Liquid Capitalism: Everyone Drinks It, Swims In It, Drowns In It
The most radical socialists; Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters (Black, White, Latino or Asian); liberal and conservative zealots; diversity and equity gurus; pacifists; denizens of corporates and non-profits; rappers, rockers and country western musicians; Bernie Sanders; racists and White guilt pushers; Baptists, Catholics, and Muslims; children; bland K-16 teachers; members of the military; indeed, every social, cultural, political and economic demographic of the United States of America drinks, swims and drowns in an ocean of Liquid Capitalism. It is nearly as old as humanity itself.
Liquid Capitalism is impressive and horrifying. It floods and absorbs every political movement and message. It dilutes it, repackages it, commodifies it and profits from it. Take the BLM movement. Corporations jumped on the bandwagon finding another bullet point to add to their Multicultural Marketing strategies. BLM is beyond necessary and about time, of course, but look how quickly corporations took up the mantel of political activists: from Coke and Amazon to Walmart and Apple, corporations push the notion that they are really conscientious, nice Inclusive people and are going to restructure internally and hire more Blacks from a pool of 13.4 percent of the US population.
Drowning the Message
Behind the smiling corporate face that supports BLM (and other minority/diversity movements like LGBTQ), lurks the backstabbing bottomline: How to keep Black Identity consumers spending on the products that corporate capitalists produce. Consider this from Neilson: “ When it comes to African-American consumer spending, there are millions, sometimes billions of dollars in revenue at stake,” said Andrew McCaskill, Senior Vice President, Global Communications and Multicultural Marketing, Nielsen. “With 43% of the 75 million Millennials in the US identifying as African American, Hispanic or Asian, if a brand doesn’t have a multicultural strategy, it doesn’t have a growth strategy. The business case for multicultural outreach is clear. African-American consumers, and all diverse consumers, want to see themselves authentically represented in marketing, and they want brands to recognize their value to the bottomline.”
And that was in 2017 before the Black Lives Matter movement kicked off. Even BLM has to resort to capitalist practices to keep afloat: The official BLM store is online and needs consumers to purchase clothing and other items to support the movement.
Liquid Capitalism has drowned out the BLM voice. No one in their right mind can’t support their cause. But like everything else in the US, their message, as broadcast on television or the WWW, is mixed in with a hundred other product sells and it gets watered down. It is tough to keep those media corporations and their advertisers—who determine what news you’ll digest—interested in one subject for too long. News and advertisements—along with Social Justice fare—are repetitively pounded into television viewers heads (and with every click of the user’s mouse) and they eventually become numb to what counts. Just as they shrug their shoulders and say, “My gosh, how awful” as another shooting of a Black man is broadcast or a school shooting takes place, they all forget about it in a few weeks time because liquid capitalism dilutes the message by commodifying and selling it for profit, and ultimately it is washed away Besides, there is always a new “thing” just around the corner that will cause an important movement like BLM to drop out of the news cycle.
It’s the same story with the Covid-19 pandemic. Here is this gem from a marketing firm: “To market to people during this difficult and scary period, to really and cleverly market to them, you must understand their deepest psychological needs. People want what they don’t have, and there are ways of figuring out exactly what it is that they don’t have and how they’d like it served to them—even during a pandemic.”
According to Moises Esteban Guitart, “Liquid modernity [capitalism] provides an explosion of choices. The number of products or options available has increased dramatically: TV channels, telephonic companies, clothes, varieties of foods, retirement pensions, medical care, different computers, gas services, heterogeneity of families, different kinds of jobs, plurality of religions, and so on. However, several researchers have suggested that materialism, extreme consumption as a way of life, could be toxic to subjective wellbeing The consumerist society fosters individualistic identity and is associated with the creation of infinite needs, hedonistic material pleasure, impulsive and hyperactive behavior, dissatisfaction with the "solid life," craving for novelty, concern with appearance, and deteriorating happiness and interpersonal relations.
The individualistic liquid identity syndrome is the negative psychological effect of the consumerist capitalism. Individualistic liquid identity is the product of cultural capitalistic tools (concepts like materialism, artifacts like money, and institutions like markets) that people utilize to define and understand themselves and others and they interiorize explicitly and implicitly. The individualistic liquid identity syndrome affects people that give a high value to money, possessions, autonomy, appearances (physical and social), fame and independence.
The ideologies and institutions of [Liquid] capitalism foster, maintain and encourage a set of values based in materialism, self interest and a selfish, strong desire for financial success and economic growth, hedonism, high levels of consumption and interpersonal styles based on competition. These values and practices often conflict with pursuits such as caring about the broader world, having a close relationships with others, feeling worthy and free, and sharing or solidarity.”
Corporations Say, “A Tribal Nation is More Profitable than a Unified Nation”
Liquid Capitalism is destroying the fabric of the United States. Businesses go where the cash is whether it is an LGBTQ Identity market ($3.7 trillion spending power) or Latino Identity market ($1.7 trillion). Corporations and their politicians in the US Congress are salivating for a time when the USA consists of many Identity Tribes. And they are using artificial intelligence to accelerate that process.
