Who can afford to live inside the law?
War among the poor (or ‘war of the poor against the poor’, ‘civil/internecine war of the poor’, etc.) is:
– An exaggerated and reductive name (too bloody and too simple) for a real phenomenon. Intra-class competition is often violent, sometimes lethal, endlessly rhetorical and always managed from above. The proprietors’ 500-year Plan.
– An oxymoron, if opposing bodies of ‘the poor’ are supposed to be autonomous belligerent subjects rather than someone else’s cannon fodder. An essential feature of ‘war’ is ignored. Has any group of ‘the poor’ ever fought an organized campaign of destruction exclusively against other poor people except under the influence of generals or senior managers?1 Of course the poor have fought autonomously many times, but the enemy was always an army sent out by some department of ‘the rich’.
For anyone trying to show that violent competition between proletarians amounts to ‘war among the poor’, few social situations could offer less useful evidence than the urban riots2 in the US (2014-15), the UK (2011) or France (2005)3. No one disputes that some working-class people were badly hurt and a few killed by non-police violence during some of those events, or, for example, that most of the homes accidentally burned in London were rented by the poor, or that ‘working-class’ cars built the Paris barricades, etc. etc. The stories of Muslim ‘identity’ groups ‘taking over’ the fighting in France by force, ‘pushing out’ left activists and unaffiliated local proletarians, are also well known and much disputed. And there’s no more reason to disbelieve the many reports of ugly individual beatings/stabbings/robberies than there is to forget that these things happen every night in the cities concerned, or to pretend that they could serve any conceivable collective purpose of a riot.
If it must really be repeated yet again: insisting that all these cases are incidental to the collective or ‘warlike’ dimension of the riots does NOT mean dismissing the suffering as ‘collateral damage’. ‘Incidental’ is not a synonym of ‘unimportant’, much less of ‘worth it on balance’. It simply means that violence of these kinds either served private ends unrelated to the riot as a whole (as in the individual attacks) or was unforeseen, however stupidly (the London housing blocks that burned when the shops below them were torched). Even the alleged attempt to ‘islamize’ the banlieue barricades – to whatever extent it happened, if any – can’t plausibly be made to mean that the expelled rioters replaced the police (in the broadest possible sense, including schools, clinics and businesses) as the collective target of the riots. No more so than any flight of revisionst fancy has dared to call the competition between the Allied powers and various Partisans in 1944 or Stalin’s takeover of the lost Spanish war in 1938 – or the occasional skirmishes between ‘ISIS’ and Gulf monarchist/Al-Qaeda gangs – the main front line in those conflicts.
This is no place for an extended ‘counter-factual’ digression in the Philip K Dick (or Niall Ferguson) manner, but it’s worth briefly considering the opportunities for concerted intra-class bloodletting that arise in urban riots and contrasting that hypothetical nightmare with what actually, repeatedly happens. Events in London four years ago need not exactly match those elsewhere to illustrate the point.
Not unlike ‘war among the poor’, ‘youth gang war’ is a mythological name for something real: a combination of armed informal business competition,
microgeographical rivalry and self-defensive/affirmative small-group solidarity, all asserted with a violence that makes London a far more dangerous place for working-class teenagers and young adults than for anyone else who lives here. The unpredictability of several days of city-wide rioting, with business as usual shut down and police briefly cleared out of one area after another, offered the opportunity for as much score-settling or status-building violence as ‘gangs’ could have hoped to wreak on rivals or their own class at large. With housing estates emptied of young men and women (busy rioting) and freed from the usual invasive police presence (transferred to anti-looting duty), ‘rival’ neighbourhoods could even have been invaded directly, had anyone wanted to do that. Instead, a ‘gang truce’ was quickly declared4. The actual words ‘class enemy’ don’t appear in the social media record, but no section of the rioters’ own class was collectively targeted at the one moment when it would have been easiest to do so. The co-ordinated attack was directed against obvious enemies of that class: the state and the militarized paywall enclosing all kinds of desirable stuff.
Or if – more improbably still – sub-sections of London’s rioting class had been itching to kick off a fight along ‘ethnic’, national or religious identity lines, that would also have been easily arranged. But there are no reports anywhere of anything of the sort5. Riot demographics across the city seem roughly to have matched those of the various neighbourhoods’ working class populations6: nowhere exclusively black or white; relatively higher numbers classified as ‘African/Caribbean heritage’ in one or two areas7 while other Borgesian census categories (‘White British’/’Irish’/’White Other’/’Other European’/’Asian’/’South Asian’/’Chinese’/’Mixed’) appeared more often in other neighbourhoods’ arrest lists. Tower Hamlets and Newham, the working-class areas with proportionately the largest observant Muslim populations, were also among the quietest.
