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Cosmopolitans and universalism and their opposites… October 8, 2016

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
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Thanks to SonofStan for allowing this comment to be reposted.

Theresa May in her conference speech last week attacked ‘cosmopolitans’ as ‘citizens of nowhere’ and as ‘an absurdity’. It’s interesting – to me at any rate – because, in a way, she is echoing, in another key, the first man to describe himself as ‘kosmopolitikos’, a citizen of the world, Diogenes of Sinope, or Diogenes the Cynic. He described himself thus, not to claim world citzenship, but to deny any responsibility towards Athens – it was a patent oxymoron to him and those who heard him because one could obviously only be a politikos of a polis, of a particular place.

The Stoics though, took it seriously and were the first – probably – to develop the idea of humanity as a universal condition with rights and duties that transcended the local and particular. And Stoicism fed almost seamlessly into Pauline Christianity, inclusive of both Jew and Greek – i.e. everyone.

The ‘catholicism’ of the church is rooted in that, and it’s curious to me that a scion of the Anglican Church, a vicar’s daughter, could make a plea for particularity and against universalism; if you think about it, a church that claims access to revealed, and universal truth, but is also the ‘Church of England’ is the real absurdity. But that church and the rarely interrogated complicity between it, the state and the armed forces, is one of the occult pillars of English exceptionalism.

(although I’ve just checked, and curiously perhaps, TM went to an RC school for a while….)

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1. Joe - October 9, 2016

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/theresa-may-conservative-party-speech-fighting-the-elite-historic-tradition-mark-steel-a7348936.html

I’ll have to get a copy of that speech. She’s apparently claiming to be a champion of the working class while also promoting racism – so she’s maybe putting herself forward as a champion of the white, British working class?

It’s strange. London, to me, is the epitome of the cosmopolitan city. And one of the things that make it thus, is the melting pot of people from all over the world that it is. New York similar.
My brother went to London in his twenties and has remained there since. He’s a socialist but one of the things he said to me once was that the concept of community is gone. And I think that’s why he liked London, he could be anonymous there and also be himself. And isn’t that one of its attractions to minorities and free thinkers from Ireland and from the rest of Britain and from all over the world?

So what does May mean when she rails against cosmopolitans? Is she raging against multi-cultural London and wanting to replace it with the mono-culturalism of the Shires?

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sonofstan - October 9, 2016

The thing is, outside London and (most of) the big cities, England can be surprisingly monocultural (not here in Wycombe, nor in most of the Thames valley). Some towns are very white, and they are the ones where the recent arrival of Eastern Europeans in even quite limited numbers may be the first experience of immigration. The feeling that London is not England is stronger among some of the population that the equivalent feeling regarding Dublin at home, and by a long shot – whereas many people who don’t live in Dublin will at least have some experience of it – at college, working for a while – this is less true here; I’m often surprised by how rarely people around here who don’t work there ever go in and it’s 25 mins by train. Add an hour or two to that, and there’s plenty of people who’ll have been once or twice, and ‘didn’t like it’.

The Tories really have it easy electorally at the minute; with Labour wiped out in Scotland, their electoral might in the North doesn’t really count since they can win huge majorities and still only come back with the same number of seats. The Tories just need to hang on to what they have.

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CL - October 9, 2016

“So what does May mean when she rails against cosmopolitans”
She is, opportunistically, tapping into the populist anger at the capitalist global elite.
“Europe’s political elite may have missed the Brexit memo.
Six weeks since U.K. voters rebuked the ruling class by choosing to leave the European Union, the region’s establishment has reacted by carrying on as before.
The revolving door of former policy makers joining the finance industry has spun again, with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso signing up with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King joining Citigroup Inc. Meanwhile departed Prime Minister David Cameron is facing criticism for nominating numerous aides for honors, including his wife’s stylist…
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-04/europe-s-elite-ignores-brexit-message-in-bout-of-jobs-and-awards.

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gendjinn - October 9, 2016

The Tories only got what they have due to UKIP voters flipping to CON on election day in marginals, giving them their surprise increase in votes and seats.

If they are going vocally racist, one better hope it is because they are planning on not triggering article 50. If they are going vocally racist and triggering a hard brexit, well you should expect all of the horrors of the British Empire sometime this century, depending on how ACC unfurls.

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2. CL - October 9, 2016

London, home of the ruling elite, voted to remain.

“The referendum result is a tremendous kick in the knackers for Britain’s centrist ruling elite. Many of those supporting continued membership in the EU were politicians, academics, lawyers, big-business leaders, church leaders and well-paid journalists….
Some of the poorest regions of the U.K. were the strongest in their support of Brexit”
http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-peasant-revolt-upends-britains-ruling-elite-1466806496

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sonofstan - October 9, 2016

“Many of those supporting continued membership in the EU were politicians, academics, lawyers, big-business leaders, church leaders and well-paid journalists”

That does not add up to nearly 16m votes though.

