Lefty Bookstores in Olympia, WA
it's a different world out there
We were to Olympia this week to view the sunflower festival south of town.
After messing around with the sunflowers we headed back to the decaying old downtown of Olympia, and visited two lefty bookstores: Last Word Books and Press on 4th Ave, and Browsers Bookshop on Capitol Way.
I suppose in a way that nothing has changed since Marx. Our lefty friends all seem to live in anticipation of a world after work. The sufferings of oppressed peoples are all about their oppression and not about the arc of life from birth to growth to work to bringing forth new life and somehow putting food on the table to make it happen.
I browsed in one interesting title, Postcapitalist Desire by Mark Fisher. As reviewer James Hendrick Elsey put it:
'Postcapitalist Desire' offers glimpses of what types of human life could exist in a world free from capital… [taking] into account that the political and economic are downstream of desire. This poses the question of how a postcapitalist economy could ever be successful without an understanding of why people want things in the first place.
Earth to lefties: in a “world after work” we humans would dissolve into the muck. Our humanness is precisely the post-Garden of Eden reality of having to work to make our bread. If, in some techno-topia there was no need for work, there would still be the need to maintain the technology and the tech-production and organize humans to do it.
And there is still the little question of the State.
In The Dawn of Everything David Graeber and David Wengrow happily talk about egalitarian societies in pre-western America. But egalitarian societies, Francis Fukuyama tells us, are only possible in a non-state society, where the tribal leader does not have the power to compel his fellow humans. If there is a disagreement he must negotiate with his opponents rather than indict them for insurrection.
In lefty visions, the uncomfortable fact of the State, at least from Marx onwards, is not really analyzed. But, of course, the State and its compulsion is exactly the point. We can imagine a world when work is no longer needed, but people will still be doing stuff. Whatbout men for whom there is nothing quite like hunting alligators? I have the impression, although I could be wrong, that our lefty friends don’t approve of hunting. So how do we resolve the problem that, in the “postcapitalist economy” some people will have the “desire” to hunt alligators.
I get the feeling that all the lefties are thinking about is all the cool stuff lefties will “desire” to do when they don’t have to work. Because then they will be free to “create.”
We all of us, we humans, descant endlessly on all the cool things we would do, if only we could. We all tend to forget that most of life is just cleaning up messes, starting with dirty diapers.
Anyway, I did get a copy of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman. I just feel I ought to be able to understand what that unhappy woman thought and felt beck in 1792.