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Fully Automated

Politics

The ‘Fully Automated’ podcast features interviews with scholars and thinkers on a range of ongoing controversies within the left, including austerity, financialization, automation and, above all, the future of left strategy.

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United States

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The ‘Fully Automated’ podcast features interviews with scholars and thinkers on a range of ongoing controversies within the left, including austerity, financialization, automation and, above all, the future of left strategy.

Language:

English

Contact:

330.285.5604


Episodes

Episode 43: James A. Smith of The Popular Show

2/4/2024
Hello friends! Welcome to another episode of Fully Automated! Our guest for this episode is none other than James A. Smith, co-host with David Slavick of The Popular Show. Smith is also the author of Other People’s Politics: Populism to Corbynism (Zer0 Books, 2019) and coauthor with Mareile Pfannebecker of Work Want Work: Labour and Desire at the end of Capitalism (Bloomsbury, 2020). Smith is a defender of the idea that the 2016-2020 “Bernie moment” was a real opportunity to advance the cause of socialism. While it can be tempting today to look back and think that it was doomed from the start, Smith argues that the failure was largely self-inflicted. This means there are lessons that can be learned from the failure. However, he notes, the left today “seems worryingly uncurious about the regressive influence earlier defeated lefts have sometimes inadvertently had.” Smith believes that the left needs to rethink its approach to political freedom. Following up on our recent episode with Efraim Carlebach on the 10-year anniversary of Mark Fisher’s famous essay, “Exiting the Vampire Castle,” we chat with Smith about his recent Sublation essay, “Capitalist Realism All Over Again” (3.17.2023). As he puts it, the left has “struggled to apply the book’s insights,” all too often succumbing to political correctness and “anti-political moralism.” Meanwhile, as evidenced in the government response to the coronavirus pandemic, capitalist elites are claiming that crises that are “too important to be hazarded to democratic oversight or protest.” When the left abandons this fight, the right will try to fill in the gap, claiming that only it can stop the power grab. We also ask Smith about some of his recent episodes, including his interview with Matt Taibbi, one of the main journalists behind The Twitter Files. Like Taibbi, Smith believes that capitalist elites today are leveraging state powers to censor social media activity, essentially constituting a strategy of “revenge against both left and right populism.” We also discuss a number of foreign policy matters, from the west’s war for NATO expansion in Ukraine to the iconoclastic left’s bankrupt analysis of Israel’s war in Gaza. Concerning the latter, many otherwise insightful critics have suggested that Hamas is essentially a bonapartist organization, seeking to create an islamic state. How does Smith respond to these critics? Moreover, given the difficulty of imagining the construction of a working class party in Gaza today, what should be the left position on this terrible war? Smith can be followed on Twitter/X @thepopularpod. Curious listeners can also follow up on Smith’s work on Jacobin, where he has published numerous articles on the state of the British left: “The Labour Party Is Ignoring Britain’s Muslims. A Judge-Led Inquiry Won’t Change That” (12.12.2023) “Labour’s Left Needs to Regain the Insurgent Spirit That Made Jeremy Corbyn Leader” (07.31.2023) “The Labour Left’s Fatal Contradictions Are Still Unresolved” (11.04.2021) NOTE: This is a re-post of Episode 13 of Class Transmissions, which was posted on Feb 4, 2024. I want to thank Class Unity for letting me share this work with listeners of Fully Automated. Please check out Class Unity's website: here Class Unity can be followed on Twitter/X here: @Class_Unity

Duration:01:14:41

Episode 42: Exiting the Vampire Castle – 10-Year Anniversary (w/ Efraim Carlebach)

1/30/2024
Welcome to Episode 42 of Fully Automated. This is a repost of Episode 11 of Class Unity Transmissions (posted on Dec 17, 2023). In this episode, we are joined by Efraim Carlebach to discuss the 10-year anniversary of the publication of Mark Fisher’s seminal essay, Exiting the Vampire Castle. Published on November 24, 2013, Fisher’s essay is remembered today as a powerful shot across the bows of what was known at the time as the “call out” left. In particular, the essay was a response to a recent controversy stemming from the appearance of “working class” comedian Russell Brand on the BBC’s Newsnight program. Feminists expressed outraged at the BBC’s choice to interview Brand at all, noting the sexually insensitive nature of his content. Fisher repudiated these critics as “PoshLeft moralizers” and witch-hunting scolds, leveraging Brand’s apparent deafness to the linguistic norms of the middle-class gender lexicon in exchange for online clout. In their insistence that Brand’s white male privilege made him one of the oppressors, they had blinded themselves to the foundational role of working-class culture in revolutionary politics. Fisher’s defense of the working-class culture notwithstanding, his position on the priority of working-class politics was more ambiguous. In this discussion, we start by trying to situate Fisher as a left anti-capitalist. After his suicide in 2017, Fisher’s work on “capitalist realism” became something of a totem for the millennial left. However, as Carlebach argues, Fisher was never fully clear on what he meant by the term. On the one hand, he often referred to the idea — frequently attributed to Fredric Jameson — that we are so profoundly mentally stuck in within capitalist ideology that “it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” On the other, he would sometimes make the interesting move of saying that capitalist realism was specifically “a pathology of the left.” Ultimately, the ambiguity was short-lived. Where Fisher has once posted approvingly of Adam Curtis’s documentary HyperNormalization, a pointed criticism of the counter-cultural left, the defeat of Jermey’s Corbyn’s leadership of the British Labour Party would see this theme would soon drop out of his work. The culturalist nature of Fisher’s defense of the working class folded easily enough into Fisher’s late-life return to the New Left, the politics of “consciousness raising,” and the idea of what he called “acid communism.” If you enjoyed this show, please leave a kind review on your podcast app. You call follow the show on Twitter/X: @occupyirtheory

Duration:01:25:23

Episode 41: Gaza (w/ Jamal and Mehmed)

11/7/2023
Hello Fully Automated listeners! This is a rebroadcast of Episode 10 of Class Unity: Transmissions, as posted here. Transmissions is the official podcast of Class Unity, and I want to thank them for their permission to use this episode. You can find out more about Class Unity over at https://classunity.org/ In this episode of Transmissions, we discuss the recent events unfolding in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In typical Class Unity spirit, we try to focus on the question of what it might mean to approach this conflict from a class first perspective. A central theme of the episode is the question of how the left seems to have split around the issue of Zionism. As we note, there does seem to be an “anti-anti-zionist” strain at large in the left around this issue. Proponents of this position seem to believe that “Hamas has no support in the Palestinian population.” Yet, while many of these critics focus on the leadership of Hamas ensconced in Qatar, we seek to address a more rare question in leftwing critiques of this conflict. Namely, who were the fighters of October 7? The key issue, we suggest, is not whether to reject or celebrate Hamas. Rather, it is to understand the objective material conditions and yearning for basic dignity that makes it so easy for Hamas to recruit. Staying with this notion of the objective material conditions in Gaza, we submit that this might actually be one of the few cases where the admittedly overused concept of settler-colonialism might actually apply. We discuss the dire economic predicament facing the young and highly educated population of Gaza, the numerous attempts they have made at non-violent resistance, and the brutal response of the Israeli state to these attempts. Next, we discuss the present political situation in Israel, and the durability of US support in a context of a shifting balance of power in the region. With US power in decline, and the Israeli army no longer as unquestioningly powerful as it once appeared, where is this conflict heading? Other key elements of this episode include the role of the right of return as a sticking point in previous attempts at creating a negotiated settlement to the conflict. How much longer can this vital question go ignored, and what are its implications for Israel’s status as a democracy? And just what is a good response to people who say Israel doesn’t target civilians? This episode was recorded on October 29, 2023. If you like what you hear, please leave us a positive rating on your podcast app of choice. You can follow this podcast on Twitter/X, here: @occupyirtheory. And you can follow Class Unity on @class_unity

