Bruce A. Dixon explains intersectionality

There's an excellent series on "intersectionality" in the Black Agenda Report. The invocation of "intersectionality," like Rachel Maddow's crusade against Russia and like the periodic calls to impeach Trump, is more evidence of a supposedly-thriving pseudo-left, in which victory is always depicted as a campaign or two away. On the other hand, the physical realities of politics in the privileged world tightly fit their depiction in Philip Mirowski's Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste, in which neoliberalism is shown to be so dominant in thought and deed that there is no foundation for any competing politics whatsoever. Never mind that neoliberalism is insane; what matters in politics is the power of prior organizational strength, which the movement for a better world has only so far been able to mimic after manifesting any power of its own. One recalls, for instance, Stalin as a super-czar, Peter I on some rather ugly steroids.

At any rate, Dixon's first post, a necessary introduction to the series, is here; the second one is here. I wouldn't be surprised if Dixon decided to continue the series; there's enough to criticize. Here is the essence of Dixon's argument:

In the worlds of politics and nonprofits intersectionality has become a sneaky substitute for the traditional left notion of solidarity developed in the process of ongoing collective struggle against the class enemy. Intersectionality doesn't deny the existence of class struggle, it just rhetorically demotes it to something co-equal with the fights against ableism and ageism and speciesism, against white supremacy, against gender oppression, and a long elastic list of others. What’s sneaky about the substitution of intersectionality for solidarity is that intersectionality allows the unexamined smuggling in of multiple notions which directly undermine the development and the operation of solidarity. Intersectionality means everybody is obligated to put their own special interest, their own oppression first – although they don’t always say that because the contradiction would be too obvious. The applicable terms of art are that everybody gets to “center” their own oppression, and cooperate as “allies” if and when their interests “intersect.”

Here Dixon shows how intersectionality can be just another species of crap within a dystopia of omnipresent crap, a means for allowing everyone with a grudge to consider themselves a "resistance" without there being any actual resisting. Dixon continues:

Intersectionality normalizes the notion that the left is and ought to be a bunch of impotent constituency groups squabbling about privilege and “allyship” as they compete for funding and careers, not the the force working to overthrow the established order and fight for the power to build a new world.

OK, now, lest I get a comments-section full of denunciations of the DailyKos advocates of "intersectionality," of which there were and are many, I'd like everyone reading this post to consider that "intersectionality" is a distraction. While we ought to be dreaming and theorizing about how another world might be possible (the slogan "another world is possible" being a bit of hubris at this point), instead we are told that another world will magically occur if we elect a couple more women or Blacks or disabled people to political posts. Oh and they have to be Democrats, too: sorry, Ben Carson, sorry, Carly Fiorina.

Or maybe we aren't even told that another world will occur. The bizarre contradiction of our era is that, while the global infrastructure is based on fifty-year-old utopian dreams of a universal Disneyland of consumer life, the present-day political reality heads at full speed toward the erection of a traditional society based on image-polishing, the society of Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone but with the political and economic inertia of the ancien regime in prerevolutionary France. In such a society as ours the "Red" and "Blue" states differ not in future orientation but in the mutual excommunication of each others' well-polished images.

At any rate, Bruce A. Dixon continues in Part 2:

Nowadays, and perhaps from the start, as Sharon Smith explains in an indispensable August 2017 Socialist Worker article titled “A Marxist Case for Intersectionality ,” there are two separate, distinct and mutually incompatible intersectionalities. The first, she says is firmly in the camp of the real left, those who oppose and aim to overthrow capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy and empire – not two or three out of four but all four. This tradition, which puts intersectionality in the context of class analysis and class struggle goes back at least to Claudia Jones in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and the Cohambee River Collective in the 1970s, although neither of these ever heard or uttered the word “intersectional.” The second intersectionality according to Smith, is rooted in post-structuralism which categorically rejects socialism and class analysis, and either downgrades the importance of class struggle at most to something coequal in importance with ageism, ableism and speciesism. With no anchor in class struggle, and emphasizing the oppressed experience of individuals and non-class groups this kind of intersectionalism perpetuates the division of the US left and wannabe left into squabbling constituency groups vying for attention, funding and whose cause is the most righteous. Its emphasis on individual experience and deeds has given rise to atrocities like callout culture.