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CL - October 9, 2016

Of course not. The ruling elite is always a minority,

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CL - October 9, 2016

The global capitalist elite is not worried about Theresa and her populist pandering.
“Theresa May might not like it, but there’s one early winner from the Brexit vote: the global capitalist elite. The British leader bemoans rising asset prices, but the decision to quit the EU has put a rocket under U.K. stocks.”
https://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2016-10-06/brexit-gift-to-the-capitalist-elite

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gendjinn - October 9, 2016

Businesses whose income is derived solely from within the UK saw their average share price drop 7%. Money left them for companies who generate most of their income outside of the UK. That makes things look good in the stock market temporarily but the message it is sending is clear. Institutional investors are the only ones that have enough shares to make an impact like that. They are saying they are not confident about the longterm UK economy.

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sonofstan - October 9, 2016

Yes,I know – my point was that it wasn’t just the ruling elite who voted remain. Lots of quote/ unquote ordinary people did too, for all sorts of reasons; and they may be indistinguishable to the naked eye from the leavers.

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WorldbyStorm - October 9, 2016

100% agree SoS. I mentioned this problem about analyses which try to define ‘elites’ in such a way elsewhere this weekend. For example the vast majority of LP voters in the UK voted to Remain. Are they ‘elite’? Or are the minority of LP voters who voted to exit an elite? When we get to this point it becomes a near enough meaningless term and absolutely useless as an explanatory term CL.

By the way, that’s all well and good about stocks at the moment – as the currency tanks, but in the long run it would be a crazed ‘elite’ who saw that as anything more than short-termism.

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CL - October 9, 2016

To suggest that the global capitalist elite is somehow indifferent to the populist upsurge against ruling class policies is nonsense.
“World finance leaders on Thursday decried a growing populist backlash against globalization and pledged to take steps to ensure trade and economic integration benefited more people currently left behind.”
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-imf-g-idUSKCN12629J

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gendjinn - October 9, 2016

“By the way, that’s all well and good about stocks at the moment – as the currency tanks, but in the long run it would be a crazed ‘elite’ who saw that as anything more than short-termism.”

In 2008 Goldman Sachs realised they could earn more money by forcing Lehman/Sterns under and triggering the CDSs. So they did.

Short-termism is a synonym for the last 50 years of capitalism.

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WorldbyStorm - October 9, 2016

CL, my views are worse than that I’m afraid, from your perspective. I’m not sure there’s a global capitalist elite in the sense you seem to believe – i.e. a fairly homogenous largely self-conscious mass of people who direct matters, or attempt to, in quite that way. I think there are many different groups with some power and influence whose interests on occasion overlap but often for cultural, and other reasons, are indifferent or at odds with one another. I’ve no doubt that for example many business people do indeed attempt to curry favour or direct political processes or whatever, but even where they can do so in part they’re stymied by others. I also think you are eliding a whole bunch of different groups into a single supposed elite, many of whom have little in common with one another.

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WorldbyStorm - October 9, 2016

There’s some serious problems with collapsing all capitalism into say Goldman Sachs when it is a much much more complex entity. For a start it doesn’t speak with one voice, from within it there are those who push back against short-termism. The EU, for all its faults, has been a voice for long term. German and other European business interests have certainly taken longer views of matters. And so on. It would strike me as more accurate to say that there are – as with everything, different strands or currents in capitalism. This shouldn’t be a surprise, it encompasses everything from left social democrats to right libertarians, and fascists, and points in between.

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CL - October 9, 2016

Whether we like it or not there are leadership elites and such elites have been the subject of many scholarly studies. To mention just two classics:
The Power Elite, by C. Wright Mills.
The Rise and Fall of Elites, by Vilfredo Pareto.

Elites have power and they use it to implement policy. Certainly they are factions among the ruling global capitalist elite, and in a time of crisis, such as the present, there may very well be disagreement, e.g. between finance capital and industrial capital. But the capitalist elite has powerful institutions at its disposal to implement policy and influence public opinion.

The elites themselves are aware of who they are, and conscious of the threats to their rule.

“The world economic elite, meeting this week at the International Monetary Fund’s annual assembly, closed the gathering on the weekend with a firm defense of globalization and openness to trade against the growing threat of protectionism or populism.”
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2016/10/09/global-elites-insist-on-greater-trade-openness-to-halt-populism/

“With Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leading a surge of anti-free trade sentiment in the United States, and Britain voting to secede from the European Union, top central bankers and finance ministers were pressed to defend long-standing ideology at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meetings….

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble expressed alarm at the rise of anti-trade populism across the developed world.

“If you look at what we have achieved in reducing the number of very poor people all over the world,” he said, “we must have in mind that we must not increase the gap between elites — political leaders, economic leaders, media leaders — and the people. Otherwise we will risk increasing populism and that’s one of the major risks.”
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/07/business/world-bank-imf-take-opposition-globalization/#.V_q0eI8rKFQ

Some people may seem confused as right-wing populism has emerged as the opposition to the ruling neoliberal ideology. There is also some left wing opposition, but its weak.
Contintental Europe in the aftermath of WW1 does offer some historical insights into the current crisis.

