Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Alma GuillermoprietoWriting in 2000, a period during which the FARC still enjoyed state-sanctioned control of large swathes of South-Central Colombia marked out as a "zona de despeje," a cleared zone, Alma Guillermoprieto notes the grubby normality of everyday life in this safe haven. In San Vicente de Caguán, "there are loud cantinas; fleshy women in too much makeup under the glaring sun; block after block of storefronts selling boom boxes, high-heeled shoes, glitter eye shadow, and telephones shaped like hot dogs" (Looking for History 55).

The guerrilla, as far as Guillermoprieto can see, spend their time mostly lounging about: buying mascara and nail polish; chatting with neighbours; watching TV, their FALs and AK-47s casually propped up in the corner of the room. Of course, the point about a safe haven is that it's a good place for a little R&R; it's not as though there's no war on, and indeed with up to 20,000 people under arms, the FARC are able to carry out significant actions, "waging something very like real war against the Colombian state" (60). (And here's a pretty good round-up of recent accounts of "Latin American's Longest War".) But even this war has become very much a habit among its combatants, some of whom have known little else than life as a guerrilla.

For instance, compañera Nora, "a trim, agreeable woman in charge of the FARC's liaison with the public" (57) has spent well over half of her thirty-three years in the rebel ranks. Meanwhile, the insurgent leader, Manuel Marulanda or "Tirofijo", has been out in the hills in one form or another since the "Violencia" of 1948 to 1958. In Colombia, civil war is very much a way of life, for some almost a lifestyle option: Nora is reported as saying that she joined the FARC, at the age of fifteen, after she had seen a guerrilla column with its "brisk young women, in uniform and carrying guns, and thought they were the most powerful and glamorous creatures she had ever seen" (59).

At the time of Guillermoprieto's visit, the FARC and the Colombian government (under President Andrés Pastrana) were engaged in a "peace process," though these are hardly exactly peace talks: they are rather a "ritual encounter" celebrated "on a regular basis, and call[ed] progress" (64). No real dialogue was underway, and in any case everyone knew that at the margins prowled the military and their comrades in (para)military arms, the so-called "self-defence" units.

DMZ mapBut in any case, such hope as Guillermoprieto entertains is based on the notion that the FARC's experience in this demilitarized zone might bring about a rehabituation. In that they had not been granted sovereignty of this territory that was often misleadingly nicknamed FARClandia, Guillermoprieto notes that ""for the first time, the guerrillas are coexisting with the citizens of a small town, and even having to get along with its mayor" (66). The rebels are forced, in their downtime, at ease, to be "sharing social and political space with the inhabitants of San Vicente" (68).

For Guillermoprieto, then, the experience is a lesson in conviviality, that takes place at a level well below the comandantes non-negotiations with their official counterparts, and even well below the ideology that in any case is hardly the rebels' motive force.

This is not to say, however, that this process of conviviality is not connected in some way with the media--though it may not be mediated in any conventional sense. For Guillermoprieto ends her account with what we are to take as a hopeful sign: a sudden realization that comes to her on her last morning, as she is taking breakfast at a fonda, or small restaurant, abutting the local FARC headquarters. A television is on, as in Latin America one always is. And the programme playing was Xena: Warrior Princess, the TV industry's ironized take on fighting women. But this irony establishes, perhaps, some common ground:
Two waitresses, as young as the guerrillas next door, were glued to the program. And then I realized that the guerrillas were too. The FARC videos were still playing just on the other side of the wall, but the kids were taking turns sneaking out of the headquarters to stand at the doorway of the fonda, watching Xena. (71)
Of course, as a postscript acknowledges, just a couple of months later the US Congress approved "Plan Colombia". And by early 2002, the state withdrew its support for a demilitarized zone, the army returned, and so disappeared any hope for Xena-blessed conviviality.


Thursday, December 08, 2005


[A service announcement...]

What with one thing and another, mostly travel, I probably won't be able to update this blog very often over the rest of December. Normal service will resume in January.

Among my travel destinations, I will be at the MLA in Washington DC at the end of the month. Probably with a fair amount of time on my hands. So I'd be pleased to meet up with any like-minded (or even differently-minded) people who may also have the misfortune to be attending said conference.

I will also be in the UK earlier in December, but with much less time on my hands.

[Here ends the service announcement.]