The other common variant of the ‘riots = war of the poor against the poor’ line is: they’re looting/smashing up their own communities! In this version, rioters are ‘tragically’ waging war against themselves whether they know it or not, because rioting is a form of collective self-harm. This was heard a lot in 2011, always wailed from a safe distance away. Given the class cleansing of inner London underway then and now, in most cases it simply meant: they’re ruining OUR next rung on the property ladder! But it’s unwittingly telling even as evasive platitude. What does ‘communities’ mean here and what is supposed to have been done to them? In the absence (see above) of concerted intra-class warfare, it’s a statement about that unkillable oxymoron, ‘violence against property’.8 Describing ‘aggravated burglary’ and ‘criminal damage’ as ‘destruction of the community’ confers community membership on inanimate objects, unless commercial real estate funds and the shareholders of sportswear and electronics retailers count as virtual parishioners. But anyone with experience of non-ownership could have told the Concerned that physical proximity to something you’re not allowed to touch doesn’t make it yours, much less part of a collective ‘you’. Unlike onlookers upset by social self-harm, actual smashers and looters have always distinguished finely between two types of object in a hostile environment: some can be torn from their enclosures and enjoyed, while others can only be destroyed. In the terms of the ‘self-harm’ slur, clothes, drinks and giant TV screens become useful members of the community once forcibly unenclosed. Less directly, so does anything else convertible into cash through grassroots Quantitative Easing. But the security tags that reduce those things to ‘items’ – along with workfare charity shop windows, triumphalist public monuments and Stunning Development hoardings etc. etc. – are no good for anything but the most violent restructuring. The labour pressed into their production can never be redeemed, only disowned by disabling their obnoxious use value. The spectators whose hearts bleed at the sight of such destruction seem to sense where it might lead for them when through their tears they pronounce Toughlove or Aversion Therapy the only cure for community self-harm.
Morality is a private and costly luxury.
– Henry Adams
So the question, ‘are metropolitan riots internecine war among the poor?’ might just as well simply have been answered: ‘NO’. To say no more than that would not mean denying that in London as in many other places, the sort of ‘intersectionality’ most visible is the intersection of multiple and often physically violent personal, small group and loose large group hostilities, expressed in every entanglement of micro-social, economic and ‘identity’ terms.
– War of the poor against the poor (or any other variant) is still not the right description. Or not unless the word ‘war’ is used so loosely that it just means a lot of violence, confusion and fear, rather than something sustained and somewhat organized on a large collective scale. In London at least – even if only because animosities multiply and contradict each other down to the pettiest level – systematic battle between broad, consistently self-identifying sections of ‘the poor’ is not what characterises most of the violence.9 Internal spite and skirmishing among ‘the poor‘ falls short of ‘war’ because it’s endlessly dispersed and disoriented. Unfortunately the same is true of the ‘poor’ side of inter-class contention.
– Any talk of complex intra-class hostility as a simple fact, a free-standing cause of other bad things (eg. of an interminable run of class struggle defeats), is worse than useless. In those terms, intra-class conflict is reduced to a behavioural problem. If the way ‘the poor’ live is a self-contained cause of collective defeat, bootstraps and boot camps are back on the agenda: left-wing melancholy cries out for managerial, psychological and police intervention to make the bad subjects better.
And all such psychosocial training, however supportively or ‘subversively’ intended, feeds into the real, systemic cause. ‘Consciousness-raising’ was superseded long ago by ‘confidence-building’, in which success for the mentors of ‘at-risk’ teenagers or long-term welfare cases means fitting the patients for the ‘real world’ by kick-starting their Competitiveness against the rest of their own class. When privately schooled graduates are prepared this way it’s known as internship; in the standard caricature of ‘gangs’ it’s called initiation. (The Competitiveness drilled into juridical persons through Troika-type fiscal Toughlove or under Chapter 11 bankruptcy is the same thing on another scale.)