Duration:01:50:55

Episode 40: Three Priorities for an Independent Left, Today (w/ Doug Lain)

7/27/2023
Hello Fully Automated listeners! This is a rebroadcast of Episode 7 of Class Unity: Transmissions, as posted here. Transmissions is the official podcast of Class Unity, and I want to thank them for their permission to use this episode. You can find out more about Class Unity over at https://classunity.org/ For those curious, there will be more independent ‘Fully Automated’ content coming soon. But I will continue to repost those ‘Transmissions’ episodes in which I am involved, as I think they will be of interest to listeners of this show, too. Welcome to Episode 7 of Class Unity “Transmissions.” In this episode we are joined by Doug Lain, Commissioning Editor at Sublation Media. Lain is a real veteran of the left podcast scene. From his old philosophy podcast "Diet Soap,” which ran from 2009 through 2014, to his work as host of the Zero Books podcast, Zero Squared, Lain’s impact as a formative voice on the contemporary socialist left cannot be understated. In this show we cover a wide range of topics, including Lain’s recent ban from Elon Musk’s newly “pro-free speech” Twitter (for a joke about RFK Jnr). However, the real purpose of the interview is to revisit an old Tweet of his, from April this year. On April 15, Lain posted three priorities that, he said, “an independent left” should be focused on right now: Ending the conflict in Ukraine by opposing the very dangerous continuing escalation; Protecting the working class from the consequences from the continuing financial and fiscal crisis that has been expressed through inflation and the banking crisis; Opposing the war on disinformation and the expansion of the security state into the “whole of society.” In recent months, Lain has been particularly strident on the first and the third of these priorities. However, his arguments have not been especially well received (his recent encounter with the Majority Report’s Matt Binder offers a fairly representative example of the disdain many progressives have for Lain’s views). Noting the vehemence of this response, we were curious. And so we decided to invite Lain for a chat. We start by asking Lain what he means by the phrase “an independent left”? We then move onto the first of his priorities, the war in Ukraine. The US left has been strangely quiet on this conflict. Where it has addressed the issue, it has usually been in handwaving fashion, arguing that it is a case of “imperialism on both sides.” We put it to Lain that this is kind of an inversion of Trump’s infamous “very fine people on both sides” comment. Perhaps the imperialism on both sides argument had some empirical application in the lead up to World War I. But Russia has a GDP close to that of Italy. Equally, US foreign policy insiders like Former Ambassador to USSR Jack Matlock, George Kennan, William Burns have warned DC policymakers for decades about eastwards NATO expansion, saying in no uncertain terms that Ukraine would be the hardest of red lines for Russia. Moreover, now, as Lev Golonkin reports in The Nation in June, the US is openly funding and arming the Ukrainian military despite the presence in its ranks of openly fascist regiments. It seems clear therefore not only who started this war, and why, but that its moral costs and risks for future catastrophe are unacceptable. So why is the left so adamant in its avoidance of this topic? Lain’s second priority is protecting the working class from the continuing financial and fiscal crisis. Lain argues “there was never any chance to transform the democratic party into a vehicle for socialism.” But where does that now leave us, on the question of socialist strategy? Does he think the Bernie wave is over, and the left is now basically done with parliamentary politics for another couple of generations? As he surveys the landscape of the contemporary left, what hope does he see for a revolutionary politics? The third topic for Lain essentially stems from his commitment t...

Duration:01:24:58

Episode 39: Gay Particularity (w/ Armand M); Labor Strikes in France (w/ Jamal)

4/16/2023
Hello Fully Automated listeners! This is a rebroadcast of Episode 6 of Class Unity: Transmissions, as posted here. Transmissions is the official podcast of Class Unity, and I want to thank them for their permission to use this episode. You can find out more about Class Unity over at https://classunity.org/ For those curious, there will be more independent 'Fully Automated' content coming soon. But I will continue to repost those 'Transmissions' episodes in which I am involved, as I think they will be of interest to listeners of this show, too. Hello comrades! Welcome to our sixth episode of Class Unity Transmissions. In this episode, we open with a quick check-in with our comrade Jamal, from CU Chicago, who has been studying the recent strikes in France. Then we move to our interview recorded earlier this year with Armand M, one of the authors of our article from last September, “Gay Particularity, Reconsidered.” In the interview, we discuss some main points from Armand’s piece. We look at how, in the late 80s and 90s, activist organizations such as ACT UP participated in civil disobedience actions against insurance rate increases and worked to expand universal Medicaid benefits to include AIDS treatment. In 1990, when Congress refused to release funds already earmarked for AIDS services, claiming that patients with other conditions were more deserving, ACT UP called for national health insurance. What was it about the ACT-UP era that made the gay rights movement so capable of articulating universalistic political demands? We also look at the struggle for gay marriage, and how it effectively diverted financial resources and political energy away from organizations prioritizing healthcare and employment. Given that the gay liberation movement has not always supported this demand, what changed? Armand discusses the role of “respectability politics” in diverting the struggle from a more traditional leftist perspective. Notwithstanding the importance of access to health insurance and spousal inheritance for partners, Armand suggests that the shift toward gay marriage should be viewed as a conservative turn in queer politics. Next we turn to the historical emergence of queer identity. Postmodern theorists like Judith Butler tend to see politics as essentially a question of identity, and thought. In this light, politics for them is necessarily the question of a slow, patient struggle to change unconsciously held ideas. However, notes Armand, while homosexual behavior has always been present in human societies, "queer" identification is only a very recent phenomenon and its emergence, as we will see, cannot be understood apart from its specific socio-economic conditions of possibility. We also discuss some wider literature around this topic (see links below). For example, we address Roger Lancaster’s piece in Jacobin, "Identity Politics Can Only Get Us So Far.” Lancaster raises the question of how today’s “identity” version of gay liberation struggle orbits this idea of a certain quest for one’s subjective essence. Earlier versions, to the contrary, saw “coming out” as an “indispensable means” for building a political movement. Among other things, this means that earlier liberationists generally took a dialectical approach to sexual categories. We ask Armand how this “pre-Stonewall” idea of a subjective labeling understood from the outset as something eventually to be cast aside connects with Marx’s notion of the eventual self-abolition of the "proletariat.” Other key points raised include the relation of identity-based struggle to CU’s concept of the iron triangle, the limits of aesthetic struggle ("psychosocial emancipation),” and the extent to which Armand’s critique of the limits of contemporary gay liberation struggle might be expanded to other cases. Your hosts for this episode are Nicholas K, Steph K, and Jamal. Here is a list of the readings mentioned in the article: Andrew Davis (2010),

