28 – We Have Never Been Neoliberal, What Now?

In this episode, co-hosts Natalie Smith and Maxximilian Seijo argue that the pandemic not only killed neoliberalism as a tacit ideological formation; it also revealed how neoliberal truisms have never captured the actual causal mechanisms and potentials that defined the past 50 years. Fleshing out these claims, Naty and Maxx journey through the work of rockstar economic historian Adam Tooze, focusing in particular on his widely-hailed recent book, Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy (2021). Naty and Maxx affirm Tooze’s characteristically thorough demonstration of the myriad ways that the world-wide response to the pandemic, however inadequate, dismantled the pillars of neoliberal governance. Yet they also critique the elitist complicity of Tooze’s methodological commitment to historical immanence and inevitability, tracing such impulses to back to John Maynard Keynes’ fatal dismissal of Abba Lerner’s proposal to do away with balanced budgets and revenue-constraints. For the Superstructure crew, by contrast, proceeding “in medias res,” as Tooze puts it, requires an abolitionist attunement to genuine conditions of injustice and possibility, from #Defund and ongoing labor strikes to contests over #MintTheCoin and the Green New Deal. During the conversation, wisecracks and burns abound, per usual. This one, too, is packed with citations, including loving shoutouts to David Stein, Jakob Feinig, Mariame Kaba, Dan Berger, Emily Hobson, Alex Yablon, Nathan Tankus, and Rohan Grey.

Link to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure

Music: “Yum” from “This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” EP by flirting.
Twitter: @actualflirting


We are thrilled to present the very first Superstructure episode rereleased with a brand new transcript, brought to you by the generous effort of friend-of-the-show, Mike Lewis.

Framed by a cold open from Chapo Trap House’s recent Bernie retrospective, hosts Will Beaman and Maxximilian Seijo inaugurate the Superstructure podcast with a discussion of the failures of a reified left wing imagination. To chart a path forward for an MMT-informed leftist praxis, they critique reductive castigations of spectacle, damaging affirmations of scarcity and zero-sum politics as well as a burgeoning ‘anti-woke’ left-right coalition.

Transcript: Mike Lewis

Link to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure

Music: “Yum” from “This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” EP by flirting.
Twitter: @actualflirting

Superstructure: Critique After Bernie Transcript

Amber A’Lee Frost  00:00

You’re trying to convince people that the media is just a bunch of fucking spectacle and to ignore and not let them psych you out.

Will Menaker  00:08

Well, I mean, but that didn’t happen. And it didn’t happen here either.

Amber A’Lee Frost  00:10

No it didn’t happen. But it didn’t happen here either. But you know what, that’s going to have to be the thing that we do. Like, sorry it didn’t happen last time. Sorry it didn’t happen this time. But that’s the thing. Yes, it didn’t work that time. It didn’t work this other time. But that is the challenge. It’s going to be hard. And we’re not going to succeed at it most of the time. But, you keep doing it.

Will Menaker  00:27

Oh, the question I just have is, who are we talking to? Are we talking to like—and let’s talk about America specifically—clearly, an absolute majority of Democratic primary voters, the people who vote in democratic primaries, if they didn’t believe what the mainstream media was saying about Bernie, they took the message from it that he was unelectable. In either way, he was not an option for them no matter what he said. And then there’s the other group of people who we were hoping to get; the people who are not taking their cues from the media, either by believing what they say or taking their attitude toward Sanders as, like an indication of his viability. And not enough of them were reached to be mobilized to vote for him. So where? Because your rhetorical attitude is going to be different depending on which group of people you’re talking to.

Amber A’Lee Frost  01:23

Yeah, obviously. But…

Will Menaker  01:26

So I guess the question is which one, which group of people is the one that maybe in retrospect, should have been addressed more explicitly with a specific message? Or in the future should be?

Amber A’Lee Frost  01:38

I think the latter, just because, and I’m not saying this is a moral position, just because I think they’re the bigger group of people.

Will Menaker  01:45

Right, but we’ve seen that even though they’re a bigger group, they are harder to reach.

Amber A’Lee Frost  01:48

Well, we’re trying for a harder task.

Will Menaker  01:51


Amber A’Lee Frost  01:51

We’re doing something hard.