It needs to be mentioned, here, that the "intersectional" left shrinks quite dramatically to the extent to which its participants adopt "intersectionality." Those who, by virtue of their whiteness or maleness or other expression of privilege, reside outside of the magic boundaries by which the various causes are enclosed, tend to drop out. There is nothing for them in "allyship"; actually, being an "ally" promises nothing to anyone, except maybe if one's boyfriend or girlfriend is part of the cause or something like that. In this way the left mimics Margaret Thatcher's famous 1987 injunction:

...and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.

Part of the problem, of course, and part of the void in political life into which "intersectionality" has jumped, is that there is no "socialism" to rally around anymore. Social democracy is theorized as "the best we can do," and social democracy is thusly reduced to a couple of crass attempts to buy off the working class so that the government can get back to its "true" task of protecting the profits of the already-wealthy. Thus the utopia of socialism merits a revival, not on the old failed grounds but upon grounds which make sense to the real people of the 21st century. In this regard, the idea of 21st-century socialism didn't quite make it. Oh well -- if at first you don't succeed...

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The Aspie Corner's picture

The closest we had to that was when the Soviets were holding western porkies' feet to the fire. And in Murica's case, the wealthy got caught trying to have one of their own, FDR, assassinated for implementing New Deal reforms.

With the Soviets gone and Communism virtually extinct, the porkies basically dropped any pretense of social democracy and with it, any shred of pretending to give a damn about working and poor folk.

"Intersectionality" is just a nice way of saying that capitalism has usurped any and all movements based on real social changed and turned them into defenders of the faith of capitalism while turning everyone against each other.

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Modern education is little more than toeing the line for the capitalist pigs.

Guerrilla Liberalism won't liberate the US or the world from the iron fist of capital.

Wink's picture

@The Aspie Corner

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-2.1) All about building progressive media.

Cassiodorus's picture

@The Aspie Corner @The Aspie Corner All of the indicators of social democracy are in retreat. In Greece this is the trick of SYRIZA, which once promised Greeks a social-democratic move or two but which now sponsors another boring capitulation in anticipation of their defeat in this year's elections; in the US it's the trick of the Democratic Party, which ceded 900 state legislative seats to the Republicans because Obama may have once or twice shouted "social democracy" in a crowded theater back in 2008. Elsewhere you can figure it out. Remember, losing elections doesn't matter if you are securely sold out.

The Keynesian consensus of Sixties economics created a society in which the only social glue was money plus enjoyment, and the neoliberal revision of that consensus promises a society of that very same sort but which operates in panic mode, in anticipation of the coming society in which the preponderance of the masses will have neither money nor enjoyment. You know, like Margaret Atwood's "The Heart Goes Last" or something like that.

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

@The Aspie Corner

"Intersectionality" is just a nice way of saying that capitalism has usurped any and all movements based on real social changed and turned them into defenders of the faith of capitalism ...

Hillary's time on the board of Walmart. Reports are that her one main push was to have more females in management. Yes, now women can help run one of thee most worker-exploitative companies. Let women suppress and steal wages and ironically of a mostly female work force. Hurrah for Hillary the champion of women.

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Lookout's picture

Charles Derber, Author and Sociologist, discusses the failings of the American left through intersectionality with Chris Hedges (24 min)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2C4aCCihy7s

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cassiodorus's picture

@Lookout who once noticed one of my reviews "published" on Daily Kos, should either shave his head all the way, or get hair implants.

More seriously, it's great that Hedges and Derber have decided to confront the term "intersectionality," but Derber's idea of an "intersectional resistance" appears to me now as another dead end. (I'll take a look at his more recent book when it comes in the mail through Amazon -- Derber is the type of individual who should be in my audience pool.) Here is my objection: the fight for "your group's part of the pie" would not disappear if we all suddenly agreed to discuss political economy. Reviving socialism does not mean bringing socialism back into a discussion of political economy. Rather, what needs to be confronted is the utopia of money, in which everyone's values are turned into a great quantitative pool of "value," which is then controlled by the elite possessors of money. People need to master "value," rather than what we have now, in which "value" masters people.

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

@Cassiodorus go on and give Bezos more money why not? i17 for the win! lol Next stop Whole Foods Market for quick kombucha. Viva Alexa! raises fist

SCNR
Sorry could not resist. Irony is overwhelming me. peace

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Cassiodorus's picture

@eyo once the book comes out.

