Law and Order: Make Marxism Great Again

As he accept­ed his nom­i­na­tion at the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion, Don­ald Trump declared him­self “the law and order can­di­date,” promis­ing that “safe­ty will be restored” by his pres­i­den­cy. The next day, a dis­tressed Wash­ing­ton Post declared Trump “a unique threat to democ­ra­cy.“1

But mem­o­ries inside the Belt­way are far too shortevery moment in the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics appears as an excep­tion to the rule. It was not long ago that the lib­er­al-left in the Unit­ed States saw George W. Bush as a turn of the sys­tem towards a satan­ic monar­chy, inau­gu­rat­ing an age of sur­veil­lance, inequal­i­ty, and war. Barack Oba­ma, in con­trast, pro­vid­ed an excep­tion­al moment of hope: a charm­ing, eru­dite, and cos­mopoli­tan leader to calm­ly guide us to even low­er cir­cles of sur­veil­lance, inequal­i­ty, and war.

Now the elec­tion sea­son pits the hawk­ish super­vi­sor of Obama’s mil­i­tary strat­e­gy against an unhinged bil­lion­aire sociopath with a shrewd mind for mar­ket­ing. Amer­i­can lib­er­als, scan­dal­ized by Trump’s invec­tive, advanced the self-ful­fill­ing prophe­cy that a left-wing pop­ulist would nev­er be able to defeat him – and at the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, Bernie Sanders him­self defied Wik­ileaks and his own sup­port­ers to pave the way for a can­di­date whose pub­lic per­cep­tion is char­ac­ter­ized by cor­rup­tion, secre­cy, and oppor­tunism. While a Trump pres­i­den­cy is not impos­si­ble, in this top­sy-turvy elec­tion it has turned out to be fool­ish to make pre­dic­tions. It seems fair, how­ev­er, to ask a ques­tion that is being ignored or sup­pressed: if eight years of Bill Clin­ton gave us George W. Bush, and eight years of Oba­ma gave us Trump, what would eight years of Hillary Clin­ton give us?

Help­ful­ly, Trump has giv­en us a clue. By reviv­ing the slo­gans of Rea­gan and Nixon, and pre­sent­ing his can­di­da­cy as a reac­tion to social con­flict sur­round­ing racist police vio­lence, he has made his lin­eage all too clear. While the Amer­i­can Left has yet to come to terms with the sequence that runs from Nixon, to Rea­gan, to Bush, to Trump, the Jamaican-born British intel­lec­tu­al Stu­art Hall devot­ed a large por­tion of his career to grap­pling with the sim­i­lar­ly unset­tling rise of Mar­garet Thatch­er, in the con­text of a debate among the British left that antic­i­pates the Amer­i­can present.2 “What the coun­try needs,” said Thatch­er dur­ing her 1979 cam­paign, “is less tax and more law and order.” For Hall, the suc­cess of this slo­gan was far from sur­pris­ing. A year before Thatch­er took office, he was engaged in research­ing the social cli­mate in which her rhetoric could take hold of the pub­lic mind – and it cen­tered on the “moral pan­ic” sur­round­ing mug­ging.

Crisis and Coercion

The first edi­tor of New Left Review, Stu­art Hall was appoint­ed direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Con­tem­po­rary Cul­tur­al Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Birm­ing­ham in the late six­ties, by its founder Richard Hog­gart. Along with col­leagues at the Cen­tre, he pub­lished Polic­ing the Cri­sis: Mug­ging, the State, and Law and Order in 1978. It is an almost unbe­liev­ably wide-rang­ing book: empir­i­cal inves­ti­ga­tions of mug­ging and analy­ses of media rep­re­sen­ta­tions are inter­spersed with the­o­ret­i­cal elab­o­ra­tions on the ide­ol­o­gy of empiri­cism, the prob­lem of the Eng­lish aris­toc­ra­cy, and Marx’s account of Bona­partism; the his­to­ry of post­war British cap­i­tal­ism is recount­ed with care­ful atten­tion to Elvis, mods and rock­ers, and Desmond Dekker. But per­haps what is even more bewil­der­ing than its blur­ring of gen­res and its exhaus­tive detail in cap­tur­ing the 1970s is the star­tling­ly con­tem­po­rary char­ac­ter of its analy­sis and the social phe­nom­e­na it describes.

While this study was, at first glance, focused on media rep­re­sen­ta­tions of crime, this was in fact a com­po­nent of a broad­er analy­sis of the decline of British social democ­ra­cy and the fad­ing of the fabled “post­war con­sen­sus” that had pre­vailed since 1945, when the Labour Par­ty formed the major­i­ty gov­ern­ment. To cap­ture the 1970s moment Polic­ing the Cri­sis traced the unique form of social demo­c­ra­t­ic hege­mo­ny estab­lished in 1945, when “the state con­sid­er­ably expand­ed its over-all func­tion of man­ag­ing crises and super­in­tend­ing the ‘gen­er­al con­di­tions’ of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion and accu­mu­la­tion, and of defend­ing the rate of prof­it.”3 British social democ­ra­cy took over fail­ing indus­tries, employed a large pro­por­tion of labor, reg­u­lat­ed demand and employ­ment, assumed respon­si­bil­i­ty for social wel­fare, expand­ed edu­ca­tion to meet the require­ments of tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment, increased its involve­ment in media com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and worked to har­mo­nize inter­na­tion­al trade. The post­war sta­bi­liza­tion of cap­i­tal­ism did not fun­da­men­tal­ly alter the rela­tions of the eco­nom­ic sys­tem, but it was able to build a wel­fare state on the basis of this “peri­od of unpar­al­leled pro­duc­tive growth,” and it con­sol­i­dat­ed par­lia­men­tary democ­ra­cy on the basis of the “aug­ment­ed role of the state in eco­nom­ic affairs.”4

But the British par­tic­i­pa­tion in the glob­al post­war boom con­tained impor­tant weak­ness­es, caused by the debil­i­tat­ing effects of the impe­r­i­al lega­cy and a creaky indus­tri­al infra­struc­ture resis­tant to inno­va­tion. The inter­ven­tion­ist state pro­gres­sive­ly encoun­tered sharp­en­ing inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tion, fluc­tu­a­tions in the prof­it rate, increas­ing cycli­cal insta­bil­i­ty, and grow­ing infla­tion.5 Yet the Labour Par­ty had paint­ed itself into a cor­ner, with “no alter­na­tive strat­e­gy for man­ag­ing the eco­nom­ic cri­sis.” Its com­mit­ment to main­tain­ing the struc­tures of cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety, lim­it­ing itself to the read­just­ment of dis­tri­b­u­tion on the basis of pro­duc­tive growth, meant that it had to pro­tect the con­di­tions of accu­mu­la­tion at all costs. Thus its cen­tral goal was to expand pro­duc­tiv­i­ty: “to make labour more pro­duc­tive – which, in con­di­tions of low invest­ment, meant rais­ing the rate of the exploita­tion of labour.” But the unfa­vor­able eco­nom­ic con­di­tions were not the only obsta­cle to the task of pre­serv­ing the exist­ing order. The state would also have to con­front “a strong, though often cor­po­rate, work­ing class with ris­ing mate­r­i­al expec­ta­tions, tough tra­di­tions of bar­gain­ing, resis­tance and strug­gle.” As a con­se­quence, “each cri­sis of the sys­tem has, pro­gres­sive­ly, tak­en the overt form of a cri­sis in the man­age­ment of the state, a cri­sis of hege­mo­ny.6

In oth­er words, the state end­ed up “man­ag­ing cap­i­tal where cap­i­tal could no longer suc­cess­ful­ly man­age itself,” which meant “ draw­ing the eco­nom­ic class strug­gle increas­ing­ly on to its own ter­rain … a more overt and direct effort by the state to man­age the polit­i­cal class strug­gle.” The state increas­ing­ly played the role of strik­ing “bar­gains” with the work­ing class, to give it a “stake” in the sys­tem through the medi­a­tion of the orga­nized labor move­ment, whose insti­tu­tions had “pro­gres­sive­ly been incor­po­rat­ed into the man­age­ment of the econ­o­my as one of its major cor­po­rate sup­ports.” This meant reg­u­lat­ing an uneasy bal­ance between con­ces­sions and restraints, ori­ent­ed towards sup­port­ing capital’s growth and sta­bil­i­ty in the long term. Social democ­ra­cy there­fore had the func­tion of “har­mon­i­sa­tion of inter­ests,” the “paci­fi­ca­tion and har­mon­i­sa­tion of class strug­gle.”7

In such a con­text, in which work­ing-class strug­gles seemed to con­front the state direct­ly, pre­serv­ing con­sent as the pri­ma­ry mech­a­nism of demo­c­ra­t­ic rule became a cen­tral prob­lem – the increas­ing state use of media, its atten­tion to shap­ing cul­tur­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions and inter­ven­ing in the mean­ings they con­struct­ed, was direct­ed towards shap­ing and trans­form­ing a “con­sen­sus on val­ues.8 Dur­ing a cri­sis of hege­mo­ny, such con­sen­sus could not be tak­en for grant­ed; the cri­sis con­sti­tut­ed “a moment of pro­found rup­ture in the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic life of a soci­ety, an accu­mu­la­tion of con­tra­dic­tions… when the whole basis of polit­i­cal lead­er­ship and cul­tur­al author­i­ty becomes exposed and con­test­ed.9

Con­ser­v­a­tive gov­ern­ments also par­tic­i­pat­ed in the post­war man­age­ment of con­sen­sus, which oper­at­ed on broad­ly the same mech­a­nisms despite the alter­nat­ing elec­toral for­tunes of the par­ties. But at the end of the 1960s British soci­ety was already expe­ri­enc­ing moral pan­ics, sur­round­ing youth cul­ture and immi­gra­tion. A wide range of phe­nom­e­na, from protest and coun­ter­cul­ture to per­mis­sive­ness and crime came to be pre­sent­ed as part of a sin­gle, over­whelm­ing threat to the foun­da­tions of the social order. The con­ser­v­a­tive ter­mi­na­tion of the post­war con­sen­sus pro­vid­ed a dis­tinct response to this cul­tur­al upheaval with its empha­sis on “law and order” and the restora­tion of author­i­ty, paving the way for new ide­o­log­i­cal for­ma­tions.10

How­ev­er, such a shift in the bal­ance of forces was not due only to the ‘60s coun­ter­cul­ture. The “tran­si­tion from this tight­en­ing of con­trol at the end of the 1960s into the full repres­sive ‘clo­sure’ of 1970,” which gave way to the “law-and-order soci­ety” and rede­fined the field of social con­flict, was in fact dri­ven by “the re-entry to the his­tor­i­cal stage of the class strug­gle in a vis­i­ble, open, and esca­lat­ing form”:

A soci­ety career­ing off the rails through “per­mis­sive­ness,” “par­tic­i­pa­tion,” and “protest” into “the alter­na­tive soci­ety” and “anar­chy” is one thing. It is quite anoth­er moment when the work­ing class once again takes the offen­sive in a mood of active mil­i­tan­cy. To say “takes the offen­sive” might sug­gest that, for a time, it was absent from the rela­tions of force, resis­tance, and con­sent in the soci­ety. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. But the form which the class strug­gle assumed in the peri­od of Labourism was dif­fer­ent from the form it begins to assume – to assume again – as we enter the 1970s. The attempt by a social-demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­ern­ment to man­age the state through an organ­ised ver­sion of con­sen­sus is final­ly exhaust­ed and bank­rupt­ed between 1964 and 1970, so, grad­u­al­ly, the class strug­gle comes more and more into the open, assumes a more man­i­fest pres­ence. This devel­op­ment is elec­tri­fy­ing. One of its con­se­quences is to trans­late a strug­gle which is emerg­ing at the lev­el of civ­il soci­ety and its super­struc­tur­al insti­tu­tions (prin­ci­pal­ly the form of the cri­sis dur­ing the peri­od up to and imme­di­ate­ly after our “1968”) direct­ly on to the ter­rain of cap­i­tal and labour, and thus – in the era of organ­ised late cap­i­tal­ism – on to the ter­rain of the state.11

The ter­rain of the state itself was being recom­posed: the process of cri­sis man­age­ment required “a recom­po­si­tion of the whole state appa­ra­tus and of rela­tions between the dif­fer­ent branch­es of the state, and between the state itself and civ­il soci­ety.” But since the state had direct­ly involved itself in the pro­duc­tive sys­tem and the medi­a­tion of class strug­gle, “the recom­po­si­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist state is also, and inevitably, the recom­po­si­tion ‘from above’ of the work­ing class.”12

The incomes poli­cies of the 1970s, which tried to man­age infla­tion by trad­ing low­er wage increas­es for a con­straint on ris­ing prices, rep­re­sent­ed an attempt “to exer­cise and enforce restraint over wages and the work­ing class by con­sent,” by “win­ning the unions to full col­lab­o­ra­tion with the state in dis­ci­plin­ing the work­ing class.”13 But this project failed, in part because of the intran­si­gence of the rank and file and “the mas­sive shift of the locus of class con­flict in indus­try from management/union dis­putes to management/shop-floor dis­putes.” Rank and file mil­i­tan­cy and shopfloor orga­ni­za­tion dis­placed the nego­ti­at­ing table:

Far from fol­low­ing their lead­ers into the arms of the state, or – as some vari­ants of the “afflu­ent-work­er the­sis” pre­dict­ed – sim­ply dis­ap­pear­ing off the face of the earth into the mid­dle class­es, the rank-and-file work­ers in indus­try found anoth­er point of antag­o­nism with the struc­ture of cap­i­tal­ist man­age­ment and threw up around it a for­mi­da­ble, flex­i­ble and mil­i­tant defen­sive organ­i­sa­tion. Local con­di­tions could be exploit­ed and local advan­tages tak­en best in large-scale fac­to­ry work, espe­cial­ly in engi­neer­ing, where, as a result of the com­plex divi­sions of labour, a stop­page of ten men in one sec­tion could bring the whole assem­bly line to a grind­ing halt. This vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of large-scale indus­try was increased under con­di­tions of full or near-full employ­ment with a short­age of skilled labour.14

Con­ser­v­a­tive ide­ol­o­gy played an impor­tant role in the state response to this threat. The 1970 “law-and-order” cam­paign had legit­i­mat­ed the state’s resort to the use of repres­sion as cri­sis man­age­ment, a “rou­tin­i­sa­tion of con­trol” which made polic­ing seem “nor­mal, nat­ur­al, and thus right and inevitable.” This cam­paign had a less obvi­ous advan­tage: it lent legit­i­ma­cy to the state’s ini­tia­tive “to dis­ci­pline, restrain and coerce, to bring, also with­in the frame­work of law and order, not only demon­stra­tors, crim­i­nals, squat­ters and dope addicts, but the sol­id ranks of the work­ing class itself. This recal­ci­trant class – or at least its dis­or­der­ly minori­ties – had also to be har­nessed to ‘order.’”15

Unen­cum­bered with the tie to orga­nized labor, the Con­ser­v­a­tives were ones capa­ble of break­ing ground in the shift of the legal frame­work towards lim­it­ing trade union pow­er with the 1971 Indus­tri­al Rela­tions Act. They were able to appeal to “nation­al uni­ty,” to call to “restore author­i­ty to gov­ern­ment,” pro­vid­ing a pos­i­tive corol­lary to the neg­a­tive theme of “law and order.”16 Even when the Act was repealed under the Labour gov­ern­ment which fol­lowed, with its cen­trist “Social Con­tracts,” its effect had already been imprint­ed onto the land­scape of the class strug­gle. The cri­sis, then, rep­re­sent­ed a deep struc­tur­al shift in the char­ac­ter of the post­war cap­i­tal­ist state. The Con­ser­v­a­tive inter­lude in the cri­sis of social democ­ra­cy

marked the con­clu­sion of a crit­i­cal inter­nal shift in the nature of the bal­ance or equi­lib­ri­um on which con­tem­po­rary cap­i­tal­ist state pow­er is found­ed. And, though the basic stro­phe of change may derive from a deep­er lev­el of the struc­ture, this dif­fer­ence – between a masked and a more open form of repres­sive regime – aris­es most acute­ly at the lev­el of the polit­i­cal class strug­gle itself. The growth of polit­i­cal dis­sent, from the mid-1960s onwards, then the resump­tion of a more mil­i­tant form of work­ing-class polit­i­cal strug­gle at the turn of the decade, cou­pled with the per­va­sive weak­ness of the British eco­nom­ic base, have made it impos­si­ble, for a time, to man­age the cri­sis, polit­i­cal­ly, with­out an esca­la­tion in the use and forms of repres­sive state pow­er.17

This shift would become deci­sive, and the elec­tion of Thatch­er as Leader of the Oppo­si­tion in 1975 rep­re­sent­ed the move­ment of the rad­i­cal right from the mar­gins to the cen­ter, build­ing on the ide­ol­o­gy of law and order to advance a strat­e­gy of break­ing from the post­war con­sen­sus.