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WorldbyStorm - October 9, 2016

I’m not disputing that there are many different groups that vie for power on a global level – but I’m dubious about a single global elite that can be considered to have its way and thinks as one, or their ability to shape things to the full extent of their wishes (some amongst them may have pretensions to being this, but that’s not the same thing) – and you yourself switch between the singular and plural form of the term. But that alone is a hugely important distinction whether there is one or a number of same. I’m not saying that in the future they couldn’t emerge, indeed I’d see that as a significant danger in the context of environmental collapse, resource wars etc, but, for example at this moment there are so many other strands that cut across them, national states, rivalry amongst themselves, even the disparate nature of them as described in the quote you point to… are media elites the same as financial the same as… etc. And by elites what do we mean? The very complexion of the various states, Russia, the US, pan-national structures such as the EU, etc, suggests that there’s a lot more differentiation than might be expected if the model was a global elite that organised matters according to a single approach. Moreover I’m deeply sceptical that they’re unamenable to pressure and being pushed back.

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gendjinn - October 10, 2016

WbS,

Yeah, that’s a fair point about EU capitalism the last 35 years. My observations of American capitalism the last 25 years here has been rather more dismal. It’s a ruthlessly short-sighted, penny-per-quarter spreadsheet mentality runs riot throughout. That results in avoidable environmental disasters over & over & over again.

Duke Energy in North Carolina spills. San Bruno PG&E explosion. Flint lead. Oil spills & train explosions, coal slurry breaches. KBR-showers-electrocutions-Iraq. The list is endless, malevolent, short-sighted.

Capitalism does not inherently have to be destructive and selfish, the US form of corporation is problematic (the doc Corporation speaks to this). It’s great for cars, phones and the like, shite for health, utilities and the like. But how the US does capitalism rivals the Spanish/Portuguese empires in malevolence.

John Oliver’s show is doing fantastic work exposing all this shit. Because all this shit is done by elements of the 6 conglomerates that control all media in the US.

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WorldbyStorm - October 10, 2016

I agree re US capitalism in general – deeply shortsighted and complacent in the way groups afforded state protection like that of their ways are, it’d one of the things that makes me find right libertarianism so naive, almost childish, the stuff about companies don’t want to kill their customers. Well it takes a second to think of examples where directly or indirectly they have and in the former not cared about outcomes at all.

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Brian Hanley - October 9, 2016

And (on paper at least) the majority of the British labour movement, including UNITE, the GMB and UNISON (though I often meet people who seem to think Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t campaigning for Remain.)

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3. Brian Hanley - October 9, 2016

Sorry, that comment should have been up above somewhere

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4. sonofstan - October 10, 2016

The UK Pahnd Sterlink is continuing to plunge today. Government apparently ‘relaxed’ about it, and I’ve worked out why; for all us Eurotrash who send money home on a regular basis, it’ll soon be worthless and we’ll head back of our own accord.

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Gewerkschaftler - October 10, 2016

We Eurotrash aside…

It only makes sense if they can export.

If they make things more costly or impossible for many of their major export markets that will only work for the interim two years and a bit.

Import costs and probably inflation will increase. That will hit workers and the poor first. But they don’t give to the Tory party, in general.

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Ed - October 10, 2016

James Meadway, John McDonnell’s economic adviser, made an interesting point about that: a weaker pound may not be good for British exports, since they are integrated into production chains and need to import components before they can produce goods for export, so there’s no guarantee one side of the ledger will outweigh the other.

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WorldbyStorm - October 10, 2016

That makes sense (and by the by points up some of the good people around Corbyn McDonnell).

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WorldbyStorm - October 10, 2016

Jesus sterling is taking one hell of a beating isn’t it? Its a sort of involuntary devaluation.

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5. FergusD - October 10, 2016

Capitalism is clearly divided, and always has been. I don’t buy into the Negri/Hart globalised “Empire”, it is still based on a state, mostly an imperialist one, which includes the UK in a much reduced largely financial sense. So clearly there are rivalries between national capitals (USA, China, Russia, EU and its components, Japan), sometimes minor or repressed, sometimes open (policy to China or Russia, the Ukraine). Also, within a state there is big, international in operation, and smaller, largely national in operation, capitalist concerns. The first is probably more EU friendly, but it may depend on who they trade with most (EU or China?). During the referendum campaign there was a TV program where they visited a pram/buggy firm in the UK (admittedly not huge!). Privately owned and very traditional, sold mostly in the UK and China. The owner hated the EU, all those regs, no good to him as he didn’t sell much there (prams look like they are from the 50s) and it was all just what was good for him, as he saw it.

So yes, there doesn’t seem to be a concerted voice of capitalism, even in one country. Probably explains rather muted reactions to Brexit. Plus they are waiting so see what the Tories will do. When/if they decide on what to do!

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