GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

November 26, 2012


Filed under: GA — adam @ 8:05 pm

For a while I have tried to figure out how to define Barack Obama politically. “Socialist” is not quite right—he and his party are much more likely to coopt corporations than to take over ownership (and responsibility) for them. But he’s not a typical European social democrat either—how could he be, given that he only barely includes the industrial working class as part of his coalition? He’s not a New Deal liberal, or even a McGovernite either—he’s not just to the far left of particular American concerns like racial justice, individual liberty, civil rights, social welfare, etc.—he is too interested in seemingly odd cultural issues, like sticking it to the Catholic church, gay marriage and defending Mohammed from “defamation.”

The problem is that Obama is ushering in a new form of rule, which we can call “victimocracy.” Rights, under this regime, are defined by one’s claim to victimization, or by having oneself deemed an honorary victim, and legitimate arguments are those which defend some approved victim (not, for example, Coptic Christians in Egypt) against an officially designated oppressor group. The “race, class and gender” mantra that has been parodied for decades now as a symbol of the excesses of the academic left has been completely and unironically mainstreamed—indeed, the President’s successful re-election campaign was run according to that template and had no other content. The victimocrat regime is currently holding in jail Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a man who has committed no crime, for the sole purpose of committing the US to a victimary narrative of the Islamic war against the West—well, against everyone other than them. An organ of the mainstream left, the Washington Post, has gotten on-board with the “argument” that all criticism of Susan Rice, the UN Ambassador and possibly next Secretary of State is racist and sexist, perhaps unless proved otherwise, and, by extension, the views of white men (especially from the South, that land of quintessential white maleness) are a priori discredited. “White male” (or “old white male”) is code for conservative—George Soros and Warren Buffett have exemptions from white maleness, because they have (I hope I am remembering the phrase correctly) “renounced their privilege.” But the code is interesting as, unlike other demonizations, like “bourgeois,” or even “Jew,” this one takes in the whole of what has been taken as normal and normative in our social order.

This seems to be the “revenge” that Obama offered his voters and, in truth, it might, for a while, provide for a very focused and consistent style of governance. Fiscal policy (to which groups and industries to direct loans, bailouts and subsidies) foreign policy (do I need to specify?) and law enforcement can all easily be run victimocratically. It might be a stable and somewhat less than totalitarian rule—the government need only appoint (many are already in place) official guardians of the interests of each and every designated victim group. As for who will guard the guardians?—asking such a question, I imagine, would just be a sign that your white maleness is showing.

Well, I’m working on another post now, and I just wanted to unveil this new category for the political scientists to mull over. I would assume that on some level, the American people have come to realize that victimary discourse must be allowed to play itself out until the end, which may or may not match the 70 years it took Communism. There is no resisting victimocracy—in the name of what—equal rights? Patriotism? Social peace? American interests? Prosperity?—only the white males/whales of the left’s Ahabist imaginary could possibly imagine that any of these categories contain other than victimary content. Whose interest? Whose prosperity? Whose peace (sans justice, no less)? Etc. In the end it must all crash, but in the meantime and in the aftermath, there is only one plausible response (actually, it’s just the least implausible): exodus.


  1. Obama and company wouldn’t necessarily disagree with your analysis except that they would call it “social justice” rather than victimocracy. As you suggest, who can be against victims? Since we’re never really sure who is a victim and who isn’t, the safest policy is to side with the weaker party, at least the perceived weaker party, no matter how elite or privileged they may be in fact, as with most liberal democrats. It’s rather remarkable that inequality of wealth has become a defining issue of our time, as if the equal distribution of wealth was ever a goal of our polity. Hayek pointed out long ago that any time one group receives special treatment, it can only come at the cost of another group, arbitrarily; as opposed to the market system of distributing wealth, which is supremely rational. If indeed, “in the end it must all crash,” that crash will be come about through the return of economic reality. While victimary rhetoric has no logical stopping point, spending does, even for the largest and wealthiest country in the world. The achievement of equal distribution of wealth is not actually desirable, since it could only be achieved by a huge lowering of everyone’s living standard, as so many socialist countries have discovered. In theory, many leftists would willing pay that price; in practice, I doubt. Leftist elitism is essentially hypocritical.

    So many of our most powerful institutions are essentially victimary now–education, news media, hollywood, unions–it’s amazing that anyone is conservative; essentially, it’s the working class (whether blue or white collar) who actually produce the goods and services we all enjoy, who opposes the reigning victimocracy. The victimocracy is essentially trying to buy everyone off, trying to make everyone a beneficiary of government largesse; But this can only be achieved at the cost of the problems we now face, huge unemployment, huge debt, huge bureaucracy that sucks the wealth and initiative that distinguishes America from the EU and China.

    Comment by Q — November 27, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

  2. I don’t have much to add to that comment–thanks. There’s the question of how the pantheon of victims, and their rankings, are determined–ultimately, that seems to be driven by opposition to the normative and the normal–the “unmarked,” in Gans’s original definition of White Guilt. And there’s the question of what that crash will look like, who will be prepared for it, how deep it will be, what will remain, and so on (quite a few questions, in fact, none of which we could even begin to answer).

    In the end, is victimocracy anything other than a logical extension of liberal democracy? The “people” in democracy are always defined in relation to some “tyrannical” power, actual or possible; and the “liberal” element starts by protecting individuals from arbitrary state power and mob rule, but it is a short step from protecting individuals to protecting groups (it’s more economical to just say you must hire a number of blacks proportionate to the population than to examine each and every case of possible discrimination), and once you start protecting groups how could you ever tell when the protection is no longer necessary? Protection of officially designated groups from tyrannical power (defined by whatever group is left out of all those groups)=victimocracy.

    Comment by adam — November 27, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

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