This strat­e­gy would take cen­ter stage as social-demo­c­ra­t­ic cri­sis man­age­ment came up against an unavoid­able impasse in the course of the 1970s. It was a process

man­aged by a gov­ern­ment which is silent­ly pray­ing that it can effect the trans­fer of the cri­sis to the work­ing class with­out arous­ing mass polit­i­cal resis­tance, and thus cre­ate that mirage of British social demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­ern­ments – “favourable invest­ment con­di­tions.” If it cuts too fast, the unions will be forced to bolt the ‘social con­tract,’ and destroy social democracy’s frag­ile social and polit­i­cal base; if it does not cut fast and hard, the inter­na­tion­al bankers will sim­ply cut their cred­it short. If it rais­es tax­es, the mid­dle class­es – now in a state of irri­ta­ble, Thatch­er-like arousal – will either emi­grate en masse or begin, Chilean-style, to rat­tle their pres­sure-cook­er lids; if it does not tax, the last rem­nants of the wel­fare state – and with them any hope of buy­ing work­ing-class com­pli­ance – will dis­ap­pear. Britain in the 1970s is a coun­try for whose cri­sis there are no viable cap­i­tal­ist solu­tions left, and where, as yet, there is no polit­i­cal base for an alter­na­tive social­ist strat­e­gy. It is a nation locked in a dead­ly stale­mate: a state of unstop­pable cap­i­tal­ist decline.18

But along­side the social demo­c­ra­t­ic attempt to incor­po­rate the work­ing class “junior part­ners in the man­age­ment of cri­sis” was the growth of divi­sions inter­nal to the class, the effects of sec­tion­al­ism, economism, syn­di­cal­ism, and reformism.19 This sit­u­a­tion did not amount to a rev­o­lu­tion­ary con­junc­ture; far from it, it her­ald­ed “the com­ing of ‘iron times.’” Class dom­i­na­tion would take on new modes, reg­is­tered prin­ci­pal­ly in “a tilt in the oper­a­tion of the state away from con­sent towards the pole of coer­cion.”20 The moral pan­ic over mug­ging, then, was “one of the forms of appear­ance of a more deep-seat­ed his­tor­i­cal cri­sis”; it played an impor­tant role in the state’s sta­bi­liza­tion. The per­cep­tion of a rise in crime was “one of the prin­ci­pal forms of ide­o­log­i­cal con­scious­ness by means of which a ‘silent major­i­ty’ is won over to the sup­port of increas­ing­ly coer­cive mea­sures on the part of the state, and lends its legit­i­ma­cy to a ‘more than usu­al’ exer­cise of con­trol.”21

Race and Recomposition

Media rep­re­sen­ta­tions of mug­ging raised anoth­er prob­lem for under­stand­ing the field of social con­flict of the 1970s. There was an unmis­tak­able asso­ci­a­tion of crime with black youth. How could this social fig­ure be under­stood polit­i­cal­ly, both to explain its tar­get­ing by polic­ing and its own agency? Police had been engaged in “con­trol­ling and con­tain­ing” the black pop­u­la­tion since the ear­ly 1970s, but after 1974 the dynam­ics grew deep­er. The cuts in wel­fare, edu­ca­tion, and social sup­port hit the black pop­u­la­tions con­cen­trat­ed in the inner city the hard­est. What’s more, part of the effect of the upheaval of the 1960s had been to intro­duce a new sen­si­bil­i­ty of resis­tance in the inner city, and what now emerged was an explo­sive sit­u­a­tion: “a sec­tor of the pop­u­la­tion, already mobilised in terms of black con­scious­ness, was now also the sec­tor most exposed to the accel­er­at­ing pace of the eco­nom­ic reces­sion.” The con­se­quence was “noth­ing less than the syn­chro­ni­sa­tion of the race and the class aspects of the cri­sis”: “Polic­ing the blacks threat­ened to mesh with the prob­lem of polic­ing the poor and polic­ing the unem­ployed: all three were con­cen­trat­ed in pre­cise­ly the same urban areas.”22 Polic­ing the blacks became “syn­ony­mous with the wider prob­lem of polic­ing the cri­sis.23

To study the speci­fici­ties of the race prob­lem required some nuance. The black pop­u­la­tion also par­tic­i­pat­ed in indus­tri­al labor; there was a “grow­ing indus­tri­al mil­i­tan­cy amongst black work­ers,” and they were in fact more like­ly to par­tic­i­pate in unions than their white coun­ter­parts.24 They played a cen­tral role in the desta­bi­liz­ing class strug­gles of the peri­od: “In many of the key indus­tri­al dis­putes which ‘cre­ate’ the cri­sis – in the motor indus­try, for exam­ple – black and white work­ers have been involved in a com­mon strug­gle.” Nev­er­the­less, black work­ers were dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly rep­re­sent­ed in unskilled and semi-skilled labor, and bore the brunt of deskilling and lay­offs. The effect of shift­ing ide­o­log­i­cal para­me­ters in the cri­sis of hege­mo­ny meant that these divi­sions could play a destruc­tive polit­i­cal role:

Although the black and white poor find them­selves, objec­tive­ly, in the same posi­tion, they inhab­it a world ide­o­log­i­cal­ly so struc­tured that each can be made to pro­vide the oth­er with its neg­a­tive ref­er­ence group, the “man­i­fest cause” of each other’s ill-for­tune. As eco­nom­ic cir­cum­stances tight­en, so the com­pet­i­tive strug­gle between work­ers is increased, and a com­pe­ti­tion struc­tured in terms of race or colour dis­tinc­tions has a great deal of mileage. It is pre­cise­ly on this nerve that the Nation­al Front is play­ing at the moment, with con­sid­er­able effect. So the cri­sis of the work­ing class is repro­duced, once again, through the struc­tur­al mech­a­nisms of racism, as a cri­sis with­in and between the work­ing class­es.25

Part of this inter­nal cri­sis was the growth of unem­ploy­ment, and the chal­lenge it posed to work­ing-class orga­ni­za­tion. In every­day expe­ri­ence, unem­ploy­ment was close­ly tied up with race. Due to its “struc­tur­al posi­tion in the labor force” at a time of eco­nom­ic reces­sion, the black work­force – “espe­cial­ly young black school-leavers, seek­ing employ­ment for the first time” – now appeared to be some­thing like an “ eth­ni­cal­ly dis­tinct class frac­tion – the one most exposed to the winds of unem­ploy­ment.”26 It was “a sig­nif­i­cant sec­tor of the grow­ing army of the unwaged, and one vul­ner­a­ble to accel­er­at­ing social pau­peri­sa­tion.”27 This amount­ed to noth­ing less than a use of the reces­sion “to dri­ve through a major recom­po­si­tion of black labour by cap­i­tal itself.” Under­stand­ing the posi­tion of black work­ers meant going beyond “the imme­di­ate con­tin­gen­cies of ‘dis­crim­i­na­tion’” to “a struc­tur­al fea­ture of mod­ern cap­i­tal, and the piv­otal role which black labour now plays in the metrop­o­les of cap­i­tal in a major phase of its recom­po­si­tion.”28

The dif­fi­cult task was to under­stand what kind of agency this recom­po­si­tion con­tained. As black youth were increas­ing­ly incor­po­rat­ed into the unem­ployed reserve army of labor, there could be no ques­tion that their objec­tive posi­tion was dete­ri­o­rat­ing; but “the dynam­ic fac­tor is the change in the way this objec­tive process is col­lec­tive­ly under­stood and resist­ed.” With­in the com­mon expe­ri­ence of unem­ploy­ment, Polic­ing the Cri­sis sug­gest­ed, “the social con­tent and polit­i­cal mean­ing of ‘workless­ness’ is being thor­ough­ly trans­formed from inside.” Mil­i­tan­cy among black youth was com­ing not from shopfloor social­iza­tion, but from this trans­for­ma­tion of workless­ness.29 Draw­ing on the jour­nal Race Today, which includ­ed fig­ures influ­enced by C.L.R. James like Dar­cus Howe, Far­rukh Dhondy, and Lin­ton Kwe­si John­son, the authors iden­ti­fied emerg­ing polit­i­cal ten­den­cies with­in the black com­mu­ni­ty. The new polit­i­cal dynamism was

pred­i­cat­ed on the auton­o­my and self-activ­i­ty of black groups in strug­gle; and it iden­ti­fies the most sig­nif­i­cant theme of this strug­gle as the grow­ing “refusal to work” of the black unem­ployed. The high lev­els of youth­ful black unem­ploy­ment are here rein­ter­pret­ed as part of a con­scious polit­i­cal “refusal to work.” This refusal to work is cru­cial, since it strikes at cap­i­tal. It means that this sec­tor of the class refus­es to enter com­pe­ti­tion with those already in pro­duc­tive work. Hence it refus­es the tra­di­tion­al role of the “reserve army of labour” – i.e. as an instru­ment which can be used to break or under­mine the bar­gain­ing pow­er of those still in work.30

In a tan­ta­liz­ing pas­sage the authors note that this “analy­sis of the posi­tion of blacks is quite close to that elab­o­rat­ed by a major cur­rent in con­tem­po­rary Ital­ian Marx­ist the­o­ry (what is some­times called ‘the Ital­ian School’).” Mem­bers of the “Ital­ian School” cit­ed in a foot­note include Mario Tron­ti, Ser­gio Bologna, Fer­ruc­cio Gam­bi­no, Sil­via Fed­eri­ci, and Mario Mon­tano (the lat­ter two under their pseu­do­nym “Gui­do Bal­di”). The sum­ma­ry of this Ital­ian account of the cur­rent stage of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment moves very quick­ly, reflect­ing the scant avail­abil­i­ty of sources at the time, but it leads to an orig­i­nal devel­op­ment of the method­ol­o­gy:

The recom­po­si­tion of cap­i­tal has there­fore, in turn, “recom­posed” the work­ing class… This “pro­duc­tive” recom­po­si­tion of the class also involves a polit­i­cal recom­po­si­tion – the old reflex­es and organ­i­sa­tions of class strug­gle belong­ing to an ear­li­er phase being dis­man­tled, and class strug­gle tend­ing to gen­er­ate new forms of mil­i­tant resis­tance direct­ly against the exploita­tion of the new labour process… it can be seen at once how this analy­sis can be extend­ed to illu­mi­nate the spe­cif­ic posi­tion of black labour (and oth­er migrant “labours”) in the “advanced” sec­tors of mod­ern British indus­try; but also how oth­er forms of “direct resis­tance” – like the refusal to work – can assume a quite dif­fer­ent mean­ing and strate­gic posi­tion, as forms of class strug­gle, not of a mar­gin­al but of piv­otal sec­tions of the work­ing class.31

The polit­i­cal agency of the wage­less, then, lay in the forms of self-help it gen­er­at­ed, from “hus­tling” to the ver­nac­u­lar cul­tures of mutu­al sup­port, draw­ing on the Caribbean lega­cy that migrants car­ried with them. While there was no nec­es­sary polit­i­cal con­tent to hus­tling, the Amer­i­can exam­ples of Mal­colm X and George Jack­son indi­cat­ed its poten­tial to be the site of devel­op­ment for a rev­o­lu­tion­ary prac­tice. Wage­less­ness was rede­fined on the streets “as a pos­i­tive rather than as a pas­sive form of strug­gle; as belong­ing to a major­i­ty rather than a ‘mar­gin­al’ work­ing-class expe­ri­ence, a posi­tion thor­ough­ly filled out and ampli­fied, cul­tur­al­ly and ide­o­log­i­cal­ly, and there­fore capa­ble of pro­vid­ing the base of a viable class strat­e­gy.”32 This took on a guid­ing impor­tance for a broad class strug­gle, since “migrant work­ers now form the per­ma­nent basis of the mod­ern indus­tri­al reserve army.33

Fur­ther­more, since the work­ing class in gen­er­al was con­fronting grow­ing unem­ploy­ment, just as the costs of the cri­sis were being imposed upon it by the state, these new forms of con­tes­ta­tion took on a cru­cial sig­nif­i­cance. Ear­li­er reform vic­to­ries were being “dras­ti­cal­ly erod­ed and reversed,” and the polit­i­cal pow­er of the work­ing class and its orga­ni­za­tions were chal­lenged by an “author­i­tar­i­an con­sen­sus.” As this dynam­ic of ero­sion and onslaught con­tin­ued with­in the cri­sis, the prac­tices of polic­ing and the media rep­re­sen­ta­tions of crime took on a cen­tral impor­tance for work­ing-class pol­i­tics, pos­ing “the most mas­sive and crit­i­cal prob­lems of strat­e­gy and strug­gles”: “how to pre­vent a size­able sec­tion of the class from being more or less per­ma­nent­ly crim­i­nalised.34 Iden­ti­fy­ing the new agen­cies of resis­tance by the black unem­ployed and find­ing a way to join them to the broad­er class strug­gle could serve as a basis for respond­ing to the author­i­tar­i­an con­sen­sus, which threat­ened the work­ing class as a whole.

