consciousness - I drew from Thomas Metzinger here.
2.2 Three Phase Shifts - Daniel Schmachtenberger outlined 3 shifts - at the levels of social systems, infrastructure, and ideology - we can make to move towards a more sane & sustainable society.
2.3 Integral Education - This draws largely from Zak Stein’s recent book, Education in a Time Between Worlds. Education is ultimately concerned with the creation of a new kind of human, and this is precisely what we need for a new world - new humans. Lifelong learners coming out of schooling networks that amplify our curiosities, rather than straitjacket us into mass-produced, docile workers.
Do We Really Want Post-Capitalism?
A line from Purser’s book got me wondering:
“Revolutionary mindfulness neither fetishizes the present moment nor dispenses with judgment. Rather, it embraces the past and the future in conscious pursuit of social change. This communal approach is unapologetically anticapitalist, building on critique to envision the emergence of a new commons.”
As part of the crowd who loves critiquing capitalism, I only see two paths beyond it, and only one of them is actually visible to me.
The Scandinavian Model
This move is based on Scandinavian countries, but is also, essentially, the platform of what’s being called democratic socialism.
Impose high taxes that primarily hit wealthy entities and use that increased public revenue to fund broad social programs like universal healthcare, parental leave, maybe Basic Income, etc.
Basically, use taxes on hyper-wealthy areas of society to provide the general public with stuff they’re already working for, so they don’t need to work as much to secure those things, and can instead devote more of their lives to things other than repetitive and meaningless labor. I dig this, because it loosens the stranglehold financial capital has on the working class, freeing people’s time up to pursue other forms of capital.
Comparing tax models between the US and other highly modern countries is interesting. Check out this chart from Henrik Jacobsen Kleven’s 2014 paper:
While the US does have very comparatively low top income bracket tax rates, we also have significantly lower consumption tax rates than most other comparable countries.
But, here’s the thing. This isn’t “post-capitalist”. It still abides by capitalism’s basic tenets: private property rights, means of production operated for-profit, and markets as primary pricing mechanisms.
So does anybody really want post-capitalism, or do post-capitalists really just want higher taxes to fund broader social programs?
I don’t know, but to find out, it requires asking what post-capitalism is, what it really looks like. This sounds fun, so I’m on it. I started a Twitter thread where I’ll gather notes on what post-capitalism really means, and what alternative we have to the Scandinavian Model.
At present, it seems to me that Scandinavian model is the short-term solution, which might help lead into more radical and creative ‘beyond-capitalism’ visions, should that turn out to be a direction worth exploring.
Any ideas or reading suggests, don’t hesitate to reach out.
The first episode of my still nameless podcast is recorded! Had a great conversation with Ron Purser, author of book previously mentioned. We spoke about neoliberal subjectivity, meditation, and the nature of time.
Also, I was nervous, and have a lot to learn. Whole new degree of respect for podcast hosts who seem to effortlessly remain present & engaged during a conversation, while always being prepared with a new question should the dialogue deflate.
I’m really looking forward to my next conversation with Erik Hoel, who is both a writer and scientist studying consciousness in the Tufts University lab. He’s also the author of one of my favorite essays.
Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and the “Wrong Chord”
In this video (set to begin at 3:03 mark), Herbie Hancock recounts a time when he played a bad chord on stage during a Miles Davis solo. Aside from being a great story, how Hancock made sense of the situation is itself a life philosophy, a skillful way to engage with the unfolding of events that constitutes life.
Things are events, that’s all they are. We can judge them and lament them, or we can just respond skillfully, appropriately, as best we can.
It also reminds me of David Foster Wallace, who wrote:
“Nothing from nature is good or bad. Natural things just are; the only good and bad things are people’s various choices in the face of what is.”
Reading from the Inter-verse
The Age of Interruption | Michael Ventura
This essay was the first time I’d heard of Michael Ventura, and holy smokes. It’s about time, and how we live in relation to it. It’s also about the pervasiveness of measurement as it creeps into our ineffable interiors, pushing is to quantify things we don’t, and maybe cannot, understand about ourselves.
“This practice is so integral to our society that we take for granted how deeply this measurement reaches into us, and that what is really being measured is what other eras have called “the soul,” an individual’s intrinsic sense of self. We also tend to take for granted the sense of violation engendered by this measurement and the anger that results…”
He writes that in response to our timed society, our timed and measured interiors, we project the state of our sub/un-conscious onto the built-world around us. We’re walking about in one big dream:
“What distinguishes the 20th Century is that each individual life is a daily progression through a concrete but fluctuating landscape of the psyche’s projections. Technology projects the subconscious into countless things, and thus technology duplicates the processes of the subconscious’s greatest artifact, the dream. The surreality, simultaneity, sexuality and instantaneous change that once occurred only in our dreams now also occur all around us. So the condition of our subconscious is now also the condition of this physical environment we’ve built for ourselves. Now, we reel between dream and dream, between the dreams of our sleep that speak to us alone, and the dreamscape of the waking world in which we make our way through millions of dream pieces colliding around us in a collective slam-dance.”
And so on. A really good read.
Brief Book Review
Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism is fun, phenomenal, and smart.
Capitalist Realism is:
“…the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.”
He writes that capitalism saps all belief, even our capacity to imagine alternatives. We wind up in this kind of gelatinous voyeurism, because we’d rather distract ourselves from the impossibility of change than question that impossibility.
Price thinks capitalism essentially a hungry blob, progressively internalizing everything external to it - especially threats:
“This makes capitalism very much like the Thing in John Carpenter’s film of the same name: a monstrous, infinitely plastic entity, capable of metabolizing and absorbing anything with which it comes into contact.”
Price is a blast to read because he doesn’t hold back:
“Capital is an abstract parasite, an insatiable vampire and zombie-maker; but the living flesh it converts into dead labor is ours, and the zombies it makes are us.”
He refers to capitalist realism as a kind of imaginal constraint, an atmosphere that bogs down the culturally creative imagination:
"Capitalist realism...is more like a pervasive atmosphere, conditioning not only the production of culture but also the regulation of work and education, and acting as a kind of invisible barrier constraining thought and action."
I have a thread where I’m gathering more notes & quotes from the book:
Oshan Jarow @TheMusingMindThread to gather info/plant seeds on: What is "Post-Capitalism?" The more I dig into capitalist critique & the cultural consciousness it reifies, the less clear I am on what "post-capitalism" really means "It's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism"
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