Alt-Left Stance on Culture & Politics 8


In the last post we briefly introduced the economic thinking of the Alt-Left. In this one we take a look at some general political intuitions and stances that set the Alt-Left apart from the Old Left. This includes some rather sensitive topics in which our friends on the Left tend to react emotionally. Can you keep your cool and read all the way through?

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The central issue here is that we are shifting from a “resistance stance” in which the Left is seen as reason and morality resisting the unjust structures of the world knowing that “another world is possible”, to a developmental stance, in which the mission is to improve upon the many faulty processes that constitute the world order. Basically, the Alt-Left doesn’t believe that you can tear down the existing order to find gold glittering underneath. Instead you must engineer better social, economic and political processes that – over time, and on average – lead to dramatically different results. This stance is no less rebellious than that of the traditional Left, because the transformations proposed are indeed very radical and difficult to achieve. But it does grant us a more concrete and direct program for change, something to do.

Let’s take a look at some of the distinctions:

Alt-Left culture & politics2

Can you see how a developmental perspective is the common thread? For instance, following Chomsky’s anti-imperialism is good for pointing out some of the crimes committed by the US in its foreign policy, but it largely leaves us wondering what should come in its stead. Should the international community and democratic countries always refrain from the messy business of intervening in conflicts and humanitarian crises? The issue here is to develop the rationale, transparency, accountability and overall quality of international interventions. This would require the military forces to become much more civilian, much more anthropologically sensitive. You would require a system that curbs misuses of military power, but still allows for necessary humanitarian interventions to take place, and that works in tandem with local cultures, economies and languages. This is a more tenable and world-centric position, one that extends solidarity to all humans.

The same is the case with identity politics. The matter is less to protect minorities from appropriation and to make words taboo, and more to develop the overall psychological security, communication skills and quality of relations within the populations. An important reason that people are so racist and prejudiced in the first place is that they have feelings of frustrations and feel insecure. Likewise, a major reason that many of us are especially vulnerable to the discrimination of others is that they feel a lack of personal and cultural recognition. If people are generally better at giving, receiving and understanding such recognition – and feel that they can afford to lend their recognition more generously – this will make such issues less hurtful to many people. Research has shown that prejudice is closely tied with the level of personal development that people have attained: more psychologically developed people who have more of their inner needs met are less likely to be prejudiced. So the Alt-Left puts larger emphasis on these deeper issues. If you don’t feel the need to cling to a certain identity (national, ethnic or class) you are generally more open-minded. This is behavioral science. And people can develop.

All of this of course requires planned efforts resting on rigid science and continuous evaluation, which is why it cannot be primarily up to the grassroots communitarianism. It simply requires too much understanding of social science to spontaneously crop up by itself: how to devise schools that generate greater personal development, etc. Hence, the governmental level of governance must also be involved, together with the international community of scholars. This is why the Alt-Left generally works at that level, even while being sympathetic and sensitive towards the profound social value that can be generated at the community level involvement. But even so, there needs to be institutions and social environments that help such experimental zones to grow and multiply. This has been fruitfully discussed by the legal theorist Roberto Unger.

The same developmental perspective is applied to global migration. The (correct) moral intuition of the Left is that people should have the right to settle where they please, and that resistance to immigration in rich countries is often an expression of racism and defense of the interests of local people. The Alt-Left position is to view global migration in its current form as a broken system that hurts a lot of people and creates pockets of low social sustainability – the often disenfranchised children of refugees in rich countries. The Alt-Left position holds that this situation cannot be remedied only by curbing racism and discrimination within the rich countries, but that a truly transnational order of migration must be put into place. This system must respect the fears and misgivings that people have about migration in its current form and seek to establish sustainable levels of migration. Because the acceptance of refugees is often an expensive affair that pulls resources from foreign aid, it would make more sense for receiver countries to actively accept refugees close to their homes – and fly them to the host country. This would make possible a more rational prioritizing of the most vulnerable groups, curb the human smuggling industry, and make possible the pooling of greater resources to aid in the zones where people are most vulnerable. It would also be much easier to find public support and fewer fears would be there to be played upon by rightwing populists. Long story, this one. Let us return to it again in future posts.

Likewise, a developmental perspective is applied to the global system of prostitution and drugs. Amnesty International recently adopted a policy recommendation for decriminalization of prostitution. The Swedish model of criminalizing the Johns only is an interesting case study, but it still forces the prostitution to be part of the illegal economy and hence hinders organization of labor rights, protective legislation and so forth. Again, the overall suffering of these groups in society may be better served by an overall increase in gender equality, social security and transparency. Applied correctly, this may work against human trafficking. A corresponding approach to drugs and narcotics holds that the drugs aren’t going away, so that the best path ahead is to legalize, regulate and make transparent the market – which lowers global crime and increases the opportunities for damage reduction and help with addiction. Also, long story. All this feeds into the larger legal paradigms of restorative justice and therapeutic jurisprudence – i.e. that the legal system should be geared towards reducing suffering and repairing social relations according to best evidence based practices.

