Is the Historical Subject Returning, Wearing a Yellow Vest?

If someone were to ask me the meaning of politics, I would say that it is concerned with the contestation of power; that it is agonistic, even antagonistic. And that it has to be, because what it contests is the balance of power wielded by different class interests. As Marx recognised, the underlying purpose of the social, political, economic and even legal institutions of capitalist society is to preserve the monopoly of power enjoyed by the capital-owning class. And, consequently, any attempt to challenge that monopoly, in whatever sphere, is going to be countered, as the yellow-vested protesters are currently experiencing on the streets of Paris.

I point this out because the nature of politics seems to have radically changed over the last couple of decades. Dare I say it, it has become rather apolitical. – concerned more with ameliorating the excesses of capitalism than with challenging the system itself. The dramatic protests against global capitalism that marked the end of the 20thcentury have now settled into a not uneasy truce, as new ‘transnational’ actors have emerged to fill and ‘depoliticise’ the radical space previously occupied by the working class. These new players comprise a panoply of ‘Global Social Justice Movements’, (‘GSJMs’) and ‘Non-Governmental Organisations’, (‘NGOs’) which impose themselves on inchoate civil society all over the globe. Whilst the range of their particularistic interests is vast, they are generally united…

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