Sunday, January 28, 2018

Nancy Fraser — From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump—and Beyond

In today’s widespread rejection of politics as usual, an objective systemwide crisis has found its subjective political voice. The political strand of our general crisis is a crisis of hegemony.
Donald Trump is the poster child for this hegemonic crisis. But we cannot understand his ascent unless we clarify the conditions that enabled it. And that means identifying the worldview that Trumpism displaced and charting the process through which it unraveled. The indispensable ideas for this purpose come from Antonio Gramsci. “Hegemony” is his term for the process by which a ruling class naturalizes its domination by installing the presuppositions of its own worldview as the common sense of society as a whole. Its organizational counterpart is the “hegemonic bloc”: a coalition of disparate social forces that the ruling class assembles and through which it asserts its leadership. If they hope to challenge these arrangements, the dominated classes must construct a new, more persuasive common sense or “counterhegemony” and a new, more powerful political alliance or “counterhegemonic bloc.”
To these ideas of Gramsci, we must add one more. Every hegemonic bloc embodies a set of assumptions about what is just and right and what is not. Since at least the mid-twentieth century in the United States and Europe, capitalist hegemony has been forged by combining two different aspects of right and justice—one focused on distribution, the other on recognition. The distributive aspect conveys a view about how society should allocate divisible goods, especially income. This aspect speaks to the economic structure of society and, however obliquely, to its class divisions. The recognition aspect expresses a sense of how society should apportion respect and esteem, the moral marks of membership and belonging. Focused on the status order of society, this aspect refers to its status hierarchies.
Together distribution and recognition constitute the essential normative components out of which hegemonies are constructed. Putting this idea together with Gramsci’s, we can say that what made Trump and Trumpism possible was the breakup of a previous hegemonic bloc—and the discrediting of its distinctive normative nexus of distribution and recognition. By parsing the construction and breakup of that nexus, we can clarify not only Trumpism, but also the prospects, post Trump, for a counterhegemonic bloc that could resolve the crisis. Let me explain.…
The alliance between the economically liberal right and socially and politically liberal left effected by the New Democrats under Bill Clinton and (and New Labor in the UK under Tony Blair).

Fraser's diagnosis is better than her therapy. Deep fissures are not easily overcome. They must be worked through. This is a dialectical process involving confrontation of both ideas and ideals, and the people holding them.

American Affairs
From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump—and Beyond
Nancy Fraser | professor of philosophy and politics at the New School for Social Research

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