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Giaconda BelliGioconda Belli's The Country Under My Skin documents both the euphoria and the disappointment of the Nicaraguan revolution. It's also a meditation on the relations between power, affect, and knowledge. And it's a seductive tale warning of the dangers of seduction.

Belli is in Costa Rica in the days leading up to Somoza's downfall, frustrated about her distance from the real action. But thanks to her access to radio communications with rebel commanders on the front lines, she is able to follow the action if anything more closely than most of those on the ground: "It was mesmerizing to hear about the progress of the insurrection, to hear what was happening in real time" (234).

The final weeks and months of the Sandinista triumph went by astonishingly rapidly. Rather than leading, the Sandinistas were running to catch up with their impending triumph. Belli captures the "sensation of unreality" as victory finally, unexpectedly, raced up to meet them and the FSLN were thrust, blinking in the light, onto the world stage: "Sometimes it seemed as though they couldn't be talking about my tiny country, abandoned by everyone and beholden to a bloody dictator for half a century, but about a major power, able to make policy decisions that would alter Latin America's future" (236).

And then suddenly, almost anticlimactically, Somoza leaves office. And the Sandinistas, as much as anyone else, are left wondering what happens next: "Nobody spoke. Nobody moved. Everyone's eyes glittered with anticipation" (239).

Then the celebration: "Overcome with joy, we fell into one another's arms. 'Somoza left!' we repeated to each other, as we kissed, danced and hugged." And Belli echoes Neruda's famous "Heights of Macchu Picchu" in her invocation of the dead reborn in triumph: "Multitudes of our beloved dead came to life among us with their empty eyes, their deaf ears, the dust of their bones that could never celebrate with us" (239). It's a mythic time of (re)creation: "The 18th, the 19th of July 1979. [. . .] Two days that felt as though a magical, age-old spell had been cast over us, taking us back to Genesis, to the very site of the creation of the world" (241).

Such is the world-making power of revolutionary violence.

Ernesto Cardenal and multitude
But Belli, closely associated with the cúpula of the FSLN leadership, is soon entrusted with part of the transformation of that constituent power into constituted power: the construction of a nation, reconstruction of the state. Her task is to represent the revolution, to produce the "victory issue" of a new newspaper, to be called Patria Libre. This task can only be completed from the distance that representation requires, the newspaper then imported into the newly liberated country.

Flying into Managua on a plane loaded down with newsprint, Belli finds the airport almost deserted: the action is elsewhere. Only an old school friend has turned up to greet her, but Belli turns her away, judging her guardianship of the papers to be more important. Here, even at arrival, is the first disappointment, the first betrayal, of the revolution: over the "eerie desolation" of the airport terminal "Justine's face would be always superimposed. I managed to shake off my uneasiness. There would be time later on to explain things to Justine, to my parents, I said to myself. They would wait for me, they always did. But history wouldn't" (246).

Belli sets off, with her precious copies of Patria Libre, seeking to track down the history that the newspaper already claimed to represent. Her truck passes jubilant crowds: "their joy had the taste of sweet, red watermelon, its juice dripping down my chin" (247). But when at last they get to the city and reach the central plaza "there was no one left. That was when we realized that the crowds we'd seen on the road had been walking home after the celebration. All that was left in the great, deserted plaza were wrappers, trash" (248).

Henry Ruiz, aka ModestoIn place of this unpredictable, mobile multitude, the Sandinistas establish a militarized state as totem and fetish, positing its institutions and its leaders as the object of revolutionary desire--thus inverting the relationship constitutive of the triumph itself. Belli notes the demobilizing effect of this inversion, describing her lover Modesto and his "bodyguards, who only a month earlier had fearlessly confronted Somoza's tanks, [and now] were docile and obedient in their leader's presence" (266).

She observes the ways in which "military protocol had its grandiose, seductive side. [. . .] Modesto--comandante, member of the Sandinista National Directorate, maximum authority in Nicaragua both during and after the Revolution--would move calmly amid the soldiers hurriedly standing at attention" (266).

It's not long before Belli also realizes that "the dazzling spell of power"--constituted power, we should clarify--also entails self-delusion among those who wield it: "these men had been seduced by the spell of their own self-image [. . .]. They felt eminently astute and capable, a cross between political bright boys and heroic, strapping knights-errant" (275).

