Linking (Neo)Liberalism, Identity Politics and Bureaucracy

Both David Harvey and Noam Chomsky have done a lot to analyze and explain the rise of neoliberalism. Both have pointed out that it should primarily be understood as a political project aimed at discouraging and disenfranchising 'ordinary' people, which gained steam shortly after the ‘social unrest’ of the 1960s. David Harvey has frequently pointed out that the neoliberal counterrevolution was kicked off by the publication of the conservative 'Powell Memo', while Noam Chomsky’s emphasized that elite liberals were equally outraged by what they termed "an excess of democracy". Pointing to the Trilateral Commission's The Crisis of Democracy, he notes the following:

This is a consensus view of the liberal internationalists in the three industrial democracies. They—in their consensus—concluded that a major problem is what they called “the institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young.” The schools, the universities, churches, they’re not doing their job. They’re not indoctrinating the young properly. The young have to be returned to passivity and obedience, and then democracy will be fine. That’s the left end.

Both of these publications date to the early 1970s. Considering the contemporary state of the worker movement, it would seem that these efforts have been quite successful. Consider how many people are overworked even as many others are underemployed; consider how much the cost of living has increased after privatization; how little people still seem to demand of politicians and parties, and how little they protest and organize themselves against injustice; and also, how little contemporary political parties differ from each other when it comes to questions of economic policy and taxation, given that they nearly all favor regressive taxation, and low corporate and wealth tax rates.

I want to explore three main questions in this piece. First, how this contemporary disinterest in politics -- especially of the educated and (semi-)affluent -- and disempowerment was brought about, focusing on the US case both because the ‘level’ of institutional violence is the most advanced and thus the most easily recognized, and because its worker movement is in many ways the most divided. And second, how this relates to the rise of so-called identity politics, and the bureaucratization of life. I will end by saying a few things about how I think we can get out of this morass. I hope that my summary of the main developments, drivers and the ties between them will be useful to people.

Identity politicking by business and political elites

One of the more notable societal developments of the past decades has been the rise of 'identity politics'. As this term means rather different things to different people, let me clarify what I mean by it. Namely on the one hand, the trend to organize people and think about issues primarily along lines of specific identities. And on the other, the trend to narrow 'politics' to fights over social and cultural issues, while ignoring, and often actively refusing to fight for broader democratic and economic issues, and against institutionalized oppression on the other.

Consider the so-called large-scale 2017 Women's March. To start, note how the mainstream commentary surrounding these heavily-covered demonstrations never really acknowledged that Trump's behavior is still quite commonplace, especially in the workplace, where most (women) workers have very little choice but to accept abuse by their bosses, coworkers and customers, lest they lose their jobs. Secondly and relatedly, note how even though this was called the ‘women’s march’, there was hardly any discussion of the many other issues women are constantly faced with, particularly those related to their institutionalized marginalization and economic exploitation. To list a few of them that aren't the 'usual' ones related to reproductive rights and sexual violence: wage drops in professions women enter, lack of jobs for women, increased job insecurity, women living paycheck to paycheck, often earning minimum wage, many women having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. But also the lack of affordable daycare, safehouses for women (and children) fleeing abusive spouses and parents, and the general lack of a societal safety net.

All of these issues point to the lack of power of workers generally, and of women in particular. And the fact that none of them has become a mainstream issue since, coupled with the fact that everyone accepts that the protests aren't about 'such issues', seems to me part of the same problem. Because if the aim is to empower women, then it makes very little sense for social movements to restrict their definition of 'women's rights worth fighting for' like this, and to exclusively focus on 'civic/civil rights' in isolation. So why is this accepted by so many these days?

Fortunately, such widely shared disinterest in institutionalized forms of oppression and economic violence does not come naturally. It in fact takes a great deal of propaganda, socialization and disciplining (by the media, school system, politicians, clergymen, and other institutions), coupled with a constant stream of state and corporate institutional violence (e.g. anti-union legislation, plant closures, strike breaking, imperialism, gating access to services behind pay), to generate and maintain this state of affairs. To clarify this, let me discuss a few US and European examples.

The most infamous historical example of this divide and conquer strategy has been to declare black and brown people property, as this made it much easier to rationalize violence towards them, to treat human beings as resources, to spot (and punish) dissenters and rebels, and to prevent and discourage those who work from banding together to end this arrangement. In the same vein, bosses have also gone about preventing workplace organization by selecting people with a different racial or ethnic background to serve as shop overseers or managers, and medieval nobility preferred to use jewish bankers both because these weren’t banned from usuring, and because it was easy to run them out of town by tapping into and talking up religious fears and bigotry.

