Marxist feminism as a critique of intersectionality

I just finished reading a fascinating critique of intersectionality by Eve Mitchell, which can be found here. I want to first go over her main argument, and then go into her proposed solution (Marxist feminism) and why I think a more Gramscian approach would be more useful.

Mitchell’s main point in the article is that intersectionality relies on identity politics, which is a bourgeois and individualistic approach to struggle that ignores the materiality underpinning gender and gender relations.

In order to understand “identity” and “intersectionality theory,” we must have an understanding of the movement of capital (meaning the total social relations of production in this current mode of production) that led to their development in the 1960s and 1970s in the US.

Under capitalism, new gender relations developed, including:

  • The development of the wage (theorized as a tool of coercion);
  • The separation of production and reproduction (reproduction meaning more than having babies – also housework, taking care of family, etc) – reproductive labour was generally “free” while productive labour received a wage. This has been theorized as the ‘patriarchy of the wage’ since women tended to be in the reproductive sector;
  • The contradictory development of the nuclear family – on the one hand, the nuclear family was strengthened through the gendered division of labour, while on the other hand it was weakened by the separation of men from women all day long while they were at work;
  • The development of identity and alienation – “Women and people of color experience something similar in the development of capital; a shift from engaging in certain types of labor to engaging in feminized, or racially relegated forms of labor. To put it another way, under capitalism, we are forced into a box: we are a bus driver, or a hair stylist, or a woman. These different forms of labor, or different expressions of our life-activity (the way in which we interact with the world around us) limit our ability to be multi-sided human beings.”

Eve Mitchell’s critique thus revolves around this concept of identity and the alienation that accompanies it. Mitchell rightly points out that intersectionality arose in the US as a response to the gendered and racialized division of labour:

To be black meant to be objectified, relegated into one form of labor: producing and reproducing blackness. Black Power was therefore the struggle against the alienation and one-sidedness of blackness, a struggle to liberate labor, releasing its multi-sidedness, unifying labor with its conscious will.

She argues that women organized in order to break free from the alienation of ‘womanhood.’

Since women’s use of their bodies is a unique form of alienated labor for women under capitalism, it is historically the site of struggle for liberation.

This came up against the tendency in second wave feminism (and first wave I would argue) to focus on reforming capitalism as a means of emancipation: ‘equal wages for equal work.’ Both of these approaches used identity politics as a means of challenging oppressive systems. In other words, women organized on the basis of womanhood.

This continued with the theory of intersectionality. It was assumed that shared experiences formed as a bond between different kinds of women – “some individuals or groups are differentiated from other individuals or groups based on their experiences. This can be cut along many different identity lines.” Moreover, being oppressed puts you in a privileged position within the struggle – similar to the idea of standpoint theory, which argues that marginalized people have a more ‘authentic’ view on social reality, since they see both the workings of power and the effects of it (on the marginalized). This means that only the marginalized can write about their own experiences.

Mitchell’s main critique is that intersectionality is unable to overcome identity politics, and is in essence a bourgeois ideology. Mitchell agrees that it is essential to identify as a woman, or as black, or as queer – but that is not enough. 

Identity politics argues, “I am a black man,” or “I am a woman,” without filling out the other side of the contradiction “…and I am a human.”

Identity politics assumes that the basis for struggle is an equal distribution of individualism. “This is a bourgeois ideology in that it replicates the alienated individual invented and defended by bourgeois theorists and scientists (and materially enforced) since capitalism’s birth.” In other words, the increased individualism that is a result of the crisis of capitalism manifests itself in identity politics – even by those who claim to be anti-capitalist. Mitchell claims that ” theories of an “interlocking matrix of oppressions,” simply create a list of naturalized identities, abstracted from their material and historical context.”