Will Menaker  01:53


Amber A’Lee Frost  01:53

No one wants to hear that. Like, you’re going to fail like nine times out of ten. Because this is very hard.

Will Menaker  01:57

People do want to have…they need some sort of I mean…Yeah, they might know they’re gonna fail, but they need to know that they could win.

Amber A’Lee Frost  02:03

Well, I’m telling you: we can win.

Will Menaker  02:07

Alright, but I guess … how do you get to the people who have decided that politics is not real for a good reason? Who saw the Sanders campaign and were completely unmoved by any part of it.

Amber A’Lee Frost  02:21

I don’t have like that kind of alchemy.

Maxx Seijo  02:27

Will, what did we just listen to?

Will Beaman  02:31

So that was Chapo Trap House reflecting on Bernie dropping out of the race.

Maxx Seijo  02:37

“Reflecting” might not be the right word.

Will Beaman  02:39

Basically, reiterating everything that they believed before the race is probably a little bit more accurate. This stood out to me as a kind of paradigmatic example of what a lot of the reactions from Marxist left that I’ve been seeing have been. It’s just they disagree, but there is consensus on a kind of a hopelessness, and Amber just kind of takes a different, you know, attitude towards that, which is basically that leftists need to just toughen up and keep going.

Maxx Seijo  02:57

It’s interesting, because I think what you said just there sort of crystallizes, you know, pun intended, perhaps crystallizes the why we’re talking to each other right now, which is that it seems like the guiding response to Bernie’s loss, you know, if we can call it that, has been hopelessness and a real inability to articulate a theoretical and political path forward for the left in the US that isn’t a sort of retrenchment or reduction of its scale and aspirations.

Will Beaman  03:54


Maxx Seijo  03:54

And on Superstructure, you know, which, I suppose we could take a bit to explain the title as well. We reject that vision, and we think that it’s one which, because politics never stops, it’s one which will actually condition and produce a set of outcomes that are radical but quite destructive.

Will Beaman  04:22

Right. The name Superstructure: it’s something that for Marxists, I think, probably immediately sounds like a huge self-own, but that’s kind of why we’re doing it because I feel like what’s guiding this response is the idea that ideas are the problem, or they’re a distraction. And the media is basically it’s a distraction that you need to ignore. Yeah, right. And everything that isn’t a grind basically is a spectacle. And this is actually something that goes pretty deep into the core of Marxism, which really is this skepticism of ideas, of thought, of communication, of everything that is not this sort of class struggle by sheer numbers and force that there’s no way around it except, you know, having exponentially increasing our, you know, number of people that we have phone banking and things like that. And, you know, none of those things are wrong or bad to do necessarily, but it does create this reaction to what I think should be looked at as an ideological loss, as well as a literal loss. It creates a reaction to it that’s sort of like, well, that was our one chance after these 30 year cycles where the left gets a chance to win, basically, by doing the same thing. And if there are lessons that they want to take away from it, they’re are going to be you know, kind of slight adjustments. No new theory creation is on the table. And Maxx, you and I come from, you know, different backgrounds a little bit, but we’re in the same milieu which is, you know, Modern Monetary Theory. And basically the idea that this is a new paradigm that actually opens up a lot of new, a lot of new political opportunities that we wouldn’t see before.

Maxx Seijo  06:28

The spectacle. Another way of putting it is it opens the left to alchemy, right? It opens the left to a sort of magical thinking, but I don’t use that in its reductive, like negative terms. I think it opens the left to the possibility of creating things out of thin air, which is what money, right, is and it’s a political creation throughout. And so yeah, it’s interesting to hear and to have so clearly encapsulated in the discussions around Bernie’s loss, this sort of, “well, you know, we’re gonna lose, and we’re gonna lose most of the time. But we need to ignore the spectacle, and we need to keep…”

Will Beaman  07:17


Maxx Seijo  07:17

I mean, it’s essentially, I mean, it deconstructs itself, right? The reason why we lose is because we ignore the spectacle. We’re trying to reject alchemy, and if we think of it along those terms, and if we think about, you know, the ability to actually exert political power over the spectacle, and to actually reject the very concept of the spectacle in the first place, which is what I mean, we could easily call this podcast The Spectacle as well as, you know, rather than Superstructure, which is to say…

Will Beaman  08:00

Maybe we should, we haven’t released this yet. Yeah.