Similarly, because the majority of early US colonists and capitalists were protestants, and because the English generally looked down on the Irish (who fled Great Britain’s first colony, Ireland) the Irish catholic immigrants who arrived in the US were actively marginalized and looked down on in many ways. Given their recent arrival and marginalization, and given the meritocratic logic we are all taught, it made a lot of sense for these immigrants (frequently called ‘white niggers’) to try to prove themselves by, say, signing up as slave catchers, and later to join the newly founded urban police forces, in the hope of gaining respectability and social power, and of climbing a few rungs on the ‘social ladder.’

As a third, and more legalistic example, consider how everywhere in the ‘civilized west’ we see how the combination of porous borders and restrictive immigration or anti-immigrant policies was used in this same period to create large groups of people who are especially susceptible to exploitation and violence. This because of how they are legally -- and often also practically, due to the language barrier, unfamiliarity with the laws -- unable to request protection (against mistreatment, usury, rape, workplace injury, wage theft, etc.), unless they are willing to risk extradition; even as they are also less likely to object to this in the first place, given that they’ve often fled or moved from areas that are even poorer, leaving them with low expectations.

As a fourth and last example, consider that while European anti-jewish bigotry and violence always existed, it wasn’t until the Catholic Church and nobility actively started preaching and organizing crusades that pogroms became normal events in medieval Europe, while the witch-hunts were similarly encouraged in large part because this served to undermine the working class by setting men against women, women against women, and the state against women. This partly because the rise of protestantism encouraged religiously-motivated expansionism and warfare, but also because the working class had gained too much power versus the owning class since the Pest, and capitalism couldn’t get going unless people were forced into the cities to work dead-end jobs in the new factories.

In every case differences are weaponized by those at the top. Because while in all of these examples there were prior concerns, frustrations, or bigotry, elites built on them very deliberately using the resources they had at their disposal, in the hopes of dividing and weakening popular movements or solidarity. By doing so, they perpetuate and exacerbate these issues and rifts, which tends to lead to the opening up of new ways of dividing, for instance by allowing and encouraging Irish immigrants to ‘prove themselves’ by becoming cops.

A brief history of the rise and decline of the US worker movement

Given this context and history, then, it was no mean feat that after centuries of the aforementioned and (and many other) attempts at oppression and division, and even though corporations, the rich and the state constantly did their utmost to undermine attempts at worker organizing, by the early 1930s the organized left managed to unite a significant fraction of US workers to fight against their bosses, politicians, fascist and criminal organizations and the state; gaining democratic rights, better pay, and better living and working conditions. This even though many of the organizers were locked up, attacked and even killed. The US left (inspired and strengthened by similar movements elsewhere, and by the existence of the USSR) was simply too well-organized.

Yet it's important to realize that these pre-war gains, and especially the halcyon post-war Western 'golden age of organized labor' happened in no small part because of the existence of the USSR on the one hand, and uneven development and imperialism on the other. That is, FDR and his direct successors felt forced to expand the welfare state, increase wages and income taxes in the hopes of saving capitalism, and lowering the chance of a repeat of 1917 Russia. Additionally, the post-war boom was made possible in large part because of the infrastructural and societal destruction engendered by the war, with the command economy of the war years giving the US a very strong start due to the combination of high pay and low supply. Simultaneously, the Draft and war casualties shrank the labor pool, while the GI Bill and similar measures allowed many people to temporarily leave the labor force to attend college or university. (This was recognized at the time, too, leading to union support for US imperialism because it increased the demand for US goods, and the export of dollars to pay for war efforts.) And of course as soon as World War 2 ended, women were once again banned from working once married/mother, which shrank the labor supply and improved male wages (and women's dependency on their husbands). Lastly, colonialism and the maldevelopment and exploitation of the rest of the world serve to lower resource prices, thereby subsidizing imperialist economic growth. And even though the organized left were stronger than they’d ever been, the unions would still start evicting 'overly radical' organizers and unions pretty much as soon as World War 2 was over, while also generally refusing to make common cause with 'unskilled' labor -- mainly performed by people of color and 'white trash' -- and (of course) the women who were forced back into the home.

