September 10, 2005

Getting rid of the poor


All the justified furore about the power elite using Katrina as a cover under which they can 'get rid of the poor' from New Orleans should be nuanced. We need to understand the way in which the desire to 'get rid of the poor' is a garbled utopian impulse which exposes one of capitalism's fundamental fantasies.

Why is it that the desire to eliminate poverty - which, presumably, we all share - inevitably becomes a desire to eliminate the poor? It is because, in capitalist ideology, poverty has to be thought of as an ethnic, rather than a social or economic, trait. The poor are those who are genetically destined to fail, those who lack 'middle-class skills' as the Herald and Tribune put it the other day (middle class skills here does not mean the skills possessed by middle class people, but the skill of being middle class). Populocide (or ethnocide) replaces socio-economic overhaul.

But this desire to eliminate the poor is also disingenuous in another way. The poor cannot be eliminated under capitalism - only airbrushed out of the picture, moved somewhere else. Naturally, however, this can never be admitted, since to do so would be to give up the fantasy that poverty is a contingent feature of capitalist societies rather than a structural requirement.


UPDATE: response by Lenin.

Posted by mark at September 10, 2005 04:34 PM | TrackBack