Sunday, September 16, 2018

Has the left resisted market values?

Liberalism as a political ideology has had a deep effect on Western society. But so too has the way that our society is organised economically.

What matters in a market economy is the individual as a producer and a consumer. Given that our society is organised around this "economic mode" there is a pressure on individuals to fit in with this imperative to maximise both individual production and consumption.

I think it's fair to say that for many people the measure of success in life is based on earning and consuming: more specifically on career status and income. And the basic orientation of many urban dwellers is on a consumer lifestyle of shopping, dining out, travel and entertainment.

It has reached the point that not much else is thought to matter, except perhaps a commitment to liberal political values which are thought to provide the "moral" aspect of life (and family still holds some ground).

In theory, the left is supposed to be a point of resistance to this dominance of market values. But, apart from a preference for working within the public sector, I can't see that this is true. The leftists I know have bought completely into the idea that success in life is measured by career status, money and a consumer lifestyle.

This helps to explain, for instance, the focus of modern day feminism. Western feminists use gender politics as leverage in the competition for upper middle-class employment. This is almost entirely what holds their attention.

It leads to the odd situation in which highly privileged feminists, promoted to positions of great influence with corresponding incomes and lifestyle trappings, nonetheless continue to portray themselves as belonging to an oppressed, disadvantaged class.

And what about traditionalists? We have to take the task of keeping the market in its place much more seriously. We ideally want to create a culture in which the purposes of man are much wider and more varied than simply earning and consuming. We want a culture which upholds communal identities based on family and ethny; which deeply connects the individual to people and place; in which men participate meaningfully in the polis; in which commitments to family and especially to motherhood and fatherhood can flourish; in which the spiritual nature of man can be nurtured; and in which an appreciation of the arts can be widely developed.

If there is no resistance to the mode of "earn/consume" then much else follows. For instance, if 20-something women are guided into a way of life in which the idea is to push toward maximum work commitments and productivity combined with the "glamour" of a high spending consumer lifestyle of dining out and travel, then the prospect of children can be rejected as one burden too many, as well as an unwelcome lifestyle impediment.

Just to show how far this mentality has already wormed its way into the culture, here is a poster from the British National Health Service which simply assumes that women would not want children to get in the way of a "sex in the city" lifestyle:

I don't mean to suggest that traditionalists cannot, or should not, aim to succeed in their careers. We do have to think through, though, how in a practical way non-economic values can be upheld within society.


  1. Mark,

    Has intersectionality made an impact in OZ feminist discourse? In the US there has been a shift away from caring about upper-middle class corporate jobs, as non-white leftists call this "white feminism". Some US economic issues are different, as unions are a non-entity in the US outside of the government and older regulated industries.

    As an aside, while I consider the consumerist view of travel to be absurd, it is a labor intensive industry that will prove hard to automate. As an agent of Third World development it can be useful from the point of reducing incentives to emigrate. Instagram vapidity would be a small price to pay.

    1. Has intersectionality made an impact in OZ feminist discourse?

      Not really. When I look at the social media posts of feminists I know, it's all still about "attack white males and get the spoils for ourselves". There's not much consciousness of of a specifically "white feminism" - so maybe that's something on the horizon that will change things here.

    2. One thing that surprises me about feminists is that they don't take the easy win of trying to impose male quotas in undesirable female jobs. As nursing has moved into credentialism, and thus higher income, its not surprising that feminists won't encourage men to go into nursing. And for the same reason its obvious that feminists will avoid trying to force women into undesirable but well-paying male jobs like construction. I recall that perhaps a year ago a major US media outlet published an article saying that the plight of the working class was because men will both avoid undesirable female dominated jobs, and they won't contribute more chores at home, thus leading to higher divorce rates. I will try to find it, as it might be one the purest distillations of neoliberal social policy that ever existed.

  2. I think this might be it, I may have been confusing two different articles.

  3. The last time the wider Australian Left seemed genuinely opposed to market values was within the anti globalisation protest movement in the late 90s early 2000s.

    Since then it's pretty much only been the Trotskyists and anarchists even pretending to keep up the fight. The rest of the left decided to play along.