The Sandinistas begin to believe their own myth of leadership, rather than learning from their experience of belatedness. The only indication of what has been lost in this transition is the lingering nostalgia that pervades Belli's memoir, a "nostalgia for what we had been" (291) before the rigidity that set in with the state's consolidation, and before the FSLN retrospectively branded everything in sight with their red and black logo.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Le Colonel Chabert offers a fervent defence of populism--or rather, a fervent critique of anti-populism, which the colonel links to the anti-fanaticism of the war against terror. But it's an error to conflate populism and fanaticism, or to think that all enemies of one's enemies are alike. Populism is itself very clearly anti-fanatical. Yes, it mobilizes passions, but only then to demobilize and contain them. Whereas fanaticism seeks immanence, populism re-establishes transcendence.

Populism, especially indeed the neo-populism of someone like Chávez, is the last gasp of the social contract. (What the escuálidos don't realize is that Chávez is the great saviour of puntofijismo, not its downfall.) As such, it's a pre-eminent mode of counter-insurgency.

(Update: and now over on Lenin's tomb we read that "we have to side unflinchingly with populist movements".)

Here, more from Posthegemony, whose first chapter is devoted to populism (and whose second chapter deals with fanaticism)...

The dream of abstracting some radical impulse from populism's anti-authoritarian and rebellious sentiments is shipwrecked on the fact that, under the guise of subversion, populist movements only ever construct and consolidate sovereignty, authorizing a people whose rebelliousness never rises above sentimentality.

Populism, as exemplified by classical political movements such as Peronism and contemporary intellectual tendencies such as cultural studies, and as theorized by Laclau, entails a systematic set of substitutions. It presents us with people instead of classes (or multitude), rhetorical gestures instead of analysis (or struggle), morality instead of politics (or ethics), sentiment instead of affect (or habit) socialized identities instead of social forces (or preindividual singularities), transcendence instead of immanence (or quasi-causes), unity instead of multiplicity (or contingency), the body of the sovereign instead of the power of the state (or constituent force). As Kraniauskas observes, quoting Freud on fetishism, in each case "something else has taken its place, has been appointed its substitute, as it were, and now inherits the interest which was formerly directed to its predecessor" ("Rodolfo Walsh y Eva Perón" 113; emphasis in original). Through these serried substitutions, populism constructs a drastically simplified image of social space. What has been substituted is quickly forgotten, erasing also the process that has constructed this falsely simplified scenario of easy dichotomies, crystal clear antagonisms, and well-worn assumptions. It is true that these disavowals conserve some remainder of what has gone, but analysis must move beyond the mere examination of such symptoms.

Above all, populism presents us with hegemony instead of any other conception of politics, and the state's expansiveness as though it were cultural subversion or a flourishing civility. In the name of a purported counter-hegemony of anti-authoritarian sentiment, populism's self-erasing state logic permeates and coordinates everyday life. In an article tracing Marxist theories of the state, Laclau himself equivocates on this precise point. He notes that state logic has come to organize society as a whole: "the form of the state defines the basic articulations of a society and not solely the limited field of a political superstructure" ("Teorías marxistas del estado" 54); but he immediately disavows this insight by claiming that "political struggle has passed now to extend to the totality of civil society" (54). This only repeats the populist substitution: the state is conflated with civil society, political struggle with sovereign command. So long, therefore, as political analysis remains confined to the theory of hegemony, as is contemporary cultural studies, it will remain confined to a logic of populism unable either to differentiate itself from the populism of the right or even to recognize and so criticize the transformations and substitutions that populism demands and entails. Moreover, it will be anxiously haunted by the remainder that hegemony contains of what has been lost. Rather, then, than fixating on discursive articulations within civil society, we might do better to re-examine the differential inter-imbrication of culture and state. Or rather, we might again see the state as what has to be explained, in its dependence on but distinction from the affective performativity and cultural habit that sustains it.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


What's odd about Walter Benjamin's "Critique of Violence," at least from our present context, is how little the essay has to say about power. There is much about violence (of course) and much about the law. But the question of power hardly arises, and when it does its relation to violence and law is unclear.

"Lawmaking is power making," Benjamin tells us, "and, to that extent, an immediate manifestation of violence. Justice is the principle of all divine end making, power the principle of all mythical lawmaking" (295). Here, on the one hand, law and power are intimately related: to make law is to make power. On the other hand, power and justice are counterpoised: justice relates to ends and to divine violence; power relates (presumably) to means, and to mythical violence.

