29 December 2023

Has the Left left its senses?

Looks like the Left has taken leave of its senses and gone mad with moralism — a consequence of the demise of the Old Left, and then of the New Left. What's left are today's identity politics and cancel culture from an assumed high ground of moral superiority that prescribe how the world ought to be. 

These moralistic politics make a claim on the (supposedly innate, inalienable) human right to define one's own particular identity as a subject. Hence we have LGBTQIA+ politics — without reflecting that no particularization of the generality of humanity into an array of identities can ever capture the uniqueness of any individual, let alone a creative one. The + sign at the end of LGBTQIA+ is supposed to indicate that maybe more categories will be added later; that modern, progressive, moralistic Left subjects will lay claim to ever more labels with which to identify themselves. 

Is it not a sign of the dissociation of subjects in our modern global world, thoroughly mediated as it is by thingified value, that they try to associate, to band together under certain, partially unifying labels, thus forming communities providing a sense of belonging? The global principle of movement — the endless accumulation of thingified value — goes hand in hand with, and is dependent upon, the dissociation of subjects, their individualization, but the moralizing Left has lost sight of any deeper critique of capitalism.

What if the Left were to desist from its moralizing cancel culture, engaging instead with questioning who we humans are and can be? So far we have only whatifying answers, notably: a kind of animal endowed with add-on features, above all, reason; or subjects with  internal, brain-generated consciousness that AI is today striving to emulate. A thorough-going critique of capitalism worthy of the name reveals that humans have been reduced to the status of players in the competitive gainful game that is played out atop the underlying inexorable global valorizing of thingified value.

Thingified value, in turn, reveals itself as such only to a kind of thinking, i.e. genuinely philosophical thinking, that knows of and passes through the ontological difference to the realm of ideas that provide the ontological building blocks for the (scaffolding of the) world in which we live.*) The world itself is the way it reveals itself to our shared mind through the ideas we humans glean of its most elementary phenomena. The political Left has never understood the depth of the critique of capitalism required, which — contrary to Marx's famous Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach — is not the practical-political critique of social relations (i.e. at core: class struggle). Rather, the challenge is pre-political, concerning the critique of the way of thinking (Denkungsart) that covers up the truth of capitalism, its uncanny principle of valorizing movement that is indifferent to humankind and the Earth, both of which it employs merely as its material for endless accumulation.

*) I leave aside here the task of a temporalogy; cf. On Human Temporality.

Further readingSocial Ontology of Whoness (De Gruyter 2019)

On Human Temporality (forthcoming De Gruyter 2024)