The Predator Class: Social Exclusion and Savage Capitalism

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René Lenoir (1974) according to Amartya Sen was the originator of this specific term – at least in France, of ‘Social Exclusion’. It was intended to identify those deemed politically misfit and to be excluded from many of the social welfare systems accommodations and benefits. Lenoir included the mentally and physically handicapped, suicidal people, aged invalids, abused children, substance abusers, delinquents, single parents, multi-problem households, marginal, asocial persons, and other social ‘misfits’. He defined what they’d be excluded from as a livelihood; secure, permanent employment; earnings; property, credit, or land; housing; minimal or prevailing consumption levels; education, skills, and cultural capital; the welfare state; citizenship and legal equality; democratic participation; public goods; the nation or the dominant race; family and sociability; humanity, respect, fulfilment and understanding.1

Saskia Sassen tells us that since the 1980s, there has been a strengthening of dynamics that expel people from the economy and from society, and these dynamics are now hardwired into the normal functioning of these spheres.2 She sees the new predatory capitalism as the perpetrator of a global crime organization masking itself as governance: these expulsions are not simply the result of an individual’s, a firm’s, or a government’s decision or action. European Central Bank and IMF officials have made the decision to insist on government debt reduction via cuts in basic services and the jobs of mostly modest-salaried government employees. There is a kind of systemic logic at work in each of these predatory formations. It is this logic that led her to the notion of a predatory formation rather than simply a collection of powerful individuals and firms that make decisions with major consequences for people and places worldwide. At the heart of this logic is a distortion when compared to the prior period— that of rising welfare states in many market economies as well in many communist countries.(Sassen, KL 1012)

Slavoj Žižek sees such predatory capitalism as spawning a new apocalyptic zero-point: the global capitalist system is approaching an apocalyptic zero-point. Its “four riders of the apocalypse” are comprised by the ecological crisis, the consequences of the biogenetic revolution, imbalances within the system itself (problems with intellectual property; forthcoming struggles over raw materials, food and water), and the explosive growth of social divisions and exclusions.3

As security becomes more and more prevalent in this age of surveillance we are seeing the mobilization of biometrics as a measure of ‘true’ identity in urban war zones as well as in the broader rearticulations of nation, citizenship and circulation acts as a powerful Foucauldian boomerang. In these overlapping domains, politics narrows as all subjects are rendered suspects, targets, who can be ‘legitimately subjected to such disciplinary technologies’ as actually or potentially criminalized Others. This convergence between war zone and home zone exemplifies what John Measor and Benjamin Muller call an ‘evolving global norm of securitized identity’, which further destabilizes conventional separations between domestic and foreign policy.4

Didier Bigo proposes a ‘ban-opticon’ to indicate how profiling technologies are used to determine who is placed under specific surveillance. But it emerges from a full theoretical analysis of how a new ‘globalized (in) security’ emerges from the increasingly concerted activities of international ‘managers of unease’ such as police, border officials and airline companies. Transnational bureaucracies of surveillance and control, both businesses and politicians, now work at a distance to monitor and control population movement, through surveillance. Taken together, these discourses, practices, physical architectures and rules form a complete, connected apparatus, or what Foucault called dispositif. The outcome is not a global panopticon but a ‘ban-opticon’ – combining Jean-Luc Nancy’s idea of the ‘ban’ as developed by Agamben, with Foucault’s ‘opticon’. Its dispositif shows who is welcome or not, creating categories of people excluded not just from a given nation-state but from a rather amorphous and not unified cluster of global powers. And it operates virtually, using networked databases to channel flows of data, especially data about what is yet to happen, as in the film and book of Minority Report.5

As Baumann will iterate this type of total global data tracing and exclusion in surveillance technology today develops on two fronts, serving two opposite strategic objectives: confinement (or ‘fencing in’) on one front line, exclusion (or ‘fencing out’) on the other.(Bauman, KL 873) What we are seeing today is people entering intermediary zones of transition, caught between confinement and exclusion. He tells us to think about the millions who already exist in refugee camps and slums around the world. These are termed by the larger governance organizations as ‘transition camps’: the name ‘transition camp’, commonly selected by power-holders for the places where refugees are ordered to stay, is an oxymoron: ‘transition’ is the very quality whose denial and absence defines the status of a refugee. The sole defined meaning of being assigned to a place called a ‘refugee camp’ is that all other conceivable places are cast as off-limits. The sole meaning of being an insider in a refugee camp is to be an outsider, a stranger, an alien body, an intruder in the rest of the world – challenging that rest of the world to surround itself with ban-optical devices; in a nutshell, becoming an inmate of a refugee camp means eviction from the world shared by the rest of humanity. ‘Having been evicted’, being fixed in the exile condition, is all there is and needs to be in the identity of the refugee. And as Agier repeatedly points out, it is not the issue of where from one has come into the encampment, but the absence of a where to – the declared prohibition or practical impossibility of arriving anywhere else – that sets an exile apart from the rest of humanity. Being set apart is what counts. (Bauman, KL 891)

