David Auerbach in The American Reader [h/t: Marco Roth]:
We live in an age where the most “radical” book of economics to make a splash, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, explicitly distances itself from Marxism on numerous occasions, and ends by calling only for a modest wealth tax . We live in an age where the Occupy movement, despite its sometimes radical appearance, orients itself around such conventionally liberal reforms as the campaign for a living wage, prosecution of criminal bankers and tougher financial laws (e.g., “Occupy the SEC”), and exhibits a polite antagonism toward the one percent of plutocrats. The radical left’s best-known contemporary thinker, Slavoj Žižek, is treated as more of a clown than an ally by what should be his ideological homebase. (“His strategic notions,” writes Ben Kunkel in the leftist New Statesman, “are various and incompatible,” while Marxist critic Terry Eagleton deems Žižek “outrageously irresponsible.”)
One might think that the radical, anti-liberal left is just bitter that they have been pushed off the edge of the spectrum of political discourse and relegated to ever-shrinking university departments and a handful of sympathetic periodicals. The story, however, is more complicated than that—and its complications have profound relevance to the frustrations and peculiarities of the current Western political landscape. The burgeoning anti-oppression movement is concerned primarily with manifestations of false consciousness, and their diagnoses consequently center not on the overtly reactionary forces of society, but on those claiming to be liberal and progressive. Yet what does it mean to be focused on “racism without racists” when racists are hardly an extinct breed? What led to this focus, and what does it mean to the future of leftism? Classifying leftist ideology in a framework of agency and trust, I find a buried contradiction at the heart of anti-oppressive activism, one in which practitioners pathologically self-position themselves in a space of chronic moral jeopardy.
Leftist Concepts: Trust (x) vs. Agency (y)
The x-axis is the Axis of Trust, with a positive Solidarity Pole and a negative Suspicion Pole. The y-axis is the Axis of Agency, with a positive Ethical Pole and a negative Structural Pole. The labels on the graph above designate leftist positions. Some of these positions are concepts or ideologies, while others are movements or organizations. In both cases, however, their positions on the graph are a consequence of the practical implications of people who hold a particular ideology, subscribe to the validity of a particular concept or belong to a particular movement.