This analy­sis, how­ev­er, came up against a poten­tial lim­it. Wage­less­ness, and “the forms of polit­i­cal organ­i­sa­tion and ide­o­log­i­cal con­scious­ness which aris­es or could arise from its base,” could be under­stood in two ways. One inter­pre­ta­tion saw “wage­less­ness” and its autonomous forms of repro­duc­tion, includ­ing crime, as a form of the mass worker’s refusal to work. But a con­trary inter­pre­ta­tion took on a dis­turb­ing salience as the reces­sion deep­ened. It was start­ing to become inescapably clear that “those blacks, in larg­er num­bers, who are ‘refus­ing work’ are mak­ing a virtue of neces­si­ty; there is hard­ly any work left for young black school-leavers to refuse. As large as is the sec­tion who have just found it pos­si­ble to sur­vive through the hus­tling life of the street, the num­bers of blacks who would take work if they were offered it is larg­er.35

No clear solu­tion was avail­able for this dilem­ma; while exist­ing the­o­ries of the lumpen­pro­le­tari­at pro­vid­ed use­ful insights, the deploy­ment of this class cat­e­go­ry in colo­nial Africa by the likes of Fanon did not map onto the con­di­tions of the advanced cap­i­tal­ist metrop­o­lis as clear­ly as the likes of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty implied. This “dif­fi­cult prob­lem of analy­sis” had “per­ti­nent effects at the lev­el of devel­op­ing a the­o­ret­i­cal­ly informed polit­i­cal prac­tice and strat­e­gy”; nev­er­the­less, the authors of Polic­ing the Cri­sis con­fessed that they had “delib­er­ate­ly refrained from enter­ing direct­ly into this ques­tion, because it is a mat­ter which we believe must be resolved in strug­gle, rather than on paper.”36

Turn­ing instead to the the­o­ret­i­cal prob­lem of race, it is here that Polic­ing the Cri­sis presents the famous slo­gan: “Race is the modal­i­ty in which class is lived.”37 In the con­text of the author­i­tar­i­an con­sen­sus this was not a sec­tion­al phe­nom­e­non – it was a real­i­ty which “has con­se­quences for the whole class, whose rela­tion to their con­di­tions of exis­tence is now trans­formed by race.”38 But for black mem­bers of the work­ing class in par­tic­u­lar, it was pri­mar­i­ly through the expe­ri­ence of “race” that they could “ come to a con­scious­ness of their struc­tured sub­or­di­na­tion”: “It is through the modal­i­ty of race that blacks com­pre­hend, han­dle and then begin to resist the exploita­tion which is an objec­tive fea­ture of their class sit­u­a­tion.”39

The ten­sion between the “con­se­quences for the whole class” and the spe­cif­ic expe­ri­ence of the black work­ing class could not be eas­i­ly resolved. There was an extent to which the strat­e­gy of street crime could be under­stood as a “sec­tion­al strug­gle,” much like the white trade union strug­gles which exclud­ed the black unem­ployed. Both were nec­es­sary defen­sive strug­gles, but the gap left between the autonomous activ­i­ty of each class sec­tor was quick­ly filled by cap­i­tal, con­vert­ed into divi­sion by racism:

Cap­i­tal repro­duces the class as a whole, struc­tured by race. It dom­i­nates the divid­ed class, in part, through those inter­nal divi­sions which have “racism” as one of their effects. It con­tains and dis­ables the rep­re­sen­ta­tive class organ­i­sa­tions by con­fin­ing them, in part, to strate­gies and strug­gles which are race-spe­cif­ic, which do not sur­mount its lim­its, its bar­ri­ers. Through race, it con­tin­ues to defeat the attempts to con­struct, at the polit­i­cal lev­el, organ­i­sa­tions which do in fact ade­quate­ly rep­re­sent the class as a whole – that is, which rep­re­sent it against cap­i­tal­ism, against racism.40

But this was anoth­er prob­lem which could not be resolved on paper. It reflect­ed the fact that “there is, as yet, no active pol­i­tics, no form of organ­ised strug­gle, and no strat­e­gy which is able ade­quate­ly and deci­sive­ly to inter­vene in the qua­si-rebel­lion of the black wage­less such as would be capa­ble of bring­ing about that break in the cur­rent false appro­pri­a­tions of oppres­sion through crime.” Only a new form of orga­nized strug­gle could effect the “crit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion of the crim­i­nalised con­scious­ness into some­thing more sus­tained and thor­ough-going in a polit­i­cal sense,” and this con­sti­tut­ed “a pow­er­ful reminder that we should not mis­take a pro­to-polit­i­cal con­scious­ness for organ­ised polit­i­cal class strug­gle and prac­tice.” The absence of such an active pol­i­tics posed “a nec­es­sary warn­ing about any strat­e­gy which is based sim­ply on favour­ing cur­rent modes of resis­tance, in the hope that, in and of them­selves, by nat­ur­al evo­lu­tion rather than by break and trans­for­ma­tion, they could become, spon­ta­neous­ly, anoth­er thing.”41

An Exceptional Form of State?

To under­stand the devel­op­ment from Polic­ing the Cri­sis to the analy­sis of Thatch­erism, we should pay atten­tion to the dia­logue the book enters into with Nicos Poulantzas’s State, Pow­er, Social­ism, which appeared the same year. Poulantzas, who appar­ent­ly kept good track of devel­op­ments on the British Left, read Polic­ing the Cri­sis, not­ing that the authors “did not seri­ous­ly dis­cuss the new form of state.42 Con­verse­ly, Polic­ing the Cri­sis had already indi­cat­ed that that “Poulantzas… whose writ­ings have great­ly stim­u­lat­ed and informed our work, some­times appears to go to the… extreme and vir­tu­al­ly absorb every­thing which is not part of the ‘eco­nom­ic anato­my’ of cap­i­tal­ism into the ter­rain of the state. This blurs and obscures key dis­tinc­tions which need to be retained.”43

Part of the dif­fi­cul­ty Poulantzas detect­ed, we may spec­u­late, may have been with Polic­ing the Cri­sis ’s descrip­tion of British soci­ety as tend­ing towards an “excep­tion­al state,” a term he reserved for fas­cism and mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship. This is indeed a ter­mi­no­log­i­cal lim­it in their con­cep­tion, though they take pains to empha­size that the cri­sis of hege­mo­ny they describe “does not entail a sus­pen­sion of the ‘nor­mal’ exer­cise of state pow­er,” and there­fore is not “a ful­ly excep­tion­al form of the state”: “It is bet­ter under­stood as – to put it para­dox­i­cal­ly – an ‘excep­tion­al’ moment’ in the ‘nor­mal’ form of the late cap­i­tal­ist state.” This “excep­tion­al moment” was char­ac­ter­ized by “the increased reliance on coer­cive mech­a­nisms and appa­ra­tus­es already avail­able with­in the nor­mal reper­toire of state pow­er, and the pow­er­ful orches­tra­tion, in sup­port of this tilt of the bal­ance towards the coer­cive pole, of an author­i­tar­i­an con­sen­sus.”44

How­ev­er, Poulantzas also devot­ed the bulk of his book to under­stand­ing the changes in the char­ac­ter of the state in response to the cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis: the emer­gence of “author­i­tar­i­an sta­tism,” defined as “inten­si­fied state con­trol over every sphere of socio­economic life com­bined with rad­i­cal decline of the insti­tu­tions of polit­i­cal democ­ra­cy and with dra­con­ian and mul­ti­form cur­tail­ment of so-called ‘for­mal’ lib­er­ties.”45 While empha­siz­ing that fas­cism, mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, and Bona­partism con­sti­tut­ed “ excep­tion­al forms of State,” Poulantzas not­ed that the forms of democ­ra­cy itself are by no means guar­an­teed.46 In this regard he reframed the clas­si­cal ques­tion of the form of the bour­geois state, which had once been posed by Pashuka­nis:

why, in gen­er­al, does the bour­geoisie seek to main­tain its dom­i­na­tion by hav­ing recourse pre­cise­ly to the nation­al-pop­u­lar State – to the mod­ern rep­re­sen­ta­tive State with all its char­ac­ter­is­tic insti­tu­tions? For it is far from self-evi­dent that the bour­geoisie would have cho­sen this par­tic­u­lar form if it had been able to tai­lor a State to its require­ments. While the bour­geoisie con­tin­ues to derive many ben­e­fits from such a state, it is by no means always con­tent­ed with it, any more than it was in the past.47

Those study­ing the con­tem­po­rary state had to reck­on with “impor­tant changes in democ­ra­cy”: “greater exclu­sion of the mass­es from the cen­tres of polit­i­cal deci­sion-mak­ing; widen­ing of the dis­tance between cit­i­zens and the state appa­ra­tus, just when the State is invad­ing the life of soci­ety as a whole; an unprece­dent­ed degree of state cen­tral­ism; increased attempts to reg­i­ment the mass­es through ‘par­tic­i­pa­tion’ schemes.” In oth­er words, an over­all “sharp­en­ing of the author­i­tar­i­an char­ac­ter of polit­i­cal mech­a­nisms.”48

Such changes had to be under­stood in the con­text of “the polit­i­cal cri­sis and the cri­sis of the State.”49 While the eco­nom­ic cri­sis of the late 1970s was assured­ly “not a pass­ing phe­nom­e­non but, in many respects, a struc­tur­al cri­sis,” this did not mean that the polit­i­cal or state cri­sis could be reduced to it, in the man­ner of the clas­si­cal notions of the decay and death-agony of cap­i­tal­ism, accord­ing to which the state was in cri­sis sim­ply “by virtue of being the last pos­si­ble state form before the nec­es­sary advent of social­ism.”50 Instead, while ground­ing the analy­sis in the per­ma­nent and recur­ring char­ac­ter of cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis, polit­i­cal cri­sis and state cri­sis had to be sit­u­at­ed in a con­junc­ture char­ac­ter­ized by the con­den­sa­tion of par­tic­u­lar con­tra­dic­tions with­in the exist­ing insti­tu­tions of the state. Author­i­tar­i­an sta­tism took form with­in this con­junc­ture, respond­ing to the ele­ments of cri­sis, but it did not have the excep­tion­al char­ac­ter of fas­cism – it rep­re­sent­ed a new “nor­mal” func­tion­ing of the state.

Along­side the con­junc­tur­al response of polit­i­cal insti­tu­tions to the cri­sis, there was also a “con­sid­er­able shift in class rela­tions.” Its imme­di­ate man­i­fes­ta­tion was the deep­en­ing of inequal­i­ty, inten­si­fied exploita­tion, rest­ing on “more com­plex and dis­guised forms such as speed-up, high­er labour pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, and degra­da­tion of liv­ing con­di­tions.” Post­war pros­per­i­ty gave way to “eco­nom­ic cri­sis, infla­tion and above all unem­ploy­ment (the spec­tac­u­lar increase of which seems to be a struc­tur­al fea­ture of the cur­rent phase),” all of which “helped to decom­pose a rel­a­tive con­sen­sus based on growth and social well-being.”

On the one hand, these devel­op­ments “stim­u­lat­ed a rise and politi­ciza­tion of strug­gle expressed in the new demands and forms of strug­gle of the Euro­pean work­ers’ move­ment.” On the oth­er hand, new demands went beyond the work­ers’ move­ment: “this gen­er­al process does not stop with the work­ing class: the phase of cap­i­tal accu­mu­la­tion known as accel­er­at­ed indus­tri­al­iza­tion has led to mas­sive inequal­i­ty affect­ing cer­tain broad cat­e­gories of the pop­u­la­tion: old peo­ple, the youth, women.” As a result, “con­flicts more close­ly bound up with the ide­o­log­i­cal cri­sis appear as both the ori­gin and the effect of a new pop­u­lar aware­ness con­cern­ing ques­tions that are now no longer ‘sec­ondary’ fronts – wit­ness, in this regard, the stu­dent move­ment, the women’s lib­er­a­tion move­ment and the eco­log­i­cal move­ment.”51

This pro­lif­er­a­tion of class fig­ures, fronts, and lines of strug­gle formed part of the open­ing that author­i­tar­i­an sta­tism para­dox­i­cal­ly pro­vid­ed. In fact, “author­i­tar­i­an sta­tism is itself par­tial­ly respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing new forms of pop­u­lar strug­gle.” The reac­tion to author­i­tar­i­an sta­tism was marked by “the emer­gence of strug­gles that have in view the exer­cise of direct, rank-and-file democ­ra­cy.” These strug­gles advanced “a char­ac­ter­is­tic anti-sta­tism,” and were inclined to “express them­selves in the mush­room­ing of self-man­age­ment cen­tres and net­works of direct inter­ven­tion by the mass­es in the deci­sions which affect them.” Poulantzas iden­ti­fied two strate­gic effects of these strug­gles: first, even though they were “locat­ed ‘at a dis­tance’ from the State,” they had “major dis­lo­ca­to­ry effects with­in the State itself”; sec­ond, they pre­vent­ed author­i­tar­i­an sta­tism from enclos­ing the mass­es the mass­es in its “dis­ci­pli­nary web,” or inte­grat­ing them into its “author­i­tar­i­an cir­cuits,” instead pro­vok­ing a “gen­er­al insis­tence on the need for direct, rank-and-file democ­ra­cy – a ver­i­ta­ble explo­sion of demo­c­ra­t­ic demands.”52

Organization and Disorganization

The most famous themes of State, Pow­er, Social­ism, which devel­op con­cepts intro­duced in Class­es in Con­tem­po­rary Cap­i­tal­ism and Cri­sis of the Dic­ta­tor­ships, have to be under­stood in the con­text of the con­junc­tur­al and strate­gic analy­sis traced above. Poulantzas sought to elab­o­rate on an under­stand­ing of the state which could respond to the exist­ing strate­gic field, lead­ing him to define it as “the spe­cif­ic mate­r­i­al con­den­sa­tion of a rela­tion­ship of forces among class­es and class frac­tions.”53 Because of Poulantzas’s close asso­ci­a­tion with strat­e­gy of fus­ing pop­u­lar and rep­re­sen­ta­tive pow­er, what is most wide­ly remem­bered about this def­i­n­i­tion is the extent to which it empha­sizes that class strug­gle reach­es with­in the state itself:

pop­u­lar strug­gles tra­verse the State from top to bot­tom and in a mode quite oth­er than pen­e­tra­tion of an intrin­sic enti­ty from the out­side. If polit­i­cal strug­gles bear­ing on the State tra­verse its appa­ra­tus­es, this is because they are already inscribed in that state frame­work whose strate­gic con­fig­u­ra­tion they map out. Of course, pop­u­lar strug­gles, and pow­er in gen­er­al, stretch far beyond the State: but inso­far as they are gen­uine­ly polit­i­cal, they are not real­ly exter­nal to the State.