Duration:01:34:02

Episode 38: An Organizer’s Life (w/ Danny Fetonte)

11/21/2022
Hello Fully Automated listeners! This is a rebroadcast of Episode 5 of Class Unity: Transmissions, as posted here. Transmissions is the official podcast of the Class Unity Caucus of the DSA, and I want to thank them for their permission to use this episode. You can find out more about Class Unity over at https://classunity.org/ In this very special episode of Class Unity Transmissions, we bring you the last interview ever recorded with Danny Fetonte. Danny was a well-known labor organizer in Texas, with over 30 years of experience. He worked at Bethlehem Steel for 4 years, and spent a decade working in a variety of other industrial jobs. He later became a professional organizer, for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), becoming a member of the union’s national staff in 1986. Moving to Texas, he became an important leader of the DSA chapter in his new hometown of Austin, growing the chapter from a state of more or less total dormancy, to over 700 members by 2017. Sadly, young DSA members will likely remember Danny not for his lifelong commitment to labor organizing but for a Twitter scandal that destroyed his relationship with the DSA, and left his reputation in tatters. At the 2017 DSA National Convention in Chicago, Danny was successfully elected the National Political Committee (NPC) of the DSA. It was his second time to run for the NPC. A well-known figure in labor circles, Fetonte’s record was widely documented in online spaces. However, as the Convention drew to a close, a vocal group of anti-police online leftists began to claim that Fetonte’s campaign statement was a fraud. What Fetonte had been concealing, his detractors claimed, was his role as an organizer with the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), which is a police and corrections officer union, and an affiliate body of Danny’s longtime employer, the CWA. Now, it was true that Fetonte had not mentioned this fact in his campaign materials. But it was widely available information, and many of the Austin chapter members who were active on the floor in support of him during the Convention were well aware of his resumé. Such facts poured cold water on the idea that Fetonte was somehow hiding his true identity. Nevertheless, outrage swirled on Twitter, with many saying they would never have voted for him had they known he was involved in police union work. Eventually, on August 10, after days of delay, the DSA’s Interim Steering Committee issued a statement suggesting in no uncertain terms that they were taking a dim view of the matter: “We believe that Fetonte’s omission was uncomradely and out of line with the principles of our organization.” The controversy set off a tumultuous debate about the extent to which DSA should be trying to find solidarity with police union organizers, and whether members should make a practice of discriminating against individuals for their career backgrounds. The Convention closed on August 6. Three weeks later, on August 27, the NPC (absent Danny) voted 8.5 to 7.5 to seat him, because they could not find any basis to remove him for malfeasance. Danny charged that, seeing as he was a duly-elected member of the NPC, a non-profit board, the exclusionary actions of the NPC in the intervening period were illegal and unethical. In just a moment, we’ll present our interview with Danny, where he goes into detail on these allegations, as well as detailing the behind-the-scenes involvement of DSA National Director, Maria Svart. Before we hear from Danny, however, it might be useful to take moment to reflect on the legacy and significance of the Fetonte controversy for the contemporary left in America. Black Lives Matter demonstrations have played an effective role in raising public consciousness. However, as Cedric Johnson noted in a 2019 lecture at ArtCenter College of Design, to achieve real change social movements need real power, and this kind of power cannot be achieved solely ...

Duration:01:41:37

Episode 37: Class Collective (w/ Alex Shah)

6/1/2022
Hello listeners! This is a rebroadcast of Episode 3 of Transmissions, a new podcast I’ve been involved with lately. Transmissions is the official podcast of the Class Unity Caucus of the DSA, and I want to thank them for their permission to use this episode. On May Day, Steph K and I had the great pleasure of interviewing Alex Shah, Co-Founder and Staff Writer with the Toronto-based Class Collective magazine. Class Collective describes itself as “an annual literary magazine that illuminates the class struggle(s) hidden in the shadows of our culture.” We start the conversation by inviting Shah to reflect on Class Collective’s own recent interview with Class Unity, called “On the Left’s Middle Class Problem.” What exactly is the left’s middle class problem and why is it such an important topic? Focusing specifically on the sometimes thorny question of class politics versus “identity” politics, we were curious to hear what theoretical waypoints Shah might be able to offer to help us orient our own approach. Staying with the middle class problem, we ask whether the Canadian experience can offer any unique lessons for those interested in workplace organizing, here in the US. What kind of reactions does Shah encounter when he talks to fellow leftists in Canada about Class Collective’s perspective on identity politics? Whereas Class Unity members often discuss the “iron triangle” thesis (namely, the role of middle class institutions such as academia, the media, and NGOs) as a way of addressing the power and function of the urban, college-educated middle class in the US, to what extent is this framework applicable in Canada? And if it is, to what extent does the Canadian left recognize it as a problem? Changing register, we then discuss Class Collective’s literary sensitivity. With the amount of poetry and prose on offer throughout its pages, the Editors clearly hold literature in high regard. For some, this disposition might suggest too much of an affinity for a kind of kind of middle-class or bourgeois-decadent perspective. Yet, while such scorn is regretfully common on the left, it is often too hasty as, from Dickens to Wilde to Brecht, the left has always had its own literature. We ask Shah for his views about left poetry, working-class poetry, and whether or how he sees any necessary linkages between the two – and whether he has any favorite leftist poets that he would recommend. Moving to the end of the interview, we discuss Class Collective’s recent engagement with Midwestern Marx, on Building a Socialist America. One of the interesting tensions explored in this intervention is the tension on the left between, on the one hand, a kind of pro-State Department reflex on the part of many leftists, who refuse to critique “the US imperialist cold war against China and Russia” and, on the other, a kind of radical “death to America ‘ultra’” position which reduces America to white settler colonialism and adventurism, and all of contemporary geopolitics to a struggle against US imperialism. As a way out of this impasse, Midwestern Marx argues for a renewed attention to dialectics. We ask Alex to discuss this further, and its applicability today, especially in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Finally, we address Shah’s own essay in Class Collective’s January edition, called "Why Death Anxiety is on the Rise.” In this piece, Shah discusses "Liberalism's fetishization of the present" as a fundamental aspect of globalization’s "brutal flattening and homogenization of the world." Shah cites Mark Fisher, who argued that political order erodes our past and future, obliging us to dwell in an eternal present, and condemning the working class to what he termed “hedonic depression.” What, for Shah, might we be looking out for, if we want to observe some of the symptoms of this anxiety in ourselves? And what, if anything, can ordinary members of the working class do to attend to this anxiety in themselves?