She is not the first person to make this critique of intersectionality. Judith Butler argues that the ‘etc.’ that often follows at the end of lists of social categories signals an “embarrassed admission of exhaustion” as well as an “illimitable process of signification.” Nina Yuval-Davis disagrees with Butler, arguing that such a critique is only valid within discourse of identity politics, whereas within intersectional research it is necessary to separate the “different analytical levels in which social divisions need to be examined…the ways different social divisions are constructed by, and intermeshed in, each other in specific historical conditions.” Yuval-Davis also questions the critique that the process of breaking down is illimitable by arguing that in specific situations, certain social divisions are more important than others. Moreover, relationships between positionings are central and not reducible to the same ontological level. Yuval-Davis’ call for focusing on the historical conditions that construct social divisions is perhaps one way of combining mainstream intersectionality with Mitchell’s call for a more class-based approach. I will come back to this later.

Mitchell’s solution to the problem she outlines is a form of Marxist feminism.

To be a “woman” under capitalism means something very specific; it is even more specific for women in the US in 2013; it is even more specific for black lesbians in the US in 2013; it is even more specific for individual women. But, in a universal sense, to be a “woman” means to produce and reproduce a set of social relations through our labor, or self-activity.

In essence, Mitchell is grounding identities within the labour process and material basis of production. Her critique is thus not that intersectionality is wrong, but that it is incomplete. She points out that gender relations are real and concrete – an indirect critique of more constructivist views that have tended to dominate intersectional feminist work, especially of the postmodern and poststructural kind. There is a materiality underpinning gender and gender relations, and this materiality is often ignored by intersectional feminists. 

Moreover, the individualization of the struggle that results from an intersectional approach that relies on identity politics takes away from the universality of the class struggle: “Identity politics reproduces the appearance of an alienated individual under capitalism and so struggle takes the form of equality among groups at best, or individualized forms of struggle at worse.” Reducing the struggle to “equal rights” or “equal representation” reinforces identity as a static category. While this is an important critique, I think the difficulty results from the near impossibility of researching identities in a fluid manner – something intersectional theorists are clearly struggling with, especially within an academy in which positivism still dominates.

I would perhaps suggest that a Gramscian approach to feminism may be even more useful than the Marxist variety she proposes. Yuval-Davis’ suggestion to locate the historical conditions that construct social divisions reminded me of the Gramscian tendency to centre historical processes in any analysis. The Gramscian assumption that production creates the material basis for all forms of social existence functions as a means of centering materiality. What is unique about Gramsci, however, was his insistence on looking at both materiality and ideas – “Ideas and materialism are always bound together, mutually reinforcing one another, and not reducible to one another.” In other words, understanding gender means unpacking the ways in which gender as an ideology resulting from the material forces of production produces and is produced by gender as a set of ideas that are constructed. This, by definition, requires a historical approach. Context is important, as is clear from his emphasis on historical specificity.

A Gramscian approach would also attempt to understand how hegemony “filters through” societal structures, including the economy, culture, gender, ethnicity, class and ideology. This kind of approach is already intersectional, in the sense that hegemony is an over-arching reality, based on specific material modes of production, that works through different social structures, of which gender is one. In a sense, then, Gramsci already spoke of understanding gender as more than simply womanhood or manhood, but rather as one societal structures among many.

A philosophy of praxis, common among Gramscians, also favours reflection that begins in experience – another similarity with intersectionality. Moreover, Gramsci’s concept of hegemony has long influenced feminists working on patriarchy and the ways in which consent (on the part of those marginalized by patriarchy) functions. Many feminists who have used the concept of hegemony do not see it as a form of class rule, however, which takes us back to Mitchell’s critique: the point is to locate feminist struggles within the broader class struggle. The conceptualization of hegemony could also provide a way for feminists to establish a counter-hegemony: “a popular mobilisation capable of highlighting the contradictory and exploitative nature of hegemonic ideas and arrangements, providing an alternative mode of organisation that is ethical and inclusive” (Beth Howieson).