And this comes immediately after the observation that lawmaking, and so mythical violence, "establishes as law not an end unalloyed with violence, but one necessarily and intimately bound to it, under the title of power" (295). Power, here, is the "title" under which law and violence are "necessarily and intimately" bound one to the other.

This relative silence about power is odd in our present context, because for the past thirty years or so, political theory has been concerned above all with the problem of power. It has been the project of, first, Michel Foucault and, then, Antonio Negri to reconceive power, to rethink its origins and its historical vicissitudes. Indeed, at the core of Foucault's and Negri's political philosophy is power's relocation, even dislocation: Foucault with the concepts of disciplinary, capillary, and (most influentially at present) bio power; Negri with the fundamental distinction between constituent and constituted power.

It's not immediately clear how to map Benjamin's essay on to our contemporary concern with power. I'm not convinced by Paul Passavant's suggestion that we can read "violence" as "power." That's a little quick. It's true that Benjamin indicates that "mythical violence is bloody power" and "divine violence[,] pure power" (297). There's surely a nexus between violence and power. And there's no doubt that government without violence, or rather parliaments without "the sense that a lawmaking violence is represented by themselves," also lacks power, and proves unable to "achieve decrees worthy of this violence" (288). Yet the fact remains that Benjamin's is a critique of violence, not a critique of power.

I wonder if this is not because, whatever Benjamin's hesitations towards Bolshevism and the Soviet Union, he is not yet prepared to question the party form. It is not, yet, part of what Althusser would call his "problematic."

After all, the post-1968, perhaps better post-1956, critique of power for which I have provided the ciphers of Foucault and Negri (but one could add Deleuze and Guattari and even the whole tradition of cultural studies) is premised on an unease with if not outright rejection of the party form. This unease provides the problematic of contemporary political theory. It is only very recently indeed, essentially with Zizek's somewhat quixotic revival of Lenin, that anybody has had anything much good to say about the party as a mode of political organization. But this reassessment has entailed also a frontal assault on and so acknowledgement of the dominant problematic.

By contrast, Benjamin, for all that he draws on Sorel, is not yet, at least, post-Leninist. This is what is fundamentally alien about his essay.

Benjamin writes of the "state power" that the "proletarian general strike" is set to destroy (291), but in such a way that the phrase "state power" is almost an unexamined tautology. It is certainly not interrogated alongside the "educative power" that, for Gramsci (writing at about the same time), is the power of hegemony incarnated in the party cadre. Gramsci, of course, happily welcomed the notion that the party and the state wielded the same form of power: both aspired to hegemony, to be Prince, old or modern.

And Benjamin, for all the inkling of something like constituent power that this essay so tantalizingly invokes, is not yet able either to critique the party or to suggest an alternative to hegemony.

(Cross-posted to Long Sunday.)

Friday, December 02, 2005


Simone Weil's "Factory Work" is a phenomenological account of the Fordist labour process and its "transmutation of man into workman" (55). Though the experience of the factory assembly line, full of sensation, sound, and movement, could in other contexts be considered "exhilarating" (54), this sensorial wealth goes unappreciated by the labourer: "Those who people the factories do not feel [its joys], except in rare and fleeting moments, for they are not free [. . .] for the vise of their servitude grips them through the senses, their bodies, the thousand and one little details that crowd the minutes of which their lives are constituted" (55).

What's interesting here, in the first place, is the way in which Weil describes Fordism as a mode of subjection through affect: it consists in the immediate capture of the senses that is simultaneously a desensitization, and so also a habituation to the machine. Reason is bypassed. Rather "what is recognized [. . .] is the barracks formula: 'Never mind the reasons!' [. . .] Come what may, the work must go on. It is up to the worker to get on with the job. And he does get on with it" (55).

Chaplin in Modern TimesWeil's account of the factory process is also an astute observation of the way in which subjection through affect and habit involves a detemporalization, or rather the denarrativization of time. The worker is unable to relate means to ends, and so "thought draws back from the future. This perpetual recoil upon the present produces a kind of brutish stupor" (57).

The resulting "mixture of monotony and accident" (58) makes of the labourer little more than an animal, who responds insensately, because so wrapped up the senses, to immediate stimuli and no more. The overall affective tone of the labour process is a "pervasive anxiety--the anxiety of not working fast enough--that is diffused through every working moment" (58).