As mentioned, the GI Bill and similar efforts meanwhile led to a huge increase in the student population, which also meant there were many people who had a decent amount of time on their hands to talk with each other about what bothered them, and who criticized and fought against existing norms and practices. The same period also saw some improvements in the living standards of the black and brown people, who were also organizing to fight segregation and other forms of injustice. All of this together made the period pretty turbulent, as it of course also involved a lot of reactionary violence.

And so, once the social and racial justice movements of the 1960s had been sufficiently undermined by state and private violence (including but not limited to by firing, convicting, imprisoning and blacklisting anyone deemed 'a communist', and by killing more than a few movement leaders and organizers), elites wanted to eliminate any chance of resurgence. And so, even though we are taught to think that this is when the repression died down, it was in many ways kicked into high gear just as women started entering the workplace (thereby starting their emancipation from husbands, though not from bosses). And so, with Western Europe and Japan by now mostly rebuilt, and East Asia starting to become available as a production center due to the invention of containerization, US elites launched their second, and ultimately far more successful attempt to use anti-drug legislation to punish and keep down marginalized groups: the so-called ‘War on Drugs’.[4]

In practice, this would be a War on marginalized Drug users, mainly of color, and it was the first prong of a three-pronged attack on the US working class, intended to sow division and fear, and to further marginalize the ‘unskilled’ bottom 40% of the population. They would be increasingly terrorized, oppressed and criminalized through selective policing, prosecution, killing and imprisonment over what is at bottom a public health and poverty/inequality issue[1]. It also communicated, through these policies, how the state ‘saw’ these citizens, namely as little more than a nuisance that had to be contained, whose lives held only instrumental value. (A stance the state still takes, in many ways beyond through the war on drug users. See for instance this book, which explains how the FBI deliberately fosters, trains and arms people as terrorists so it can arrest and prosecute them, and keep fear alive.)

The second prong is generally associated with the ‘oil crisis’, though this name too is pretty misleading. Nevertheless, the first actions of OPEC gave the capitalists an excuse to start to inflate away worker purchasing power even as women started rejoining the labor force and thereby suppressing wages. It also allowed them to start deregulating, privatizing and allowing and encouraging the offshoring of production, necessitated by "high labor costs". Beyond this, it involved tax cuts and subsidies for (high tech and military) corporations and the rich, tax subsidies for off-shoring, sale of public assets, defunding regulatory agencies like OSHA and the EPA, deliberate non-prosecution of strike-breakers, constant tuition hikes, nonenforcement of antitrust laws, and the deregulation of banking. And so from the late 1970s on, we’ve seen a now 40-year, largely successful effort to selectively deregulate the economy, to impoverish and disempower ordinary people and employees, to eviscerate the welfare state, and to switch to more regressive forms of taxation, even as more and more public money was given to corporations. This started under Carter, took a huge flight under Reagan, and would be escalated even further after the fall and dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The third, intertwined prong involved massive campaigns of offshoring, mergers and plant closures (or threats thereof), mass firings, to force employees to accept having to do more and more (unpaid) overtime work. This accompanied the simultaneous rise of managerialism, and the deliberate fostering of workplace fear cultures that contribute to today’s high burnout and depression rates, and that undermine and impoverish society in many ways, while robbing people of that most dangerous of goods: free time, and the energy to use it productively.

Taken together, I would describe this as a manyfaceted campaign of state and economic terrorism by another name -- namely as ‘necessitated by the market’ / ‘to optimize economic efficiency’.

Given that political, media and business elites tried to undermine grassroots organizing efforts in all of these ways, it seems fair to say that the rise of identity politics is in substantial part a consequence of this decades- if not centuries-long (neo-)liberal effort to sow division,[2] to extract wealth by increasing workers’ cost of living, and to ‘depoliticize’ economic policy-making by turning over lots of state functions to bureaucratic institutions, by privatizing them. All the while saying that these things should be left to so-called experts or to the market, on the basis of the -- usually implicit -- idea that efficiency concerns outweigh democratic control and robustness.

Now, the fact that those at the top would work towards such goals shouldn't come as much of a surprise. What should, is how successful they’ve been, especially in light of the fact that more people have college degrees today than at any point in history. After all, wasn’t education supposed to set us free? Which made me wonder, how and why have most of these smart, critical people come to accept these developments? (This especially because so many of these people self-identify as progressives.)