A focus on hegemony would also address the problem of identity politics. Perhaps it was put best by Margaret Ledwith, who pointed out that mini-narratives had displaced meta-narratives, which was in one sense positive, but in another served to ‘individualize’ struggles – precisely the critique Mitchell makes. Gramsci’s view of the state as including civil and political society is also useful for feminists, as he points out that the distinction between civil and political society is artificial. This is mirrored in the feminist claim that ‘the personal is political.’ Finally, a Gramscian approach would also serve as a response to critics of Marxism who claim that Marxists ignore gender and focus excessively on class. Gramsci’s approach tends to be much less economistic than Marx’s, and his focus on both materiality and ideas is a testament to this. Moreover, even when he speaks of ‘production’ it is meant in the broadest way possible: it includes the production and reproduction of knowledge and social relations, morals and institutions that are prerequisites to the production of physical goods (as has been expanded on by many neo-Gramscians, including Robert Cox).

Of course, it is important to note that Gramsci himself did not focus on gender, nor do most of the scholars who use this approach. Moreover, the Eurocentrism implicit in much of his work is problematic. Nevertheless, I think a feminist approach that combines Gramscian insights with postcolonial feminist ones could be an extremely useful way forward.

In conclusion, the limits of the identity politics that are present in the intersectionality approach can be addressed by adopting a Gramscian approach to feminism that on the one hand makes materiality and capital central, while on the other hand emphasizing the production of knowledge, social relations and morals and how these intersect with social structures such as gender.

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Development discourses

I’m going to be attending a class on the history of development for the next few months, and I thought it would be interesting to share some of the discussions and debates on here. The first lecture was about the meanings of development. The point was made that much of development today is informed by a liberal perspective. I’ve often been confused when it comes to liberalism. Modern liberals have to be some of the most inflexible & dogmatic people I know, but I’ve also met amazing intellectuals who are inspired by classical liberal theory. The lecturer made an interesting distinction that explains this difference. He said liberalism in the days of John Locke was quite revolutionary and leftist, whereas today it is much more conservative, especially when it comes to liberal economics.

Another important point (that Europeans seriously need to get with) is that European don’t realize how much of the wealth collected (stolen) during colonialism made Europe’s economic take-off possible. Could Europe have gone through its economic take-off without this wealth? And yet somehow Africa and the rest of the world are expected to experience the same take-off *without* having access to that much stolen wealth. Plus, to make things worse, many Europeans somehow attribute their current economic wealth to efficiency, good work ethic, good cultural values, etc; and the bad economic situation elsewhere to laziness, bad cultural habits, etc. Yes, of course it has nothing to do with colonial history. Of course.

A final interesting question is how to label non-western countries. Developing vs developed world? Third world? Global South? They all seem to have negative connotations. I especially hate the “developing” title, b/c it assumes that some countries are advanced & others are lagging behind. While this may be true economically, the developing/developed binary seems to imply more than just economics.

Black Gold

 

I went to see an interesting movie today called Black Gold, about the production of coffee in Ethiopia and how it relates to global trade and cooperatives. What struck me the most is how coffee is the second most traded commodity worldwide, and yet Ethiopia, a major producer of coffee, is one of the poorest countries in the world. And this appears to be a trend: the more naturally rich a country is, the poorer they are in terms of GDP. Congo is another example of this.

There are around 2 billion cups of coffee drunk each day, and yet the price of coffee has fallen drastically in the past few decades. This is because corporations have taken over the market and so basically coffee farmers are forced to accept the “market price” for their coffee, which is almost nothing. Many can’t even survive anymore, despite the fact that more coffee is being drunk and coffee is such a major commodity.

Then there was a part of the movie about the World Trade Organizations, probably up there with the IMF and World Bank when it comes to useless organizations that are killing millions of people. They discussed how the IMF and World Bank has forced African governments to STOP subsidies to their farmers, while the EU and US continues to massively subsidize their own farmers. But since all the negotiations at the WTO happen behind closed doors among the powerful countries, Africa is usually left out and continues to lose more and more economic and political clout by the year. One woman described the WTO as a “power-based association.”