Of course rebellion against this tutelage goes on all the time. The reality of mass passive insolence is reflected in the business lobby’s ‘skills gap’ panic and a policy drive to eliminate ‘NEETs’ (young lives lived ‘Not in Employment, Education or Training’). But the ‘compete-or-die’ lesson tends to take hold even among the unCoachable. Slow-acting macro-policy has made sure that no one in the process of ‘growing up poor’ could rationally stand to repeat her parents’ life. Everyone wants a ‘way out’, and the available exits can only be reached by beating everyone else who wants the same thing. This can be attempted individually by embracing the Coaching and trying to outdo rivals in self-abasement, or semi-collectively in an armed Affinity Group. When the London Evening Standard newspaper congratulated itself for making start-up entrepreneurs of a few ‘ex-gang leaders’, it momentarily admitted the obvious: the Leadership Skillsets fitting these parallel pathways to management are the same.
If the doctrine of Competitiveness permeates even illegal forms of working-class social life, that doesn’t mean ‘the poor’ need accept it ideologically. Opinions are beside the point because the doctrine is technocratic, in other words intensely political but not up for political dispute: a ‘law of nature’ inasmuch as it can only be contested suicidally. In this institutional hallucination, maximum competition on every social level (each schoolchild/worker/entrepreneur against herself, then each against all others and likewise for businesses, sectors, regional/national capital blocs, multinationals…), improves the competitive standing of each unit on the next level in a sub-zero-sum game from which everyone willing to forego ‘instant gratification’ will eventually benefit. Only through a more gladiatorial Human Resources policy can Detroit, say, or Indonesia or Pemex become competitive against other cities/nation-states/oil majors, and so on all the way up to ‘global competitiveness’ against Emerging (capitalist) Planets.
Nobody has to believe any of it, but social managers believing the whole thing except the ‘everyone benefits’ part have spent the last few decades making the cost of acting any other way intolerable for anyone outside their own upholstered class. Relative poverty is unmanageable in the immediate present; anything short of an asset-backed existence on an upward income curve promises future disaster. The main material reasons are well known: income insecurity and grossly disproportionate housing costs; welfare and education merged with policing; general crackdown on collective ways of raising low-income life above survival. Less tangibly, failure to compete and win is kept intolerable by keeping it a personal problem. ‘Personal’ in that it’s experienced alone and remedied at others’ expense (before they remedy theirs at yours), and above all ‘personal’ because for social services, employers and acceptable Public Opinion it’s a problem of voluntary self-harm. You did it to yourself, now undo it by trying harder or get what you deserve.
Thus a lot of stereotypically ‘middle-class’ competitive anxiety is democratized, shared with ‘the poor’, while the asset base that cushioned the angst is not.10 Middle-class commentators who imagine (in the Anglo-English manner) that class is a matter of culture like to blame intra-working-class violence and general ‘social malaise’ on a decline of working-class (read: white, Anglo-English) identity, but the reality may be simpler even than the simpletons who say that: to the extent that the term means anything, the ‘middle class’ consists of those who can sometimes buy their way out of the normal structural violence of economic life. Everyone else is aware of being simultaneously victim and instrument of the violence.11
It’s hardly surprising, then, that justified fear of staying poor seems to be at an all-time high in many places. Nor that direct peer-to-peer physical violence is statistically more common within the working class than in any other class or across classes in either direction. There’s no pathology to diagnose. The acute fear of endless poverty is rational, and the conclusion that competing against your own class is the only way out is ‘common sense’, albeit carefully nurtured from above. It’s possibly over-reported but still true that a lot of young proletarians do attempt to follow the approved competitive ‘pathway’, trying to ‘play by the rules’ in the hope of setting themselves up as micro-capitalists or professionals. But others notice that the ‘game’ is a rigged lottery12, a course of submission to idiots for the sake of an almost certainly unattainable prize. Those who see this but still crave a ‘way out’ sometimes move into informal or ‘criminal’ competition instead. Unlike the ‘legitimate’ option, this one doesn’t always require renouncing class solidarity in favour of clueless middle-class ‘mentors’. But it has always been a ruthless, violent business (in all senses of that word), and most of the many casualties come from the working class.