How­ev­er, the mass­es main­tained their pres­ence in the state “with­out that ever hav­ing changed any­thing of its hard core” – that is, the pres­ence of the pop­u­lar class­es in the state did not mean, as Euro­com­mu­nist par­ties of gov­ern­ment main­tained, that the pop­u­lar class­es could hold pow­er in the state. Hold­ing pow­er was impos­si­ble “because of the very mate­r­i­al struc­ture of the State, com­pris­ing as it does inter­nal mech­a­nisms of repro­duc­tion of the dom­i­na­tion-sub­or­di­na­tion rela­tion­ship: this struc­ture does indeed retain the dom­i­nat­ed class­es with­in itself, but it retains them pre­cise­ly as dom­i­nat­ed class­es.”54 The polit­i­cal dom­i­na­tion of the bour­geoisie, then, was “ inscribed in the insti­tu­tion­al struc­ture of the state,” and this was nec­es­sary for under­stand­ing its form. Affirm­ing that “the class strug­gle has pri­ma­cy over appa­ra­tus­es,” Poulantzas nev­er­the­less argued that “it is not out­side, or pri­or to, the State that the bour­geoisie is estab­lished as the dom­i­nant class: the State is not erect­ed to suit its con­ve­nience, and nor does it func­tion as a mere appendage of bour­geois dom­i­na­tion.”55

This was the nec­es­sary lim­it on the action of left gov­ern­ments. Even if a left gov­ern­ment were to bring some branch­es of the state under its con­trol, this would not nec­es­sar­i­ly result in a real shift in pow­er. The bourgeoisie’s dom­i­nance could be trans­posed from one appa­ra­tus to anoth­er, reor­ga­niz­ing the cen­tral­ized uni­ty of the state, since “the State is not a mono­lith­ic bloc, but a strate­gic field.”56

In oth­er words, the pri­ma­ry pur­pose of Poulantzas’s argu­ment that the state is a con­den­sa­tion of forces was not in any sense a sim­plis­tic defense of social­ist par­tic­i­pa­tion in the state. It was in fact, pri­or to this, a the­o­riza­tion of the rela­tion­ship between the com­po­nents of the dom­i­nant bloc. In Poulantzas’s cru­cial for­mu­la­tion:

With regard to the dom­i­nant class­es, and par­tic­u­lar­ly the bour­geoisie, the State’s prin­ci­pal role is one of orga­ni­za­tion. It rep­re­sents and orga­nizes the dom­i­nant class or class­es; or, more pre­cise­ly, it rep­re­sents and orga­nizes the long-term polit­i­cal inter­est of a pow­er bloc, which is com­posed of sev­er­al bour­geois class frac­tions… and which some­times embraces dom­i­nant class­es issu­ing from oth­er modes of pro­duc­tion that are present in the cap­i­tal­ist social for­ma­tion.57

By con­sti­tut­ing the polit­i­cal uni­ty of the dom­i­nant class­es, the State there­by estab­lished them as dom­i­nant, an orga­ni­za­tion­al process which extend­ed through the “total­i­ty of its appa­ra­tus­es,” includ­ing the mil­i­tary and police. It was pre­cise­ly the “con­tra­dic­tions among the dom­i­nant class­es and frac­tions” which made it “nec­es­sary for the uni­ty of the bloc to be orga­nized by the State”: “As the mate­r­i­al con­den­sa­tion of a con­tra­dic­to­ry rela­tion­ship, the State does not at all orga­nize the uni­ty of the pow­er bloc from the out­side, by resolv­ing class con­tra­dic­tions at a dis­tance. On the con­trary, how­ev­er para­dox­i­cal it may seem, the play of these con­tra­dic­tions with­in the State’s mate­ri­al­i­ty alone makes pos­si­ble the State’s orga­ni­za­tion­al role.”58

Impor­tant­ly, the state’s rela­tion to the dom­i­nat­ed class­es did not only con­sist in its tra­ver­sal by their strug­gles. First and fore­most, the state appa­ra­tus­es would “con­se­crate and repro­duce hege­mo­ny by bring­ing the pow­er bloc and cer­tain dom­i­nat­ed class­es into a (vari­able) game of pro­vi­sion­al com­pro­mis­es.” They were able to “orga­nize-uni­fy the pow­er bloc by per­ma­nent­ly dis­or­ga­niz­ing – divid­ing the dom­i­nat­ed class­es, polar­iz­ing them towards the pow­er bloc, and short-cir­cuit­ing their own polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions.”59

These two themes regard­ing orga­ni­za­tion should be empha­sized in the strongest sense. In keep­ing with our over­ar­ch­ing frame­work, we could char­ac­ter­ize this the­o­ret­i­cal field as the class com­po­si­tion of cap­i­tal, inter­pret­ed from two direc­tions.60 The first is the dynam­ic char­ac­ter of the pow­er of the cap­i­tal­ist class, which has to adapt to the require­ments of man­ag­ing  cap­i­tal accu­mu­la­tion and repro­duc­ing dom­i­na­tion. The state-form, which shifts in the 20th cen­tu­ry from wel­fare-state cor­po­ratism and inter­ven­tion­ism to neolib­er­al­ism and retrench­ment, is much more than an expres­sion of the log­ic of cap­i­tal; it is a his­tor­i­cal form that responds to the shifts in class forces with process­es of orga­ni­za­tion. The sec­ond is the specif­i­cal­ly cap­i­tal­ist polit­i­cal  recom­po­si­tion of the work­ing class, which has his­tor­i­cal­ly func­tioned as a strat­e­gy of assault or pre-emp­tive strike on the devel­op­ment of work­ing-class pow­er: the state as the dis orga­niz­er of the dom­i­nat­ed class­es.

The orga­ni­za­tion­al-dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion­al regime that Poulantzas called author­i­tar­i­an sta­tism is now gen­er­al­ly described as “neolib­er­al­ism.” In its sci­en­tif­ic capac­i­ty the term describes the state-dri­ven process of cri­sis man­age­ment, which func­tioned to over­come the con­tra­dic­tions of the post­war “Gold­en Age” and sweep away the exist­ing bar­ri­ers to accu­mu­la­tion. Regret­tably, this rather pre­cise def­i­n­i­tion too often gives way to a kind of weak phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy, which reduces the cap­i­tal­ist rev­o­lu­tion from above, the tur­bu­lent and uneven process­es of cri­sis man­age­ment and restruc­tur­ing, to the way we feel when we look at Face­book. Such impres­sion­is­tic sketch­es of flows and frag­men­ta­tion can hard­ly account for the harsh author­i­tar­i­an­ism of the law-and-order soci­ety which facil­i­tat­ed the tran­si­tion, nor the resort to the tra­di­tion­al cul­tur­al val­ues of fam­i­ly, church, and nation. To under­stand the con­tra­dic­to­ry coher­ence of this new rul­ing-class strat­e­gy, fur­ther con­cep­tu­al devel­op­ment would be required.61

Authoritarian Consensus

As ear­ly as 1969 Ralph Miliband had hint­ed at the devel­op­ment of an author­i­tar­i­an con­sen­sus, end­ing The State in Cap­i­tal­ist Soci­ety with a descrip­tion of a cer­tain dialec­tic between reform and repres­sion. The state meets social pres­sure with reform, but can nev­er go the full way; “as reform reveals itself inca­pable of sub­du­ing pres­sure and protest, so does the empha­sis shift towards repres­sion, coer­cion, police pow­er, law and order.” But repres­sion also engen­ders oppo­si­tion, and “along that road that lies the tran­si­tion from ‘bour­geois democ­ra­cy’ to con­ser­v­a­tive author­i­tar­i­an­ism.”62

This did not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean fas­cism. In fact, Miliband’s exam­ple came from the Left: “Wher­ev­er they have been giv­en the chance, social-demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers have eager­ly bent them­selves to the admin­is­tra­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist state: but that admin­is­tra­tion increas­ing­ly requires the strength­en­ing of the cap­i­tal­ist state, to which pur­pose, from a con­ser­v­a­tive point of view, these lead­ers have made a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion.” Such a strength­en­ing of the state, how­ev­er, had left social democ­ra­cy with “an increased vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to the blan­d­ish­ments of the Right… the path is made smoother for would-be pop­u­lar sav­iours, whose extreme con­ser­vatism is care­ful­ly con­cealed beneath a dem­a­gog­ic rhetoric of nation­al renew­al and social redemp­tion, gar­nished, wher­ev­er suit­able, with an appeal to racial and any oth­er kind of prof­itable prej­u­dice.”63 Miliband con­clud­ed that the “social­ist move­ment has reached such a com­mand­ing posi­tion,” that “it may be too late for the forces of con­ser­vatism to take up the author­i­tar­i­an option with any real chance of suc­cess.”64

For Hall, Thatch­er was an exam­ple of authoritarianism’s remark­able suc­cess. The analy­sis begun in Polic­ing the Cri­sis deep­ened when Hall read State, Pow­er Social­ism. The con­cept of “author­i­tar­i­an sta­tism” seemed to pow­er­ful­ly cap­ture the trans­for­ma­tions in state pow­er inter­nal to the cri­sis of hege­mo­ny. But sev­er­al things were left out. Polic­ing the Cri­sis had shown how social democracy’s man­age­ment of the cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis had engen­dered con­tra­dic­tions which pro­vid­ed a space for new right-wing strate­gies, and how pop­u­lar con­sent to author­i­ty was com­ing to be secured by new kinds of ide­o­log­i­cal strug­gle. What was now emerg­ing was an anti-sta­tist strat­e­gy of the Right – or rather, one which rep­re­sent­ed itself as anti-sta­tist to mobi­lize con­sent, while pur­su­ing a high­ly state-cen­tral­ist approach to gov­er­nance. And this strat­e­gy func­tioned by har­ness­ing pop­u­lar dis­con­tent and neu­tral­iz­ing oppo­si­tion, mak­ing use of some ele­ments of pop­u­lar opin­ion to fash­ion a new kind of con­sent.65 Hall drew on the ear­ly the­o­ries of pop­ulism pre­sent­ed by Ernesto Laclau, which cap­tured how the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of “the peo­ple” was a process of ide­o­log­i­cal con­tes­ta­tion over tra­di­tion, to gen­er­ate the new, seem­ing­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry term “author­i­tar­i­an pop­ulism” – which con­structs a “peo­ple” it then absorbs under the direc­tion of a polit­i­cal lead­er­ship.66

Pub­lished in 1979 in Marx­ism Today, the the­o­ret­i­cal jour­nal of the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of Great Britain, months before Thatcher’s elec­tion as Prime Min­is­ter, Hall’s “The Great Mov­ing Right Show” tried to explain the rise of the Right with the use of this con­cept. He empha­sized that its roots lay in the “con­tra­dic­tion with­in social democ­ra­cy,” which had “effec­tive­ly dis­or­ga­nized the Left and the work­ing class response to the cri­sis.” Syn­the­siz­ing the dynam­ics that had been reviewed his­tor­i­cal­ly in Polic­ing the Cri­sis, Hall explained that the con­tra­dic­tion began with social democracy’s efforts at gain­ing elec­toral pow­er, which required it to “max­i­mize its claims as the polit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the inter­ests of the work­ing class and orga­nized labour,” capa­ble of “mas­ter­ing the cri­sis” and “defend­ing – with­in the con­straints imposed by reces­sion – work­ing class inter­ests.” This was not “a homo­ge­neous polit­i­cal enti­ty but a com­plex polit­i­cal for­ma­tion,” not an expres­sion of the work­ing class with­in gov­ern­ment, but “the prin­ci­pal means of rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the class.” “Rep­re­sen­ta­tion,” as a polit­i­cal func­tion in par­lia­men­tary democ­ra­cy, “has to be under­stood as an active and for­ma­tive rela­tion­ship,” which “orga­nizes the class, con­sti­tut­ing it as a polit­i­cal force – a social demo­c­ra­t­ic polit­i­cal force – in the same moment as it is con­sti­tut­ed.”67

But once social democ­ra­cy enters gov­ern­ment, it is “com­mit­ted to find­ing solu­tions to the cri­sis which are capa­ble of win­ning sup­port from key sec­tions of cap­i­tal, since its solu­tions are framed with­in those lim­its.” This requires it to use its “indis­sol­u­ble link” with the lead­er­ships of the trade unions “not to advance but to dis­ci­pline the class and orga­ni­za­tions it rep­re­sents.”68 This func­tion revolves around the state, and social democ­ra­cy must hold to “a neu­tral and benev­o­lent inter­pre­ta­tion of the role of the state as incar­na­tor of the nation­al inter­est above the class strug­gle.” It equates the expan­sion of the state with social­ism, “with­out ref­er­ence to the mobi­liza­tion of effec­tive demo­c­ra­t­ic pow­er at the pop­u­lar lev­el,” and uses the enlarged inter­ven­tion­ist appa­ra­tus of the state to “man­age the cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis on behalf of cap­i­tal.” The state ends up “inscribed through every fea­ture and aspect of social life”: “Social democ­ra­cy has no alter­na­tive viable strat­e­gy, espe­cial­ly for ‘big’ cap­i­tal (and ‘big’ cap­i­tal has no viable alter­na­tive strat­e­gy for itself) which does not involve mas­sive state sup­port.”69

This is the back­drop for the rad­i­cal Right, which oper­ates in the same space as social democ­ra­cy and exploits its con­tra­dic­tions. It “takes the ele­ments which are already con­struct­ed into place, dis­man­tles them, recon­sti­tutes them into a new log­ic, and artic­u­lates the space in a new way, polar­iz­ing it to the Right.”70 It is able to appeal to the mis­trust of sta­tism, to the frus­tra­tion with the social-demo­c­ra­t­ic man­age­ment of cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis, by advanc­ing a seem­ing­ly anti-sta­tist neolib­er­al agen­da. Thatch­erism tar­get­ed col­lec­tivist val­ues, but also the very real sta­tism that had plagued Labour from the begin­ning – it took advan­tage of the dis­tance the reformist lead­er­ship had main­tained from its rank and file, and demon­strat­ed the very real irrec­on­cil­abil­i­ty between col­lec­tivist val­ues and the task of man­ag­ing the cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis.

The remark­able achieve­ment of Thatch­erism was its abil­i­ty to tie the abstract eco­nom­ic philoso­phies of Aus­tri­an lib­er­al­ism to pop­u­lar sen­ti­ments regard­ing “nation, fam­i­ly, duty, author­i­ty, stan­dards, self-reliance,” pow­er­ful ide­o­log­i­cal motors in the con­text of the polit­i­cal mobi­liza­tion for law and order.71 What “pop­ulism” explained was the Right’s “pop­u­lar suc­cess in neu­tral­iz­ing the con­tra­dic­tion between peo­ple and the state/power bloc and win­ning pop­u­lar inter­pel­la­tions so deci­sive­ly for the Right.” But this pop­ulist ide­o­log­i­cal maneu­ver could not be reduced to a mere trick – in fact, it oper­at­ed on “gen­uine con­tra­dic­tions,” with “a ratio­nal and mate­r­i­al core”: “Its suc­cess and effec­tiv­i­ty does not lie in its capac­i­ty to dupe unsus­pect­ing folk but in the way it address­es real prob­lems, real and lived expe­ri­ences, real con­tra­dic­tions – and yet is able to rep­re­sent them with­in a log­ic of dis­course which pulls them sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly into line with poli­cies and class strate­gies of the Right.”72

Let us now pick up a dropped stitch. We could say that by mod­i­fy­ing “author­i­tar­i­an sta­tism” to “author­i­tar­i­an pop­ulism,” Hall sup­ple­ment­ed Poulantzas’s notion of the state as the orga­niz­er of the dom­i­nant class­es and dis­or­ga­niz­er of the sub­or­di­nate class­es. Hall showed that the state also orga­nized the sub­or­di­nat­ed, and the role of this orga­ni­za­tion is to pre­clude the self-orga­ni­za­tion of the sub­or­di­nate class­es into an agent antag­o­nis­tic to the social order. Author­i­tar­i­an pop­ulism went beyond the strat­e­gy of “pro­vi­sion­al com­pro­mise” and incor­po­ra­tion, pro­ceed­ing towards an open antag­o­nism.73 Dur­ing the peri­od of cap­i­tal­ist pros­per­i­ty the orga­ni­za­tion­al tasks of the state could be adopt­ed by the par­ties of labor. Hall’s analy­sis of Thatch­erism showed how, in the cri­sis of hege­mo­ny, these tasks fell to the Right – even the social-demo­c­ra­t­ic form of inte­gra­tion became unac­cept­able, and had to be erad­i­cat­ed and pre­vent­ed.

Revisionism and Retreat

“The Great Mov­ing Right Show” was a path­break­ing essay, which intro­duced an argu­ment elab­o­rat­ed in sev­er­al oth­er arti­cles, many in Marx­ism Today – Hall, devot­ed to inter­ven­ing in “com­mon sense,” tend­ed to scat­ter his writ­ing into semi-pop­u­lar arti­cles. The dra­mat­ic recep­tion they received at the time had to do, of course, with the dra­mat­ic elec­toral rise of the Right, form­ing the cut­ting edge of a new neolib­er­al project and draw­ing the elec­toral sup­port of for­mer Labour vot­ers. But it also had to do with the over­all direc­tion tak­en by Marx­ism Today, with Mar­tin Jacques as edi­tor.

