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June 30, 2011

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Robert Allen

Thanks for summarizing what I've been grappling with, the subject of dependency under the dictatorship of capital- "to be independent we have to be communist" is perfect.The social atomization process we go through makes us resent our dependency, our out-of-our-controlness, manifesting itself in even more alienation.

Jodi Dean

Hey Bob--thanks for your comment. I'm interested in your appeal to alienation here. I agree with you on resenting dependency and being out of control, yet I wonder if alienation is part of this or rather a weird kind of immersion, absorption, non-alienation; so, folks feel out of control because they can't get any distance. Or, maybe it makes most sense to see both, and oscillation between them, as forms that capture and exploitation under capitalism take.

Account Deleted

hi jodi- I recently read n.fraser's article on the genealogy of dependency as a keyword (especially in controversies about the welfare state) and how the term comes to be gradually associated with a character trait and weakness of will; hence naturalized. marx's comments on "objective dependence" in grundrisse that prevails in capitalism seems to fit perfectly in this discussion.
your post made me think once more about the importance of keeping in sight the different ways in which we get more and more dependent on capitalism - something that has been presented to the people as the sight of independence for centuries now.

Robert Allen

well, how I got to the link between alienation and dependency (not dependency on capitalism per se, but generalized systemic Dependency), I wrote the following poem/sketch of an interesting guy I met, who had no teeth, coke bottle glasses and a gimme cap (which I left purposely out of the piece so as not to ridicule him):

VFW Commander

when Tony became commander
they all came a backslappin n high fivin

when the commander arrived it was inspiring,
day job a wal mart greeter,
told everbuddy down at the Lamplighter


(much like the old black deacon
by wednesday night service front row,
by day a janitor underfoot o white folk,

nothing new under the sun)...

lost Mom the same day I was elected
haven't had time to grieve
picked out the music n lined up the pallbearers
now gettin ready for the Fourth o July parade

wife's workin part time at Hardee's
what kinda meat you want fer the cookout?
She got the food stamps, yup.


told everbuddy down at the Lamplighter
n the Prairie Schooner n they were fired up

cuz with a Commander they won't hafta close the post

and we're sure to get Karaoke
'stead o just bingo


It strikes me that these communities, these dis-alienating
subcultures (Karen Bettez-Halnon) that provide a sense of purpose and self worth to working class people enslaved by what passes for jobs and relief from the powerlessness they encounter on the shop floor, are similar and yet, instead of sparking the civil rights movement as in the case of the Black church, these rednecks merely want the joissance of Karaoke and the beery comradery of jingoistic machismo worship, the whole point of which (the American Dream) has been gutted by the deindustrialization of the town (the Maytag factory in Newton Iowa moved to Mexico, now they make wind turbine blades for "green energy" in these renovated plants which, despite media fanfare are low wage, non union literal sweatshops).
It fascinates me that the poorer we get the more dependednt on food stamps etc, some people find their liberation in the beer hall under massive American flags. Tony is the real communist: he never commanded anything more than his lunchbox, but he sees the potential in community and realizes the road to independence runs straight through community (or communism as you put it Jodi), and he seized the moment. Only problem is, he's not liberating anybody but himself, from his low self esteem and banal Wal mart greeter job. I think this highlights the dead endedness of ideology now;
the flags and the patriotic fervor don't pay the bills, and the drunken partying only serves to mask the pain of the crisis of identity, of being cast down, immersion deeper into the proletariat, however deformed its consciousness...

Jodi Dean

I love this poem so much. Your insight and understanding of the people you describe is stunning. I wonder if the very same community groups could become radicalized, sources for living, organized opposition rather than masks for despair.

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