Wednesday, 9 November 2016

How not to analyse an election result (Marxist studies version)

I'm not going to give my take on the events in the USA. I was wrong (not in disliking Trump but in thinking he would get thrashed) and this is most probably because I don't know enough about the dynamics and processes of US elections so relied on the media filtering of polls to provide guidance. Problem is, of course, that the media leans towards polls that are either outliers or favour the ideological bias of that media (or both).

There's lots of good stuff emerging - not from the big brave pundits on national media but rather from folk like Aaron Renn and Joel Kotkin who bring experience and geography to bear on the issue.

For some though, we get an object lesson in how not to analyse an election result. Here's Dr Sophia Price, Head of Politics and International Relations at Leeds Beckett University. It starts like this:
Marx’s adage ‘first as tragedy then as farce’ seems a fitting place to start on this bleak winter post-election morning. In Zizek’s (2009) book of the same name he notes Marx’s correction of Hegel’s idea “that history necessarily repeats itself”. “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great events and characters of world history occur, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy , the second time as farce” (Marx 1973 quoted in Zizek 2009). For Marx, this second comedic version would mark the “last phase of a world-historical form”.
I know what you're saying - why read on and what in heaven's name has all this to do with the US Presidential elections. Some of you might also smile and remind our author that Zizek - every trendy's favourite Marxist - endorsed Donald Trump. But the article's not very long and soon escapes from quoting Marx as it settles down to present the usual collection of academic sub-Marxism's favourite memes:
...there are a wide range of memes and posts that relate our present moment to the rise of fascism in the 1930s.
Of course. Just a shame that modern Marxist academics seem not to have the first clue about Fascism.
...the analysis of the shift to extreme, right wing politics...has to be located within the context of the global spread of neo-liberal capitalism in which free trade and the roll back of social protection and labour rights has intensified the competition between workers.
We move on:
It is important though that...we do not lose sight of the intersections of race, gender and class within these processes.
We arrive at the conclusion having decided that - Donald Trump is a fascist (he isn't) and won because of racism (partly true but, I suspect, an oversimplification). And that the response should be: properly locate race and gender within the analysis of class relations and contemporary capitalism that have provoked these social changes, in order to be able to formulate a viable, progressive and inclusive alternative.
It seems to me - having sat up all night watching people poking at maps on the telly - that the problem isn't capitalism but rather the failure of government that talked more about race and gender than it did about jobs, schools and healthcare.

The problem is, however, that students only get this sort of analysis - framed in terms of boilerplate Marxism - meaning that they can only see the ideas underlying Trump's success (or Brexit for our author takes a moment to demonise voting the leave the EU) as problematic. The almost complete absence of any academic commentary from the right means that our understanding of the social changes influencing the Trump phenomenon are developed entirely on the basis of a discredited philosophy of state control.



KJP said...

“The almost complete absence of any academic commentary from the right…”
There are very few people from the right in academia. Diversity in academic circles means more women or ethnic minorities only, not people with a diversity of opinion.

KJP said...

I was surprised that Trump won: Clinton was not popular but I thought the GOP had squandered an opportunity to defeat the Democrats by not running a more mainstream figure.
I now think that Clinton must have been more unpopular with ordinary Americans than anyone realised. From exit polls it seems that Trump slightly increased his share of the vote among Latinos and African Americans compared to Mitt Romney in 2012.
I also thought that voters that had not voted before had come out to support Trump. But in 2012 there were 127m votes for the two main candidates but this year only 119m. So it seems a lack of support for Clinton is much of the reason for her defeat.
Of course some/most on the Left are whining: democracy is only valid when you win.

Anonymous said...

and there was me thinking that academic study was to do with the development of the ability to critically examine the assumptions, arguments, conclusions and underpinning evidence of a range of positions rather than spoonfeeding the young minds with selected material on the basis of an entrenched position.


James Higham said...

The almost complete absence of any academic commentary from the right…

I for one have written much on it.

Dr Evil said...

I thought she was quoting Groucho.