The movie also stated that Africa’s trade has now fallen to 1% of global trade. How the hell is that even possible when so much of Africa’s resources are being shipped to other countries? From diamonds to cobalt to coffee, it is virtually impossible that the trade amounts to 1%. Does that mean that most of what leaves Africa is stolen, not traded?

On the whole, the movie was yet another description of the current capitalist neo-colonial system we are living in. It did make me realize, though, that one solution is the cooperative. I have been following someone on Twitter (@thebrinos) who tweets a lot about cooperatives and their benefits, and this movie also tried to portray them as extremely useful as they cut out the middle-men who take a lot of money for their “services.” Could cooperatives be one way out of this mess, since it doesn’t look like capitalism will crumble anytime soon?

Occupy the World

I was having a conversation with my best friend yesterday about the Occupy protests that have been spreading across the globe, and we talked about how scary it must be for those in power that these protests have gone global. For generations now, humans have been divided (often purposely) by sometimes artificial constructs like race, religion, gender, nationality, ideology, sexual orientation. For generations we have learned to see each other through prisms of identity that don’t say much about a person but are easy and neat. Categories have become the currency of identity and communication, and it is enough for us to know which boxes people fit into for us to judge them and decide whether we want to know more or not.

The last decade has seen an intensification of identity politics, with many countries across the globe becoming more nationalistic and more fanatic. The “Other” is an even stronger enemy today than it was decades ago, and this has divided us even more. Through all of this, it is easy to forget that there is more that unites than divides us, and that most of what divides us has been socially constructed for political ends.

So what is happening now across the globe must be absolutely terrifying for those controlling a system that thrives on divisions. October 15 saw Occupy events all over the world, from Tokyo to New York; Amsterdam to Seoul; Rome to Boston; Madrid to Costa Rica. Millions of people across the globe came together to protest the same issues: capitalism, a global political system that is destroying people, livelihoods, cultures, human relations, just so that the rich 1% can continue to accumulate wealth while everybody else falls deeper and deeper into debt, starvation, hopelessness.

Did the 1% ever expect this movement to come? Did they even think that people could unite, above all divisions, against a brutal economic/political/social system that is literally killing people as we speak?

Did they expect people to KNOW what was happening, to be AWARE of what the system was doing to them? Did they not realize that people were just exhausted from fighting for daily survival, tired from working working working, and so did not have the time or energy to rise up?

But this time they were pushed too far and it happened.

Starting with the revolutions in the Arab world and now with the Occupy movement, people are showing that they KNEW, they were AWARE, and now they are fighting back. The patriarchal, neo-colonial, capitalist system needs to come down. We shouldn’t be afraid of what comes after it – is chaos such a bad thing? We shouldn’t convince ourselves that capitalism and dictatorship are better because they are the enemy we know best. Humans are infinitely creative and capable, and we have seen that first with the revolutions in the Arab world and North Africa, and now with the Occupy protests. The world is changing, and it’s scary. But it’s also very, very exciting.

I had dinner with one of my favourite Dutch people last night, a woman who is one of the most interesting people I’ve met so far. We were discussing the economic crisis and she brought up a really interesting point. She said that people have been working non-stop since WW2, literally round the clock, constant working. People’s lives have become about economics, salaries, wages, and their jobs. But still, in 2011, we find ourselves facing a series of major economic crises. So her question was: why haven’t young people realized that the system just doesn’t work? We are all told that if we work work work non-stop, the economy will perform perfectly and everything will be fine. But people have been working, and yet we’re hitting a major crisis.

I thought this was a really interesting point I hadn’t thought of before. Is working this hard the answer? Aside from the mental and physical strain, and the fact that we are basically all slaves to a capitalist neo-colonial system, does it even work??

But have we realized this? If anything we are MORE worried and stressed about finding jobs, networking, forming a career, being “successful.” The rat-race is even more intense than it was 30 years ago, even though the system isn’t really working for the majority of people.