A large part of the answer is the institutional violence and indoctrination I've discussed above, which discourages organizing, fosters hopelessness, and forces people to work ever more hours to get by. Another factor that was certainly important, but which is difficult to quantify, is the collapse of grassroots movements and organizations, churches, unions, alternative news sources, labor presses, and so on. Another indirect contributor I would mention is the entertainment media, analyzed excellently by Michael Parenti, as it both produces a constant source of distraction and advertisements, and a constant stream of either affluent blandness in which the major questions in life revolve around who happens to be backstabbing who this week; or, alternatively, shows in which police officers and other government functionaries concern themselves with ‘solving’ an unending stream of violent crimes, generally against women.

On the indoctrination of the young and solidarity

The part of the explanation I want to focus on here, however, is one that has received very little attention, especially in this context. Namely, the role of the expansion of access to secondary and tertiary education, and of the importance of the school system in our lives generally. This has had two main effects.

As I’ve mentioned, after World War 2 a much larger percentage of the population would be spending more of their formative years in institutions that would teach us ‘economic truths’ like how ‘we shouldn't live beyond our means’, ‘the state is like a household’ [and shouldn't borrow to invest in its future], ‘The Market Knows Best’ / ‘Government Interference in the market is Bad’.

More generally, the vast majority of textbooks and papers included in the school curriculum are written by people who buy into Lockean liberalism, which hinges on the following. First, that property claims are of equal importance to personal rights and freedom of speech (except when property isn't 'sufficiently exploited', or when the current owners either aren't rich or are easily expropriated), plus various meritocratic beliefs about the inferiority of anyone who deviates from the ‘norm’: affluent, white, male, educated, self-assured, embracing the protestant work ethic. And these values would be inculcated in students in various ways, from student society membership to regular peer pressure to through the reading materials.

The second, and more insidious demographic effect was that a much larger part of the population would spend far more of their formative years inside bureaucratic institutions that strongly encourage you to respect the authority and expertise of those with credentials and institutional power over them (such as teachers and textbook authors), learning about a pre-set curriculum of worthy topics. Consequently, anyone with a college or university degree will have spent at least two decades doing assignments regardless of whether they seem useful or enjoyable to them personally.

In such a system, the focus is constantly on individual performance, and on proving yourself ‘worthy’ or ‘meritorious’ in the eyes of others, especially those with power over you. This implicitly undermines support for solidarity and collective action, while it centers extrinsic motivation and worth, as it teaches you to let your choices and actions depend on others' values, by investing time and energy on topics because you know this will earn you 'points' (or an income or promotion). And as we all know, schools only encourage learning and enjoying the development of new skills, and on learning to work together. Instead, it was divided between proving yourself to others, listening and obeying, competing with fellow students, free-riding, and earning rewards (including class and grade progression), while by being part of the school system, you learn to live by the notion that what you (individually) earn is what you deserve.

(Now yes, most people will rebel against the structure in various ways, and most students will find that they enjoy at least some of the topics being taught. Nevertheless, that’s incidental to how the system is set up, as the point is to teach everyone to function in meritocratic structures, and to by and large accept the rules. Because anyone who won’t will likely fall by the wayside, and thus never reach a position of sufficient influence or power to change the system as a whole.)

As a consequence, a far greater percentage of workers would start to look at the world through this same lens. They came to see themselves as part of the 'educated' class, with 'more sophisticated' hobbies, interests and habits, and deserving of more respect and means, because of their credentials and social position. They developed different political beliefs and practices, which in many ways are anti-solidarious, and most stopped believing in notions such as self-emancipation, and in the desirability of true democracy over the bourgeois sham we’re all familiar with.

This belief is encoded in the formula ‘fiscally conservative, socially liberal’, which in practice leads to social spending cuts and a heavier emphasis on regressive forms of taxation over having elaborate social safety nets and well-funded public services. (Of course, it isn’t an accident that these values materially benefit people who’ve attended university and gotten a well-paying (and relatively highly taxed) job.) And so the social basis of left politics was undermined, in a pretty insidious manner.

One of the important consequences beyond the hollowing out and collapse of working class organizations was that pro-capitalist politicians and parties could increasingly differentiate themselves purely on the basis of so-called social values (abortion, gun control, civil rights issues), identities (roles, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, skin color, gender, etc.) and personality (affability, erudition, grit, competence, religiosity, etc.). And at the same time, they became ever quieter on economic and institutional issues, while pushing the reforms and treaties I discussed above. In these ways, this new 'progressive' professional class has greatly contributed to the rightward turn in politics, which has had dire material consequences for both minorities, the less credentialed and 'unskilled', and the poor, even as society supposedly became ever more progressive.

