Reprinted from www.salon.com
The neofascist reaction, the force behind Trump, has come about because of the extreme disembeddedness of the economy from social relations. The neoliberal economy has become pure abstraction; as has the market, as has the state, there is no reality to any of these things the way we have classically understood them. Americans, like people everywhere rising up against neoliberal globalization (in Britain, for example, this takes the form of Brexit, or exit from the European Union), want a return of social relations, or embeddedness, to the economy.
The Trump alliance desires to remake the world in their own image, just as the class representing neoliberal globalization has insisted on doing so. The difference couldn't be starker. Capitalism today is placeless, locationless, nameless, faceless, while Trump is talking about hauling corporations back to where they belong, in their home countries, fix them in place by means of rewards and retribution, like one handles a recalcitrant child.
Trump is a businessman, while Mitt Romney was a businessman too, yet I predict victory for the former while the latter obviously lost miserably. What is the difference? While Trump "builds" things (literal buildings), in places like Manhattan and Atlantic City, places one can recognize and identify with, and while Trump's entire life has been orchestrated around building luxury and ostentatiousness, again things one can tangibly grasp and hold on to (the Trump steaks!), Romney is the personification of a placeless corporation, making his quarter billion dollars from consulting, i.e., representing economic abstraction at its purest, serving as a high priest of the transnational capitalist class.
No one can visualize the boardroom Romney sat in, as head of Bain Capital, but, via The Apprentice, everyone has seen, for more than a decade, what Trump's boardroom looks like, and what it takes to be a "winner" in the real economy. What was that façade behind the collapse of fictitious corporations like Enron in the early 2000s? Trump supposedly pulled the veil off.
In the present election, Hillary Clinton represents precisely the same disembodiedness as Romney, for example because of her association with the Clinton Foundation. Where did the business of the state, while she was secretary of state, stop, and where did the business of global philanthropy (just another name for global business), begin, and who can possibly tell the difference? The maneuverings of the Clinton Foundation, in the popular imagination, are as arcane as the colossal daily transactions on the world's financial exchanges.
Everything about Clinton--and this becomes all the more marked when she takes on the (false) mantle of speaking for the underclass, with whom she bears no mental or physical resemblance--reeks of the easy mobility of the global rentier class. Their efficacy cannot be accounted for, not through the kind of democratic process that is unfolding before our eyes as a remnant of the American founding imagination, her whole sphere of movement is pure abstraction.
In this election, abstraction will clearly lose, and corporeality, even if--or particularly if--gross and vulgar and rising from the repressed, will undoubtedly win. A business tycoon who vigorously inserted himself in the imaginations of the dispossessed as the foremost exponent of birtherism surely cannot be entirely beholden to the polite elites, can he? Trump is capital, but he is not capital, he is of us but also not of us in the way that the working class desires elevation from their rootedness, still strongly identified with place and time, not outside it. After all, he posed the elemental question, Where were you born?
Though he is in fact the libertine (certainly not Clinton, who is libertinism's antithesis), he will be able to tar her with being permissive to an extreme degree--an "enabler," as the current jargon has it, for her husband's proclivities, for example. It has nothing to do with misogyny. It has everything to do with the kind of vocabulary that must substitute for people's real emotions, their fears and desires, in the face of an abstract market that presumes to rule out everything but the "rational" utility-maximizing motive.
For the market to exist, as classical economics would have it, there must be free buyers and sellers, competitive prices, a marketplace that remains fixed and transparent, and none of these elements exist anymore in the neoliberal economy, which seeks to stamp out the last vestiges of resistance in the most forgotten parts of the world. In fact, the market has created--in the ghost towns of the American Midwest, for example--a kind of sub-Saharan desolation, in the heartland of the country, all the better to identify the completeness of its project in the "successful" coastal cities. Trump is a messenger from the most successful of these cities, and his very jet-setting presence, in the middle of empty landscapes, provides an imaginary access point.
Darkness in the human soul is not utility-maximizing, therefore someone has to stand in for the opposite of what the market establishes as the universal solvent, and that someone, in this election, happens to be Hillary Clinton; which makes her unelectable. She will not, in fact, be able to discover, as she hasn't so far, anything like an authentic voice which can prove to the electorate that she is not that dark force the market cannot account for. But note the irony: by discrediting Clinton in this manner, the losers in the global economy are actually articulating yet another form for the decisive articulateness of the market after all!
The population across the board does not see the abstractions of the transnational capitalist class being able to solve a problem like ISIS, which represents a crisis of authority. Wasn't al-Qaeda defeated? Didn't we get Osama bin Laden's head? Then what is this lingering distaste called ISIS? Forms of darkness are easily substitutable, thus Hillary (whose synecdoche is Benghazi, or secret emails) becomes unable to speak the truth, the more she tries.
But"I do not want to claim for a minute that Trump can represent anything other than the further strengthening of neoliberal capitalism, both domestically and globally. He can only represent a further intensification, as would be true of anyone else. The total globalization of the market--our greatest of myths today, the one all-powerful entity to which all, state, civil society, and individual, have completely bent--is unstoppable. The flat earth posited by Tom Friedman in the 1990s will end up erasing all local distinctiveness, the end goal of neoliberalism. While Trump represents the desire for national regeneration--as is true of any neofascist movement--this is not possible in the twenty-first century, because the state as we have known it has ended, as has the market in the conventional understanding.
In the end, Trump cannot take charge, because no one can take charge. Capital today serves nothing other than capital itself. In the current post-democratic, post-"capitalism" era, the myths of regeneration propounded by Trump serve as convenient fictions, as capital well knows, and is therefore little disturbed by.
Nonetheless, Trump has brought to the surface the leftover mobs of American society, the residual unemployable, the "losers" constituting perhaps a third of society, who were never acknowledged as such during the past many cycles of political ups and downs, but who are now forcing the successful two-thirds to face up to the fictions of the market.