Monday, February 20, 2017

"Privilege" has been neoliberalized and "inequality" is next

The Ford Foundation made a vapid video that discusses inequality in identitarian terms, focusing on race and gender almost exclusively. Doug Henwood shared it on Facebook, where Michael Pollak left this comment:
...I'm sorry that this seems to make obsolete Branko Milankovic's great line that foundations love to talk about poverty, but not inequality, because the latter sounds to rich people like you want to take their money.

Of course it's not for any good reason, it's because "inequality" is being neoliberalized into meaning identity equality.
Those of us who want to focus on economic injustice lost "privilege" in the 1980s when neoliberalism and identitarianism were growing together. I love privilege's literal meaning, "private law", a perfect description of what wealth buys. But privilege theorists turned "privilege" from meaning what the elite has to meaning what most of the hoi polloi have. The word's roots have been chopped away; to privilege theorists, privilege now means "majority law".

The logic of identitarianism is antithetical to the logic of socialism. It's a meme that overwrites economic injustice to make it almost impossible to talk about economics alone, thereby continuing to divide the working class.

Consider this a footnote to The Intertwining of Islamism, Identitarianism, and Neoliberalism, and the Four Waves of Socialism.