When people see problems as exceptions rather than structural, we naively accept shallow explanations and solutions. The answer to Europe’s problems is not to bail everyone out (although it is necessary in the short-term). The answer is to critically question the economic system that brought these countries to the brink of collapse. The problems appear to be symptomatic and structural, not random or due to human mistakes.

I can feel myself being pulled into the same system. Once I finish my MA life will be about work, survival, success. It will be about being productive, about cultivating shallow social relationships through networking so I can use people to get ahead, and it will be about making money, saving money, spending money. But do we have a choice?

How different are states?

I just read an interesting article in the Guardian about the global protests. It quoted Gopal as saying:

Gopal says she was struck by the diffuseness and lack of direction in the recent British riots, contrasting it with protests in the Arab world, where “a focus and self-awareness that comes from those countries’ recent history of anti-colonial struggle has been transmitted from one generation to the next”.

This is a very interesting idea I hadn’t thought of before. Of course there is no doubt that Arabs are facing dictatorships that are willing to kill thousands to stay in power, whereas in the west people are facing democracies willing to kill thousands (often non-westerners) to stay in power. So there is a limit to what the British state can do, as opposed to Syria for example. But still – the protests have many commonalities, among them anti-capitalism and an end to police brutality and abuse.

Two common motifs run through this year’s rebellions. First has been the collapse in authority of traditional institutions; from Mubarak’s cult of personality to the seemingly incessant scandals engulfing Britain’s arbiters of political, financial and cultural control – bankers, MPs, and the Murdoch media empire. The crumpling is contagious, fuelling rebellions in the most of places.

In England, Cameron is has used social media (BBM, Twitter) to track down those “responsible” for the riots, as well as images from the thousands of hidden cameras around the country. The police are now going door to door in many of the poor estates arresting young Brits. More than 2000 are already in police custody and who knows what this number will be by the end of it. Many in the Arab world are laughing at the hypocrisy, and rightly so. Yesterday, I read this article on al-Jazeerawith the following headline:

California transit provider interrupted wireless mobile service to hamper protesters angry over police shooting.

Again, the hypocrisy is laughable. The “civilized” west that “would never block internet or use rubber bullets” has now done both in the span of one week. It reveals that states are not as different from one another as we think. When threatened, they will use any amount of violence necessary.  Arab states were more at risk because they knew they were illegitimate, whereas western states, hiding behind a veneer of democracy, knew they could get away with more.  But not anymore. The global economic crisis means that no government is safe, because the system behind them is crumbling. Whether its a democrat or a republican; a right-winger or a left-winger; an Islamist or a secularist – the system behind all of them, the neo-colonial, patriarchal, capitalist system – is still in place, and is currently being brought down by millions of amazing, brave youth around the world.

Back to Gopal’s quote: are the uprisings in the Arab world more focused because they are more aware of how corrupt the system is? And is this awareness due to their recent experiences with colonialism and anti-colonialism? Having grown up in Zambia, and then lived in Egypt, I became very aware of how the global system is screwing over countries in the South. And then having lived in the Netherlands, I became very aware of how most Dutch people are ignorant of this fact.

In Europe, citizens are taught (brainwashed) to accept authority, whether it be the media or the state. Most Dutch people I speak to trust the news and trust the government, especially on major issues, and especially on foreign-related issues (including immigrants).  This makes it very difficult for me to imagine a Dutch revolution, when the time comes (and it will – more and more cuts are being made, and the EU and Euro are falling apart).  I think people in England were at a different point than those in the Netherlands, because the social inequality was much higher.  Still, did the rioters/looters have a common aim, or set of aims? Did they know how to articulate the anger they were feeling? Or were they unsure of who to blame? Yes, there is police brutality: but who controls the police? The state. Yes, there are no jobs and rising prices; but who controls the economy? The state. And who controls the state? The capitalist system.