Maxx Seijo  08:03

Which is to say, ultimately, that the new paradigm has to be, we have to be immanent, right? And I’m normally someone who in my work, in my thinking, rejects philosophical immanence. But, the left lacks a real immanence to the spectacle, and to the “superstructure” is that it assumes the solutions, this sort of utopian aspirations, or even just pragmatic aspirations of a left political project, is about getting outside of money, getting outside of the social relations that we all share and participate in on a daily level. We have to just ignore the media. We have to, you know, we have to ignore all that stuff and go to the place where power rises from, right? And this is, like, on the other end, a sort of critique of this sort of philosophical category of immanence, which would posit that they’re reducing it down, the source of being as such is not just the material, but it sort of reduces down to this sort of fundamental level with which power rises up, right?

Will Beaman  09:30


Maxx Seijo  09:30

Ground up. And everything else on top is pure domination. It’s bile politics. It’s all these things, and we can talk more about that at length, but I think it’s important to frame what we see this podcast being as an intervention into the realm of praxis and what a left political praxis means for the aesthetic level, at the economic level, at the level of struggle to say that we ignore our leverage, and the capacity to build just, inclusive structures, social structures at our own peril, because we can’t ultimately get outside of them. Right? I mean, that’s the sort of the lamenting history of critical theory is, we can’t get outside them, so we have to work through them. And it’s one thing to pay homage to, well, we can try to work through them, or to set up these like binaries of electoralism versus immediate class struggle, but ultimately, electoralism, or a media class struggle. It’s all political. And it’s all inside the structures of society as such, and so strategically, we have to work with ideas, and we have to work with material struggle. They have to be linked and strategically leveraged. And so what Chapo and the sort of ChapoJacobin-left lens has done is set up this imagination that Bernie was it because Bernie leveraged our only theoretical apparatus to its nth degree, and it failed.

Will Beaman  11:39


Maxx Seijo  11:39

What is there to do now?

Will Beaman  11:40

Yeah, and the failure, basically, it takes the form of, you know, like a sand castle getting knocked over or something, you know? Like it, it really is, like, we have to start all over, you know, with this kind of building this like Katamari ball of working class power, that the reason that, you know, they use visuals, like, you know, “Rising” and, you know, “bottom up” and these things is because there are appeals to, you know, to physics and things that don’t involve ideas.

Maxx Seijo  12:12


Will Beaman  12:13

You know, ideas, the reason that they think ideas are spectacle is because they believe that power, essentially, is totally immanent, and the ideas are secondary, you know, like, whoever’s the biggest guy on the block is gonna get to decide what all the ideas are, and then we’re all going to be kind of consuming them or something. But until we kind of, you know, take over through this mindless and demoralizing thing that we try again every three decades when there’s an opening.

Maxx Seijo  12:36

Yeah yeah. Yeah, yeah. And I think it’s also important to say, like, we’re not Hegelians. We’re not trying to retrench and say, well, ya know, we reject materialism and blah, blah, blah…I think another way to put this, which is to say that, if Marx wanted to keep the dialectic, and essentially keep the idea of universal particularity, what we’re trying to do is to take what materialism is, and sync with how the material and the idea, constitute and mutually constitute one another. Which is sort of in the spirit of Marx, right? It’s in the spirit of Marx, but it’s important to say that, fundamentally speaking, there’s a anti teleological core to this project that we share, and obviously, we’re not in any way the sort of origins of this. But there’s some…

Will Beaman  13:58

Yeah, and by anti teleological, you mean that we’re against the idea of a predestined path that we’re on a gravitational drift toward.

Maxx Seijo  14:10

That’s right, right?

Will Beaman  14:11

And a way that erases the kind of conscious world-making that we do through, you know, not literally just through coming up with ideas, anybody can come up with an idea, but it is nevertheless ideas that tell people what, ideas that condition what people believe is materially possible.