On meritocracy and bureaucracy

Now let me move on the question of how the rise of neoliberalism and bureaucracy are related. As we're probably all aware, meritocracy is the preferred organizing principle of the educated -- especially elite liberals and social democrats, though also of many to their left and right. Yet, as I've explained elsewhere, this immediately raises the question whether we should want this, Because choosing the metrics to determine what someone is worth and how to rank them is inherently extremely subjective, and we probably also all know how much trouble this has caused through the ages, given how easily humans come up with ‘reasons’ as to why some people are worth less than others. Let me name a few.

The most ancient and widespread of the ways in which people have been devaluing others is as men versus women, and as (civilized) humans versus animals. Nearly as old and widespread is the distinction between those who have property and those who do not. Other common reasons invoked in order to devalue others are nationality, ethnicity, religious affiliation, skin color, gender, sexual preference, educational attainment, and so on. Now, it’s certainly possible to try to make these 'metrics of merit' more action-focused (i.e., determining someone’s value depending on whether they’ve done something, rather than on what or how they are), and that this would be preferable over the above forms of devaluation I mentioned, this has limits. Because so long as we are taught to reason this way, and so long as we’re taught that it’s okay to treat equal needs differently depending on who we’re talking about, we’re going to see policy being made on that basis. Additionally, because of the close correlation between high society membership, institutional power and wealth, I don't see this changing until we get away from this way of organizing society altogether, given how much those on top benefit from this arrangement.

This practice of valuing people differently, and acknowledging and ignoring people's contributions or needs depending on whether they have or lack certain characteristics, might be called moral essentialism. For reasons I’ve explained above, and as I’ve tried to show, [5] these methods are mainly used by the powerful to justify the silencing of so-called ‘minorities’ and ‘one's lessers’. Of course, we’ve recently started to see people who belong to groups who are (or were previously) marginalized having some success in also employing these methods, to create space and platforms for themselves and their perspectives, and to harm the powerful back. As we’ve seen, this immediately leads to a huge backlash from the powerful, who get pissy that they -- i.e., an essentialized, inferior ‘other’ -- are using their tools against them.

I would make two remarks about this development. First, I agree wholeheartedly with bell hooks’ remark (from Teaching to Transgress) that use of such tactics and reasoning should first and foremost be understood as an indictment of the status quo. Second, and equally importantly, however, I would also emphasize that this isn’t actually emancipatory, as use of these tactics reaffirms the notions that we have to fight each other to speak and be heard, and that people may only speak if they are judged to possess the right credentials (whether we're talking a diploma, a character trait, or group membership). And as I’ve argued, the latter is an inherently exclusionary and violent bureaucratic logic, that I would say emancipatory movements should avoid as much as possible.

Either way, a large part of why these attempts work is because we have all been taught to accept the notion that others' having or lacking certain characteristics ‘matters’ -- i.e., relevant to the question how much is worth, and which behaviors are proper for them to engage in. And this is so normal to us that we are all able to instantly have a gut reaction to whether their behavior and requests are appropriate given our assessment of their standing -- that is, given how we value them. And the more uncritically we accept that gut instinct, and the stronger we believe that what someone deserves depends on how we value their contributions, the more likely we are to experience anger or disgust while thinking about equal treatment; which in turn increases the likelihood we'll feel free to use violence, oppress and exclude in response to their behavior, and to ‘restore’ the proper order, in which (only) deserving people enjoy prosperity, and everyone behaves as befits them. As such, I feel it’s useful to understand meritocracy as ‘moralizing’ beancounting, which gets in the way of healthy behavior and democratic, egalitarian impulses.

On earning a living

Lastly, let me say a bit more about how our expectations are shaped by this meritocratic way of thinking and organizing society. Broadly understood, promotion on the basis of merit is at the root of every bureaucratic institution, from the army to schools to the civil bureaucracy to the corporation. And in turn, a large part of what any bureaucracy does, is coming up with procedures and tests to determine whether people ‘qualify’ for something or other (whether jobs, promotions, raises, subsidies, insurance payouts, or warranty claims). Now to be clear, I do believe that we must evaluate people's behavior, and that there is a place for bureaucratic organizational forms. At the same time, I also think it extremely unwise -- and antidemocratic -- to organize society in such a way that those who end up on top get to decide who receives what, who (else) gets to climb the ‘ladder’, and what anyone who wants to advance must do. Because even if individuals and small groups don't start out being preferentially concerned with their own and their friends' material interests, nobody can handle that kind of responsibility long-term. And this is doubly true when the possible rewards are as great as they are today, and when everyone is raised to believe that those who end up at the top are better, and that they matter more than those who don't make it there. (Of course, everyone is free to argue that they should get more resources for doing what they do. But the only way you should be able to get them is by convincing your colleagues and peers.)