It was, all things con­sid­ered, an unusu­al and far-reach­ing project, with the visu­al style of a com­mer­cial mag­a­zine, and cov­er­age of pop­u­lar cul­ture which sought to inter­vene in the con­scious­ness of con­sumer soci­ety – pro­vok­ing the out­rage of Miliband’s com­rade John Sav­ille, who care­ful­ly and dis­dain­ful­ly doc­u­ment­ed the pages  the jour­nal devot­ed to fash­ion.74 How­ev­er, per­haps the most influ­en­tial cri­tique was pre­sent­ed by Miliband him­self in “The New Revi­sion­ism in Britain,” pub­lished in New Left Review in 1985. This “new revi­sion­ism,” Miliband argued, was a rep­e­ti­tion of the first wave rep­re­sent­ed by Hugh Gaitskell – he had already used the term in Par­lia­men­tary Social­ism.75

At the cen­ter was the debate over the strate­gic ques­tions faced by the Labour Par­ty, which Miliband did not think were ade­quate­ly cap­tured by the­o­ries of author­i­tar­i­an pop­ulism. He remind­ed the read­er that the decline in work­ing-class elec­toral sup­port for the Labour Par­ty had been a trend since 1951, result­ing from its own con­tra­dic­tions. Of course, as we have doc­u­ment­ed above, Hall had care­ful­ly ana­lyzed this phe­nom­e­non and in fact made it the basis of his the­o­ry of Thatch­erism. But for Miliband, Hall still waf­fled on the ques­tion, decry­ing the leadership’s sus­pi­cion of the “self-acti­va­tion of the work­ing class,” yet con­stant­ly phras­ing his analy­sis in terms of the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the party’s “renew­al,” even if he was skep­ti­cal that it would take place.76

These strate­gic debates are tan­gled into a ter­mi­no­log­i­cal knot, due large­ly to the bewil­der­ing non-map­pa­bil­i­ty of the var­i­ous terms of abuse. While Miliband was pre­sum­ably argu­ing against the British equiv­a­lent of “Euro­com­mu­nism” – a dif­fi­cult com­par­i­son to make, giv­en the very dif­fer­ent orga­ni­za­tion­al, polit­i­cal, and demo­graph­ic his­to­ries of the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of Great Britain and the Labour Par­ty, in com­par­i­son to the com­mu­nist par­ties of Con­ti­nen­tal Europe – he was still being crit­i­cized for this very ten­den­cy him­self. Alex Call­ini­cos wrote in a 1985 issue of Inter­na­tion­al Social­ism that Miliband’s “admirable” cri­tique “fails ful­ly to grasp the polit­i­cal log­ic of the Euro­com­mu­nists’ argu­ments,” because he shared their “cen­tral strate­gic con­cept, that of a ‘broad alliance’ as the pre­con­di­tion of an even­tu­al over­throw of cap­i­tal.” Call­ini­cos argued that the fail­ure of attempts to reform the Labour Par­ty from with­in had clear­ly demon­strat­ed “the need for an inde­pen­dent rev­o­lu­tion­ary par­ty.” Since, for Call­ini­cos, this already exist­ed in the form of the Social­ist Work­ers’ Par­ty, there was no need to inquire into the struc­tur­al lim­its imposed on the devel­op­ment of such a par­ty.77

It is not self-evi­dent that we can today con­flate the diverse the­o­ret­i­cal strands of the peri­od – the turn to postruc­tural­ism, the empha­sis on ide­ol­o­gy and cul­ture, the new social move­ments, all of which con­tin­ue to pro­voke clenched teeth among cer­tain Marx­ists – with the polit­i­cal direc­tions tak­en by some par­tic­i­pants. This polem­i­cal approach, exem­pli­fied at the time by Ellen Meiksins Wood’s The Retreat from Class, obscured the het­ero­gene­ity of all sides of the debate. The the­o­ret­i­cal ten­den­cies rep­re­sent­ed in Marx­ism Today, after all, emerged in an unusu­al con­stel­la­tion ini­ti­at­ed by the obser­va­tions of Eric Hob­s­bawm – hard­ly a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of post­struc­tural­ism and iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics – on the many changes in the com­po­si­tion of the work­ing class.78

But what cer­tain­ly seems true in ret­ro­spect is that the Marx­ism Today ten­den­cy met the con­junc­ture it had the acute­ness to iden­ti­fy with a weak pro­gram, ground­ed in democ­ra­ti­za­tion, polit­i­cal alliances, and cul­tur­al counter-hege­mo­ny. Hall’s role in that polit­i­cal con­fig­u­ra­tion was espe­cial­ly unclear, as Wood notes with frus­tra­tion in Retreat from Class. He did not, as Hob­s­bawm def­i­nite­ly did, sup­port the shift of Labour to the right led by Neil Kin­nock; he crit­i­cized both Kinnock’s anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic maneu­ver­ing in the par­ty and his dis­mis­sive atti­tude towards fem­i­nism. But he did repeat vague and poten­tial­ly reformist slo­gans about form­ing “broad alliances” which would pur­sue “mod­est objec­tives,” and he par­tic­i­pat­ed in divi­sive rhetoric about the “hard” or “fun­da­men­tal­ist” left, which in many ways sim­ply mir­rored its target’s dis­mis­sive atti­tude toward the new social move­ments.79

Miliband’s pri­ma­ry con­cern, how­ev­er, was to refute the new revi­sion­ist ten­den­cy to reject “class pol­i­tics,” under­stood as “the insis­tence on the ‘pri­ma­cy’ of orga­nized labour in the chal­lenge to cap­i­tal­ist pow­er and the task of cre­at­ing a rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent social order.” Miliband defend­ed this pri­ma­cy: “no oth­er group, move­ment or force in cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety is remote­ly capa­ble of mount­ing as effec­tive and for­mi­da­ble a chal­lenge to the exist­ing struc­tures of pow­er and priv­i­lege as it is in the pow­er of orga­nized labour to mount.”80

There were two angles on which this pri­ma­cy had to be defend­ed, the first relat­ing to changes in the pro­duc­tion process and the social land­scape of the advanced cap­i­tal­ist coun­tries; André Gorz’s Farewell to the Work­ing Class was named as an influ­en­tial “revi­sion­ist” pre­cur­sor. Miliband accept­ed that “the work­ing class has expe­ri­enced in recent years an accel­er­at­ed process of recom­po­si­tion, with a decline of the tra­di­tion­al indus­tri­al sec­tors and a con­sid­er­able fur­ther growth of the white-col­lar, dis­tri­b­u­tion, ser­vice and tech­ni­cal sec­tors” – but he did not accept that this meant that the clas­si­cal coor­di­nates of social­ist pol­i­tics should change.81 After all, wage-earn­ers con­tin­ued to com­pose the largest part of the pop­u­la­tion of the advanced cap­i­tal­ist coun­tries, and were still capa­ble of devel­op­ing a social­ist con­scious­ness.

The sec­ond chal­lenge was that of the new social move­ments. Miliband start­ed with the very reminder that “the work­ing class includes very large num­bers of peo­ple who are also mem­bers of ‘new social move­ments,’ or who are part of the con­stituen­cy which these move­ments seek to reach.” But he also argued that it would be a mis­take for these peo­ple to under­stand their expe­ri­ences of oppres­sion through their iden­ti­ties. In fact, the cat­e­go­ry of “class pol­i­tics” encom­passed the new social move­ments, since orga­nized labor did not fight for its own “econ­o­mistic and “cor­po­rate” ends, “but for the whole work­ing class and many beyond it.” Though such a strug­gle “requires a sys­tem of pop­u­lar alliances,” Miliband main­tained that “it is only the orga­nized work­ing class which can form the basis of that sys­tem.”82

Left unan­swered, how­ev­er, was how the work­ing class would be orga­nized, and this ques­tion looms behind both of the debates. As Robin Black­burn has recent­ly reflect­ed, “1985 marked the begin­ning of near­ly three decades of class demo­bi­liza­tion and demor­al­iza­tion,” and Miliband “under­es­ti­mat­ed the effects of a far-reach­ing glob­al recom­po­si­tion of cap­i­tal and labour as the cen­tu­ry drew to its close.”83 His dis­cus­sion of the new social move­ments remained spec­u­la­tive, with­out seri­ous inves­ti­ga­tion of the ques­tions they raised about the char­ac­ter of work­ing-class pol­i­tics. In con­trast, Hall’s own analy­sis of race as a “modal­i­ty” through which black work­ers became aware of their class posi­tion was based on an analy­sis of the com­po­si­tion of the black work­ing class, the his­to­ry of migrant cul­ture, and the polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions of black strug­gles – and he was able to build upon this to iden­ti­fy poten­tial forms of polit­i­cal activ­i­ty which had gen­er­al rel­e­vance for the class, since racism was part of the way labor­ing pop­u­la­tions were struc­tured by cap­i­tal.

All of this was play­ing out quite direct­ly in the polit­i­cal con­junc­ture, with the expe­ri­ence of the 1984-85 min­ers’ strike. The fierce­ness of this strug­gle made any dis­cus­sion emo­tion­al­ly charged. Hall had been high­ly crit­i­cal before the strike – of the intense hard­ship and risk implied by strik­ing dur­ing a peri­od of aus­ter­i­ty and indus­tri­al decline, and the unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic deci­sion to strike with­out a bal­lot. He went on to crit­i­cize the “famil­ial and mas­culin­ist” mobi­liza­tion of the min­ers, “‘as men’ who have a duty to stand up and fight.” The class-pol­i­tics fram­ing of the move­ment, lodged in a spe­cif­ic class iden­ti­ty, had kept the min­ers’ strike from “gen­er­al­iz­ing into a wider social strug­gle.”84

Aspects of this analy­sis were prob­a­bly true. But it pro­voked under­stand­able deri­sion from Miliband. It came at a time when many, espe­cial­ly those affil­i­at­ed with Marx­ism Today, were asso­ci­at­ing the strike with a stub­born and anti­quat­ed “hard left.” Of course, it is not that the term is com­plete­ly with­out ref­er­ent; any­one who has par­tic­i­pat­ed in a social move­ment has encoun­tered those who appoint them­selves “as keep­er of left con­sciences, as polit­i­cal guar­an­tor, as the lit­mus test of ortho­doxy.”85 But in ret­ro­spect, employed against those who defend­ed trade unions in the con­text of over­whelm­ing cap­i­tal­ist assault, this epi­thet strikes the wrong note.

On the oth­er hand, Miliband’s own argu­ment dis­missed any of the sub­stan­tive issues these cri­tiques did raise. Accord­ing to Michael Newman’s biog­ra­phy, he was crit­i­cized for this by his wife Mar­i­on Kozaks, who thought the New Revi­sion­ism arti­cle “over­stat­ed the pri­ma­cy of class and failed to attach suf­fi­cient weight to social move­ments, view­ing them as divi­sive rather than as poten­tial allies for class based move­ments – as, for exam­ple, in women’s groups sup­port­ing the min­ers.”86 Such unex­pect­ed lines of alliance have recent­ly been dra­ma­tized in the film Pride, which shows the fundrais­ing efforts of Les­bians and Gays Sup­port the Min­ers, a ges­ture of sol­i­dar­i­ty returned by the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Welsh min­er groups at the 1985 Lon­don Pride march, and the Nation­al Union of Minework­ers’ deci­sive sup­port for a suc­cess­ful Labour Par­ty res­o­lu­tion in favor of LGBT rights.87 As Doreen Massey and Hilary Wain­wright wrote, in their com­men­tary on fem­i­nist strike sup­port groups, “it is not a ques­tion of either indus­tri­al action or the new social move­ments, nor is it one of just adding the two togeth­er… New insti­tu­tions can be built through which ‘class pol­i­tics’ can be seen as more than sim­ply indus­tri­al mil­i­tan­cy plus par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”88 It was the urgency of such new insti­tu­tions, and the dif­fi­cul­ty of con­struct­ing them, that under­lay Hall’s pes­simism:

The strike was thus doomed to be fought and lost as an old rather than as a new form of pol­i­tics. To those of us who felt this from very ear­ly on, it was dou­bly unbear­able because – in the sol­i­dar­i­ty it dis­played, the gigan­tic lev­els of sup­port it engen­dered, the unpar­al­leled involve­ment of the women in the min­ing com­mu­ni­ties, the fem­i­nist pres­ence in the strike, the break­ing down of bar­ri­ers between dif­fer­ent social inter­ests which it pre­saged – the min­ers’ strike was in fact instinc­tu­al­ly with the pol­i­tics of the new, it was a major engage­ment with Thatch­erism which should have marked the tran­si­tion to the pol­i­tics of the present and future, but which was fought and lost, impris­oned in the cat­e­gories and strate­gies of the past.89

But if each side of the debate had a point, it is not clear that any par­tic­i­pant under­stood what the cat­a­stroph­ic defeat of the min­ers’ strike tru­ly rep­re­sent­ed. Despite Hall’s account of the pow­er­ful effects of author­i­tar­i­an pop­ulism, his the­o­ry did not seem to antic­i­pate how dras­ti­cal­ly this defeat would change the field, and how total it would be. It has not been ade­quate­ly appre­ci­at­ed that this moment has to be under­stood as a defeat for the new social move­ments as well. While Rain­bow Coali­tions, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, and iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics would live on, they came to indi­cate their grow­ing detach­ment from the orga­ni­za­tion­al form of grass­roots, mil­i­tant move­ments which could form anti-sys­temic alliances.

Moving On

In order to accu­rate­ly under­stand the lim­its of these posi­tions, we will have to start by see­ing what light they shed on their his­tor­i­cal moment. Crit­ics tend­ed to attribute to Hall the view that Thatch­erism had wide­spread sup­port, which some, includ­ing Miliband, argued was a mis­tak­en inter­pre­ta­tion of the real­i­ty that Labour had alien­at­ed its own elec­toral bloc. But this was not real­ly the point. As he and Mar­tin Jacques wrote in the intro­duc­tion to The Pol­i­tics of Thatch­erism, “though Thatch­erism has proved to be an effec­tive, pop­ulist force, it con­tin­ues to be a minor­i­ty one. The divi­sions of the left enhance its appear­ance of pop­u­lar­i­ty, uni­ty and coher­ence.” How­ev­er, “Thatch­erism is not final­ly to be judged in elec­toral terms – impor­tant as these moments of mobi­liza­tion are in the polit­i­cal process. Rather, it should be judged in terms of its suc­cess or fail­ure in dis­or­ga­niz­ing the labour move­ment and pro­gres­sive forces, in shift­ing the terms of polit­i­cal debate, in reor­ga­niz­ing the polit­i­cal ter­rain and in chang­ing the bal­ance of polit­i­cal forces in favor of cap­i­tal and the right.”90

We empha­size here the orga­ni­za­tion­al angle of this argu­ment, with atten­tion to three fea­tures: the con­tra­dic­tions of social democ­ra­cy, the strate­gic rela­tion to the new social move­ments, and the destruc­tion of work­ing-class orga­ni­za­tion.