While I think the quote is interesting, I wouldn’t say this is the only reason. Many Egyptians are aware of neocolonialism, but many aren’t: otherwise how would neocolonialism work? Similarly, many people in England are aware that they need to target the state and capitalism, and in fact I would argue that they did by looting. More than 2 billion pounds in damage – in a way they are speaking to capitalism in the only language it understands: profits and losses.

London & global capitalism

Watching the London “riots” has been an interesting experience.  My first instinct was that capitalism was at the bottom of this: people were sick of austerity measures, lack of opportunities, cuts in social spending, job losses, and a media that is shoving consumerism down their throats 24/7.

What apparently started out with the police shooting a black father of 4 in London has resulted in riots, looting, and protests across the country.  The mainstream media has focused on the damage the looters have caused and on the general illegality and violence of the events, as opposed to addressing the root issues/causes.  Here are excerpts from some articles I’ve read:

Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world (here).

Britain is becoming an increasingly unequal place. The pay gap is fast approaching Victorian levels and social mobility has been declining since the 1950s. Neoliberalism has only deepened a growing social crisis over the last 30 years. Its legacy was a global financial system which exploded so catastrophically in 2007-8. And the ruling class response to this? Austerity for the people, not for the real culprits – the bankers and big business. The story has been the same across Europe and in the United States, which are plunging into the biggest crisis since the 2008 recession (here).

All governments are kept in power by a combination of coercion and consent. The welfare state, though it only came about because of mass struggle from below, has given capitalist governments a veneer of legitimacy, as well as acting as a counterbalance to the corrosive effects of free market economics. Now that neoliberalism is sacrificing public facilities to save international finance and the banks, governments are resorting to ever more coercive measures (here).

So there are literally protests all over the globe, many of them economic in nature. What does this mean? Is capitalism finally crumbling down on itself? But then what?

Today’s youth have fewer opportunities & chances than our parents had, despite the crap we are fed that with time we have developed.  We will face a huge economic downturn, increased consumerism, increased influence of the media, and hundreds of social problems.  Xenophobia is increasing GLOBALLY, and governments & states have more power than ever before. Oh, and the earth is disintegrating.

Protests in Chile, Israel, England, Egypt, Tunisia – everywhere people are beginning to stand up to capitalism. It’s about time.

Some thoughts

I’ve been in Cairo for a week and a bit now, and until today wordpress wouldn’t let me write a new blog post :S Looks like it’ll finally work today!

A few things I’ve been thinking about lately…

I wonder how affected designer brands and the luxury sector in general are doing during this recession. Walking through malls in Cairo makes it look like they are doing just fine. Is this because the rich haven’t really been affected by the crisis, and in fact have probably continued to make more and more money? Following the revolution in Egypt, where many shops got vandalized, Starbucks re-opened weeks afterwards. I wonder whether small, family-owned businesses were able to do the same, whether they could afford it? Feels like the sad reality is that our current economic system is killing the poor; making the middle class struggle to just survive, and continues to make the rich richer.

Finding out more about US presidential candidates made me realize how fast the American empire is crumbling.  The economic crisis was the beginning; the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were another sign; but the sheer stupidity, racism, bigotry and homophobia found in the election campaigns are just ridiculous, and show why the US was never going to be an empire or superpower for long.  While large parts of the world are becoming more aware of neo-colonialism and societal problems, it seems like many Americans are becoming more and more racist, Islamophobic, and petty. Focusing on things like birth certificates and the building of mosques says a lot about current discourses in America.

Then again, Europe isn’t much better. On my plane ride from Amsterdam to Cairo there was a Dutch guy coming to “help Egyptians choose who to vote for.” In classic Orientalist style he was very worried about the “tension” between Muslims and Christians, and the “threat” of the Muslim Brotherhood. I was dying to ask him why he was even going to Egypt.  I would say Dutch people are in desperate need of help when it comes to “choosing who to vote for” – Wilders? Really?

Why does extreme poverty exist?

The IMF & Arab Spring

“Could someone please arrest the head of the IMF for screwing the poor for 60 years?” Paul Kingsnorth.