Duration:01:04:14

Episode 36: Ukraine, NOBS, and the End of the End of History (w/ George Hoare)

3/8/2022
Hello listeners! This is a rebroadcast of Episode 2 of Transmissions, a new podcast I’ve been involved with lately. Transmissions is the official podcast of the Class Unity Caucus of the DSA, and I want to thank them for their permission to use this episode. Our guest for this episode is George Hoare, co-host of the Bungacast (neé Aufebunga Bunga) podcast, and co-author along with Alex Hochuli and Philip Cunliffe, of The End of the End of History (Zero Books, 2021). In this episode, we begin with a discussion of Francis Fukuyama's concept of the end of history, and how many intellectuals misread it as a 'triumphalist' celebration of American victory in the Cold War. The better argument, according to Hoare et al., is that Fukuyama was talking not just about the birth of a new era of liberal freedom, but of the dawning of an epoch of gloom - one which would bring disappointments to many of its more enthusiastic advocates. We also discuss the war in Ukraine. So far, in western media at least, accounts of the causes of this war seem to rest upon simplistic caricatures of Putin's flawed personality. Yet these accounts are contested, and a well-reasoned minority opinion suggests the deeper issue is NATO expansionism. Given that the West is typically used to getting its own way, to what extent is the Russian invasion of Ukraine a kind of reality check for neoliberal technocracy? While the invasion of Ukraine is illegal and monstrous, can it be understood as marking the return of politics? As the interview progresses, we touch on numerous core concepts from the book, including the anti-political turn - also known as the "return of dissensus." This turn was perhaps nowhere more clearly on display that in the 2016 election of Donald Trump. For Hoare et al, this moment occasioned the breakout across the United States of what they term 'Neoliberal Order Breakdown Syndrome' (NOBS). However, argue the Bunga crew, it was not without its historic antecedents. And, in some ways, we can see the effects of NOBS already at play in the politics surrounding Silvio Berlusconi's rise to power in Italy, in the 1990s. We also push back a little on Hoare in the interview, challenging some of the book's characterizations of the limits of left-populism. While it is undoubtedly true, as Hoare et al. contend, that left-populism is anti-political in the sense that it has no theory of adequate "authority," and that left-populist leaders like AOC and Bernie have failed thus far "to key into the agency of their own citizens," we put it to him that this may be more of a bug than a feature. After all, as Thomas Frank and others have argued in recent times, there is a long and venerable history of left populist success, in the United States. Other topics addressed include the applicability of the book's arguments to the recent Canadian trucker rally against covid vaccination requirements, and contemporary debates around "techno-populism." We hope you'll enjoy this discussion. If you want to find out more about Class Unity, here are some useful links: Website: https://classunity.orgTwitter: https://twitter.com/ClassUnityDSAFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClassUnity/ Your hosts for this episode are Nicholas Kiersey, Steph K, and Dave F.

Duration:01:11:41

Episode 35: Race and Anti-Politics, with Christine Louis-Dit-Sully

12/13/2021
Hello friends! Its beginning to look a lot of like Christmas, and what better way to mark the occasion than with another episode of Fully Automated! Today, we are very excited to bring you this episode with Christine Louis Dit Sully, author of the recent book, Transcending Racial Divisions: Will You Stand By Me? (Zero Books, 2021). Christine Louis-Dit-Sully grew up in an immigrant family, in the 93rd arrondissement of Paris, Seine-Saint-Denis — an area of France known for its racial diversity, its poverty, and its complicated relationship with law enforcement. She spent nearly 20 years as an academic in the discipline of Biology. She then left the sciences, and turned to the study of politics, focusing specifically on issues of race, identity, social justice and the demand for ‘safe spaces’ in British and American universities. Today, she lives in the Black Forest region of Germany. In the introduction to Transcending Racial Divisions, Louis-Dit-Sully writes that, for her, questions about race and racism are both a “political and a personal concern.” She goes on to discuss the common belief that the advance of social liberalism in the west has meant real progress for racial minorities. The problem with this myth, she notes, is that today we are much less likely to see members of racial groupings as distinct individuals, with their own unique identities. Instead, we have seen the rise of so-called identity politics, and a tendency to see individuals first and foremost as members of a race. Indeed, she notes, in her personal experience, she is seen once again today as a black woman, whose “opinions and beliefs are apparently determined by her race.” Historically, racial thinking has been a hallmark of the right. However, worryingly, today it is also an increasingly common phenomena on the left. Now, some will say the left has good faith motivations in this turn. After all, given the history of racism, it is not entirely unfair to assume that the victims of racism might have something to say on the matter. Yet, she states, here we run into the problem of anti-politics. Because if we are ever to create real equality, we require the kind of power that can come only from a universalistic form of solidarity. However, the contemporary left’s embrace of standpoint epistemology — the belief that an idea can be understood only from the standpoint of a certain group identity — means that groups are seen as immutable, and immune to the passage of time. Whiteness, for example, is equated with original sin, and blackness equated with injury, and perpetual victimhood. If this is true, she says, then politics itself — that is, our very ability to imagine political change — is destroyed. Clearly then, if we are to discover a universalistic basis for solidarity, we must find new ways of understanding the world. And, for Louis-Dit-Sully, this means a return to Marx.

Duration:01:40:01

Episode 34: You Sexy Hacktivist MOOCer, with Sebastian Kaempf

10/17/2021
Hello friends! We are back with another great episode of Fully Automated. In this episode, we step back a little bit from the grander political themes that we are usually preoccupied with, to do an episode on the pedagogical possibilities (and challenges) presented by contemporary technology. When it comes to online teaching in the discipline of International Relations, there are very few that can claim to have the experience or insight of Dr. Sebastian Kaempf. Senior Lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies at the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland (Australia), Kaempf is a scholar of global media politics, focusing on the impact of changing media technologies on contemporary conflicts. He is also is the producer (with UQx and edX.com) and convenor of 'MediaWarX', one of UQ's Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and probably one of the largest political science MOOCs in the world. For some, MOOCs seem to represent a sort of ultimate form of “democratized” education whereas, for others, they seem to herald the dawn of a new dystopian age. For Kaempf, now a longtime veteran of online teaching, its important to bring some nuance to this conversation. Pedagogy can make a difference. And, as you’ll hear in this conversation, Kaempf and his partners at UQ put a lot of thought and material resources into their approach, pushing the medium to the very edge of what it can accomplish. Here then, Kaempf discusses the minutiae of how he and his colleagues actually built and delivered the course. On the one hand, they avoided the traditional lecture form in favor of what they call “spaced learning” — because research shows that human beings kind of struggle to concentrate that long. On the other, and in a break with the usual stereotype of dry pre-recorded lectures, a central theme of MediaWarX is the seriousness with which they approached the class as a kind of media production. So, for example, portions of the course are presented in a kind of ‘road movie’ or documentary style, blending diverse archival footage with on-site discussions from locations all around the world, and interviews with well-known academics and experts (including Glenn Greenwald!). We’ll also hear Seb discuss the ethos of “Hacktivism” that he tries to bring to his online teaching. Thus, he uses discovery assignments to teach about everything from how search algorithms work, to how we are addicted to being online, to the power of big data and surveillance. In this way, the course develops a kind of “crowd sourced” content. Finally, I ask Sebastian about Covid, and where and how it has changed the fate of MOOCs and online instruction in general. After 18 months of more or less totally online instruction, how does his experience of working with, and thinking about, MOOCs effect his perception of the future of online education in a post-pandemic world? Sebastian Kaempf can be found on Twitter @SebKaempf and his podcast, Higher Ed Heroes, can be found on all leading podcast apps. And his International Studies Perspectives article with Carrie Finn, discussed in the interview, can be located here: https://academic.oup.com/isp/article-abstract/22/1/1/5651202 https://doi.org/10.1093/isp/ekz025 Thanks for listening. Next episode, we go to Korea to visit the crew from the podcast Red Star over Asia. And in the next episode after that, we will be chatting with Christine Louis Dit Sully.

