Brian Holmes on Mon, 14 May 2001 00:40:28 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Re: Election day!!!

Lorenzo Tauti writes:

"But where are the new oppositions? To make new theories you have to deal 
with an emerging new reality."

So why don't we deal with it?

The new reality seems best characterized as "neoliberal media populism."
It's a hegemony, meaning it knits together various forms of political will
and desire, to create an effective social force.

The neoliberal aspect - proposing business as the model for social
management - obviously gains the allegiance of those who would directly
profit from Berlusconi's election, in terms of money and immunity from
legal pursuit. Tax cuts for the rich and entrepreneurs, relaxed legislation
on business activities, cession of public services to the private sector.
Forza Italia sells a policy mix familiar since Reagan and Thatcher. And for
the small entrepreneur, who'll probably lose by it, it adds the poplist
lure of the "self-made man." Reagan did that too.

But populism is a lot more complex. The best thing I have read about it is
in an early book of essays by Ernesto Laclau, from the late seventies. He
points to a prepolitical stock of emotion-charged ideas and symbols, latent
in a population and reaching back before the modern age, available as a
motivating force to be shaped into very different kinds of social
organizations. This is the stock-in-trade of Fini's Alleanza nazionale, and
in a different way, of Bossi's Legha.

In the case of the Legha in North Italy, the link between neoliberalism and
populism is obvious: images of regional identity are mobilized in support
of an exclusionary process, in the attempt to get rid of the tax burden
imposed by redistribution toward the South, and to keep immigrant labor
without rights, easily exploitable. Populism directly serves capitalist

But where is the link between neoliberalism and the populism of the
post-fascist Alleanza nazionale? The center-right is concerned with
morality, authority, social stability, clientelism. The identity it
promotes is not regional but institutional. It deals more in integration
than exclusion.

Broadcast media spans the gap between neoliberalism and the center-right.
Brodcast media are integrative. Everyone talks about the same thing: you
can have the comedy of "national issues" (cf. the Americans). Broadcast
media are the essential vehicle for the propagation of populism. But at the
same time they are an important business sector. Private broadcast media
have everything to gain from neoliberalism. In Italy they may now become
the dominant force in the country - even worse than in America.

I'm certain we'll see more and more neoliberal media populism, each time in
specific forms, over the years to come. Its impact can already be described
in America, in Austria. The question is what to do about it? That's where
the networked media are important.

In France and Canada, probably elsewhere too, you see a new, but still
mostly national interest in critical left politics that develops through
horizontal, associational forms, outside the broadcast media, and largely
ignored by them. Internet is key  to that, as it allows scattered people to
find each other and to stay in touch in a sea of indifference. Internet has
been the most important tool for a vast popular education process which has
allowed people to revive a basically Marxist critique of the
world-economy-in-their-backyard, a critique that goes beyond the academy
and the small, die-hard groups. But it only works when it's connected to
real social forces: constituted associations, professional sectors, and
ultimately political parties.

If you want to get rid of the Berlusconis, the Bossis, the Finis, the sheer
aleatory freedom of worldwide, networked communications isn't enough. You
have to invest your attention in  constituted associations, professional
sectors, and political parties. Just on the edges of the traditional left.
Where people try to find something in common that isn't the TV.

Anyway, let's hope the bastard loses after all? Somebody please correct me
if I said anything stupid. I'm gonna go look at the tube myself....


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