2021: The year in posting
A look back at some of my favorite articles this year.
It’s time once again to look back at my writing over the past year. As always, I’m grateful for everyone who keeps up with my little blog; I’m especially grateful to readers who’ve subscribed to help keep it going. If you’d like to contribute, here’s a special offer: I’m giving 20% off subscriptions if you sign up by the end of the year!
This year instead of trying to summarize everything, I’m just going to go through a selection of some of my favorite pieces. In no particular order:
CAPITAL INCOME AND LABOR ESCAPE VELOCITY - Probably my most important post this year. We often see numbers floating around about how much the wealthiest Americans make off of capital income — that is, off of investments and assets, as opposed to labor — but what I have never seen are those numbers for all Americans. So I conducted some original data analysis to graph this out from the bottom 1% to the very top. I then argue that we can get a sense of how large the ruling class is from a Marxist perspective by looking at how people have hit “labor escape velocity”: that is, they are making so much on capital income that they never need to work again.
MOST POLIPSYCH PUNDITRY IS COMPLETE BULLSHIT - Popular political writing is absolutely overrun with psychological claims about both individuals and large groups of people; once you think to look for it, it’s everywhere. But despite its jargon, almost none of it is actually scientific! It’s usually just an exercise in narrative-building. I am utterly convinced that future generations are going to look back at this ubiquitous feature of political punditry the way that we look back on phrenology today.
A WORD ON PERSONAL AND PRIVATE PROPERTY - The abolition of private property is at the heart of Marxist politics, but some Marxists carve out an exception to this agenda for something called “personal property”. They do this, I argue, because they have misread Marx, and because they do not understand what it would mean to abolish private property. A careful understanding of the difference between ownership and control allows us to understand Marx’s agenda, and makes it much more palatable to the public.
THE MYTH OF ADJECTIVE CAPITALISM - When people say “corrupt capitalism,” this suggests that corruption is not an implicit feature of capitalism, and that perhaps there are varieties of capitalism that aren’t corrupt. What does it mean that we have an endless parade of phrases like this — crony capitalism, casino capitalism, corporate capitalism, and so on — but none for socialism? It’s as if our language systematically brackets the problems of capitalism away from our understanding of its essential nature, while insisting that various problems associated with socialism are intrinsic to what socialism is.
THE SECOND-ORDER CRITIQUE OF IDENTITY POLITICS - Among self-identified Marxists, one occasionally encounters an odd claim about identity politics: the theory that if you “legitimize” them in seemingly benign situations, they will be more difficult to oppose in situations where they are being wielded against class struggle. This, I argue, is not a Marxist theory; it’s a rationalistic theory of how discourse works, and one that Marxists need not accept.
ANTIESTABLISHMENT INC. - If you’re an oligarch who wants power and influence in the Republican Party, but your faction has been locked out by a competing faction of oligarchs, what do you do? You brand that faction “The Establishment”, and then you start funding opposition with anti-establishment populist branding. Today there’s a whole industry of pundits and operatives working for the Antiestablishment — and a whole market of job seekers who are tailoring their politics accordingly.
WHAT WOULD THE NWO DO? - Socialists used to talk all the time about an entire world governed by a single state; it was a central ambition in their politics. Today you rarely see any talk about it at all. Why not fight for a world without borders, without war, and without competing national interests — a New World Order, as they used to call it?
“AUTHORITARIAN” IS AN ANALYTICALLY USELESS CONCEPT - We can talk in a coherent and sensible way about all kinds of problems commonly associated with “authoritarianism”, for example censorship and fascism. But the term “authoritarian” adds nothing to that conversation; as a rule, it usually just means “exercises of authority that I don’t like.”
Thanks again to everyone who’s read me in 2021; I hope that at the very least I’ve given you a different perspective on our politics, and ideally one that you’ll even agree with. I have a lot of ideas about where I can take this blog in 2022, and I’ve already launched one of them: most if not all of my future articles are going to be available in audio form, which you can subscribe to on Apple Podcasts. And once more: if you appreciate my work, please consider subscribing for $4 a month or $30 a year.