Duration:01:10:11

Episode 33: Can’t Get Chairman Moe out of My Head

8/31/2021
Hey everybody! Its your old pal, “Dr. Nick” here (Simpsons heads will get that reference pretty easily). This episode features the return of Chairman Moe, your favorite Fully Automated regular guests. Last we heard from them, they were interviewing Keir Milburn on his book Generation Left (see Episode 19). This episode sees them returning to Fully Automated, for a long chat on Adam Curtis’s recent documentary, Can’t Get You Out of My Head. Yes, true enough, this is hardly the first time you’ll have heard a discussion about this documentary in a podcast. But it is the first time you’ll have heard it discussed quite like this. Here, we adopt a unique take on Curtis, reading him through the lens of an eclectic group of texts drawn from our own readings, over the last year or so. These include, tho by no means exclusively, Gilles Dauvé's Crisis and Communization, Thomas Frank’s The People, No, and Marx and Engels’s The German Ideology. Our goal, as one quick whip put it on Twitter, is to "figure out what in the hell Curtis's politics are in 2021." In the end, we conclude that Curtis is an important and necessary commentator, but that he comes to some unhelpful conclusions. This, we think, can be attributed to his tendency to ignore the lessons of materialism and blame idealism for the flaws of the left. For us, Marx, Frank, and Dauvé can each bring something unique to the task of patching up the missing parts of Curtis’s framework. Dauvé, despite his weird normative focus on localism and simplistic low-tech authenticity, provides perhaps the greatest insight into why only a materialist critique can work in our effort to assess the flaws of the contemporary left. Whereas, perhaps more controversially, Frank provides the antidote to Curtis’s occasional tendency to fall into anti-populist cynicism. I want to thank Chairman Moe (who are, in real life, Columbus OH-based independent scholars Charlie Umland and Jim Calder) for sharing his valuable time with us, and also Darren Latanick for so patiently indulging the Chairman’s antics, and producing a great show for us. We’ll be back quite soon, with an interview with Sebastian Kaempf on MOOCs in Higher Ed. And then we have a number of other guests lined up, between now and the end of the year. Thanks for listening!

Duration:01:39:15

Episode 32: The New Twenty Years’ Crisis, with Philip Cunliffe, Shahar Hameiri, Patrick Porter, and Nicholas Kiersey

7/14/2021
The episode features a roundtable on Philip Cunliffe’s latest book, The New Twenty Years' Crisis (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2020). And, in a bit of a break with tradition, this episode also sees me jump out of the host’s seat, and invite Shahar Hameiri (University of Queensland) to take over the reins. Joining me in the panel to discuss the book is the author, Philip Cunliffe (making his third appearance on the show), and Patrick Porter (University of Birmingham). Tara McCormack (University of Leicester) was also scheduled to join us but had to withdraw at the last minute, due to illness. It was great to have Phil back on the show, to discuss this important book. The last time he was on, we talked about his previous book, Cosmopolitan Dystopia, which was a survey of human rights discourse on global politics since the end of the Cold War. The new book takes the theme of liberal war-making from that book, and attempts to read it through the lens of E. H. Carr’s classic 1939 text, The Twenty Years' Crisis. On the eve of World War Two, Carr described the politics of his time as a kind of interregnum, or a time of passage between two regimes of world order. For Carr, the great tragedy of his time was that the normative commitments of the intellectuals of interbellum period — namely, to the power of public opinion, to sovereign self-determination, and to international law and institutions — were incongruent with the kinds of mass-mobilized politics that were rapidly sweeping away their world order, and undermining the very conditions of possibility for securing those commitments. For Cunliffe, however, the lessons of Carr’s study of the 1919-1939 period must today be applied in a kind of inverted manner. For where it was mass politics that ultimately frustrated and undid the political project of the utopian idealists, we do not today live in such a massified moment. To the contrary, as scholars like Peter Mair have described, we live in a demassified moment, where the agendas of college-educated neoliberal Brahmins dominate, unchecked. Worse, as Cunliffe explores, these new elites are kind of anti-utopians. They detest the values of the interbellum period, deriding public opinion and breaching sovereign self-determination in the name of so-called responsibility. Cunliffe explores this argument through a number of fascinating case studies, taking us from the salons of International Relations conventions, which have been overtaken by ‘critical’ theorists (a group of scholars whose methods are singularly symptomatic of the “imaginary” of our unipolar moment), to the hallways of Brussels, capital of that grandest of examples of “de-massified,” neoliberal democracy, the European Union. The overarching theme that emerges is one of a shocking lack of self-awareness on the part of our political and intellectual elites. As you’ll hear, the panelists are on the whole friendly to Phil’s diagnosis, but they do push back on some of his normative suggestions. Despite these disagreements, however, I will say that I think this is one of the more important episodes we’ve done on this show. Diagnostically, Phil is one of the sharpest commentators around, on the contradictions of our postmodern moment. I want to thank Phil, Patrick, and Shahar for their time and effort in helping to make this conversation happen.