The issue, then, is not to fight the power structures, so much as to consciously and actively guide the overall development of human lives and relations. This perspective extends to gender equality, in which the Alt-Left leaves behind the antagonistic forms of feminism (“crush patriarchy!” etc.) in favor of a stance in which women’s, men’s and LGBT issues are all taken into account and taken seriously. The idea here is that you can improve upon the general quality of sexual, family and gender relations by addressing these issues in tandem with one another, rather than in opposition to one another. If we, for instance, leave out men’s issues, we leave out crucial parts of the behavioral equations that mess up people’s lives. Hence, an inclusive and progressive gender politics must see how these different perspectives of life – and their respective sufferings – can often overlap. A very important tool for this end is a widely expanded sexual education of the general population. Again, it’s a multiperspectival developmental issue. Touchy subject, this one. You can read more in this post.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more Alt-Left perspectives.

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Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, and the upcoming books ‘Nordic Ideology’ and ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of World History’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here.


8 thoughts on “Alt-Left Stance on Culture & Politics

  • Anders Nilsson

    I read more and more good descriptions of our history and the situation we are in now. This is also ok, when it comes to that. I agree in general with criticism of “old left”. But where is the suggestion of how societies can be organized better in future, in all this. What is “alt left” promoting, except a wishlist within the capitalist frame. Wishes that we for a reason we get further and further from the in the current system. The situation in the world 2017, is mainly a result of the combination of capitalism and time. Capitalism results sooner or later in “neoliberalism” and less democracy. Power gets into the hands of corporations that are unable to take any social or ecological responsibility. “Corporate social responsibility” was again more PR, than real”. Capitalism is over time making more and more private, and less common. Can capitalism really evolve into “economy of happiness” or something sustainable at all. How do “economy of happiness” allocate resources? Capitalism promotes conflicts and makes collaboration difficult. I hope to see something more substancial in “alt left” otherwise it not much more then new set of wishes and complaints of old left and old right. Metamoderna could be a good startingpoint, but I cant see more than that yet. I think “common transition” has com further when it comes to practical suggestions for real change. I think “participatory economy” or “democratic economy” (market socialism) is worth getting to know, and to participate in developing.

  • matt

    “What is “alt left” promoting, except a wishlist within the capitalist frame.”

    Noone knows since term as well as the definition is all made up as an angry reaction to the term “alt right”. I think this guy means social liberals?

  • Anders Nilsson

    Matt! If you are uncomfortable with the word capitalism, you can use another word for the economic structure that is dominating the world in our time. But it, still there. We live in a certain economic structure, and it is not a law by nature. It’s made up. We can make up a better one, that makes more sense in the time we live in now. I think it’s crucial we do. The way economy is functioning and working for us now, is different from 20 years ago, it’s different from 100 years ago, and now we are consuming resources in nature faster then ever. We produce and consume more. It’s still “party time” when it comes to buying stuff, but the resources is getting harder to come by in nature. Some of the resources is getting scarce. Like even water in some areas. The reason the few of us with capital gamble their money in the finance market, is that it’s more uncertain now to invest in production. We use up resources increasingly fast, because otherwise the economic system will backfire.
    Capitalism can not economize resources in nature good enough (if at all). There are no strong enough institutions in this system that can decide to cut down on use of fossil fuel because of the climate situation, or for the reason that oil would be very valuable for the next generations.
    / The guy, who means what he says (nothing else)

  • Keith Parkins

    The distinctions are artificial.

    The description of Noam Chomsky I do not recognise. Yes, he may be anti-Imperialism, he is not anti-US.

    To interfere in Iraq, based upon a pack of lies, was wrong, and as we have seen has led to disintegration of the Middle East, a descent into chaos and a breeding ground for ISIS.

    The intervention in disintegrating Yugoslavia, precipitated the ethnic cleansing, was not a reaction to it. This was well documented by Noam Chomsky.

    Support for pariah states in the Middle East, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, with money and weapons, only inflames.

    That is not to argue non-intervention.

    We intervene when there is a humanitarian crisis.

    We should intervene where ethnic cleansing or genocide.

    Global corporations are currently engaged in a land grab in Africa.

    IMF intervenes when it acts as the debt enforcer for global banks, the international equivalent of the mafia.

    EU has interfered in Ukraine, which has led to a civil war, Putin annexing Crimea and almost led to WWIII.

    EU is disintegrating.

