The condition that dare not say its name: social nihilism. Still. As always.
Peter Fleming, in his Mythology of Work, blasts through many emphatic, precise statements of social nihilism, but then falls for the same-old Social Optimism trap, claiming, at then end of some brilliant tirades and demolitions of established mythology and, okay a ocean of turgid post-modernist Sokal-hoax post-modern social science gibberish) that some preposterous, Jetsonian other-world alternatives are “easily achievable.” As in, the three-day workweek, public control of social goods and social institutions, free sex robots, who knows what.
In the personal sections, the candid moments, in the overall bravery of his theoretical framework, Fleming is masterful, solid, bracing tonic. Yet he is ensnared by two neoliberal mythologies, that of the aforementioned post-modern Ivory Soap-tower blatherskiting – the -atives, the French post-Marcusian skull-deadeners, the numbskull Nomeklatura that drives the plaque-clogged heart of rankest-basement death-soon academic sociology. Perhaps a debugging app could remove all that from Mythology of Work, find/replace with good, honest-flok words, and then Mythology of Work becomes our generation’s Das Kapital. Then, however, the second mythology, that of solutions-oriented pie-in-the-skyism, still “obtains,” to use a earlier-generation socio-speak term. You and I might go for any number of pies in the sky, but we should talk, as protoplasms destined for atomistic dissolution, with our feet rooted in social reality. Modern work is preternaturally dumb, and dumb it is going to stay, with the profit motive is now interwoven in all remotest corners of our existence.
Somehow, social critics are loathe to own the social nihilism they espouse in all but name. They can be wonderful guides to the ever-expanding critique of our supersystem, but instead of seeing the destination, they pull up at the last minute and fly off into folkish, reality-denying clouds of sparkle and glory. Bernie Sanders may an anhedonic bore, a fraud, but, back to real deal, every ad we have ever been synaptically bombarded with should be even-steven matched with scenes from the real-life process that generates the killing horrors of the corporate delusion: the obesity sufferers on Coke and French fries, the African villages and waterways polluted with rare earth mineral extraction, the crushing tedium of plastic presses, the pill-popping of over-burdened working and non-working person-shells.
Then, if that mandate for matching truth against falsehood is established as law, then we can bake those pies.