To say this just once more, though, what it is NOT is ‘war of the poor against the poor’. Not of the poor for the reasons set out at excessive length above: the rules of engagement are those of capitalism, and the ‘incentives’ for accepting them were carefully crafted over decades at institutional level. And not war, because urban working-class life is not, for the most part, a battlefield. Only policy consultants whose knowledge of that life is zero imagine otherwise. London is a city of 8+ million, with a lot of poverty fear, a big informal/’criminal’ economy and a gradually rising level of informal armament (though still short of North/Central/South American gun fever). The number of ‘violent incidents’ reported is correspondingly high. But in a city also characterised by exceptionally dense entanglement of ‘identity’ affiliations, no parallel data exist for benign or begrudged indifference or active class solidarity, not least because these things are continuous rather than incidental. As mentioned above, the city is disproportionately dangerous for proletarian youth, especially outside the ‘white/European’ census demographic. But ‘war’ is still not the word for incessant, dispersed and sometimes lethal skirmishing in a city where unspectacular neighbourhood solidarity remains normal despite years of top-down assault on non-competitive social life. I’ve written in Wildcat before about informal urban solidarity and the political attack on it, and won’t repeat the anecdotal evidence here. But without the stubborn survival of the practices there wouldn’t have been an attack. Ubiquitous pro-snitching campaigns only run because all kinds of police despair of the dearth of informers. Resistance to clearances of working-class housing has been furious – though only occasionally successful – in part because the people marked for clearing refuse to be separated even when rehousing is offered.
‘Class cleansing’ has long since ceased to be a term used only by left activists.
Fear of poverty among the poor occasionally manifests as rhetoric of contempt for other poor people seen as embodying the worst ‘outcomes’: street-sleepers; ageing ‘wastemen’ who ‘smoke weed all day’ and ‘never tried to get off the estate’; the visibly mentally disturbed, etc. But this is nothing when compared with the welter of rhetorical hatred that pours down on the entire class from above. The asset-backed don’t usually stab each other because they don’t need to, and they rarely risk physically attacking the class they despise (though some are willing to try a lynching if they’re drunk and confident of the odds), but the top-down rhetorical viciousness accurately reflects the real distribution of violence once it’s remembered that direct, person-to-person violence is not the only kind.
APPENDIX: NATIONAL BARRIER ASSET 13
Since 2005 or earlier it has been commonplace to describe large parts of the French working class as polarized between ‘Arabs’ and ‘black Africans’ under militant Muslim hegemony on one side and all the rest on the other. When this stuff appears in Le Monde (i.e. every day) it merits no attention at all; when serious comrades reporting first hand say something similar I remain extremely sceptical – more inclined to believe the many opposing views from sources no worse informed empirically or politically – without presuming to invent a factual judgement from this distance. I can say for sure, though, that if such a simple polarization exists in France, it in no way resembles any situation in London. To insist on this is not to deny any of the following:
(a) That intra-class hostilities here often manifest as assertions of ‘ethnic’, ‘national’ or religious ‘identity’. Of course they do, but sociologists and journalists attempting to map the hostilities along those lines invariably make fools of themselves, most of all when they try to conflate patterns of rhetorical identity assertion with those of physical violence. Among things the Experts never fail to underestimate are: competition and violence for non-identity-related reasons between loud affirmers of one or other Expert-recognized ‘identity’; violence between upholders of the same recognized identity, whether because of ‘statistically insignificant’ reasons to fight (personal histories of grievance and friendship loyalty, micro-territorialism, ad-hoc sub-sectarianism) or because the Expert-certified identity group was nothing of the sort even in ‘traditional culture’ (the best reporting on the Muslim-led materialist riots of 2001 in Bradford and elsewhere exploded the myth of a unitary ‘Asian Muslim Community’, but almost no one noticed); lives more nuanced and contradictory than those of the Experts themselves in terms of multiple intersecting ‘identities’, allegiances, material imperatives and complete or partial defection from any of these.
(b) That inter-class conflict is as violently racialized as ever and can’t be abstracted away. To pretend otherwise – eg. by insisting on the ‘primacy’ of a ‘colourblind’ abstraction of ‘class’ – is an option available to ‘white’ ignorance only. The normal functioning of all institutions managing proletarian life is materially racist: this goes for police/criminal justice, social services, education, housing, welfare, medicine (‘mental health’ in particular), the labour market at large and obviously immigration control. Official campaigns have created mild taboos against some public expressions of psychological racism while effectively licensing the institutional sort by defining ‘racism’ as a personal pathology of skin-colour prejudice. By absolving institutions in advance, these policies also nourish the slander according to which ‘residual’, pathological racism is mostly a working-class vice. In fact the opposite is true: see ‘pretending otherwise’ above. Meanwhile, vilification of ‘Muslims’ – cast not only as homogeneous in religion and undifferentiated by class but often as a ‘race’ or ‘ethnic group’ – is generally exempt from ‘anti-racist’ taboos when spouted in terms of ‘culture’ rather than biology. Middle-class bigots with few Muslim neighbours make by far the most enthusiastic use of this exemption.