Anyway I am still waiting for the demonstration showing that "responsible consumerism" counts as resistance.

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

@Cassiodorus whatever makes you happy. Biggrin

peace

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Cassiodorus's picture

@eyo because their consumption habits are pure, and they take only the most politically-correct stupid pills.

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

Azazello's picture

I guess they mean the intersection of Wall St. and Identity Politics Ave.

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We wanted decent healthcare, a living wage and free college.
The Democrats gave us Biden and war instead.

Wink's picture

not worth the trouble to challenge these fuckadoodle Corporatist elite asshats becuz... well, becuz NeoLibrulism is so deeply entrenched that it can't ever be cracked. That we should all just give up, bow to the NeoLibs for establishing a kingdom that can't be and will Never be defeated, so just get on with the business of ending our sorry lives sooner rather than later. Got it.

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-2.1) All about building progressive media.

Cassiodorus's picture

@Wink because the insistence upon simplicity is a symptom of the death of the human imagination.

Here's a hint: the pseudo-resistance isn't worth your time because it's "not worth the trouble to" PRETEND TO "challenge these fuckadoodle Corporatist elite asshats." If the choice is between a pseudo-resistance and giving up with a "bow to the NeoLibs for establishing a kingdom that can't be and will Never be defeated," the giving-up option is an energy-saver on balance.

Instead, we should all try to imagine what real resistance would look like, rather than pretending we already have it. You okay with that?

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

Wink's picture

pretty quickly to anyone
with half a brain, @Cassiodorus ,
that the McResistance was less about
resisting the Oligarchy's ever onward push
to end what's left of The Left, and more a protest of Trump's denying Hillary her victory.
But I don't think that's what "They" are talking about in the original post, which sounded more like, "McResistance is futile." Though I could be wrong. Once I start seeing words like "intersectionality," with more than three syllables, my eyes start to glaze over. But that's on me. Carry on.

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-2.1) All about building progressive media.

Cassiodorus's picture

@Wink To be sure.

Okay, so back to the point of this diary: I have no problem with people who are genuinely trying to find some way to pursue an actual resistance. We are all being drafted (and I'm using this word "drafted" in its worst, late Sixties sense, as in "drafted to fight and die in Vietnam") into a reality that damn few of us actually wants, so people should want to fight back. I'm pointing out that the "language of resistance" is itself being altered in the interests of our conscription. "Intersectionality" is one of those words being used in that way. This is a big thing among the college-campus phony Left, as Charles Derber pointed out in that video Lookout posted.

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

@Cassiodorus thanks, was just coming up from a dark money search hole, prompted this morning by The Real News and Naked Capitalism. great timing

https://revolutionmessaging.com/about

Founded by key members of Obama 2008 and Bernie 2016, our team takes pride in running cutting-edge campaigns and mobilizing activists. Our clients include government agencies, nonprofits, labor unions and political campaigns. We specialize in a range of full-service media strategies, including advertising, creative, fundraising, public relations and technology.

Good luck with that bunch running a mainstream message machine. No wonder the fight is still stuck at 15 with no affordable real estate, after that comes more HOPE the manna from heaven will descend in 2020 just GOTV for Ds! Bern baby Bern, it's an effing inferno.

Back to this great i17 essay (thanks for it too), that word's not exactly rolling off the tongues of proletariat everywhere. Don't mind my LOLs, it's fun enjoying free entertainment with no end in sight, the top notch kabuki. good luck

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Cassiodorus's picture

@eyo is college-speak. Remember that Denise Oliver-Velez is an adjunct in an anthropology department.

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

EdMass's picture

I am of an age where this term befuddles me. I have to google it every time.

So this is a meme? It's a political trend? It's a way of life?

There are people in the streets decrying the existence of "intersectionality" or the lack of "intersectionality" ?

This further division of people helps how?

Generally confused, more so about this, here in TX where everyone is packing and ones "intersectionality" ain't gonna help you when you flip someone the bird on the Highway for cutting you off.

Yea.

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Prof: Nancy! I’m going to Greece!
Nancy: And swim the English Channel?
Prof: No. No. To ancient Greece where burning Sapho stood beside the wine dark sea. Wa de do da! Nancy, I’ve invented a time machine!

Firesign Theater

Stop the War!

Wink's picture

on it, @EdMass .

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-2.1) All about building progressive media.