I recently read that the IMF offered to make several loans to Egypt to speed up its post-revolution economic recovery. My immediate reaction was dread. No country has ever taken a loan from the IMF and survived. My personal theory is that the IMF (and World Bank) are there to make sure that neo-colonialism is kept in place and that no developing country succeeds/does well. I just read a fantastic article on the IMF and Egypt by Austin Mackell, who argues that IMF loans would ruin Egypt & Tunisia even before post-revolution elections take place (link here).

To some extent, though, the IMF is aware that its policies contributed to the desperation that so many Egyptians and Tunisians currently face, and is keen to distance itself from its past.

Beginning in the 1990s, IMF-led structural adjustment programmes saw the privatisation of the bulk of the Egyptian textile industry and the slashing of its workforce from half a million to a quarter-million. What’s more, the workers who were left faced – like the rest of Egypt – stagnant wages as the price of living rocketed. Though you wouldn’t know it from western coverage, the long and gallant struggle of these workers, particularly the strike of textile workers of Mahalla el-Kubra, is credited by many Egyptian activists as a crucial step on the Egyptian people’s path towards revolution.

I think that’s a very important point: the Egyptian revolution did not begin on Jan 25 2011. It began a few years earlier when workers at Mahalla began strikes demanding better wages and benefits. The protests were brutally suppressed, but they were a clear sign that neo-liberalism, which include IMF loans, was ruining the country. In fact the first signs of unrest were in 1977, with the Egyptian bread riots. These riots were a response to the first wave of neo-liberalism, in the form of Sadat opening up the economy (opening it up to be raped, really).

This failure to appreciate the revolutions as a rebellion not just against local dictators, but against the global neo-liberal programme they were implementing with such gusto in their countries, is largely a product of how we on the western left have been unwitting orientalists, and allowed the racist “clash of civilisations” narrative to define our perceptions of the Middle East. We have failed to see the people of the region as natural allies in a common struggle.

This is brilliant! The revolution can’t work if it only happens in a few countries. We ALL need to revolt against the capitalist, patriarchal, neo-liberal system that enslaves us ALL. That’s why it is so amazing to see what is happening in Spain. A global revolution is needed, not just an Arab one.

These new loans from the IMF threaten to bind the newly democratic Egypt and Tunisia in much the same way. Once more, local elites could collaborate with the institutions at the helm of global capitalism to screw the broader population. If this occurs, these revolutions will be robbed of much of their meaning, and a terrible blow will be dealt to the broader Arab spring.

An important question is why the IMF is making back-room deals with the old regime instead of addressing the new players on the Egyptian scene. Hmmm, I wonder. Easier to bribe? control? manipulate?

At this point, taking a loan from the IMF is maybe the worst thing Egypt can do.

Brown skin, white masks

I just began reading Hamid Dabashi’s book Brown Skin, White Masks, which is a fascinating analysis of the role of native informers in the imperial project of the US and Europe.

The best way to extend Fanon’s revolutionary legacy into the contingencies of our own time is to remain awake to the way the ideological machinery of beleaguered capital keeps reinventing itself.

Today, in the age of multi-culturalism, capital needs newer forms of domination, facilitated by homeless, soulless native informers who have taken over the work that the racist Orientalists once performed.

What we are witnessing today is simply a more advanced stage of colonialism, reflecting a more advanced condition of capitalism in its globalized stage, with newer forms of domination in need of a renewed ideological language. It is thus absolutely imperative that we do not counter-fetishize any particular colour-coded mode of ideological domination – black or brown, Jew or Muslim – as a target of moral assassination.

Capital, in the end, is colour-blind and gender-neutral. It wants to produce cheaply and sell massively to the widest possible market, and it could not care less who buys, who sells, who profits, and who suffers the consequences of this treacherous cycle. The service that the native informers provide to the imperialist project is just another disposable commodity in that cycle, like a roll of toilet paper – use it, discard it, and leave.

Brilliant!