(c) That well organised, largely Gulf-funded Wahabi religious-political organisations are influential to a degree unknown 20 years ago. These right-wing groups stand out as perhaps the only bourgeois ‘political parties’ (a definition they strongly reject, but which nonetheless applies in the non-electoral sense of ‘party’) with an energetic element of working-class youth support, although from outside the extent and consistency of that support can’t be guessed. An overlapping phenomenon is the presence in a few areas of territorial ‘youth gangs’ strongly identifying with and occasionally trying to ‘enforce’ strict Sunni Islam.
Everything described under (b) and (c) here may or may not also apply in France or elsewhere. The situation in London is wholly unlike the image of intra-class ‘polarization’ projected onto France by left and mainstream commentators, however, for all the reasons mentioned under (a) and throughout the main text, and most of all because the idea of a politicised Wahabi hegemony even among young Sunni Bengalis, let alone among ‘Muslims’ of all denominations and classes or still more extravagantly among the ‘non-white’ working class at large, would be laughed at even by the few who might wish for such a thing. Only anti-Muslim zealots conflate all Muslims this way, and those who put that zealotry into practice within working-class social life (as distinct from middle-class media or policy-making) are themselves a small though prolifically violent ‘identity’ sect. Nor is there any sign of any other broad, ‘identity’-based class subsection so much as dreaming of that kind of dominance, least of all in a politicised way. Contradictory ‘internal’ sub-identifications within each supposed group are far too powerful, and ‘external’ intersection with the rest of the class is far too extensive and complex.
The one kind of bourgeois-led racist rhetoric that is echoed at working-class level (mostly by ‘white’ but sometimes also by ‘black’ and ‘Other’ locally born speakers) escalates into physical violence only sporadically (so far), and has everything to do with economic competition. To resort to generalization almost as gross as the kind discussed here, antipathy towards ‘foreigners’ (accompanied by strident disavowal of skin-colour prejudice) on cultural grounds – dilution of ‘national identity’, incomers’ ‘refusal to integrate’, etc. – is heard most often from the class with little more to worry about than ‘culture’. Thanks to that influence, anti-’foreigner’ opinion is subject to no ‘anti-racist’ taboos as all. Meanwhile superficially similar sentiment among the presumably UK-passport-holding ‘poor’ almost always involves misdirected material fear of ‘foreign’ competition at the low end of the labour market and/or for such ‘resources’ as the state still grudgingly supplies. This kind of talk is unsurprisingly encouraged by social managers relieved to blame ‘demographic pressure’ (read: ‘foreign invasion’) for a cancelled ‘social wage’ and keen to split along competitive lines a multinational local working class largely unmoved by ‘culture clash’. (That the downward wage pressure and withdrawal of state provision are real but not caused by migration is not, I hope, something that need be re-explained here.) The willingness of some workers to ‘blame foreigners’ is embraced eagerly by the class that benefits from the belief, to the point that ‘listening to working-class voters’ has become cross-party political code for further escalating the ruthlessness of immigration policing. Meanwhile the ‘liberals’ in the executive-suite ‘immigration debate’ make matters worse by invoking a national ‘we’ as often as their opponents do and ‘celebrating’ migration on grounds of ‘diversity’ (as in restaurants or animal species) and usefulness to capital, with special praise for plugging the ‘skills gap’ left open by slovenly local workers.
Hostility to ‘foreigners’ is not all-pervasive in London, where the proletariat is not English-dominated and the density of social entanglement makes a joke of the national ‘we’. But the fact that it persists on some level feeds into a permanent layer of fear in all lives exposed to immigration policing, precisely because it originates in and reinforces that hostile power. The consequences for class recomposition are predictably dismal, but once again, all this is NOT intra-class ‘war’, because the grain of urban proletarian life runs overwhelmingly against it, and it is NOT ‘of the poor’, because the machinery and the interests are wholly those of another class.
[1.] This is not a historical essay, so I’ll only try to pre-empt a couple of the likely counter-arguments. a.) Pogroms, lynch mobs, settler extermination of ‘natives’: 1. Poor as they may be, it’s not as ‘the poor’ that these exterminators confront their victims. They kill to defend (or extend) customary privilege, often against the ‘unfair’ labour market ‘advantage’ of greater poverty. 2. The logic of official policy requires the violence even where high officials make a pious show of disapproval. Both (1) and (2) were evident in the massacre of ‘foreign’ African workers by South African workers in 2008, as was the influence of bourgeois ‘generals’.
b.) Pre-colonial warfare between materially ‘poor’ ‘indigenous’ groups: Even in the absence of surplus wealth (of which the Asante kings, Aztec priests etc. had plenty), these belligerents were class societies. Hereditary, priestly and elected aristocracies all count as ‘senior managers’ in the terms above. If some follower of Graeber or Sahlins can prove the odd case of genuine classlessness: fine, you have your exception. But it doesn’t alter the main point here unless you think ‘primitive communism’ looks like 21st century urban violence.