Duration:01:46:18

Episode 31: Grimes, Fully Automated Communism, PMC Ideology, and Political Correctness in Science Fiction, with KMO

6/12/2021
Hello friends! Its been a while. Sorry about that. Its been a busy semester, teaching an overload class, and wrapping up some publishing projects (here and here). But we are back, and we have a ton of new shows coming your way this summer! Coming up in the next weeks, we have another episode with our Columbus OH friends, “Chairman Moe’s Magic Contradiction” on Adam Curtis’s new documentary, ”Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” We also have panels coming up, on Clyde Barrow’s new book on the Lumpenproletariat, Phil Cunliffe’s The New Twenty Years’ Crisis, and an interview with Christine Louis-Dit-Sully. For this 31st episode of Fully Automated, and to help us break the dry spell, our guest is none other than legendary podcast figure “KMO”! KMO is the host and producer of the C-Realm Podcast, a cartoonist and author of the book ‘Conversations on Collapse.’ On KMO’s bio, there’s a great quote from Doug Lain, creator of the Diet Soap podcast and now the Zero Books podcast (and previous guest of this show!): KMO was once a winner in the capitalist game. He had high tech dreams and plenty of ambition, but somewhere along the line KMO dropped out, spent what he had, and started over in a simpler way. No longer rich and no longer so enamored with the technocratic fantasies of the prevailing order, he squeaks by in this world while seeking another. More than anything KMO is a broadcaster and interviewer who has a gentle and amiable way of challenging and inspiring interesting conversations with authors, artists, psychedelic gurus, sociologists, NASA scientists, economists, and more on his weekly podcast called the C-Realm. Now, to be sure, KMO is not exactly what you might call a ‘typical guest’ for this podcast. Yet, as you’ll hear, he is a widely read reader on all things to do with the politics of technology, and science fiction. I first met KMO a few weeks ago, in the Politics and Science Fiction room, on Clubhouse that I started earlier this year, with Giuseppe Porcaro, Jamie Chipperfield, Sarah Shoker, and Nicholas Barrett. It became clear we had some overlapping interests on the topics under discussion, so we stayed in touch and found out that we have a lot of mutual friends in the leftwing podcast universe. KMO recently invited me on his show, the C-Realm, for a discussion of science fiction and the politics of technological change. And this episode of Fully Automated is kind of a Part 2 of that show, where KMO responds to my arguments. In this episode, you’ll hear us discuss a wide range of topics: Clubhouse as a phenomena; recent remarks by the pop star Grimes on whether communists should be interested in Fully Automated Communism; the rise of PMC ideology, and why its so hard to discuss the topic of class on the left anymore; Thomas Frank’s recent claims about Wuhan lab leak theory, and its significance for the already tarnished reputation of mainstream media; and, finally, we chat about politics and science fiction — you’ll hear KMO talk about why and how science fiction is (and isn’t!) for him political! For those interested, here are the links to the couple of items KMO mentioned in the show: His written response to my views on FALC, as I expressed them during my appearance on C-Realm (see my brief rejoinder below). The book he mentions is Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change, by David Holmgren (2009-04-14). Rejoinder: Reading KMO’s published remarks on Patreon, he offers what I find to be a rather wild and somewhat bad faith interpretation of my views on Walmart and FALC: "You invoked WalMart as an example of a very complicated system of production and supply chain management and then suggested that it needn't be labor-intensive. You could just set it up and let it run for long periods and just check in on it from time to time. That's not how WalMart works.

Duration:01:24:03

Episode 30: Space Expansionism & Planetary Geopolitics, with Daniel Deudney

2/4/2021
Welcome to another episode of Fully Automated! This is not only our 30th episode, but it is the first episode of our fifth year bringing you the most fully-automated space-aged communist podcast around! And, to mark the occasion, we are returning to an old theme for this show: the politics of technology and space exploration! Our guest for this discussion is Daniel Deudney, Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. In this episode we will be discussing Prof. Deudney’s new book, Dark Skies, Space Expansionism, Planetary Geopolitics & the Ends of Humanity (Oxford University Press). For non-academic audiences, Prof. Deudney is not a fully-automated space communist like myself — but he is kind of a big deal when it comes to thinking about the politics of world order and space exploration. He has published extensively on world political theory and globalization, focusing especially on the environment, and nuclear weapons. His book, Bounding Power: Republican Security Theory from the Polis to the Global Village (Princeton, 2007) received the Book of the Decade Award (2000-2009) from the International Studies Association, and the Jervis-Schroeder Prize from the American Political Science Association. As you’ll hear, Prof. Deudeny and I certainly don’t agree about everything, but we one thing is for sure — we have a shared disdain for Silicon Valley boosterism! In this interview, you’ll hear Prof. Deudney talk a bit about his intellectual background, and his earlier work on how nuclear weaponry creates the need for world government. Then we get into his current book, where you’ll hear him talk about the disconnect between the optimism of our space imaginary and the thin record of accomplishments in actually existing space exploration. Part of the problem, says Deudney, is that we take our cues too much from the realms of science fiction and space futurism, and not enough from science. For me, one of the real accomplishments of the book is that it brings together a genealogy of space imagination from an extraordinarily diverse range of sources. One particularly important important figure here is the nineteenth century space futurist, Konstantin Tsiolokovsky. But there are others. What they all seem to have in common is a tendency to predict a kind of organic destiny of man to expand out into the solar system and beyond, and to engineer and denaturalize everything he sees. They also pose a universe of plenitude where there will be no need for war, and an eventually suppression of the human species itself. For Deudney, there’s a lot of hubris on display in this discursive record, not least in terms of its naive grasp of the limits of our planet’s ecology (in the book, Deudney evokes the prosaic style of Kim Stanley Robinson, with clauses such as “the turbulent earth and its unruly life”). With his map of our space imaginary laid out, Deudney closes the book by suggesting a new set of coordinates by which we might imagine the use of space exploration. However, as we enter “the astrocene,” he notes that we seem stuck with hopelessly archaic and impractical forms of political management. Our future survival, he contends, will demand the emergence of new kinds of world-governmental institutions — these will preferably be of a democratic nature, but he doesn’t rule out something akin to what Marx termed “hydraulic despotism.” So what exactly is the choice on the table for us here? Staying within the realm of closure and archaic forms of interdependency, or something like the movie Elysium? Or is there another option? These and other questions preoccupy us as the discussion concludes. We hope you enjoy the program! Special thanks to Phil Davis for the new theme music!

