Griftopia and complicity
A guest post at Yves's place on Taibi's Griftopia, and other recent books on financialization and its discontents:
“Griftopia” begins with the story of the rise of the Republican Tea Party movement. Mr. Taibbi sees the rise as a diversionary tactic, focusing the attention of the populace away from the real issues – the grifters, bankers and people that the author dislikes – towards tangential issues – immigration, foreigners and the role of government. But the book itself is diversionary. In resorting to crude “blaming” and “flaming” even the correct targets without a thorough and accurate understanding of the true issues, “Griftopia” cheapens its case and ultimately allows the hated “system” to continue unhindered.
“Griftopia” may fall into its own trap. Its rage and blame perpetuates a lack of understanding of the real causes of the problem. The Roman Caesars understood that the crowd needed bread and games. They also knew that when things went wrong, an occasional sacrifice and crucifixion was the key to maintaining power. The clever vampire squid may have suborned Mr. Taibbi into its service. ....
“Griftopia” and “All the Devils Are Here” do not acknowledge the complicity of everyone in the body politic in the essential financialisation of modern life and the reliance on economic growth. They do not acknowledge the fact that while the grift worked and everyone got richer, everyone remained sanguine about the “system”. No one cared as long as his or her stock portfolios and houses rose in value. No one cared as his or her living standards improved or there was the possibility of improvement
I guess I have problems with "everyone is complicit" as an analytical tool, because it puts kings and lords on the same plane as peasants and artisans. "If only the peasants would die for the cause, kings would be more just." Well, who says? And is tu quoque truly fallacious when a claim of complicity is an implicit demand for action? Then again, perhaps it's not the peasants, or not only the peasants, who need to be willing to die to make the king more just, but the barons and their retainers, as in the Magna Carta or, for that matter, the American Revolution. I don't know.
Anyhow, if complicity is getting to you, you can always practice slow politics by withdrawing from the system of rents; and in New York, you might consider joining the Empty Plates demonstration this afternoon.