David Graeber: The “Yellow Vests” Show How Much the Ground Moves Under Our Feet

If one feature of any truly revolutionary moment is the complete failure of conventional categories to describe what’s happening around us, then that’s a pretty good sign we’re living in revolutionary times.

It strikes me that the profound confusion, even incredulity, displayed by the French commentariat—and even more, the world commentariat—in the face of each successive “Acte” of the Gilets Jaunes drama, now rapidly approaching its insurrectionary climax, is a result of a near total inability to take account of the ways that power, labour, and the movements ranged against power, have changed over the last 50 years, and particularly, since 2008. Intellectuals have for the most part done an extremely poor job understanding these changes.

Let me begin by offering two suggestions as to the source of some of the confusion:

1. in a financialised economy, only those closest to the means of money-creation (essentially, investors and the professional-managerial classes) are in a position to employ the language of universalism. As a result, any political claims as based in particular needs and interests, tended to be treated as manifestation of identity politics, and in the case of the social base of the GJ, therefore, cannot be imagined it as anything but proto-fascist.

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