By Blair Taylor
From Alterglobalization to Occupy Wall Street: Neoanarchism and the New Spirit of Capitalism The Research Group on Post-Growth Societies, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena Tuesday, September 29th This talk will present an overview of my doctoral research, which examines how political transformations within left social movements have helped to construct a “new spirit of capitalism” that addresses widespread demand for an ethical lifeworld, simultaneously innovating and modernizing while neutralizing critique.
Ideas and practices pioneered by oppositional movements have become mainstream political discourse and consumer habitus; modern capitalism increasingly speaks the same language of its critics: sustainability, fairness, authenticity, freedom. Looking at the cases of the alterglobalization and Occupy Wall Street movements in the United States, I analyze the emergence of their distinctive neoanarchist political orientation and explore its latent affinities with neoliberalism to argue that recuperation – the process of incorporating contentious movements and discourse into power – constitutes an important but overlooked factor in movement decline as well as establishing political legitimacy.
The talk will examine the political logic which animated the shift from New Left Marxism to neoanarchism, offer a critique of the neoanarchist theorists like David Graeber and Simon Critchley based on its resonance with neoliberal concepts, and theorize recuperation as a factor in social movement decline and in the modernization of capitalism’s normative order. Whereas the anti-corporate politics of the alterglobalization movement of the late 90s and early 2000s was reborn as ethical consumption, I suggest that in a post-crisis era, the anti-statist communitarian politics of movements like Occupy Wall Street have also been absorbed into neoliberal policy and discourse.
I argue that the orientation of direct action self-provisioning by non-state actors, increasingly attractive to left and right actors alike, offers a glimpse of a potentially new spirit of capitalism well-tailored to a post-crisis era of “post” or “zombie” neoliberalism. Both theoretical and empirical, the project the project explores how ostensibly oppositional social movements also constitute important resources for political stabilization in contemporary societies.
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