Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Cronus Devouring His Children – 2

with one comment

Malcolm Harris, who is building his Internet celebrity on this issue, doubles down on all of the bad impulses this kind of thinking engenders. He is here using the language of revolution to justify what is, at its essence, a dispute among the ruling class. He reminds me of nothing so much as the autoworker who curses the “foreigner” who he imagines has stolen what he thought was coming to him. Because Harris knows that his complaint is ultimately a direct expression of entitlement, and the entitlement of those who presumed they would be rewarded by our corrupt system, he has to build a case that is simply antithetical to the left-wing project: the notion that recent college graduates are the dispossessed around which a revolutionary movement deserves to be mustered. Read his piece. I don’t exaggerate.

It should go without saying that this is a project I want nothing to do with. I feel for those struggling under student loan debt, in part because I am myself, but I will not engage in the sophistry and dishonesty that asserts that they are the class that most requires liberation.

Freddie deBoer takes on the New Inquiry issue on “youth” I linked to yesterday. My response to Freddie would just be sure, sure, yes, everything you say is also true—but we can think about more than one type of thing at once.

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  1. i basically agree with the critique, except the part about generational conflict being a dispute within the “ruling class” — it seems most acute between the bourgeois (the ruling class) and the petit bourgeois, adam smith’s “middling classes.” that conflict has happened before, with pre-fascist italy and germany the clearest examples, and is precipitated by proletarianization (i want to include may ’68 here too, but that movement was just as heavily determined by working class and POC concerns as it was by white middle class students). it takes on an inter-generational character because as a class bracket shrinks, those who haven’t yet realized their promised entitlements (youth) are disproportionately excluded. but i think youth still fails as a basis for radical identification, because it has such wildly different effects along class and racial lines. i hate to link to myself but since it’s just a summary of poulantzas on the petit-bourgeois i’m ok with it.

    and gavin mueller posted a thing from tronti on generational conflict here:

    Those of us who had lived through the struggles of the factory workers in the early 60s looked on the student protests with sympathetic detachment. We had not predicted a clash of generations, though in the factories we had met the new layer of workers—especially young migrants from the South—who were active and creative, always in the lead (certainly compared to the older workers who were exhausted by past defeats). But in the factories, the bond between fathers and sons still held together; it was among the middle classes that it had snapped. This was an interesting phenomenon, but not decisive for changing the structural balance of forces between the classes. At Valle Giulia, in March 68, we were with the students against the police—not like Pasolini. But at the same time, we knew it was a struggle behind enemy lines, to determine who would be in charge of modernization. The old ruling class, the war-time generation, was exhausted. A new elite was pressing forward into the light; a new ruling class for the globalized capitalism that lay in the future.

    traxus4420

    March 6, 2012 at 10:59 am


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