On Inhuman Power.
 
Contemporary capitalism is possessed by the Artificial Intelligence (AI) question – one of the few areas today in which capitalist still seem to have ambition. Why is this so, and is there something about AI that gets to the nub of what capitalism is, as a mode of production?
 
Is capitalism without humanity anything more than a dystopian Skynet nightmare? And would the creation of a surplus humanity still be capitalism? Would it be techno-feudal, or something else?
 
Reading:
Inhuman Power: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Capitalism, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Atle Mikkola Kjøsen and James Steinhoff, Pluto Books
November 29, 2022

/305/ Techno-Feudal Unreason

On "techno-feudalism".

In the Bungacast Reading Club for patrons, we've been discussing various works on "neo-feudalism" - a thesis that tries to explain capitalist stagnation and inequality by arguing that we are moving beyond capitalism – toward something worse. 

In this free episode, we discuss one of the most thoroughgoing critiques of this thesis: Evgeny Morozov's "Critique of Techno-Feudal Reason". 

Why has this thesis becomes so popular today, across the political spectrum? What is the economic and political logic of feudalism, and how do current trends supposedly indicate a resurgence of these logics? Why have Marxists, who draw such a clear line between feudalism and capitalism, believe that politically-driven expropriation is replacing exploitation

And how do Big Tech companies make money - purely through rent, or do they produce commodities? 

To join the Reading Club, sign up for $10 at patreon.com/bungacast 

Readings: 

On Mali and the Sahel.
 
French president Emmanuel Macron declared the end of Opération Barkhane on 9 November 2022, bringing to an end to nearly 10 years of French military intervention in Mali. But what is the legacy of the French Forever War in the Sahel, and what happens next?
 
Sahel expert Yvan Guichaou joins us to talk about French defeat in the war on terror, the continued French military presence in the region, the growing extent of jihadi power, as well as the crisis of the post-colonial state in Africa and the new geo-politics of Franco-Russian competition in the region. How do these various political forces intersect with the political economy of aid and smuggling networks?
 
[Part 2 is available to subscribers at patreon.com/bungacast]
 
Readings:
Music: Nous Non Plus / Bunga Bunga / courtesy of Sugaroo!

A special five-part series on generational consciousness and conflict.

Previously released in 2021 only to subscribers at patreon.com/bungacast, a year on we're releasing the whole series to everyone.

  • Part 1: (00:00:00)
  • Part 2: (00:38:11)
  • Part 3: (01:07:54)
  • Part 4: (02:50:32)
  • Part 5: (03:59:24)

Part 1:

We look at the current, vexed discourse around generations, and analyse competing theories on how to understand generational cleavages.

Guests include:

  • Felix Krawatzek, political scientist at the Centre for East European and International Studies in Berlin
  • Jennie Bristow, sociologist at Canterbury Christ Church University
  • Joshua Glenn, semiotician, author, and publisher of HiLoBrow

Part 2:

We look at the emergence of ‘youth’ as political concept in the age following the French Revolution, and its shifting meanings. How important was generational consciousness in the Young Italy movement and its imitators in the 19th century, and how should we understand the so-called ‘Lost Generation’ of 1914?

Guests include:

  • Niall Whelahan, Chancellor’s Fellow in History, Strathclyde University

Part 3:

We examine the Baby Boomers – myth and reality. The revolt of the ’60s has been misunderstood in many dimensions. Was it betrayed or did it always express capitalist ideology? Were the Boomers the ones who really did the 1960s anyway? And what world have the Boomers created as they passed through life – and institutions?

Guests include:
  • Jennie Bristow, senior lecturer in sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University
  • Helen Andrews, senior editor at The American Conservative
  • Josh Glenn, semiotician, author, and publisher of HiLoBrow
  • Jeffrey Alexander, professor of sociology at Yale University
  • Holger Nehring, chair in contemporary European history at the University of Stirling
  • Kristin Ross, professor emeritus of comparative literature at New York University

Part 4:

We examine Generation X – the generation of the End of History. How was this generation overshadowed by the Boomer’s failures? In the Eastern Bloc, the fall of Soviet regimes was a traumatic moment – how did this shape consciousness? And how did the Iranian Revolution – and subsequent war – shape the political perspectives of Iranians?
 
