Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Intertwining of Islamism, Identitarianism, and Neoliberalism, and the Four Waves of Socialism

After writing Naming the four waves of fighting racism and sexism, I'm thinking a little more about the '80s and early '90s when it seemed capitalism had defeated socialism. Three developments took off then:

Islamism's first major triumph came when Reagan helped the mujahideen overthrow the socialist government of Afghanistan that had granted equal rights to women and promoted universal education. Bin Laden took what he learned with the mujahideen to create Al Qaeda and thereby established the dominant model for opposing western imperialism in the Middle East.

Neoliberalism took baby steps in the '70s under Carter, but its right wing, neoconservatism, flourished under Reagan. The New Democrats of the Democratic Party answered neoconservatism with neoliberalism, agreeing that taxes on the rich should continue to be lowered and public services should continue to be cut.

Identitarianism took off in the '80s with the writings of black Ivy League academics like Derrick Bell and the Critical Race Theory crowd who wanted to fight racism without criticizing capitalism like King and Malcolm X. Kimberle Crenshaw brought what she had learned from CRT into feminism under the rubric of intersectionality.

What united all three was the belief that socialism had failed. For Democrats, that meant moving to the right and helping to weaken the public sector. For Middle Eastern rebels, that meant embracing Islamism as the opposition to capitalism. And for left-identitarians, that meant explaining racism and sexism as forms of human weakness and adopting the Catholic concept of social justice in which the benevolent rich are expected to aid the penitent poor.

The resurgence of socialism has me wondering which socialist wave we're in. I'll tentatively propose these:

First wave socialism runs from Fourier to the Russian Revolution. Call it the age of Theoretical Socialism.

Second wave socialism runs up to China's economic reforms in the late '70s and the dissolution of the USSR in '91. Call it the age of Authoritarian Socialism.

Third wave socialism is the main current model. I'm tempted to call it Capitalist Socialism because it's a very capitalist-friendly version of socialism that has produced billionaires in China. Maybe it's Neoliberal Socialism.

But I see signs of a fourth wave. It may finally be the democratic socialism that Marx first imagined, and Eugene Debs and George Orwell promoted, and Bernie Sanders supports. I hope I live to see it.

Related: "Privilege" has been neoliberalized and "inequality" is next