It's because of its fundamentally non-narrative temporality that the factory experience also resists representation. For representation would entail the imposition of narrative upon an experience whose very essence is the loss of narrative. No wonder then that "workingmen themselves do not find it easy to write, speak, or even reflect on such a subject" (54).

So it is clear that the factory worker's subjugation is fundamentally non-hegemonic. And Weil's response to this predicament is to call for a hegemonization of the labourer within the production process. Weil sketches out a reformed factory system in which, though "nothing might accrue to [the worker's] actual rights" (70), labour could be emplotted within a master narrative of meaningful human activity, so producing a vision to which the worker would be wedded to his work, his consent finally secured:
If a workingman's job is to drop a die punch on a piece of brass destined for some device in a subway, he ought to know it. Moreover he ought to have a clear-cut image of the place and function of that piece of brass on the subway line, what operations it has already undergone and which ones are to follow before being put into place. the plea here is not, of course, for a lecture to each worker at the beginning of each piece of work. What is possible is such things as having each work group occasionally explore the plant by turns for several hours, at the usual wages, all to the accompaniment of appropriate explanations. Even better would be to allow each worker to bring his family along. And why not? [. . .] A workingman truly wedded to his job would be proud and happy to show his place of work to his wife and children. (67)
Here we see the pedagogic project of hegemony outlined. With sufficient education, the worker can enter heart and soul (rather than simply body and sense) into production. What's more, hegemony might also secure the expanded field of social reproduction, securing the consent not simply of the male worker, but also his wife and children. For it is a double wedding that ensues: married to the job as well as to his civil spouse, the worker inducts his family into subjugation to the machine age.

Take your Daughter to Work Day patchEven, then, in envisaging a workplace hegemonized, Weil already anticipates the posthegemonic real subsumption of society by capital achieved in post-Fordism with its "take your daughter to work" days and its language of "stakeholding" and individual proprietorship in the productive process.

The result, however, being that workers are their own masters only in the sense that they are encouraged to coordinate and so embrace their own alienation.

[UPDATE: See Jeremy's response in "factory revisited".]

Thursday, December 01, 2005

economy (stupid!)

I'm very pleased to present the following guest post from my friend Jeremy, on recent events in France...

It’s the Economy, Stupid!

Both in France and in Britain, media coverage and commentary on the recent disturbances in the banlieues has focused on the perceived fundamental differences between the French republican model of “integration” and the so-called “Anglo-Saxon model” of multiculturalism. Commentators on either side of the Channel, or indeed the Atlantic, rarely miss an opportunity to point to problems in the other country as evidence of the inherent failings of the foreign model and the superiority of their own.

Peter Mandelson, formerly the architect of Blairism, currently EC Trade Commissioner, was recently featured on BBC’s Newsnight programme, preparing to meet the French Trade and Agriculture Ministers in advance of the latest round of world trade talks. As Mandelson walked to the meeting, an advisor suggested he should break the ice by expressing his sympathy for the problems the French government was experiencing in quelling the nightly disturbances in the banlieues. “So much for the French social model they’re always telling us must be defended at all costs!” came Mandelson’s audible, acerbic reply.

Such evident Schadenfreude was perhaps understandable given the eagerness of French observers to lecture those in the so-called “Anglo-Saxon world” on the inherent superiority of the “French model.” In their analyses of the riots, several French commentators have been unable to resist comparing race relations in France with the situations in both Britain and the US, predictably concluding that things are far worse “chez les Anglo-Saxons.” For example, in the left-leaning Le Nouvel Observateur, Jacques Juillard and Jean Daniel insisted that where the July bombings in London demonstrate failings inherent to the “Anglo-Saxon model” of multiculturalism, rioting in the banlieues is in no way a symptom of equivalent flaws in French republican universalism; such problems, they assure us, relate to the purely contingent failure to apply republican values properly.

The mistake, when confronted with such patent examples of self-serving chauvinistic myopia, would be to play the French at their own game, by trumpeting the superiority of our own national models or traditions. However tempting, matching nationalistic bad faith with nationalistic bad faith will not advance us far.

What is really significant about the tendency of so many in France to champion the benefits of their own “social model” is that such apparently confident assertions of national superiority merely reveal the deep anxiety at perceived French national decline that in fact lies at their root. Moreover, what lies behind the periodic, largely directionless outbreaks of violent protest in the banlieues is not the failure of one or other model for “integrating” ethnic minorities. Rather, what’s at stake here is the breaking of the link between such differing conceptions of national belonging and the mode of capitalist accumulation that used to underpin them.