This sense of expulsion, eviction, exile: the twilight-zone effect that one no longer belongs to one’s roots, one’s country and place of origin; and, yet, does not belong anywhere else, either: that one is a permanent exile from the earth, caught in a stasis and void in-between the living and the dead, a ghost inhabiting two worlds. He says this is happening to us all now. Visibly in the actual refugee camps, and invisibly in all countries where one is excluded from the fantasy worlds of the predatory elite who act as overseers from their gated communities and securitized enclaves. Maybe we are all exiles now, those of us on the left who exist in-between the lost object of utopia, and the actual dystopian futures that exist around us in the realms of oppression. Not belonging, a non-belongingness – a discordant inharmonic dissonance of the dissident.

In her Third World America Arianna Huffington tells us that indeed there is this sense we too are becoming part of that inclusion/exclusion world best summed up by that phrase, “Third World America”:

I use it to sum up the ugly facts we’d rather not know, to connect the uncomfortable dots we’d rather not connect, and to articulate one of our deepest fears as a people—that we are slipping as a nation. It’s a harbinger, a clanging alarm telling us that if we don’t correct our course, contrary to our history and to what has always seemed to be our destiny, we could indeed become a Third World nation—a place where there are only two classes: the rich … and everyone else. Think Mexico or Brazil, where the wealthy live behind fortified gates, with machine-gun-toting guards protecting their children from kidnapping.6

In the other world of the rich and powerful the opposite is true, the predatory class sees itself as beyond all this as Chrystia Freeland tells it, they see themselves increasingly as a “nation unto themselves”.7 A meritocracy whose lives exist at light-speed, a globally group of new super-elite that consists, to a notable degree, of first- and second-generation wealth. Its members are hardworking, highly educated, jet-setting meritocrats who feel they are the deserving winners of a tough, worldwide economic competition— and, as a result, have an ambivalent attitude toward those of us who haven’t succeeded quite so spectacularly. They tend to believe in the institutions that permit social mobility, but are less enthusiastic about the economic redistribution— i.e., taxes— it takes to pay for those institutions. Perhaps most strikingly, they are becoming a transglobal community of peers who have more in common with one another than with their countrymen back home. Whether they maintain primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, today’s super-rich are increasingly a nation unto themselves. (Freeland, p. 5)

Charles H. Ferguson argues that America is entering a dangerous zone. On the one hand, excessive concentration of power tends to produce an echo chamber, in which those at the top only need to deal with each other. There is less pluralism, less competition, a narrower range of options and views, less room for maneuvering. Companies have more power, because there is less choice; it’s harder for employees, suppliers, and customers to talk back to them, or threaten to switch. This isn’t healthy. But in addition, America’s economic decline will inevitably produce increasing social pressures. Economic and social insecurity can produce activism for reform, but they can also produce anger, desperation, and dangerously simple solutions. They encourage nasty charlatans to distract public opinion from America’s real challenges in favor of stupid, extremist, counterproductive measures— or simply doing nothing. The United States has now entered such a systemic decline, and the rise of America’s economic oligarchy and money-based political system is both a cause and a symptom of it. As is typical in such situations, the decline of the United States’ political and economic systems began at the height of American national power. Money-based politics was not the initial cause of American decline, but it was the way that America’s largest industries responded when they were threatened. It turned out to be easier and more effective (more effective for them, not for the country) to pay people off than to undertake real, painful, internal reform.8

Instead we allow the predators to continue their lawless program. This is dangerous. A nation that allows predatory, value-destroying behavior to become systematically more profitable than honest, productive work risks a great deal. America, like all societies, depends heavily on idealism and trust, including the willingness of ordinary citizens to behave honestly and to make sacrifices. While many Americans do not yet realize how unfair their society has become, that condition will not last indefinitely. Unfortunately it will probably last long enough that the current generation of predators will die wealthy and comfortable. But most of us would not enjoy living in a society dominated by cynicism and dishonesty. (Ferguson, KL 5630)

