Producerism

This is one of those posts where by the time you get to the end you feel more ignorant than when you began.

Looking for a definition of when extremism becomes populism I came across this definition of right wing populism at progressive USA think tank Political Research Associates:

Producerism —the idea that the real Americans are hard–working people who create goods and wealth while fighting against parasites at the top and bottom of society who pick our pocket…sometimes promoting scapegoating and the blurring of issues of class and economic justice, and with a history of assuming proper citizenship is defined by White males;

Anti–elitism —a suspicion of politicians, powerful people, the wealthy, and high culture…sometimes leading to conspiracist allegations about control of the world by secret elites, especially the scapegoating of Jews as sinister and powerful manipulators of the economy or media;

Anti–intellectualism —a distrust of those pointy headed professors in their Ivory Towers…sometimes undercutting rational debate by discarding logic and factual evidence in favor of following the emotional appeals of demagogues;

Majoritarianism —the notion that the will of the majority of people has absolute primacy in matters of governance… sacrificing rights for minorities, especially people of color;

Moralism —evangelical–style campaigns rooted in Protestant revivalism…sometimes leading to authoritarian and theocratic attempts to impose orthodoxy, especially relating to gender.

Americanism —a form of patriotic nationalism…often promoting ethnocentric, nativist, or xenophobic fears that immigrants bring alien ideas and customs that are toxic to our culture.

It appears to be quoted but isn’t well-referenced – probably the work of Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin.

I suppose three attributes – anti-elitism, anti-intellectualism, and simple majoritarianism – are necessary to populism of any persuasion, and the moralism and patriotic nationalism are distinctly right-wing.

The outstanding attribute is producerism. In its right wing expression, it views immigrants and bankers alike unfavourably as a leach on societal wealth from below and above. But can you have a popular movement other than a right wing one without some kind of producer ethic?

The Wikipedia definition says that producerism credits the middle class as adding surplus value, and therefore wealth. However, Kazin’s book The Populist Persuasion (p13 – see Google Books) calls it,

“…indeed an ethic, a moral conviction. It held that only those who created wealth in tangible, material ways (on and under the land, in workshops, and on the sea) could be trust to guard the nation’s piety and liberties.”

From elsewhere in the PRA collection this visualisation sheds some light.  It shows right wing populism directing anger above and below and exchanging supporters with the racist right as well as democratic reformers.  Interestingly, EDL supporters as a group have been observed to spend more energy berating the government (‘above’) than they spend openly attacking Muslims (‘below’), both of which groups are typified as unproductive. (Though having observed fairly unremitting antisemitism from certain quarters for the past 6 years, I’d adopt a subtler and sharper definition of racist language than that author did – one which included innuendo and stance relative to less veiled racism.)

The visualisation linked above doesn’t work for the British left since most of the organised anger (and they can only dream of it being popular) is directed upwards to perceived ‘elite parasites’ e.g. bankers, multi-national businesses, politicians, etc – and none that I can see is directed downwards at the unproductive – on the contrary, the left is defending – to name a few – immigrants and those who risk their benefits being withdrawn. Right wing producerism thinks that domestic capital is good capital, but financial capital – the international kind – is bad. The left rejects is sceptical of the first and hostile to the second.

Can’t see much sign of producerism on the left, then, which only directs anger upwards (I’d call New Labour centrist), though if there were it might look like Stalinism’s authoritarian ‘socialism in one country’, or the kind of trade unionism which was prepared to hold its fellow citizens to ransom – or perhaps a technophobic sort of Neo-Luddism (which might be a green-tinged variety).

But what can it mean when the the British TUC votes to ostracise fellow workers because they are Israeli?

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18 thoughts on “Producerism

  1. Producerism was though up by Wayne Fazio, a single voice. His web site is Producerism.org. Producerism is a social system where the use of physical force is discouraged and a new system, a positive system, of motivation is used to supply society with the tools for self government. Looters and moochers are terms used to help describe the current societal conditions. Both are not needed in producerism. Bosses are the consumers, Leaders are business owners, and producers are all the people pursuing life, liberty, and their happiness.

  2. “Producerism” names both a very specific ideological current (see comment no.1) and also a broader current of thinking, widespread in the American (and Western) public, which privileges the producers of wealth over consumers. But it is also relates to broader structures of thought on the left and right which contrast productive capital to financial capital, the organic community to the rootless cosmopolitans, the authentically national to the slippery global, etc. And this in turn links to what some call “structural antisemitism”. See e.g. http://balkans.puscii.nl/?q=content/text-structural-antisemitism or critical view http://communism.blogsport.eu/2011/07/18/attac-the-critique-of-globalization-and-structural-antisemitism/

    • Thanks AG. Those papers defy skim reading – particularly the Hanloser one where just trying to define the terms (e.g. “every fetishistic expression of discontent with capitalism”) would take ages – though I’m sure they will reward taking the time.

      I am now thinking I don’t really understand how consumerism relates to producerism.

      (My problem is, I always want to see the edges before I go in deeper – but the edges elude me so I’m condemned to skate over the surface very fast. One solution is to become a producer – I’ve heard they have the hearts of lions and never give this stuff a moments thought.)

      • (So I’m sitting here watching David Reynolds on Stalin’s WW2.)

        AG I read the first paper. http://balkans.puscii.nl/?q=content/text-structural-antisemitism

        Every so often it is very florid and there are jumps in the argument making me lose the scent (so I will read the critical one with interest) but here are the stand out parts.