It is commonplace in France to claim that earlier immigrant generations were integrated into the Republic relatively unproblematically. Too often forgotten is that such immigrants either arrived as adults or, if children, had a mercifully brief exposure to the French education system, that talismanic site of republican integration. Arriving as adults or leaving school at 15, such immigrants and their offspring were in fact integrated in the Fordist workplace, through both labour and the labour movement, thanks to the ramified political, social, and cultural networks of unions and the Communist Party. The role of republican institutions was limited to equipping such workers with certain linguistic skills and a fairly minimal sense of specifically French cultural values and traditions.

The banlieues were, of course, the necessary adjuncts to Fordism. Inspired, architecturally, by Le Corbusier’s “factories for living,” they were located close to areas of heavy industry to provide housing for workers in France’s booming post-war economy. The decline of the banlieues has thus precisely mirrored the decline of French heavy industry and the shift to a post-Fordist mode of accumulation. As unskilled and semi-skilled factory jobs have dried up, so the young French working class, ethnic minorities and others alike, have been encouraged to spend ever longer in formal education, to be confronted on a daily basis with evidence of the disparity between the republican school’s promises of equality and meritocratic social promotion and the reality it can actually deliver.

As the bases of Fordism as mode of both governmentality and capitalist accumulation disappear, so republican institutions, and the school in particular, are left to take up alone the task of integrating France’s most economically and socially deprived groups. Unsurprisingly, this is a task which such institutions are unable to achieve in isolation. The more such institutions fail, the more politicians and commentators across the political spectrum insist that their founding values must be safeguarded and reasserted. But reasserting the very republican values and institutions whose failings banlieue inhabitants confront on a daily basis can only produce effects opposite to those desired. The thousands of burnt-out cars littering the streets is depressing evidence of such unintended consequences.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin’s response to the rioting, which has included a plan to revive “pre-apprenticeship” schemes for young male immigrants, at least has the merit of moving beyond the traditional exclusive focus on republican institutions and the school. Indeed, his proposals might be interpreted as an attempt, doubtless vain, to suture the fractured link between republicanism and the Fordist mode of accumulation that had previously ensured the “integration” or disciplining of generations of French citizens into the body politic.

Another of De Villepin’s proposals, to introduce a form of “voluntary civil service” to replace the compulsory military service demanded, until a few years ago, of all male French school-leavers, is also telling. As Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri point out in Multitude, the disciplining of bodies under mass conscription paralleled the disciplining of bodies in the Fordist factory. It is this parallel, they argue, that Céline explores in Journey to the End of the Night, as his narrator recounts his experiences on the Western Front and, later, as a worker at the Ford factory in Detroit. What Hardt and Negri neglect to mention is that between these two experiences, Céline’s narrator recounts his encounter with French imperialism, in French West Africa. What Hardt and Negri term Fordist “disciplinary governmentality” did not merely involve a parallel between mass soldier and mass worker: it also rested on Western imperialism.

In France today, the Fordist factory has all but disappeared, mass conscription has been abolished, and the grandchildren of France’s former colonial subjects have arrived in the imperial metropolis to confront residual forms of colonial arrogance and violence; the old mission civilisatrice will no longer be enacted in a primary school in Kabylia, but in one of the newly designated Zones d’éducation prioritaire in the metropolis’s all too proximate periphery, the banlieue – open to all French residents, universally, as long as they leave their Islamic headscarves at the door.

De Villepin’s attempts to return to a more certain age, through a reassertion of republicanism, a dose of national service, and precocious insertion into the workplace, will doubtless prove in vain. Yet this should not be cause for any Mandelsonian Schadenfreude. For it is precisely the failings of the nation state, its institutions and traditions, that is at stake here, so that any analysis that falls back on disparaging comparisons between the failings of “their model” as against the strengths of “ours” paradoxically becomes a symptom of the very malaise it claims to diagnose.

Or rather, what’s at stake is the failed articulation between the nation state and the economy, between national ideology and the contemporary mode of capitalist accumulation. The fact that the London bombers hailed from declining industrial communities of the Midlands and the North should remind us that, contra Juillard and Daniel, what was significant in the UK, too, was not the inherent failings of a so-called “Anglo-Saxon” multiculturalism but the disappearance of Fordist structures of work and socialisation – it’s the economy, stupid!

This has been a guest post from Jeremy.