    If we sit back and do nothing, we are in danger of 2008 being our 1929, we are already seeing a rise of Fascism.

    https://keithpp.wordpress.com/2016/06/28/is-2008-our-1929/

    Destruction of Greece by EU using ECB as the mechanism was not acceptable. And yet the Left sat back and did nothing.

    https://medium.com/dark-mountain/force-ecb-to-release-thegreekfiles-caf3158a515a

    https://medium.com/dark-mountain/greek-crisis-is-the-canary-in-the-mine-de51b5807cc2

    EU is a rigid hierarchical structure. That should come as no surprise as it was created as a cartel for Big Business, a democracy free zone.

    Such structures are brittle and unable to withstand shocks. Brittle structures shatter.

    EU was unable to handle the 2008 banking crisis, unable to handle the election of Syriza in Greece.

    EU is not Europe.

    EU has to be replaced with a network of cooperating sovereign democratic countries.

    https://medium.com/dark-mountain/create-a-europe-of-cooperating-democratic-sovereign-countries-a870b5cfadc2

    If we fail to act, we will be overtaken by events, a descent into chaos and Fascism.

    The Old Left Parties are corrupt and rotten to the core. We see this across Europe, in UK with Labour, in US with Democrats.

    In Spain and Greece new radical parties, Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece.

    In UK, a new leader for Labour, a mass influx of new radical members to support the leader, but the corrupt Labour Establishment still has a stranglehold on the party.

    In US, corrupt Democrats handed the election to Trump on a plate.

    Political parties are 19th century anachronisms, self serving entities,self-serving careerist politicians, offering a fake choice to the electorate, the choice between Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the electorate reduced to ballot fodder.

    There is no role for political parties at local level.

    At local level we have to follow the example of Spain, of Madrid, Barcelona and A Coruña, where local citizens have seized control of their local Town Halls, then opened up to public participation, then networked.

    https://medium.com/dark-mountain/creating-a-network-of-independent-self-functioning-city-states-8786896cd08b

    https://medium.com/dark-mountain/democracy-as-a-complex-adaptive-system-c6d81f450b92

    We also have to realise as they have in Barcelona, seizing control of the Town Hall is only one step, necessary but not sufficient. We also have to change the way the town functions, that it is orientated to people and the environment, the focus on small businesses and open coops. It builds resilience into the system, able to survive shocks. In other words treat the city as an Urban Commons.

    https://medium.com/dark-mountain/rethinking-the-commons-e4f5418f2902

    Ahora Madrid has created a software platform for public participation, Decide Madrid. They could have placed a contract with a software consultancy, paid a million euros or more. Instead, they developed as Open Source Software, all could participate in its development, it was then available for other cities to use.

    Decide Madrid, public participation on-line. And those who are not able, visit a local Town Hall office.

    https://decide.madrid.es/

    In Barcelona, they realised it did not start from seizing the Town hall, it started with grassroots community groups.

    Also in Barcelona and Catalonia, a long tradition of coops.

    http://commonstransition.org/catalan-integral-cooperative/

    In Ecuador, FLOK Society, a plan to transition to a mature Peer to Peer Economy, to “fundamentally re-imagine Ecuador”, based on the principles of open networks, peer production and a commons of knowledge, creating an open platform for open technology-focused policy making, enabled by a combination of open technical infrastructures and democratic decision making. .

    http://commonstransition.org/flok-society/

    • Hanzi Freinacht Post author

      Hello Mr. Parkins,

      There is more to unpack here than I can reasonably do justice to in a concise reply. I think it is most appropriate for me to only thank you for putting more flesh on the bone concerning these issues.

  • Keith Parkins

    Last summer I attended a garden party organised by a local Labour Party.

    I have no idea why I was invited. Probably a mistake.

    I thought I would be a social outcast, but no.

    I had an interesting conversation with new members, only joined because they supported the new leader Jeremy Corbyn, and longstanding members who were looking forward to change, turning Labour into a progressive party.

    One thing they were all opposed to, the corrupt Labour Establishment.

    The local councillors typified all that was wrong with Labour, elected by run down areas, took it for granted, regarded as a sinecure for life, never acted for those areas.

    A story that could be repeated across the country.

    Not long after, I was blocked from all their social media accounts. But not before I was subjected to a vicious, unprovoked attack by one of their useless local councillors.

  • Ali Sourlis

    There is a real demand for an alternative to the current right wing media Cartel. It is a truth that the largest part of the planet’s news provision is owned by right wing capitalists. Their purpose is to spread the cause of capitalism and maintain the world’s gap between wealthy and those in need. Left Insider offers left wing features from reliable news sites such as Left Futures and Left Foot Forward etc. We all own the birthright to maximise our own qualities and we all have the duty to assist others maximise theirs.

    http://leftinsider.uk

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