Duration:01:32:30

Episode 29: The Iranian Nuclear ‘Crisis,’ with Hal Tagma and Paul Lenze

12/31/2020
Welcome to another episode of Fully Automated! With the inauguration of Joe Biden just around the corner, many are pondering what new approaches his team might bring to US foreign policy. Despite President Trump’s penchant for bombast and bellicose rhetoric, it can’t be gainsaid that his reign has been more or less dovish in comparison to those of his more recent predecessors. One huge exception to this rule, of course, has been Iran. Early 2020 US forces assassinated the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. Then, in November 2020, we saw the assassination of military scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh — a hit apparently green lit by Trump himself. In response to this latest provocation, the Iranian parliament introduced a law that will require Biden to renew the Iranian nuclear deal, or JCPOA, effectively within a month of taking office. The law also requires Iran to produce at least 120 kg of 20-percent enriched uranium annually. What does it all mean? On the one hand, as former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter has been arguing, Iran’s response has been remarkably calm. The amount of higher enriched fuel to be produced is still very low, arguably not for military purposes, and is “in conformity” with the limits proscribed under the JCPOA. Nevertheless, as Ryan Grimm reports, even on the way out the door, the Trump Administration has been plotting military strikes against Iran. To discuss the current situation, and the release of their new co-authored book, Understanding and Explaining the Iranian Nuclear ‘Crisis’: Theoretical Approaches (Lexington: 2020), our guests for this episode are Drs. Hal Tagma and Paul Lenze Jr. Tagma is Assistant Professor at the Department Politics and International Affairs, at Northern Arizona University, where he teaches Middle Eastern politics, the political economy of international conflict, and critical approaches to international relations theory. Lenze Jr is Senior Lecturer in Politics, also at Northern Arizona University. He teaches International Relations and Comparative Politics with a focus on Civil-Military Relations, Middle East politics, and US National Security. Lenze can be reached on Twitter @DrPaulELenzeJr This is a rich book, which I think will appeal both to IR theorists, and those looking to gain a sense of the debates around US-Iran relations. On the one hand, it contains a rich meta-commentary on contemporary IR, and the theoretical possibilities it contains for dialogue between its various theoretical paradigms. Second, its a very detailed and reasoned analysis of the state of US Iran relations, and the idea that there is a ‘crisis’ (and what it even means to speak of crisis). Before we get started, the authors make strong claims in the book in favor of what they term eclectic pluralism, and they are critical of the idea that there is only one truth, or one story to be told, about International relations. That might seem to imply they see all truths in IR as somehow equal or equivalent. Nevertheless, as you’ll hear, the book is doesn’t hesitate to land some punches. In the chapter on Marxism and World Systems Theory, for example, they write that, from the perceptive of Marxism: Modern academic Realism is a superstructural tool that legitimizes and naturalizes the exploitative and violent polito-economic order of global capitalism. Modern academic Realism is not outside of history nor is it ‘timeless wisdom.’ Instead, Realism is caught up in constructing the violent, capitalist World-System that it is hopelessly trying to make sense of. Thanks for listening. We don’t ask for any financial support, in bringing you this show. But if you like what you hear, please leave a kind review on your podcast app. If you have any feedback, you can DM us @occupyirtheory on Twitter and Instagram. Thanks!

Duration:01:23:04

Episode 28: The New Economic Governance,’ with Vanessa Bilancetti

11/15/2020
Welcome to another episode of Fully Automated! Today, we’re bringing you an interview with Dr. Vanessa Bilancetti, Lecturer in Political Sociology at UniNettuno University, in Rome. Vanessa is one of those rare scholars who can bring together Foucault and Marx, and apply them both to the interesting empirical questions of our time. In this episode, she’ll be talking with us about how we can approach their scholarship as a toolbox for analyzing European Governmentality in the context of post-financial crisis political economy. Vanessa’s research interests include the European Union, financialisation, feminist political economy and critical European studies. I had the good fortune of meeting Vanessa at an online conference this summer, held by the Critical Political Economy Research Network. Vanessa was presenting a paper, called ‘How to study the commodification of social services following a gender perspective.’ Between sessions, we got talking about Foucault and how he is used in political economy, and I found Vanessa’s take on the inherent compatibilities between Foucault and Marx to be really interesting. She later sent me some of her research, which I read, and .. well, that’s when I decided I had to have her on for an interview! Vanessa is an advocate of allowing the methods of Foucault with that of what she calls, “an anti-essentialist Marxism and a critical feminist political economy approach.” So, in this interview you’re going to hear me ask her to elaborate on that. We’re also going to talk about the case studies she presents in her published work, on the European Fiscal Compact. I’m very grateful to Vanessa for coming on the show, and I hope you enjoy the conversation. Before I sign off here, just wanted to thank everyone who shared and commented on last week’s “special commentary episode” on the prominence of the K-Hive, in academia. Hope to do more of those “essay”-style pods, in the future. We never ask for money for this show. However, if you enjoy it, please feel welcome to leave a rating on Apple Podcasts, or the podcast app of your choice. The ratings help improve the standing of the show, and help me book future guests for the show!

Duration:01:11:10

Episode 27: “Stay in Your Lane!” — Special Commentary Episode on the 2020 US Election, and the Puzzling Prevalence of the K-Hive in American Academia

11/11/2020
This episode is coming to you on Wednesday, November 11, 2020, just a few days after the media called the 2020 US presidential election for Joe Biden. Its an unusual episode for this show, insofar as it doesn’t feature an interview (we have a great interview coming very soon, with Vanesa Bilancetti, on Foucault and Marx). Instead, its just going to be me, offering a few remarks on the election results, and what they mean for American academia. In the below, I’m going to focus on two key aspects of the discussion. The first is the strange prevalence of the so-called K-Hive, in American academia. The second concerns the role of racial essentialism in early academic analysis of the election. Just a caveat here. I want to make it clear from the outset that I think on balance its probably a good thing that Donald Trump is no longer going to the president. The problem is that I’m not sure how much better the Biden presidency will be. Now I agree, I think, that there are probably real and important positives to a Biden administration, such as the likelihood that Biden will put more labor-friendly appointees on the National Labor Relations Board. Equally, Biden will probably do a better job with the coronavirus. Yet, as many good faith leftists will point out, the Biden administration will likely do very little to address the core rot at the heart of the pandemic-stricken neoliberal hellscape that is America today. Similarly, these good faith critics will point out, there are real and extremely worrying indications that, from a foreign policy perspective, the Biden administration will be loaded with neoconservative ghouls left over from the Bush “W” administration. As Derek Davison and Daniel Bessner discussed on Monday’s paywall episode of Chapo Trap House yesterday, Trump didn't do much to challenge the national security blob. But neither was he a competent whip for US empire. Biden, on the other hand, looks set to present a far more vicious and bloodthirsty face of the American war machine to the world. In the end, the fact remains that Trump is an insufferable narcissist and, while perhaps he is too dumb to ever deserve the accusation of fascism often thrown at him by academics and the liberal left, its probably just better on balance not to have a shameless used car salesman in the White House. As Matt Taibbi put it in a recent Substack post: Donald Trump is so unlike most people, and so especially unlike anyone raised under a conventional moral framework, that he’s perpetually misdiagnosed. The words we see slapped on him most often, like “fascist” and “authoritarian,” nowhere near describe what he really is, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. It’s been proven across four years that Trump lacks the attention span or ambition required to implement a true dictatorial regime. He might not have a moral problem with the idea, but two minutes into the plan he’d leave the room, phone in hand, to throw on a robe and watch himself on Fox and Friends over a cheeseburger. The elite misread of Trump is egregious because he’s an easily familiar type to the rest of America. We’re a sales culture and Trump is a salesman. Moreover he’s not just any salesman; he might be the greatest salesman ever, considering the quality of the product, i.e. himself. He’s up to his eyes in balls, and the parts of the brain that hold most people back from selling schlock online degrees or tchotchkes door-to-door are absent. He has no shame, will say anything, and experiences morality the way the rest of us deal with indigestion. So, good riddance to the used car salesman! Even if the evidence is flimsy, its certainly hard to dismiss the argument that a Biden White House will be at least marginally better. Yet, in a way, that’s precisely the point. It will be only a marginally improvement. Certainly nowhere near a major improvement, and certainly nowhere near the sort of level of improvement as would warrant the totally faw...

