Criticism of capitalism: class against egoism –

Criticism of capitalism: class against egoism –

In “Screw Selflove, Give Me Class Struggle,” the cabaret artist Jean-Philippe Kindler pleads for radical repoliticization.

With color against capitalism Photo: imago

Even in the field of criticism of capitalism, at some point everything could be said. It just might not have reached everyone yet. To do this, it is always necessary to collect what has been said and package it in an appealing way for a broad, and preferably young, audience. This is exactly what cabaret artist Jean-Philippe Kindler does in his book “Screw Selflove, Give Me Class Struggle”.

For him, the focus is on the observation that in contemporary capitalism many leftists are also falling for the neoliberal ideology by placing a predominantly culturally oriented, individualistic form of identity politics over economically oriented class politics.

Jean-Philippe Kindler: “Screw Selflove, give me class struggle.” Rowohlt Verlag, Hamburg 2023, 138 pages, 12 euros

This focus on “Selflove” and anti-discrimination cosmetics, which can be observed particularly on social media profiles, lies in a momentous depoliticization that does not abolish capitalist exploitation, but at best makes it somewhat more diverse. But exploitation is “not an experience of discrimination like any other,” writes Kindler, “but rather the material basis for various forms of discrimination.”

Privatization of politics

However, Kindler does not want to devalue identity politics across the board. His aim is to shift their strengths in the formation of a collective representation of interests from the cultural to the economic, so to speak to the formation of a new class identity – or as Marx called it, a “class consciousness” – of the exploited. To this end, Kindler would like to counteract the privatization of politics and the rest of life with a radical “repoliticization”.

Kindler does not offer a completely “new critique of capitalism” here, but he does offer a new form of address

For example, when it comes to the topics of poverty and happiness. In neoliberal societies, what the sociologists Eva Illouz and Edgar Cabanas called the “dictate of luck” has led to a permanent compulsion to complacency that not only keeps capitalist exploitation going, but also places sole responsibility on the individual for maintaining the material and psychological consequences.

So while people at the bottom of the capitalist food chain are increasingly taking their own lives as a result of a regressively underfinanced health care system, and even minimal increases in basic security are demonized in the political and media mainstream as a non-performance laziness bonus, in the last ten years there have actually been three trillion “ineffective” health care systems Euro profit flowed to German landlords and the same amount will be inherited again by 2024, just as “without performance”.

A repoliticization of such conditions would mean viewing them not as “natural” but as politically created – and fighting them. But to do this, the left would have to counter the neoliberal strategy of isolation with consistent “offers of togetherness”.

Trench warfare versus class warfare

In “reconciliating materialistic and identity-political criticism,” it would have to create a broad social alliance with those “who you might not meet every Tuesday at the Judith Butler seminar or who have the money to buy a large oat milk cappuccino for five euros in the coworking space afford to. Otherwise, we will remain a “hipster left with a social democratic veneer” that would rather engage in internal trench warfare than in class warfare across society.

Of course, Kindler does not offer a completely “new critique of capitalism” as the subtitle promises, but he does offer a new form of address that the author, born in 1996, implements with the pointed eclecticism of the satirist. Even if his wording is sometimes somewhat stilted in the book and audio book version, he still brings out a remarkable political and performative fury.

In doing so, he provides less a concrete guide than an enlightening suggestion for political activism that takes into account the fact that “most leftists no longer even try to understand capitalism, which they all dutifully reject.”


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