[2.] Or ‘uprisings’, ‘rebellions’, etc. But in this context I hope it’s obvious that ‘riots’ carries no negative connotation.
[3.] The list stops here for convenience and in order to avoid further long digressions explaining partial differences between various cases. But the general points here apply at least to riots of ‘the poor’ in ‘rich’ metropoli since Brixton in 1981. (Yes, including LA in 1992.) Activist-led episodes like London 1999, Seattle 2000, Genova 2001 are for another story, probably one by an activist. And the rest of the history of the rest of the world would become a cartoon in any attempt to include it here.
[4.] Despite being reported by the Guardian, this appears to be true. Or at least ‘social’ media records published after the fact and the statements of rioters interrogated by courts and/or academics, journalists, etc. are remarkably consistent on this point.
[5.] One ‘inter-racial’ killing – apparently, it turned out, for personal/business reasons – coincided with rioting in Birmingham, where intra-working-class tension between some Anglo-Afro-Caribbean and some Anglo-Asian groups is well known. This briefly led to excited media racialization of the idea of the riots, but nowhere did it racialize the riots themselves.
[6.] ‘Working-class populations’ as in ‘the working-class component of those populations’, not as in ‘the populations of those uniformly working-class areas’. This is worth spelling out because the riot demographics don’t match those of the total population of any of the loosely defined areas in question. At the present point in the slow process of class/’race’ cleansing, every part of inner London hosts a fair-sized (and more than mostly white) professional/asset-owning cohort. In census-data terms, even Tottenham, Brixton and Tower Hamlets are historically majority-white, but the class condition of the ‘white’ demographic has changed more drastically than that of any other. Not because of personal ‘social mobility’: just an influx of purchasing power.
[7.] I won’t specify which areas because that might give the false impression that the rioting was more ‘racial‘ in those places than elsewhere. London hasn’t experienced a strict-sense ‘race riot’ since white boys started one in Notting Hill in 1958. Apparently it’s hard for media Common Sense to credit the notion of black-led but not racially exclusive or identity-focused action, despite conspicuous examples. Decades of wretched white leftist attempts to ‘lead’ the black working class are partly to blame for this, although the Experts also fail to notice the lack of any difference between the practices of mostly black, inextricably ‘mixed’ and mostly white (eg. Merseyside, Manchester) rioting-class ‘communities’.
[8.] Unless, again, the idea is supposed to be that the police – whose bodies were the only ones systematically, collectively attacked (even yuppie diners in Clapham and the West End got off with a lot of goading and a little bit of robbery) – are part of the ‘communities’. But that claim would bring a smirk even to the face of an embedded BBC reporter, not least given the number of ‘loyal troops from outside the area’ rushed to London from day 2 onwards, in keeping with centuries-old riot management guidelines. The reinforcements arrived in vehicles marked ‘West Midlands, Greater Manchester’ etc., places where their absence would be enjoyed on days 3 and 4.
[9.] See appendix below.
[10.] Among stereotypically middle-class experiences now ‘democratized’ downwards are: job application and in-work appraisal through multiple interviews, psychometric testing, ‘soft skills’ assessment and scrutiny of ‘CV gaps’; career/status anxiety; generalized anxiety (although the middle-class monopoly on this one was always a middle-class fantasy); stock market gambling (with defined-contribution private pensions now quasi-compulsory: a forced loan to the fund manager is extorted even from those who ‘opt out’).
[11.] Those who can buy their way out, meanwhile, are both instruments of the violence and players of the instruments, but the most precious thing they pay for is remote control.
[12.] The terrible slogan ‘The One Per Cent’ might yet be repurposed to designate the proportion of entrants in approved kinds of capitalistic competition who ever win anything.
[13.] National Barrier Asset: the unimprovable name of a UK border fence to be built in Calais in the hope of deterring non-EU migrants from using road transport logistics to upgrade their misery from French to English.
A German language version of this text was first published in Wildcat 100 in summer 2016