Guests include:
  • Maren Thom, film scholar
  • Alexei Yurchak, professor of anthropology at Berkeley 
  • Jennie Bristow, senior lecturer in sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University
  • Josh Glenn, semiotician, author, and publisher of HiLoBrow
  • Arash Azizi, historian of Iran at New York University
  • Felix Krawatzek, political scientist at the Centre for East European and International Studies in Berlin

Part 5:

We examine the Millennials and Generation Z. Uniquely, generation war today seems to be a conflict over resources more than over values. Is there any basis for this, and what do Millennials actually want? With generational and class conflict seemingly bound together today, we analyse ‘Generation Left’ and ‘Millennial Socialism’. And we ask what the effect of the pandemic may be on the creation of a Gen Z consciousness.

Guests include:

  • Paul Taylor, former director, Pew Research
  • Jennie Bristow, senior lecturer in sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University
  • Helen Andrews, senior editor at The American Conservative
  • Clive Martin, journalist who has written for VICE Magazine
  • Josh Glenn, semiotician, author, and publisher of HiLoBrow
  • Jennifer Silva, assistant professor in sociologist, Indiana University

 

Original music by: Jonny Mundey

Additional music:

Other Clips:

  • Black 47 Trailer © 2018 – WildCard Distribution
  • Arracht Trailer © 2019 – Break Out Pictures
  • The Sun Also Rises © 2019 – 20th Century Fox
  • Mr Lloyd George Speaks To The Nation (1931) British Pathé
  • American Pastoral Trailer © 2016 – Lionsgate
  • Mai 1968 © France 3 Paris Ile-de-France
  • Imitation de Daniel Cohn-Bendit © C’est Canteloup
  • Baader Meinhof Complex © 2008
On your questions & criticisms.

[Patreon Exclusive]

 
The weakness of anti-EU forces; the implications of defending Ukrainian sovereignty; what should we call the new far-right and what does it *do* in power? And the gravity of nuclear war
 
Also, is Phil okay?

On Joel Kotkin's The Coming of Neo-Feudalism 

We start off by discussing your points on the last RC, on conspiracy theory.

Then we delve into Kotkin's book, asking whether he has an adequate understanding of feudalism, and whether this is the right lens to understand transformations underway now. Is 'techno-feudalism' not just a downturn in 'systemic cycles of accumulation', related to the decline of the US empire? And what are Kotkin's politics and how do they relate to his analysis?

Thanks for all the questions received on this one, we discussed them as we went through the episode.

Reading:

Next month: Inhuman Power: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Capitalism, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Atle Mikkola Kjøsen and James Steinhoff, Pluto Books

On nuclear exterminism. 

To commemorate our 300th episode, we discuss how the world is closer to a nuclear conflict than at any point since the Cold War. After decades of inconsequential 'permawar' (at least inside the Western bubble), the proxy war in Ukraine between NATO and Russia is suddenly very consequential indeed.

How does our situation differ from that of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis? Why might it be more unpredictable? Does today's very different ideological configuration make war more or less likely?

Before that, we reflect on five and half years of Bungacast, how the world has changed over the period, and pick out some of our favourite episode from the past half-decade.

The main discussion begins at 23mins.

Readings:

On reclaiming populism.
 
With only a couple of days to go until the decisive runoff between Lula and Bolsonaro, we continue our Bungazão 2022 series by talking to to political scientist Miguel Lago about how Lula and Bolsonaro both construct a Brazilian people. Lula does so broadly on class lines, while Bolsonaro's construction is a moral one: "good citizens" and those to be excluded. 
 
Why is populism the right way to analyse the election, and how might Lula re-embody Brazil's greatest populist leader, Getúlio Vargas? We discuss how Bolsonarismo works on the basis of 'micropower' – that is, it appeals to those who hold power over others in any walk of life.
 