Yet, there is hope. As even Naomi Klein suggests in her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2010):

The intensely violent brand of disaster capitalism that has dominated since September 11 emerged in part because lesser shocks— debt crises, currency crashes, the threat of being left behind “in history”— were already losing much of their potency, largely because of overuse. Yet today, even the cataclysmic shocks of wars and natural disasters do not always provoke the level of disorientation required to impose unwanted economic shock therapy. There are just too many people in the world who have had direct experience with the shock doctrine: they know how it works, have talked to other prisoners, passed notes between the bars; the crucial element of surprise is missing.9

The world has seen the mark of the beast, the predator, the power of a predatory capitalism that has tried its best to swallow the world in its – as she calls it, “shock doctrines”, and have rejected it. Yet, in our moment the predators have invoked a retaliatory pressure, austerity to break the backs of the nations and force them into alignment with the Oligarchs who pull the corporate strings of governance around the planet.

Howard Caygill in On Resistance: A Philosophy of Defiance will tell us it is time for a politics of resistance, that we need a strategy of delegitimation which is at the same time is a politics of the enhancement of the capacity to resist: a non-violent strategy of resistance aimed at delegimizing tyrannical government by making government unworkable and enhancing the capacity to resist over the long term through strikes, public manifestations, dissemination of information and sabotage.10 As

As Noam Chomsky’s Occupy (2012) shows us, defiance or the opposition to domination is central to the movement of resistance: ‘Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power. And concentration of political power gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle’ (Chomsky 2012, 28), but the role of the internet in mobilizing, connecting (and infiltrating) the Occupy movement is completely ignored. For Chomsky, ‘[ t] here’s nothing to stop all kinds of action, from educating and organizing to political action, to demonstrations. All kinds of resistance are possible, the kinds of things that have succeeded in the past’ (Chomsky, 92). The repertoire of tried and tested resistances including industrial resistance, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, anti-colonial resistance and the sexual resistances is now joined by digital resistance and together constitute a capacity to resist with its own history and fate. The newcomer can catalyse existing resistances and enhance their overall capacity, but it should not be forgotten that it is itself engaged in an internal struggle between domination and defiance that in turn requires the support of the broader constituency of resistance. Contemporary resistance, even in its most technologically sophisticated manifestations, is not an exception to the rules governing the politics of resistance. It is engaged in defiant delegitimization of existing and potential domination but without any prospect of a final outcome in the guise of a revolutionary or reformist result or solution. As reciprocals, domination and defiance are engaged in a perpetual struggle in which resistance can never rest but must adopt a fresh posture with respect to a strengthened counter-resistance. The politics of resistance is disillusioned and without end, one that can claim a lifetime or a life for its pursuit of justice and that requires constant courage, fortitude and prudence. It accompanies the modern adventure of freedom and possibility, but in its ambivalent and ambiguous margins. Yet the defiant life is not negative, not just the reaction to the ruses of an eternally renewed effort to dominate nested within freedom itself, but one with its own necessities, its own affirmations and its own joy.(Caygill, KL 4525)

It’s this persistence of engagement, of a resistance that even in its disillusionment continues, strives to bring about spaces of justice and freedom, to educate and create counters to power. This is the only form of life worthy of the rebel. The life of resistance that perseveres in courage, fortitude, and at times moves beyond even prudence and into that imprudent sphere of action where humans confront one another against power.

1. Amartya Sen. SOCIAL EXCLUSION: CONCEPT, APPLICATION, AND SCRUTINY (Asian Development Bank, 2000)
2. Sassen, Saskia (2014-05-05). Expulsions (Kindle Locations 983-984). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.
3. Žižek, Slavoj (2011-04-18). Living in the End Times . Norton. Kindle Edition.
4.  Graham, Stephen (2011-11-01). Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism (Kindle Locations 3762-3767).  . Kindle Edition.
5. Bauman, Zygmunt; Lyon, David (2013-04-03). Liquid Surveillance: A Conversation (PCVS-Polity Conversations Series) (Kindle Locations 831-840). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
6. Arianna Huffington (2010-09-07). Third World America (p. 3). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
7. Freeland, Chrystia (2012-10-11). Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (p. 5). Penguin Press HC, The. Kindle Edition.
8. Ferguson, Charles H. (2012-05-22). Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America (Kindle Locations 4892-4898). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
9. Klein, Naomi (2010-04-01). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (p. 580). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
10. Caygill, Howard (2013-10-24). On Resistance: A Philosophy of Defiance (Kindle Locations 4504-4525). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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