Acid Corbynism: Jeremy Gilbert on how counterculture can revive politics
It's fascinating to see areas of fluidity and boundary-crossing opening up in the "2%" of party politics. Take for example this piece on "Acid Corbynism", from one of the most stimulating thinkers on the Labour left, Jeremy Gilbert.
Gilbert thinks there is potential in the Corbyn moment for a reconnection - that is, between an anti-capitalist politics, and some of the psychologically and spiritually radical practices of the sixties and seventies counterculture.
He usefully uses the Michel Foucault idea of "technologies of the self". These are methods, techniques and substances that can be applied to yourself, aimed at "raising consciousness" - or at least, getting some distance from the scripts of our working and consuming lives, not just reacting to them unconsciously.
Two of the organisations A/UK closely associated with is AlterEgo and Perspectiva - who are also trying to make the internal world, and the study of consciousness, a new basis for politics and social action.
Signs, at least, that the pressure from a society which years for a completely different language of politics is beginning (but only beginning) to impact political-parties-as-usual.
An excerpt from Gilbert's piece:
[Some commentators claim that] the utopianism of the counterculture apparently led directly to the banal individualism of ‘new age’ and late 20th-century narcissistic consumerism. I have always argued that those outcomes must be seen as distortions of the radical potential of the counterculture, which had had to be neutralised and captured by a capitalist culture that found itself under genuine threat from radical forces in the early 1970s.
From this perspective, techniques of self-transformation like yoga, meditation or even psychedelic drugs, in theory, might have some kind of radical potential if they are connected to a wider culture of questioning capitalist culture and organising politically against it. By the same token, they can easily become banal distractions, ways of enabling individuals to tolerate every-intensifying levels of exploitation and alienation.
These ‘technologies of the self’, to use Michel Foucault’s term, have no inherent political meaning. From a progressive political perspective the question is whether, and if so how, they can be used to challenge entrenched assumptions of capitalist culture, enabling people to overcome their individualism in order to create potent and creative collectivities.