I’m a “Vulgar Marxist.” This means I use the tools of Marxist analysis to understand social phenomena.
Note that I in no way suggest that Marxist analysis can explain everything, or that only Marxist analysis can explain things, or that some other analysis is wrong or even uninteresting.
Also this does not mean that I want to “reform society” to be “more socialist” or any such thing. I try to avoid normative statements – “how things should be” – and stick to positive statements – “how things are.” I have no political agenda, and certainly not a “communist” agenda.
“Vulgar” in the sense of “populist” and in the sense of “simplistic.” I am very uninterested in what Marx had to say in chapter three of Capital – in fact, I’ve never read Marx’s Capital and have no plans to. So any arguments about “orthodox Marxism” or “true Communism has never been tried” is utterly irrelevant to anything I want to discuss.
My version of Vulgar Marxism has it that you can identify “classes” in society by “how those classes relate to capital and the means of production.” Perhaps the best formulation of Vulgar Marxism was made by Upton Sinclair who said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
Or, to attempt to phrase this in the most vulgar fashion, “people do what they get paid to do” or “people will do what makes them the most money” or “people are naturally self-interested and selfish.” To try to appeal to hip young neo-reactionaries, one might say “humans are status-maximizing.” Libertarians might prefer “choice is revealed preference.”
An example: let’s say I am a crank with a PhD in some useless field like “English literature.” I’m gay, have no family, and not too much money. I don’t really have any real life skills except I write well. I’m also white and extremely racist.
What do I do? Well, I try to sell my writing. Perhaps I’ll start a blog, invite a bunch of authors similar to me, and try to find some rich people who will the fund the whole thing. Since what I’m selling has a small audience indeed – rich racist white men – a certain snobbery and elitism is likely to appeal to that audience more than, say, a blog full of racist jokes and slurs.
Or how about this example? I’m a really smart computer programmer and a math nerd. Working for a big company is boring and what I really want to do is create a new Internet from scratch. But no one is going to pay for that. So what do I do?
Well, I read Thomas Hobbes a while ago and, being half Jewish, always saw myself as a powerful Court Jew whispering in the ear of some dimwitted Goyim king, the real power behind the throne. How about this: I’ll find a wealthy Silicon Valley oligarch, say, a conservative libertarian, and I’ll create a new political philosophy that purports to show that high IQ wealthy technology oligarchs – like him – are the natural aristocrats, morally superior and should rule society in the best interests of everyone. My philosophy will say that democracy is bad and the wealthy should just rule directly without all these bizarre “social conventions” that are incomprehensible to Asperger Syndrome types anyway.
Plan B, I’ll get paid to write for some second-rate “conservative” academic think tank that “just happens” to have been started by a Jewish neo-con and write about why Protestants, not Jews, are responsible for all the bad things.
Third example. I’m a short, ugly bald nerd with no education, no skills, and I moved to a third world shithole because I can afford the prostitutes, who are the only females who will have sex with me. I’m good at trolling and satire, and can say things that would get me fired in America but no one cares because I’m in some third-world internet cafe in god knows where. I try to find the most taboo issue of our time – race – and use it to troll the Internet, gaining a decent following with my wit.
Some guy who runs a partisan front group named Charles Bronson says he’ll pay me for certain political articles and when I publish them they give me huge traffic via their Botnet based in South East Asia. The more “outrageous” I write, the more mainstream media coverage I get – the more Bitcoin in my wallet, the more hookers I can hire.
To deconstruct right-wing propaganda, it’s a straightforward linguistic process.
Read the propaganda, and every time the right-wing propagandist uses the term “egalitarianism” find out if what he really means is “fungibility.” Find out if a complaint about “equality” is actually a complaint about “replaceability.”
Capitalism – really, any system larger than Dunbar’s number – by nature treats people as fungible and replaceable. Above the Dunbar number, human relationships are transactional. People do not like being treated as fungible and related to in a transactional way.
But human beings love to treat other people – especially people outside their personal Dunbar circle – as fungible and relate to them transactionally.
An early critic of Curtis Yarvin’s “Neo-Reaction” put it simply: “NRx” and all the related “right-wing” schools of thought – propagandists – tell simple, basic truths that everyone knows: “some people are smarter than others” – but posture as if these banal truths are mind-blowing and paradigm-shifting and they are courageous truth tellers.
It is as if you are having a Christmas party, and you invite the “autistic” guy from the IT department, and as you greet him at the door, he says, “wow, your wife’s tits are huge and your son is really ugly! I’m a brave and principled right-winger for noticing what no one else did!”
No one’s mother is “fungible” – you can’t just swap out Mom with a woman of similar age and everything is “the same.”
No one has any problem saying “Blacks are better athletes” or “Asians are good at math.” So no one actually believes in “equality” in the sense of “everyone is the same.” When a beautiful woman has a child by a handsome man, no one is “surprised” when the baby grows up good-looking. When two smart parents have a smart child, no one is astonished.
No one is offended when someone says, “I love my mom more than I love your mom.” Everyone understands that people are not fungible. Saying, “my mother is superior to yours” just depends on the metric. Is she better at basketball? Better at math?
But right wingers won’t say this plainly, because – as the Vulgar Marxist analysis shows us – they are in a patronage relationship with their patrons.
So they say, “egalitarianism is a myth, you, my patron, are unequaled among men.”
Or, “you my Bitcoin subscribers are the only guys really redpilled about bitches.”
Because to the right-wing propagandist, their relationship with their patron is, in fact, transactional and money is fungible after all!