  1. The con­tra­dic­tions of social democ­ra­cy. It was impos­si­ble for con­tem­po­rary move­ments to advance a return to post­war social democ­ra­cy, or to use its meth­ods. There is, even now, a ten­den­cy among social democ­rats to believe “that there’s a lit­tle bit of lee­way left in the old, eco­nom­ic-cor­po­rate, incre­men­tal, Key­ne­sian game” – to think that we could “go back to a lit­tle smidgeon of Key­ne­sian­ism here, a lit­tle bit more of the wel­fare state there, a lit­tle bit of the old Fabi­an thing.” Even while reject­ing “a cat­a­clysmic vision of the future,” Hall insist­ed that the “option is now closed. It’s exhaust­ed. Nobody believes in it any­more. Its mate­r­i­al con­di­tions have dis­ap­peared.”91 The rea­sons for this were not just the neolib­er­al restruc­tur­ing that author­i­tar­i­an pop­ulism had pushed through; they were also the per­sis­tence of the con­tra­dic­tions inter­nal to social democ­ra­cy, whose sta­tism and bureau­cratism offered no way for­ward, and ulti­mate­ly “became a strat­e­gy by which a gov­ern­ment ‘of’ the work­ing peo­ple polices and dis­ci­plines the work­ing class,” in the inter­est of “restor­ing the con­di­tions of expand­ed accu­mu­la­tion.”92 This was far more than a sec­tar­i­an or aca­d­e­m­ic dis­pute – there were seri­ous polit­i­cal con­se­quences to adher­ence to illu­sions about social democ­ra­cy. A bureau­crat­ic par­ty work­ing towards par­lia­men­tary par­tic­i­pa­tion in the state could only be seen as a “less effi­cient or con­vinc­ing man­ag­er of cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis,” and would there­by yield the ground to the Right.93 It was not an ade­quate basis for social­ist orga­ni­za­tion and could not advance an effec­tive pro­gram.
  2. The strate­gic rela­tion to the new social move­ments. The “remak­ing” of the work­ing class of the advanced cap­i­tal­ist coun­tries tak­ing place in the 20th cen­tu­ry was as pro­found as the one which first cre­at­ed the labor move­ment, and it was “trans­form­ing the mate­r­i­al basis, the occu­pa­tion­al bound­aries, the gen­der and eth­nic com­po­si­tion, the polit­i­cal cul­tures and the social imagery of ‘class.’”94 While a tra­di­tion­al­ist sec­tion of the Left con­sid­ered these fac­tors to be sec­ondary, author­i­tar­i­an pop­ulism did not. It exploit­ed the frag­men­ta­tion and anx­i­ety pro­voked by cri­sis, and was able to deploy racist anti-immi­grant sen­ti­ments and tra­di­tion­al­ist ideas about gen­der and fam­i­ly struc­tures, in a com­plex com­bi­na­tion with the entre­pre­neur­ial sub­ject of neolib­er­al­ism, and there­by met the chal­lenge of the new social move­ments: “The new social forces and move­ments, which have put a set of pro­found new ques­tions on the polit­i­cal agen­da, have not been ade­quate­ly com­bined with an old­er style of class pol­i­tics. Nor, for the most part, have they been allowed to have a suf­fi­cient­ly trans­for­ma­to­ry impact on the tra­di­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions and pro­grams of the left. This is the kind of mis­take which Thatch­erism, with its atten­tion to the cen­tral­i­ty of women’s domes­tic role, the polic­ing of black com­mu­ni­ties and the frontal engage­ment with the peace move­ment, has not com­mit­ted.”95 Such an analy­sis did not amount to an attempt to “deny the per­ti­nence of class rela­tions”; the point was “to rec­og­nize the chang­ing class com­po­si­tion of our soci­ety.”96
  3. The destruc­tion of work­ing-class orga­ni­za­tion. A major fac­tor in the “his­toric dis­lo­ca­tion of social­ism and the left is the recom­po­si­tion of the work­ing class­es of modem indus­tri­al soci­eties,” and this dis­lo­ca­tion was felt at the lev­el of exist­ing work­ing class’s orga­ni­za­tions.97 In the con­text of cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis, author­i­tar­i­an pop­ulism “coin­cid­ed with and exploit­ed these longer-term ten­den­cies” and advanced a suc­cess­ful strat­e­gy to break these orga­ni­za­tions.98 Social­ists had been held back by “a too auto­mat­ic con­cep­tion of class, which failed to rec­og­nize how the cap­i­tal­ist labour process divid­ed, frag­ment­ed and seg­ment­ed the labour force at the same time as it pro­vid­ed the poten­tial con­di­tions of its polit­i­cal uni­fi­ca­tion.”99 But in truth there could nev­er be “ the giv­en uni­ty of the work­ing class” which a social­ist pro­gram could sim­ply reflect: “There have always been the divi­sions and frac­tur­ings we would expect under an advanced cap­i­tal­ist divi­sion of labour. Under­ly­ing these are cer­tain shared con­di­tions of exploita­tion and of social and com­mu­ni­ty life which pro­vide the con­tra­dic­to­ry raw mate­ri­als from which the com­plex uni­ty of a class could pos­si­bly be con­struct­ed; and out of which a social­ist pol­i­tics could be forged but of which there was nev­er any guar­an­tee.”100 A social­ist strat­e­gy unaware of this would be inca­pable of deal­ing with the “frag­men­ta­tion of the ear­li­er class iden­ti­ties.” The real­i­ty was that “class for­ma­tion and class rela­tions were being pro­found­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ized and trans­formed; you couldn’t have a social­ist pol­i­tics unless it was actu­al­ly root­ed in those trans­for­ma­tions. And if social­ism couldn’t root itself there, hor­ror of hor­rors, the right could root itself there, and bloody well has.”101 Respond­ing to the new polit­i­cal con­junc­ture would not be an auto­mat­ic pro­gres­sion: “The uni­ty of skilled and unskilled, of employed and unem­ployed, of whites and blacks, of men and women, of the new pub­lic sec­tors with the tra­di­tion­al pri­vate sec­tor strug­gles will not be ‘giv­en’ by cir­cum­stances.”102 Hall not­ed that “the process of recom­po­si­tion and restruc­tur­ing of the work­ing class is nei­ther even or uni­form.”103 These uneven process­es of recom­po­si­tion “frag­ment the class cul­ture of the par­ty as a polit­i­cal for­ma­tion. They give rise to new con­stituen­cies, new demands. They gen­er­ate new ten­sions and demand new forms of orga­ni­za­tion, chang­ing the social infra­struc­ture of Labour pol­i­tics.”104 Defeat­ing Thatch­erism could not con­sist of a “defen­sive gath­er­ing of forces around the old strate­gies”; it required “the con­struc­tion of a new polit­i­cal force, the build­ing of a new net­work of alliances.”105

The unan­swered ques­tion was what this new polit­i­cal force would look like. But despite this coun­ter­fac­tu­al spec­u­la­tion, Trot­sky­ist crit­ics were not wrong to say that Marx­ism Today and Miliband shared a com­mon prob­lem­at­ic, and that this extend­ed in many respects to those who pushed for reform with­in the Labour Par­ty. The oppo­si­tion­al ten­den­cy is rep­re­sent­ed above all by Tony Benn, who grew quite close to Miliband in these years. His lega­cy of demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ist trans­for­ma­tion has been car­ried on by his acolyte Jere­my Cor­byn, whose main antag­o­nists, some­how, are Ralph Miliband’s sons Ed and David, and Benn himself’s son Hilary Benn. It may have to be left to the Vir­gils and Homers of the 22nd Cen­tu­ry to under­stand this phe­nom­e­non.

Hall and Benn had debat­ed each oth­er at the Left Alive con­fer­ence in 1984. Read­ing their state­ments today, there is a sense in which it is hard to see how things got so polar­ized, since after all Benn was actu­al­ly pur­su­ing the basis for Hall’s project: the democ­ra­ti­za­tion of the Labour Par­ty against its sta­tism and bureau­crat­ic degen­er­a­tion. Yet if there was in fact a com­mon project hid­den by the more vis­i­ble terms of the debate, it was not des­tined to be a suc­cess­ful one. In this regard Hall’s pes­simistic assess­ment of the bal­ance of forces seems to have been more cor­rect than Benn’s opti­mism about the prospects for “social­ism in our time.”106 Indeed, Hall had iden­ti­fied a prob­lem that would only grow more acute:

The labour move­ment is going to have to change the nature of its organ­i­sa­tion, the nature of its hier­ar­chies and its cul­ture in order to reflect more accu­rate­ly the actu­al range of forces and expe­ri­ences which con­sti­tute “the Left.” Until this inter­nal trans­for­ma­tion in the labour move­ment occurs you will not have an instru­ment that is capa­ble of gen­er­al­is­ing the strug­gle for social­ism to the work­ing class on all the sites on which exploita­tion occurs, and indeed expand­ing it to the soci­ety as a whole.107

How­ev­er, Hall’s own strate­gic hori­zon also fell with­in the clas­sic dis­or­der of Eng­lish pol­i­tics, the inabil­i­ty to think pol­i­tics out­side the Labour Par­ty. His pro­pos­als of coun­ter­ing the strate­gies of Thatch­erism with a new, social­ist hege­mon­ic project, one which took ide­ol­o­gy seri­ous­ly and engaged the grounds of race and gen­der with­out con­sign­ing them to sec­ondary sta­tus, tend­ed to abrupt­ly turn back, at the last minute, before seri­ous­ly propos­ing a total­ly new orga­ni­za­tion­al form for an anti-cap­i­tal­ist project. The lines of alliance were so deeply mixed up that despite occa­sion­al crit­i­cal remarks, he was unable to launch a deep cri­tique of the trends toward neolib­er­al­iza­tion of Labour rep­re­sent­ed by Neil Kin­nock. The right wing of the Labour Par­ty suc­ceed­ed in rep­re­sent­ing itself as the only mod­ern­iz­ing force, the only force inter­est­ed in aban­don­ing sta­tist social democ­ra­cy and using media rep­re­sen­ta­tions to renew the party’s image. In truth it was the most anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic and bureau­crat­ic ele­ment in the par­ty, and its media strat­e­gy was almost entire­ly an out­growth of its will­ing­ness to com­plete­ly capit­u­late to Thatcher’s pol­i­cy agen­da. A deep­er struc­tur­al cri­tique of Labour did not seem to be forth­com­ing. Benn stands out as an unusu­al fig­ure among politi­cians, for his prin­ci­pled com­mit­ment to egal­i­tar­i­an­ism and democ­ra­cy; but this is pre­cise­ly why his attempt to reform a Labour Par­ty com­posed of more ordi­nary politi­cians, whose ide­o­log­i­cal lim­its Miliband had painstak­ing­ly exposed so many years ago, seems to have had lim­it­ed prospects.108

While Hall’s pes­simism led to a more accu­rate assess­ment of the bal­ance of forces, it para­dox­i­cal­ly did not appre­ci­ate the extent of the lim­its this defeat imposed. His inter­ven­tions had assumed the con­text of a mass, insti­tu­tion­al left – even if it was a social-demo­c­ra­t­ic one in cri­sis. But as social democ­ra­cy accom­mo­dat­ed itself to neolib­er­al­ism and Thatch­erism destroyed the remain­ing alter­na­tives, what remained of the social­ist project was left pow­er­less. This is the con­text for some of the bizarre strate­gic assess­ments which would fol­low, for exam­ple in an arti­cle writ­ten with Mar­tin Jacques in which Hall described Band Aid – the group of celebri­ties who assem­bled to croon “Do They Know It’s Christ­mas” – as “one of the great pop­u­lar move­ments of our time.”109

Here pes­simism had invert­ed itself into an extreme opti­mism, which would be most clear­ly man­i­fest­ed in Marx­ism Today ’s announce­ment of “New Times” in 1988.110 This was rep­re­sent­ed as a shift away from study­ing Thatch­erism towards the­o­riz­ing “the world,” but such a turn meant los­ing the pre­cise focus that had been required by the ear­li­er, more dis­crete object of analy­sis. Many of the con­tri­bu­tions now read like a litany of tire­some ‘90s clichés, which may once have felt lib­er­at­ing, but grew pro­gres­sive­ly dis­tant from a pol­i­tics of lib­er­a­tion. There was cer­tain­ly mer­it in try­ing to seri­ous­ly grap­ple with the social change brought about by cred­it cards and MTV, but “New Times” end­ed up alto­geth­er too total­iz­ing, con­sis­tent with many expres­sions of peri­odiz­ing over­reach which some­times sur­round the term “post-Fordism,” los­ing the con­junc­tur­al char­ac­ter of the ear­ly work and its empha­sis on forces, blocs, and strate­gies. Too pre­oc­cu­pied with crit­i­ciz­ing the rest of the Left as old-fash­ioned, its weak pro­pos­als of new pro­gres­sive alliances ran the risk of giv­ing old kinds of reformism new (though admit­ted­ly more fash­ion­able) cloth­ing.

In the con­text of the lega­cy of the clas­si­cal orga­ni­za­tions of the labor move­ment, New Times pushed the bound­aries to think “in terms of the con­struc­tion of polit­i­cal posi­tions through and across dif­fer­ence.”111 But as the con­junc­tur­al orga­ni­za­tion­al ques­tions posed by the new social move­ments were dis­placed by the themes of iden­ti­ty and democ­ra­cy, the anti-sys­temic char­ac­ter of their pol­i­tics came to be neu­tral­ized and absorbed. In the peri­od that Hall entered in the 1990s, the strate­gic hori­zon seemed to have closed, and with it the prospects for social­ist trans­for­ma­tion fad­ed from view. No cul­tur­al strat­e­gy emerged that was suc­cess­ful in defeat­ing neolib­er­al­ism, and the recom­po­si­tion of social sub­jects opened as many new prob­lems as it seemed to sug­gest new pos­si­bil­i­ties.112 With­in these new frame­works new social move­ments no longer posed the ques­tion of orga­ni­za­tion. Instead, they became the impe­tus for a new prin­ci­ple of rad­i­cal democ­ra­cy – indeed, in the new writ­ings of Ernesto Laclau with Chan­tal Mouffe, this was social­ist strat­e­gy. The ten­sion between the mate­ri­al­ist inves­ti­ga­tion of orga­ni­za­tion­al forms and the eth­i­cal dis­course on democ­ra­cy had been large­ly decid­ed in favor of the lat­ter, with a the­o­ret­i­cal­ly inno­vat­ed lan­guage. Hall had been an astute crit­ic of Laclau and Mouffe, but his own empha­sis on democ­ra­cy veered in a sim­i­lar direc­tion.113

Miliband’s Social­ism for a Scep­ti­cal Age, his last book, writ­ten and pub­lished in 1994, was an appro­pri­ate mir­ror image for New Times, and was just as much an effect of cri­sis of the left brought about by defeat and restruc­tur­ing. He sought to defend demo­c­ra­t­ic and egal­i­tar­i­an val­ues, con­tin­u­ing his insis­tence on the defense of “bour­geois free­doms” against rhetoric of “smash­ing” the state and pro­le­tar­i­an dic­ta­tor­ship, and repeat­ing the case for a com­bi­na­tion of direct and rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­ra­cy.114 He went as far as to describe the pos­si­ble “mech­a­nisms” of a demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ist state, which would reg­u­late and inter­vene in a “mixed econ­o­my” (here echo­ing some of the more unfor­tu­nate for­mu­la­tions of Hall): “Mar­kets would have a def­i­nite place in a pre­dom­i­nant­ly social­ized econ­o­my,” he wrote, but they “would not be the ulti­mate deter­mi­nant of eco­nom­ic life.”115 There is often an astound­ing lev­el of detail; we are told that “adver­tis­ing would cer­tain­ly not be abol­ished in a social­ist soci­ety; but it would be great­ly reduced and would lose its fran­tic and biased char­ac­ter. This would cut costs con­sid­er­ably and would also be of great ben­e­fit to cul­tures now sat­u­rat­ed with low-grade com­mer­cial pro­pa­gan­da.”116

The strat­e­gy Miliband now endorsed had been dras­ti­cal­ly scaled back: “the best that the Left can hope for in the rel­e­vant future in advanced cap­i­tal­ist coun­tries (and for that mat­ter else­where as well) is the strength­en­ing of left reformism as a cur­rent of thought and pol­i­cy in social demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ties.” He admit­ted that even with these restrict­ed goals, “the out­look for left reformism is at present rather weak.”117 It was a tes­ta­ment to the bleak­ness of the sit­u­a­tion that these state­ments came from the author of Par­lia­men­tary Social­ism, who had in the late ’70s urged the left to “move on” from the Labour par­ty.