And we conclude by looking at Bolsonaro's combination of transcendence and transgression, and how it has re-politicised Brazilian society. Why is this recipe proving more successful than the transactional politics of old?
 
Readings:

Listenings:

On shared-labour socialism.

Political theorist Alex Gourevitch talks to us about his critique of post-work thought, and how it presupposes the very labour it seeks to free us from. We start of by distinguishing post-work socialism (e.g. Fully Automated Luxury Communism) from various propositions for a Universal Basic Income, and discuss why these ideas are popular today.

We then dedicate much of the time to debating Gourevitch's alternative proposal for "shared-labour socialism". What counts as necessary labour – and who is going to do it? How has globalisation changed people's perspectives on what necessary labour is? And will we be producing more under socialism?

Part 2 is here: patreon.com/posts/73765804 

Readings:

Listenings: 

On corruption & anti-corruption.

When Bolsonaro won in 2018, he rode a wave of anti-corruption sentiment. Now he's doled out billions in pork via a secret budget, but this doesn't seem to bother his supporters. What happened?

Benjamin Fogel, who studies the history of corruption in Brazil, comes on to discuss how a moralistic account of corruption has fortified the far right. How has corruption been used as a political weapon in the past, and how has it shifted from right to left and back again?

How are scandals made rather than born? And what would an anti-corruption politics that is emancipatory look like – rather than the predominant technocratic or moralistic form today?

Readings:

 
On Trussonomics.
Having stumbled upon a successful recipe under Boris Johnson which would see greater state intervention, Britain's Tories then pivoted to a much more pro-market approach. But the markets haven't liked it – they've hated it.
 
What does this say about neoliberalism and what the new orthodoxy is? Why did markets react so badly against a budget that featured things they normally like, such as lower rates of corporate taxes? And does this mean the market's authority has been restored, but under a new guise?
Readings:
On who's responsible for prolonging the Ukraine War + your questions & criticisms.
 
 
We start off by discussing whether the Zelensky tail is wagging the NATO dog, and what possible exits to conflict there might be. 
 
Then, in the main section, we respond to listener comments: we talk about the possibility of a "Chinese Dream", what the point of economic growth is, the monarchy and modernisation, and whether 'fascism' is an appropriate term for the far right today.
On Empire of Conspiracy and agency panics.
 
 
We focus our discussion on the notion of 'agency panic' that is at the centre of Timothy Melley's account of conspiracy theories in postwar America. Does it apply to the Great Reset and Russiagate equally?
 
Melley's approach is a useful way of understanding what conspiracy theories give voice to – but is Melley defending or attacking the liberal humanist subject? We disagree amongst ourselves.
 
We then discuss how apathy and paranoia coexist, and wonder whether paranoia characterises the End of the End of History. And does Enlightenment scepticism reside somewhere between these two states?
 
Finally, we discuss jealous cuck husbands and Obama's idea of an epistemological crisis.
 
Additional reading: An extensive list of works on conspiracy theory can be found here
On the meaning of Gorbachev.
 
 
Mikhail Gorbachev continues to be lauded in Western circles for overseeing the collapse of the Soviet Union without much bloodshed. But given the historic societal disaster that followed, is this status unmerited? How naive was Gorbachev about the wolves at the door? And to what extent was the writing on the wall by the late '80s – was there an alternative path not taken?
 
Readings:
 
Listenings:

On Brazil's containment of the crisis.

We talk to members of the Unbridled Possibility Collective (Fabio Luis B. Santos | Thais Pavez | Daniel Cunha) about their intervention, trying to look beyond this week's election in Brazil.

What does establishment support for Lula this time round represent? Is Lula guilty of "unrealistic pragmatism"? How will Brazil react to a potential coup attempt by Bolsonaro? 

And we look at the deeper social and structural context: what are the features of the Brazilian "war of all against all"? How does Bolsonaro accelerate these tendencies?

We conclude by looking at the possibility of a new 'Pink Wave' in Latin America and examining the state of the Brazilian left. 

Readings:

 

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