        “antisemitic tidal wave in the Middle East that has blurred any distinction between the critique of the state of Israel and concrete human beings in their social relations.”

        Next an introduction to the concept of Volksgenossen – ‘race comrades’ – and their abhorrence/attraction to the mysterious abstractions of capitalism, leading to an unhealthy preoccupation with soil and labour:

        “The attributes given by the antisemite to Jews include mobility, intangibility, rootlessness, and conspiracy against the – mythical or mythologised – values of the imagined community of an honest and hardworking people.”

        “The fetish of blood and soil is itself rooted in the capital fetish where the concrete in the form of use value obtains only in and through the abstract in the form of exchange value. Anitsemitism construes blood, soil, and also machinery as concrete counter-principles of the abstract.”

        “The category Jew is seen to personify abstract thought and abstract equality, including its incarnation, money.”

        “Antisemitism articulates a senseless, barbaric rejection of capitalism that makes anti-capitalism useful for capitalism.”

  3. Simple Math. If you want less of something, tax it. If you want more of something, subsidize it. This is an economic law that can’t be broken, interfered with, yes, but, like gravity always there. Start there and work your philosophy out from this law. Human compassion will always be there and would grow even stronger if the dead hand of government would get out of the way. Government, on net, is a huge drag on our society causing most of the problems that you see.

    • Producerist, what about if the ‘something’ you want less of is domestic violence, but insurance companies have been given responsibility for policing (because they are felt to have the purest financial incentive), and abusive parents aren’t, as a rule, insuring their kids?

    • 1. Producerist, another thing to come out of the first article AG linked to above is that where there is a concentration of wealth – your bosses’ wealth as customers, for example – then the producers will be vulnerable in deteriorating circumstances such as the current economic crisis.

      2. That insurance company example I used was from one of the articles linked from the Producerism site you referred to (and I enjoyed it very much – don’t read nearly enough right wing stuff. I tend to think of it as pessimistic – au contraire!). So I didn’t pick it out of nowhere.

      • producerism uses free market anarchy as it’s economic engine. Compassion comes from freedom, not government. All profits come from pleasing customers. Including the insurance company profits. Force is the bad guy in this social system. The system is based on natural law where the golden rule, rules.

      • The golden rule is the ethic of reciprocity – do as you would be done by. But Popper’s amendment – do to others as THEY would be done by – is a departure from that, which says ‘Stop trying to remake the world in your own image’. We have to acknowledge differences in wants and more importantly, needs. And some will have more to give.

    • OK. In the ’30s, the government-owned and ironically named National Shipbuilders Security Ltd decided, in the face of an overcapacity of ship-building, to close the yard at Jarrow in order to protect more modern yards on the Tyne. Not only was the yard closed, but they took the equipment away so the workers were unable to attempt to make a go of it alone. The consequences – which nobody in the National Shipbuilders Security company would have had to face – was that Jarrow fell into deep poverty.

      You might be tempted to blame the government for that one, and I don’t know enough to comment. But contrast with the early 1800s, when industrialists (among whom capital had concentrated) mechanised their looms, putting thousands of weavers out of work overnight. Some of those unemployed turned to frame breaking and assassination – until a law was passed to make it punishable by death.

      Who was free, and who had prevented others from enacting their freedoms?

  4. if the rule is to be free from all physical force, natural law is the only law that will work fairly and justly. If one does wrong, they will pay the consequences, as if they do right, they will enjoy the rewards. No racist here. Keep the thinking on personal level and i think we can agree. What are industrialist but individual people. just like the bucher, the baker.

    • I find the juxtaposition between “being free from all physical force” on the one hand and “paying the consequences” on the other difficult to reconcile.

      I can see that industrialists are individual people. However, they also tend to be in positions of control and authority – far more so than the butcher and baker. In fact, there are hardly any butchers and bakers remaining in my part of the world – most have lost their independence and their commodity has been taken over by large corporations (corporations which are famous for underpaying producers, incidentally, in the single-minded pursuit of profit their PLC terms probably oblige them to undertake).

      It would help if you could address my question from my reply to 5. above: in my frame-breaking example who was free and who prevented others from enacting their freedom?

  5. Pingback: Critique and theory: Producerism, populism, capitalism, anti-capitalism, disasterism, imperialism, nationalism « Anti-National Translation

  6. Way late to the punch here, Flesh…

    I have never heard of Wayne Fazio but he definitely did not invent the producerist perspective. It has been around for a long time, at least the nineteenth century if not the eighteenth or even the seventeenth.

    For example, William Manning in “The Key of Liberty” (1799) articulates the notion of “the few and the many” in which the many are productive laborers and the few are speculators, money lenders, those who earn money from rent, etc. Indeed it was quite common in the eighteenth century to view labor as the creator of wealth (Smith is the exemplar) and we can see this perspective articulated in the seventeenth century by John Locke in his Second Treatise.

    French artisans in the nineteenth century articulated a similar perspective through their concept of ouverismé. This was picked up by Proudhon and promoted by other anarchists throughout Europe and the Americas.

    Have a nice weekend.

    • Hello New Centrist, good to hear from you. Thanks for the reading pointers. The more I read about this stuff and (separately but in parallel) the more experience I have trying to get various projects off the ground, the more I appreciate people who dream dreams, hatch schemes and otherwise work with their brains (though of course all of those things are value neutral and can be for good or ill.

      (Yes it’s been a good weekend – I’ve been in the muck with a pickaxe for much of it – I can almost guess how it feels to labour.)

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