One development that really picked up steam during the Reagan and Thatcher years, and which also hasn’t really been understood, is the rise of managerialism that I mentioned above. As I’ve argued, this has had a strongly negative influence on the treatment of people inside the public and private tyrannies in which we all have to work to earn our living, regardless of whether we are comfortable performing the tasks our bosses ask us to do in exchange for a salary, job security, and so on. I’ve talked about this in more detail here, but to give a few brief examples, note how while we work, we are expected to take on a completely procedural attitude towards questions of correct behavior (e.g. allotting 6 minutes per ‘client’ no matter what they need; tricking elderly people into subscribing to expensive services they'll never use because this gets you commission or bonuses; or treating our own health as secondary to achieving performance targets so we don’t get fired). These expectations follow from and reinforce the false notions that questions of justice and fairness shouldn't be asked while you are working for a reward, and that 'right behavior' is a function of following procedures (and your superior’s orders). Over time, this dulls our sense of right and wrong, and while most people will initially object to rule changes in this direction, as I’ve discussed above, people have largely been unable to organize to change them (back). Over time pragmatic acceptance leads either to rationalization and denial of the importance of asking such questions of our actions (‘it's legal’ / ‘the rules’ / ‘superior's orders’), or people become depressed or resign, to be replaced by people who never knew the old rules, or who are willing to live by the new ones. Which has been the experience of the past few decades.

And so liberalism, identity politics and bureaucracy are intertwined, and have become encoded and expressed at every level of human organization, thereby circumscribing our imaginations, and our belief in social action, (the limits of) emancipation and the like. I hope the preceding discussion has also made it clear how they relate to, are forms of, or inspire meritocratic reasoning, action-taking and policy-making, and how this shapes our own expectations, through how we are raised, and what we are taught to accept as normal.

Which seems to me to lead to the main question for our time: how to undo this highly intricate system in a constructive way, and figuring out how to finally move beyond this bureaucratic/meritocratic mindset, and way of organizing society.

Now on to the question how to escape this way of thinking, and stop treating people differently based on our judgment of their value. On a purely interpersonal level, that question's relatively easy to answer. Or well, not so easy, because relearning takes time, and if it was easy, I wouldn't need to write about it. But at least it’s clear what we want to change, and we have sufficient control over our own behavior for this to be useful to think about. As to questions of institutional and political change -- for that I'd refer you to my other essays, especially the ones on debt and careerism, and to a number of Marxist authors, starting with these three books.

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[1] If this isn’t obvious, consider that even though “opioid abuse” is nearly just as harmful to the user, it is treated as a public health and inequality/hopelessness issue, as opposed to something that should be combated by locking people up and otherwise punishing them. That said, in both cases there is a strong correlation between lacking any kind of perspective of leading a decent life and drug use, and so the root cause is exploitation, given that capitalist development requires the creation of a pool of people with nearly no prospects both because they’ll accept any job and because this keeps the expectations of the rest of the population in check, as they are constantly reminded of how shit your life can be if you’re truly cast aside.

[2] And by pushing individualism, and so on, in university and through the entertainment media.

[3] And note that victim-blaming is yet another example of bureaucratic reasoning -- not caring that people are suffering by telling yourself they earned it by (not) doing whatever it was they did that you think they shouldn't have.

[4] In fact, this rabbit hole goes a lot deeper, due to the ties between organized crime, drug cartels and the CIA, FBI, the bureau of narcotics, and so on. For a very recent reminder of this, see https://narco.news/hail-to-the-king. For a few books on the topic, I’d recommend https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33780311-the-cia-as-organized-crime, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22245430-operation-gladio and the insanely telling https://www.nytimes.com/1997/12/19/us/cia-says-it-has-found-no-link-between-itself-and-crack-trade.html.

[5] And see also https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1302/what-about-the-root-causes/

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