Duration:00:26:27

Episode 26: The Dead Pundit Strikes Back, with Adam Proctor (Part II)

10/23/2020
Greetings! Welcome to Part Two of Episode 26, where we continue our interview with Adam Proctor. As I noted last time, while this is a long interview, it was also a long overdue interview. There was so much good stuff to talk about, it seemed wasteful to try to cram it all into one episode. In Part One, we spent some time looking back over the main themes and controversies of four years of DPS (freedom of speech issues, cancel culture, race essentialism, etc.). We also talked socialist strategy, and the application of work by Sam Ginden and Leo Pantich to the Grexit question. In Part Two, we turn our gaze more to the present, and to future. We join the conversation mid-flow, debating the post-Bernie moment, and the question of whether or not we should swallow, as it is sometimes termed, “the black pill.” Here, I push Adam on his latest slogan. That is, a warning that we should eschew taking up residence in “the basement of the vampire’s castle.” This of course is a modification of Mark Fisher’s ‘Vampire Castle’ hypothesis. In a well-known 2013 essay, Exiting the Vampire Castle, Fisher noted how in Late Capitalism the left confronts obstacles emanating not only from its foes on the other side of the ideological equation, but also from its own tendency for self-destructive behavior. Part of the problem, he wrote, is that the hyper-individuation of social life under the neoliberal cultural project has been so successful that even the left has forgotten the importance of collective power for politics. Hence its paradoxical descent into culture war and performativity. Addressing this critique, we discuss first the importance of Angela Nagle’s stance on sub-culture, and its tendency to compete for the accumulation of cultural capital, before then moving on to address what we might call “the black pill” question. The key, Adam notes, is to take measure of the goals you want the left to accomplish, and then envision what the left would have to look like, in order for these goals to be achieved. Later in the episode, we look at the post-2008 de-linking of the financial economy from the productive economy, the threat of a return of austerity (did it ever go?) in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, and the question of what the left is, today. And we wrap up with a sympathetically critical discussion of the state of left media in general, and the “Patreon” model of left podcasting in particular.

Duration:01:24:47

Episode 26: Rise of the Dead Pundit, with Adam Proctor (Part I)

10/20/2020
Hey everyone! Welcome to Episode 26 of Fully Automated… or, at least, Episode 26, Part One! This is a super long overdue episode with a guest I have wanted to have on the show for a long time: Adam Proctor, the host of Dead Pundit's Society. Adam has been doing his show FULL TIME for the last four years, delivering not only on his commitment to evangelizing “socialism for ordinary ass'ed people” but to making an incredibly important (and often misunderstood) contribution to the critique of political economy. In Part One of this episode, we discuss Adam’s background, and the story behind the Dead Pundit's Society. DPS emerged as part of the 2016 leftist podcast wave. Some I suppose would associate Adam with the “dirtbag left,” and shows like Chapo Trap House. But the story is more complicated than that. One of the interesting things about DPS is the niche it has always occupied, between audience accessibility and issues-driven programming, on the one hand, and a commitment to rigorous academic thought, on the other. There’s a certain public intellectual function to the show. So, in this episode, we discuss the role of the left intellectual. And the question of how to balance this sort of awkward relationship, of being neither an entertainer nor an academic, but something in between. DPS covers a wide range of themes — everything from state theory through race essentialism. These are less controversial topics today, perhaps, but in 2016 Adam was taking huge risks by trying to mainstream them among an American left that was still largely committed to horizontalist or “occupy” style ideals. Four years into this project, it is clear that DPS has played a major role in articulating these ideas to a wider audience that one might have imagined possible, back in 2016. In Part One, you’ll hear us address the early days of the show, and Adam’s notorious attempts to take on freedom of speech issues, cancel culture, and race essentialism. We also talk socialist strategy, and the application of work by Sam Ginden and Leo Pantich to the Grexit question. And as if these takes weren’t controversial enough, wait ’til you see what we get into in Part Two! (Coming later this week).

Duration:01:21:20

Episode 25: Cosmopolitan Dystopia, with Philip Cunliffe

8/3/2020
Philip Cunliffe, excorcizing the demons of Cosmopolitan Dystopia Hello everyone! Welcome to Episode 25 of Fully Automated. This week we are joined by Dr Philip Cunliffe, Senior Lecturer in International Conflict at the University of Kent. Phil has been a guest on the show before actually. He joined us in Episode 16, for our “What the Brexit?” debate, at the 2019 ISA Convention, in Toronto. And listeners may also be familiar with his voice from the podcast Aufhebunbga Bunga, which he records with Alex Hochuli and George Hoare. Today we are going to talk with Dr. Cunliffe about his new book, Cosmopolitan Dystopia (Manchester Press, 2020), which is a detailed study of the negative impact of human rights discourse on global politics since the end of the Cold War. Now, for many on the left, this will be a controversial point. As he notes in the book, many see human rights discourse as a cover for US imperial ambitions. Yet, says Cunliffe, we can’t explain the popularity of global human rights discourse, or the extent to which it is invoked even by European powers, solely through the lens of American hegemony. You need a more nuanced account. And this is where Cunliffe brings in the idea of reading human rights discourse as a counter-utopian, or anti-political, symptom of the neoliberal era. Cosmopolitan Dystopia On the surface, this argument might appear paradoxical. How can human rights be anti-utopian? But I think any listeners who might have watched the Adam Curtis documentary HyperNormalization will already have an insight into where Phil is taking this argument. As he notes, a key value at the heart of contemporary liberalism is an aversion to the so-called “fate of utopians.” Human rights violations happen, according to this schematic, because people want to change the status quo. In this interview, we cover a range of issues. For me though, one of the highlights is our discussion about the complete lack of critical self-awareness of people like Juergen Habermas and, more recently, Samantha Power. In their support for interventions in Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the 1990s, liberals invoked the idea of the ‘just’ liberal war, and paved the way for the liberal justification of future American wars, from Iraq to Libya and Syria. But this book is not just a critique of American wars — it also examines the bloody interventions of the British and the French, in Africa. The common element to all these cases is the fervent belief among cosmopolitan liberals that the world is better disposed to their ideals than it really is (which is not to say the world isn’t oriented to cosmopolitan ideals — just that they might not be liberal cosmopolitan ideals!). Now, I’ll say that I don’t know that I fully agree with all of Phil’s positions here. On the one hand, I do think he makes a compelling case that there’s been a substantive “restructuring” of world order going on, as a result of what he terms the “cumulative weight” of interventions since the Cold War. But I am just not sure I am as persuaded as he, that self-determination and sovereignty are necessarily the solution to the problems of contemporary capitalist order. I may be wrong about this, and certainly I think the left would be foolish not to try to leverage the power of the state as much as possible, to achieve its goals. But I think there’s a risk of maybe fetishizing the benefits of what some call ‘delinking’ at the expense of engaging on the terrain of international and transnational institutions. For more on this, listeners might want to revisit Episode 14, where we talked about this a bit with Lee Jones. Anyway, that all said, I think this is a magnificent and politically important book. And I think Phil has made a real contribution with it. It should be widely read, and discussed.

Duration:01:15:14