Despite the severe lim­i­ta­tions for social­ism, Miliband con­tin­ued to argue that the new social move­ments were inad­e­quate, since the trans­for­ma­tions they aimed at “would not… fun­da­men­tal­ly alter the exist­ing struc­tures of cap­i­tal­ist pow­er.” Fem­i­nism could only “effect a cer­tain fem­i­niza­tion of those struc­tures”; black move­ments might “seek an end to the dis­crim­i­na­tion which a white soci­ety exer­cis­es against black peo­ple, but their cri­tique of that soci­ety tends to be nar­row­ly focused on this aspect of it.”118 No won­der, then that these move­ments end­ed up embrac­ing “post-mod­ernist stric­tures against ‘uni­ver­sal­ism.’”119

How­ev­er, his review of sce­nar­ios in which gen­uine­ly uni­ver­sal­ist left par­ties won the “major­i­ty of votes” was also a somber one.120 While a rep­e­ti­tion of Chile seemed unlike­ly in advanced cap­i­tal­ist coun­tries, the more salient exam­ple was that of Mit­ter­rand in France. After a year of gen­uine reform, Mit­ter­rand “found him­self faced with a dete­ri­o­rat­ing bal­ance of pay­ments” and opt­ed for aus­ter­i­ty and retrench­ment.121 How­ev­er, it was dif­fi­cult to imag­ine an alter­na­tive path. It had to be admit­ted, accord­ing to Miliband, that “the nation­al­iza­tion at a stroke of the main means of eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty” was an impos­si­bil­i­ty, com­pa­ra­ble to “smash­ing the state.” It was more real­is­tic to imag­ine that “the gov­ern­ment would con­tin­ue, for a cer­tain peri­od of time, to oper­ate in the con­text of an econ­o­my in which cap­i­tal­ist enter­prise played a major role.” This would mean, “among oth­er things, allow­ing firms an ade­quate rate of prof­it, and indeed help­ing them to achieve it.”122

On the oth­er hand, Miliband insist­ed that “a social­ist gov­ern­ment… would be absolute­ly deter­mined from the start to make a real improve­ment in the con­di­tions of life of the great major­i­ty,” by refus­ing aus­ter­i­ty.123 It is not clear in Miliband’s account how these two goals would be rec­on­ciled. The only solu­tion is the greater clar­i­ty of the social­ist gov­ern­ment in its goals, and the “dual pow­er” pres­sure from below which would come from grass­roots move­ments: “A close part­ner­ship would need to be forged between gov­ern­ment and activists, of a kind that would repli­cate the part­ner­ship, referred to ear­li­er, between gov­ern­ment and busi­ness.”124 Here, how­ev­er, a stronger empha­sis was placed on the state side of the dual­i­ty than in his ear­li­er writ­ings: “a strong exec­u­tive pow­er is an absolute­ly essen­tial, though not a suf­fi­cient, con­di­tion for the gov­ern­ment to sur­vive at all, and for it to do what it is com­mit­ted to do… A strong exec­u­tive pow­er would be essen­tial if a social­ist gov­ern­ment was to endure and make progress.”125

Despite his ear­li­er oppo­si­tion to the “New Revi­sion­ism,” it is real­ly not clear that Miliband’s approach led him to an actu­al polit­i­cal alter­na­tive to “New Times.” His mod­el of dual pow­er required rad­i­cal grass­roots pres­sure, but the whole his­tor­i­cal record, illu­mi­nat­ed in Miliband’s own work, demon­strat­ed that scaled-back reformist par­ties are hard­ly inclined towards cul­ti­vat­ing the move­ments that exert this kind of pres­sure. Newman’s biog­ra­phy sug­gests that Miliband’s mod­er­at­ed views “might have been rein­forced by his sons’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in Labour Par­ty pol­i­cy-mak­ing.” In revis­ing Social­ism for a Scep­ti­cal Age Miliband had to some extent incor­po­rat­ed feed­back from his sons, though he resist­ed their sug­ges­tions that he reduce ref­er­ences to 1917 and Marx­ism.126 David Miliband had already served on Neil Kinnock’s staff and would go on to become Tony Blair’s pol­i­cy advis­er the year the book was pub­lished, con­tribut­ing to the pro­gram that would win Blair the elec­tion in 1997.

The mis­ad­ven­tures of the Miliband name notwith­stand­ing, it is Hall who is now fre­quent­ly accused of paving the way for New Labour. This some­what mis­states the dynam­ics at work; it was Thatch­erism that paved the way for New Labour, and Hall was one of the peo­ple who described Thatcherism’s mode of oper­a­tion with the great­est clar­i­ty.127 We have no rea­son to doubt that Miliband would have vig­or­ous­ly crit­i­cized the dra­mat­ic swing to the right engi­neered by Blair, if he had lived to see it. Hall, for his part, exco­ri­at­ed Blair in a one-time revival of Marx­ism Today in 1997 (it had end­ed in 1991), with an arti­cle called “The Great Mov­ing Nowhere Show.” While he doc­u­ment­ed the capit­u­la­tions of New Labour to neolib­er­al­ism, and the new social sub­jects it man­i­fest­ed (“Eco­nom­ic Man or as s/he came to be called, The Enter­pris­ing Sub­ject and the Sov­er­eign Con­sumer”), he did not present a polit­i­cal analy­sis of the phe­nom­e­non com­pa­ra­ble to his account of Thatch­erism.128

Of course, Blair was fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Bill Clin­ton, whose pres­i­den­cy not only brought NAFTA, the Crime Bill, and the Wel­fare Reform Bill, but was also embed­ded in a cul­tur­al style, dri­ven by focus groups and image con­sul­tants, that played on the diver­si­ty of the new times, lead­ing Toni Mor­ri­son to famous­ly com­ment that Clin­ton was “the first black pres­i­dent.” A term beyond “author­i­tar­i­an pop­ulism” will prob­a­bly be need­ed to describe this phe­nom­e­non, which showed, on the one hand, that the hege­mon­ic strat­e­gy of the right was so suc­cess­ful as to absorb the puta­tive left, and facil­i­tate the con­sol­i­da­tion of eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty and the fur­ther roll­back of reforms con­densed in the state; and on the oth­er hand, that plu­ral­ism, the cel­e­bra­tion of the pop­u­lar media, and the turn to youth cul­ture did not nec­es­sar­i­ly con­sti­tute, in the absence of viable rev­o­lu­tion­ary mobi­liza­tion, an oppo­si­tion­al force – as the grass­roots cam­paigns for the actu­al first black pres­i­dent have since amply demon­strat­ed.129

It is pre­cise­ly on the stymied devel­op­ment of an antag­o­nis­tic agent that the dis­cus­sion of cul­ture and ide­ol­o­gy must be sit­u­at­ed – not as an expla­na­tion for the com­plex mech­a­nisms of shifts in elec­toral pol­i­tics. Long after Thatch­er and Rea­gan an indus­try of com­men­ta­tors asks why work­ing-class Amer­i­cans vote against their “inter­ests,” invit­ing us to pit Kansas against Con­necti­cut, red state against blue state. But it is in fact in the decom­po­si­tion and dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion of the work­ing class that we must seek an expla­na­tion for the rise of the Right – not in con­scious­ness, false or oth­er­wise. The empir­i­cal evi­dence shows that the U.S. work­ing class, mea­sured by income, has a con­sis­tent vot­ing pref­er­ence for the Democ­rats, and this holds true even if we restrict our data to the white work­ing class. But con­trary to the mar­ket log­ic of “inter­ests,” this vot­ing prac­tice has nev­er actu­al­ly increased work­ing-class pow­er, and so the inde­ter­mi­nate ether of Amer­i­can pub­lic opin­ion ends up sub­or­di­nat­ed to the orga­ni­za­tion­al pow­er of right-wing van­guards.130 Whether author­i­tar­i­an pop­ulism has changed people’s ideas is a poor­ly framed ques­tion. Its role in the neolib­er­al trans­for­ma­tion was to attack the pos­si­bil­i­ty of strate­gic alliances between the new social move­ments and orga­ni­za­tion at the point of pro­duc­tion. Tra­di­tion­al­ist ide­olo­gies of fam­i­ly, church, and nation were a pre-emp­tive strike against the poten­tial polit­i­cal bar­ri­er to accu­mu­la­tion that these lines of alliance could impose from below.

What the co-opta­tion of the new social move­ments by New Labour and iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics real­ly demon­strates is that it was not enough to say that the exist­ing left orga­ni­za­tions need­ed to renew and ren­o­vate their approach to ide­ol­o­gy, cul­ture, iden­ti­ty, desire, and sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. The real­i­ty was that a recom­posed work­ing class need­ed new forms of orga­ni­za­tion ade­quate to its recom­po­si­tion. The seem­ing­ly inescapable temp­ta­tion to cling to exist­ing mod­els of orga­ni­za­tion per­haps expressed this need in an invert­ed form. In the end nei­ther Miliband nor Hall was able to over­come the idea of work­ing with­in, or in close rela­tion to, the Labour par­ty.

One of Hall’s last writ­ings – in a tes­ta­ment to his cre­ativ­i­ty and com­mit­ment to the study of pop­u­lar “com­mon sense,” an analy­sis writ­ten with Alan O’Shea of com­ments on the web­site of The Sun – urged the Labour Par­ty to take “a more coura­geous, inno­v­a­tive, ‘educa­tive’ and path-break­ing strate­gic approach” in order to gain ground.131 It is hard to imag­ine what he expect­ed Labour to achieve if it did gain ground, after sev­er­al decades of con­sis­tent dis­ap­point­ment. While it may have seemed as though Miliband had dis­sect­ed the ide­ol­o­gy of Labourism just as the New Left was emerg­ing, the cadav­er man­aged to put itself back togeth­er.

Bewil­dered by New Times and Skep­ti­cal Ages, the Left is far too caught up in pet­ty squab­bles, on the one side an ahis­tor­i­cal absorp­tion in spec­tac­u­lar pos­tures of undi­rect­ed rebel­lion and iden­ti­tar­i­an nar­cis­sism, and on the oth­er, a stodgy and unat­trac­tive ortho­doxy. The art of pol­i­tics is nowhere to be found – except, per­haps on the deliri­ous right, a real­i­ty that Hall also described:

I remem­ber the moment in the 1979 elec­tion when Mr Callaghan, on his last polit­i­cal legs, so to speak, said with real aston­ish­ment about the offen­sive of Mrs Thatch­er, “She means to tear soci­ety up by the roots.” This was an unthink­able idea in the social demo­c­ra­t­ic vocab­u­lary: a rad­i­cal attack on the sta­tus quo. The truth is that, tra­di­tion­al­ist ideas, the ideas of social and moral respectabil­i­ty, have pen­e­trat­ed so deep inside social­ist con­scious­ness that it is quite com­mon to find peo­ple com­mit­ted to a rad­i­cal polit­i­cal pro­gramme, under­pinned by whol­ly tra­di­tion­al feel­ings and sen­ti­ments.132

Our dis­ori­en­ta­tion has pre­vent­ed us from car­ry­ing out the urgent task Hall pre­scient­ly laid out: to under­stand “how dif­fer­ent forces come togeth­er, con­junc­tural­ly, to cre­ate the new ter­rain on which a dif­fer­ent pol­i­tics must form up.”133 It is up to us to invent a dif­fer­ent pol­i­tics – or Don­ald Trump will be the only one doing it.

  1. Wash­ing­ton Post, July 22, 2016. 

  2. See Asad Haider, “Bern­stein in Seat­tle: Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Democ­ra­cy and the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sub­ject,” View­point Mag­a­zine (May 2016). 

  3. Stu­art Hall et al., Polic­ing the Cri­sis: Mug­ging, the State and Law and Order (Bas­ingstoke: Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2013), 210. 

  4. Ibid., 224. 

  5. Ibid., 229, 258–59. 

  6. Ibid., 211. 

  7. Ibid., 232–33. 

  8. Ibid., 212. 

  9. Ibid., 214. 

  10. Ibid., 243. 

  11. Ibid., 256. 

  12. Ibid., 257. 

  13. Ibid., 260. 

  14. Ibid., 262. 

  15. Ibid., 273. 

  16. Ibid. 

  17. Ibid., 298. 

  18. Ibid., 302–03. 

  19. Ibid., 311–12. 

  20. Ibid., 214. 

  21. Ibid., 218. 

  22. Ibid., 325. 

  23. Ibid., 326. 

  24. Ibid., 325. 

  25. Ibid., 333. 

  26. Ibid., 325. 

  27. Ibid., 332. 

  28. Ibid., 337. 

  29. Ibid., 349. 

  30. Ibid., 363. 

  31. Ibid., 365. 

  32. Ibid., 371. 

  33. Ibid., 373. 

  34. Ibid., 382. 

  35. Ibid., 383. 

  36. Ibid., 386. 

  37. Ibid. 

  38. Ibid., 387. 

  39. Ibid., 340. 

  40. Ibid., 387. 

  41. Ibid., 389. 

  42. Read­ing notes pro­vid­ed by Chris­tine Buci-Glucks­mann, cit­ed in Bob Jes­sop et al., Thatch­erism: A Tale of Two Nations (Cam­bridge, UK: Black­well Pub, 1989), 111. 

  43. Hall et al., Polic­ing the Cri­sis, 216. 

  44. Ibid., 214. They elab­o­rate lat­er on this his­tor­i­cal devel­op­ment: “The 1971 peri­od thus allows us to see, in minia­ture, the dialec­ti­cal move­ment by which the ‘law-and-order’ pan­ic becomes ful­ly insti­tu­tion­alised as an ‘excep­tion­al’ form of the state. For con­ve­nience sake, we can con­dense this move­ment into three close­ly con­nect­ed phas­es: first, the over­whelm­ing ten­den­cy of the state to move in the direc­tion of the law (the sheer com­pre­hen­sive­ness of the sup­port­ing leg­isla­tive activ­i­ty in this peri­od, all of it cul­mi­nat­ing in a tight­en­ing of legal sanc­tions, is stag­ger­ing); sec­ond, the mobil­i­sa­tion, and the extend­ed, rou­tine employ­ment of the law-enforce­ment agen­cies in the exer­cise of ‘infor­mal’ con­trol; the third and cul­mi­nat­ing point is the ten­den­cy of all issues to con­verge, ide­o­log­i­cal­ly, at the ‘vio­lence’ thresh­old” (282). 

  45. Poulantzas, State, Pow­er, Social­ism, trans. Patrick Camiller (Lon­don: New Left Books, 1978), 203–04. 

  46. Ibid., 74. 

  47. Ibid., 12. 

  48. Ibid., 238. 

  49. Ibid., 205. 

  50. Ibid., 208–09. 

  51. Ibid., 211. 

  52. Ibid., 246–47. 

  53. Ibid., 129. 

  54. Ibid. 

  55. Ibid., 125–26. 

  56. Ibid., 138. 

  57. Ibid., 127. Sim­i­lar ter­mi­nol­o­gy is employed, from a very dif­fer­ent van­tage point, in Göran Ther­born, What Does the Rul­ing Class Do When It Rules?: State Appa­ra­tus­es and State Pow­er Under Feu­dal­ism, Cap­i­tal­ism and Social­ism (Lon­don: Ver­so, 1980). 