“When we identify ourselves and allow ourselves to be identified, when we tribe up and proclaim the characteristics that are uniform throughout our tribe, we give advertisers and marketers just what they’ve been looking for all these years: groups of conformed individuals to whom they can sell things. The last century proved to marketers and advertisers that they could create products that were geared to be consumed by specific subsets of the population, from fan bases to ethnic groups. The new way to do this is through AI and machine learning algorithms that do more than target individuals who subscribe to group identities—it actually herds us into identities…Advertisers are specifically targeting individuals based on their revealed group identity, and the algorithms that are being designed to help us, to give us the content we want, are driving our choices as much as (if not more than) we are driving them.”
Great! Now Artificial Intelligence and Machine Language is in on the gig.
The fact is there is no escape from Liquid Capitalism. Even leading advocates of Equity in Education/Social Justice are bound by the dictates of capitalism. Take the case of Australia. It has followed US federal, state and local schemes that push the privatization of education. Here in the US, as in Australia, “Schools compete against each other via test scores; public schools are required to fight for limited resources and for the most talented teachers and students; competition [capitalism] has been significantly amplified by the publication of student performance data; competition includes the creation of unforgiving performance cultures, which result in teachers spending more time “working for the numbers” than delivering pastoral care or addressing issues of equity and inclusion; and young people are sandwiched, therefore, into the same cookie-cutter model of excellence that schools must adopt to retain market competitiveness.” ( Note: I have witnessed first hand “working for the numbers” in a public middle school. Students in a virtual class were given A’s across the board even though some did not complete an assignment work or only partially did so. One teacher quipped, “We’ve got to keep them coming back, right?”)
Eliminate False Consciousness? Reeducation
There is no question that Equity in Education and Social Justice require an alteration of American language/thought. This is commonly called Inclusive Language. Who isn’t for that, if it is implemented sensibly?
To get there, the US public and private school systems have become the primary targets of education strategies pushed by Equity/Inclusion and Social Justice Missionaries (capitalists), regulators and politicians, (lobbied by capitalists) and; of course, corporations. Beyond the noble cause they all proclaim, they all have a financial interest, or capitalist incentive, even as they seek to challenge the norms of American education and language that are insensitive to all minority groups. Get em while they are young, as the saying goes.
American educators, with the “Change” Missionaries in the vanguard, claim that they will transform the inequitable language and thought processes used by some 328 million Americans (they are sure to make a lot of money in the process). But to what end, all this? To some advocates, the goal seems to be to lead the charge to force the majority population to acknowledge its sin of “Whiteness and inherent bias” and “White Violence” that has limited minority freedom of movement in American society whether in the athletic, economic, political or cultural spheres. To other advocates it means fighting to maintain LGBTQ rights, or pushing against ageism, and ensuring societal inclusiveness for those with disabilities (to include military veterans). And to others it is remembering the past pernicious segregation of Mexican Americans in Arizona schools.
To put a fine point on it all, all Americans are being subjected to a massive reeducation campaign. It is also mandate from corporate and military America. It’ll work as long as the practice of shaming by some advocates or particular portion of the American populace is removed.
And the flow of Liquid Capitalism makes it all happen.
Corporations and the US military are well into the process of the reeducation effort. Consider Goldman Sachs manual for Inclusive Language. In it, employees are instructed in the proper use of pronouns. “Goldman Sachs has launched an internal campaign centered around gender identity and pronouns, seeking to provide education on what the different types of pronouns are, guidance for the way to use them and offering new avenues for our people to proactively self-identify.”
Over at Lockheed Martin an ALL-INclusive campaign has been underway since 2019: Transforming for Impact program is well underway: “We define inclusion as acknowledging and leveraging diversity by creating an environment where employees feel welcomed, respected, engaged and able to bring their full self to work in order to develop innovative solutions that drive business success.”
Then there is the US Army’s Project Inclusion: “The Army has enacted a range of initiatives, to include training. The training helps to increase deliberate thinking and shift attention from the visual construct and keep the focus on the value that diversity brings…[we are] redacting race, ethnicity, and gender data from both the Officer and Enlisted Record Briefs.”
In the end, the human species is Capitalist to the core. Archeological finds from the city of Uruk in southern Mesopotamia (4000 to 3100 BC) show that some of the first writings in human history were used to document expenses and revenues for “transactions involving grain and sheep.” Independently, Egypt (Old Kingdom 2700-2200 BC) developed its own writing system and used it for similar purposes. If that were not Capitalist enough, trade in obsidian (volcanic black glass used to make tools and weapons) between Bingol in Eastern Anatolia to sites hundreds of kilometers away in Mesopotamia and the Levant took place in 10,000 (BC) by river and overland routes. [Making Civilizations: The World before 600, Harvard, 2020].
And humanity’s original sins of war, slavery and Capitalism are at least that old. Will we ever rid ourselves of them?
John Stanton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org