  58. Poulantzas, State, Pow­er, Social­ism, 133. Inter­est­ing­ly, Miliband had writ­ten: “it is the state upon which has fall­en the prime respon­si­bil­i­ty for the orga­ni­za­tion of reform.” Miliband, Marx­ism and Pol­i­tics, (Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1977), 87. 

  59. Poulantzas, State, Pow­er, Social­ism, 140. 

  60. Thanks to Gigi Rog­gero for sug­gest­ing this con­cept in con­ver­sa­tion.  

  61. On neolib­er­al­ism, see the sum­ma­ry of Leo Pan­itch and Sam Gindin: “The com­mon ten­den­cy to ana­lyze these devel­op­ments in terms of the key tenets of neolib­er­al ide­ol­o­gy as artic­u­lat­ed by Rea­gan or Thatch­er, or for that mat­ter by Mil­ton Fried­man or Alan Greenspan, is a clas­sic case of fail­ing to see the wood for the trees. It miss­es the con­ti­nu­ities between their pre­scrip­tions for free mar­kets and the long-term goals already artic­u­lat­ed by the Amer­i­can state at the time of the relaunch­ing of glob­al cap­i­tal­ism in the post­war era. And it fails to reg­is­ter the grow­ing con­tra­dic­tions with­in the post­war class com­pro­mise, as the real­iza­tion of near full employ­ment and grow­ing social expen­di­tures took place along­side rapid­ly increas­ing com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion and ever-deep­en­ing cap­i­tal­ist social rela­tions. Neolib­er­al­ism involved not only the restruc­tur­ing of insti­tu­tions to ensure that the anti-infla­tion para­me­ter was enforced, but also the removal of bar­ri­ers to com­pe­ti­tion in all mar­kets, and espe­cial­ly in the labor mar­ket. Break­ing the infla­tion­ary spi­ral involved, above all, dis­ci­plin­ing labor. By accom­plish­ing this, it secured the con­fi­dence of indus­tri­al as well as finan­cial cap­i­tal. Despite the Rea­gan­ite rhetoric in which neolib­er­al prac­tices were enveloped (“gov­ern­ment is not the solu­tion, gov­ern­ment is the prob­lem”), it was the state that was the key actor. The mech­a­nisms of neolib­er­al­ism – under­stood in terms of the expan­sion and deep­en­ing of mar­kets and com­pet­i­tive pres­sures – may have been eco­nom­ic, but neolib­er­al­ism was essen­tial­ly a polit­i­cal response to the demo­c­ra­t­ic gains that had been pre­vi­ous­ly achieved by work­ing class­es and which had become, from capital’s per­spec­tive, bar­ri­ers to accu­mu­la­tion. It was only on the most styl­ized and super­fi­cial read­ing that the state could be seen to have with­drawn. Neolib­er­al prac­tices did not entail insti­tu­tion­al retreat so much as the expan­sion and con­sol­i­da­tion of the net­works of insti­tu­tion­al link­ages to an already glob­al­iz­ing cap­i­tal­ism.” The Mak­ing of Glob­al Cap­i­tal­ism (New York: Ver­so, 2012), 14-15. Despite the great suc­cess of this book, this basic point does not seem to have been wide­ly absorbed. 

  62. Ibid., 271–72. 

  63. Miliband, The State in Cap­i­tal­ist Soci­ety, 273–74. 

  64. Ibid., 276. 

  65. Stu­art Hall, “Author­i­tar­i­an Pop­ulism: A Reply,” New Left Review I, no. 151 (June 1985): 117–18; Poulantzas, “Inter­view with Stu­art Hall and Alan Hunt,” 199–200; Stu­art Hall, “Nicos Poulantzas: ‘State, Pow­er, Social­ism,’” New Left Review I, no. 119 (Feb­ru­ary 1980): 68. For a more com­plete the­o­ret­i­cal elab­o­ra­tion of “author­i­tar­i­an pop­ulism” see “Pop­u­lar-Demo­c­ra­t­ic vs. Author­i­tar­i­an Pop­ulism: Two Ways of ‘Tak­ing Democ­ra­cy Seri­ous­ly’” in Stu­art Hall, The Hard Road to Renew­al: Thatch­erism and the Cri­sis of the Left (Lon­don ; New York: Ver­so Books, 1988). 

  66. Ernesto Laclau, Pol­i­tics and Ide­ol­o­gy in Marx­ist The­o­ry: Cap­i­tal­ism, Fas­cism, Pop­ulism (Lon­don: Ver­so, 1977). 

  67. Stu­art Hall, “The Great Mov­ing Right Show,” Marx­ism Today, Jan­u­ary 1979: 16. 

  68. Ibid., 17. 

  69. Ibid., 18; see also the more elab­o­rat­ed ver­sion in The Hard Road to Renew­al, 50–51. 

  70. Hall, “The Great Mov­ing Right Show,” 16. 

  71. Ibid., 17, 18; for a detailed account of the resort to “tra­di­tion” see “Pop­u­lar-Demo­c­ra­t­ic” in The Hard Road to Renew­al, 144–46. 

  72. Hall, “The Great Mov­ing Right Show,” 20. 

  73. Poulantzas, State, Pow­er, Social­ism, 140. 

  74. John Sav­ille, “Marx­ism Today: An Anato­my,” Social­ist Reg­is­ter 26, no. 26 (March 18, 1990). 

  75. Ralph Miliband, “The New Revi­sion­ism in Britain,” New Left Review I, no. 150 (April 1985): 6; Miliband, Par­lia­men­tary Social­ism, 332. 

  76. Miliband, “The New Revi­sion­ism in Britain,” 207; See “The Cri­sis of Labour” and “Blue Elec­tion, Elec­tion Blues” in Hall, The Hard Road to Renew­al. 

  77. Alex Call­ini­cos, “The Pol­i­tics of Marx­ism Today,” Inter­na­tion­al Social­ism 2, no. 29 (Sum­mer 1985). 

  78. Eric Hob­s­bawm, “The For­ward March of Labour Halt­ed?,” in The For­ward March of Labour Halt­ed?, ed. Mar­tin Jacques and Fran­cis Mul­h­ern (New Left Books in asso­ci­a­tion with Marx­ism today, 1981). 

  79. Stu­art Hall and Mar­tin Jacques, eds., “Intro­duc­tion,” in The Pol­i­tics of Thatch­erism (Lon­don: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd, 1983). 

  80. Miliband, “The New Revi­sion­ism in Britain.” 

  81. Ibid. 

  82. Ibid., 26. 

  83. Robin Black­burn, “Stu­art Hall, 1932–2014,” New Left Review II, no. 86 (April 2014): 75–93. 

  84. Hall, The Hard Road to Renew­al, 203, 204. 

  85. Ibid., 241. Note that Hall is not refer­ring to the min­ers here. 

  86. New­man, Ralph Miliband And The Pol­i­tics Of The New Left, 285–86. 

  87. It is often glib to crit­i­cize com­mer­cial films for his­tor­i­cal inac­cu­ra­cy when they do so much to raise aware­ness of the his­to­ry of pop­u­lar move­ments. One per­ti­nent crit­i­cism of Pride, how­ev­er, is the extent to which, by show­ing the for­ma­tion of Les­bians and Gays Sup­port the Min­ers to be a spon­ta­neous act, it under­states the com­plex orga­ni­za­tion­al net­works at work. This his­to­ry is traced in the excel­lent arti­cle by Diar­maid Kel­li­her, “Sol­i­dar­i­ty and Sex­u­al­i­ty: Les­bians and Gays Sup­port the Min­ers 1984–5,” His­to­ry Work­shop Jour­nal 77, no. 1 (April 1, 2014): 240–62. 

  88. Doreen Massey and Hilary Wain­wright, “Beyond the Coal­fields,” in Dig­ging Deep­er: Issues in the Min­ers’ Strike, ed. Huw Beynon (Ver­so, 1985), 168. 

  89. Hall, The Hard Road to Renew­al, 205. 

  90. Hall and Jacques, “Intro­duc­tion,” 15, 13. 

  91. Stu­art Hall, “Gram­sci and Us,” Marx­ism Today, June 1987: 21. 

  92. Stu­art Hall, “The Bat­tle for Social­ist Ideas in the 1980s,” Social­ist Reg­is­ter 19, no. 19 (March 18, 1982): 10. 

  93. Hall and Jacques, “Intro­duc­tion,” 14. 

  94. Hall, The Hard Road to Renew­al, 5. 

  95. Hall and Jacques, “Intro­duc­tion,” 14. 

  96. Hall, The Hard Road to Renew­al, 200. 

  97. Ibid., 246. 

  98. Hall and Jacques, “Intro­duc­tion,” 14. 

  99. Hall, The Hard Road to Renew­al, 246. 

  100. Ibid., 201. 

  101. The Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Social­ist Dis­cus­sion Group, Out of Apa­thy: Voic­es of the New Left 30 Years On (Lon­don: Ver­so, 1989) 104. 

  102. Hall and Jacques, “Intro­duc­tion,” 15. 

  103. Hall, The Hard Road to Renew­al, 247. 

  104. Ibid., 208. 

  105. Hall and Jacques, “Intro­duc­tion,” 16. 

  106. Tony Benn, “Who Dares Wins,” Marx­ism Today, Jan­u­ary 1985: 15. 

  107. Stu­art Hall, “Faith, Hope, or Clar­i­ty,” Marx­ism Today, Jan­u­ary 1985: 19. 

  108. On the theme of democ­ra­ti­za­tion, see Hall, The Hard Road to Renew­al, 171. 

  109. Ibid., 251. 

  110. See the intro­duc­tion to Stu­art Hall and Mar­tin Jacques, eds., New Times: The Chang­ing Face of Pol­i­tics in the 1990s (Lon­don: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd, 1989), and espe­cial­ly the excerpts from the “Man­i­festo for New Times.” 

  111. Out of Apa­thy, 152. 

  112. Hall quite clear­ly acknowl­edged this prob­lem along the way; see Hall, The Hard Road to Renew­al, 281; and more recent­ly, “Liv­ing with Dif­fer­ence,” Sound­ings, no. 37 (Win­ter 2007). 

  113. Hall, The Hard Road to Renew­al, 10–11; “On Post­mod­ernism and Artic­u­la­tion,” in Stu­art Hall: Crit­i­cal Dia­logues in Cul­tur­al Stud­ies, eds. Kuan-Hsing Chen and David Mor­ley (Lon­don; New York: Rout­ledge, 1996), 145–49. I have com­ment­ed on the con­cep­tu­al short­com­ings of “democ­ra­cy” in “Bern­stein in Seat­tle: Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Democ­ra­cy and the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sub­ject (Part 2).” 

  114. Ralph Miliband, Social­ism for a Scep­ti­cal Age (Lon­don; New York: Ver­so, 1994), 72, 74, 89. 

  115. Ibid., 117. Miliband’s case for a com­bi­na­tion of pub­lic own­er­ship and “a siz­able pri­vate­ly owned sec­tor” (110) is laid out in the fourth chap­ter; for Hall’s for­mu­la­tions see Hall, The Hard Road to Renew­al, 230, 279. 

  116. Miliband, Social­ism for a Scep­ti­cal Age, 124. 

  117. Ibid., 148. 

  118. Ibid., 140. 

  119. Ibid., 141. 

  120. Ibid., 159. 

  121. Ibid., 166. 

  122. Ibid., 175. 

  123. Ibid., 181. 

  124. Ibid., 184. 

  125. Ibid., 186. 

  126. New­man, Ralph Miliband And The Pol­i­tics Of The New Left, 331. New­man con­vinc­ing­ly dis­pels the rhetoric some­times heard on today’s Left that Miliband’s sons have betrayed his her­itage; see 339–40. 

  127. But see Hall, “Liv­ing with Dif­fer­ence” for a frank acknowl­edge­ment of the way his insis­tence on the polit­i­cal intel­li­gence of Thatch­erism seemed, at times, to pass over into cel­e­bra­tion. 

  128. Stu­art Hall, “The Great Mov­ing Nowhere Show,” Marx­ism Today, Decem­ber 1998: 11; this kind of analy­sis is extend­ed and updat­ed in Stu­art Hall, “The Neo-Lib­er­al Rev­o­lu­tion,” Cul­tur­al Stud­ies 25, no. 6 (Novem­ber 1, 2011): 705–28. 

  129. The high­ly ambigu­ous rela­tion of the Oba­ma reelec­tion to pub­lic atti­tudes sur­round­ing eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty has been doc­u­ment­ed by Lar­ry Bar­tels, “The Class War Gets Per­son­al: Inequal­i­ty as a Polit­i­cal Issue in the 2012 Elec­tion,” 2013. 

  130. See Lar­ry M. Bar­tels, “Who’s Bit­ter Now?” New York Times, April 17, 2008, and the two ver­sions of “What’s the Mat­ter with What’s the Mat­ter With Kansas?”, the first (2005) avail­able on his web­site and the sec­ond pub­lished in the Quar­ter­ly Jour­nal of Polit­i­cal Sci­ence, 2006, 1: 201–26; and Andrew Gel­man, “Eco­nom­ic Divi­sions and Polit­i­cal Polar­iza­tion in Red and Blue Amer­i­ca,” Path­ways (Sum­mer 2011): 3–6. Main­stream polit­i­cal sci­ence is locked in a sta­tis­ti­cal stale­mate between the inter­pre­ta­tions called “par­ty sort­ing” and “polar­iza­tion” – the first claim­ing that the so-called cul­ture wars are restrict­ed to polit­i­cal elites, who then force oth­er­wise mod­er­ate vot­ers to line up on either side, the sec­ond argu­ing for a foun­da­tion of real pop­u­lar divi­sions dri­ven by race and reli­gion. The polar­iza­tion per­spec­tive has been defend­ed by Alan I. Abramowitz, “How race and reli­gion have polar­ized Amer­i­can vot­ers,” Wash­ing­ton Post, Jan­u­ary 20, 2014; for a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of how these schol­ar­ly debates play out in pol­i­cy dis­cus­sions, see Mor­ris P. Fio­r­i­na, “America’s Miss­ing Mod­er­ates: Hid­ing in Plain Sight,” The Amer­i­can Inter­est 8, no. 4 (Feb­ru­ary 12, 2013), and the ensu­ing debate with Abramowitz, “Polar­ized or Sort­ed? Just What’s Wrong With Our Pol­i­tics, Any­way?,” The Amer­i­can Inter­est, March 11, 2013. This entire debate is based on the some­what stu­pe­fy­ing assump­tion that a left pole exists in U.S. pol­i­tics in the first place. In light of the exten­sive research demon­strat­ing that pol­i­cy-mak­ing is entire­ly con­trolled by elites, and that the mate­ri­al­ly influ­en­tial views of the very rich – the top 1%, and espe­cial­ly the top 0.1% – are far to the right of those of the gen­er­al pub­lic, it is hard to see the polar­iza­tion per­spec­tive as much more than the anx­i­ety of a less afflu­ent lib­er­al minor­i­ty, con­cen­trat­ed among jour­nal­ists and aca­d­e­mics. See Ben­jamin I. Page, Lar­ry M. Bar­tels, and Jason Sea­wright, “Democ­ra­cy and the Pol­i­cy Pref­er­ences of Wealthy Amer­i­cans,” Per­spec­tives on Pol­i­tics 11, no. 1 (March 2013): 51-73. 

  131. Stu­art Hall and Alan O’Shea, “Com­mon-Sense Neolib­er­al­ism,” Sound­ings 55, no. 55 (Decem­ber 13, 2013): 18. 

  132. Hall, “Bat­tle for Social­ist Ideas,” 17. 

  133. Hall, “Gram­sci and Us,” 16. 

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