Maxx Seijo  14:32


Will Beaman  14:32

And so the ideas are organizing the material world. Ideas in a certain sense, you know, once they’re established and become going concerns that are, you know, reproduced along with the rest of society, you have something where, what Marxists believe is the superstructure: this kind of passive reflection of our material circumstances. You know, some of those things should constitute the base, as well. The superstructure is the base. I guess is another way of putting it.

Maxx Seijo  15:08

The superstructure is the base and you know, unless we realize that and invert that structure. I mean, and again, we’re being perhaps a bit cheekily immanent here. We might even reject binary as such, but until we leverage political agency through an ideological formation as a process of political creation on all fronts, right? On all fronts. We won’t have a cohesive and universal project. Right? I mean, that’s been the left’s fracturing problem since the beginning. But I think we’ve opined on this enough, and, you know, it could be useful then to go into a few examples of how this sort of idea is manifesting that this one that we’re critiquing that is sort of encapsulated in that Chapo clip throughout other facets of the sort of dominant left media structure.

Will Beaman  16:18

Yeah. So part of what I wanted to do is survey the landscape a little bit, just because it seems like we’re at a breaking point now where they feel like “okay, the left have lost, we need to look around ourselves materially and see, you know, who’s there that we can build a coalition with.” You know, being real politic and pragmatic, and all of that kind of thing. And what you end up with basically is well, it’s all the Trump people, right? Like, it’s, you know, and maybe not literally diehard MAGA people, but there is an idea that to the extent that it’s successful to rail against identity politics and “wokeness”, then that’s something that the left should do if it wants to be relevant, because that’s just kind of how everybody is thinking already. And I don’t think that there’s really a better example of that right now. The most advanced case of this sickness I guess, I would say is Rising, the show on Youtube from The Hill TV; seems to have tapped into a lot of like The Young Turks audience, some Bernie people, some conservatives, but mostly it’s like a Crossfire-esque show that has a “left wing populist” and “right wing populist” debating for a mostly pro-Bernie audience that is basically being warmed up to the idea that the real, necessary discourse in order for the left to have any power is going to be debating in good faith with “right wing populism.”

Maxx Seijo  18:02

Who hosts that show again?

Will Beaman  18:04

So Krystal Ball is a former MSNBC person. She is the left populist, the right populist is Saagar Enjeti who is a former Daily Caller person. The Daily Caller is the media outlet that Tucker Carlson founded. They’ve had a couple of official crossovers with Tucker Carlson now where Krystal will go on Tucker’s show and kind of do like, you know, “I’m just at my wit’s end with the bad parts of the left.” And then they’ll you know, kind of commiserate on, you know, the anti identity politics or hating corporate democrats or something like that. And, yeah, I mean, it’s just, you know, you can hear the basic structure of what Saagar says, a lot representing right wing populism, you know, is this sort of idea of economics being about trade-offs, and that mapping onto something like immigration where you can’t let migrants into the country because they’ll drive down wages and harm the working class. And then of course, there’s a long history of leftist kind of flirtations with this sort of idea.

Maxx Seijo  19:28

It’s important to say that Bernie is not outside of this, right? Bernie is also culpable on these terms, too.

Will Beaman  19:33

Yeah right, completely. Yeah, he said open borders was a Koch brothers proposal, you know, blah, blah, blah. And to the extent that Bernie is better on it, it’s because he stakes the entire claim that it’s possible to have open or almost open borders during times when it is possible, because we’re just doing so well economically that it’s not going to be like, you know, a big loss for us. So Jacobin had a review of their show, which I think just kind of encapsulates what I’m concerned the kind of institutional left’s reaction is going to be to these kind of flirtations with with Red-Brownism. So he, the reviewer talks first about Krystal, you know, then about Saagar. He had nothing but good things to say about Krystal. And then Saagar, he says: “Repeatedly [Saagar] warns us that the ‘electoral failure of the American left will be economic progressives kowtowing to woke identitarians.’ I agree with him — but what’s maybe more important is that I agree because (like Saagar, I suspect) I want the Left to win. Is Enjeti a secret Bernie-bro receiving late-night directives from Jeff Weaver in undisclosed DC parking garages?” You know, and then goes, “I think not” but you can’t figure out why this guy who keeps you know, sprinkling in that he’s a Republican who used to work for Tucker Carlson is sounding a lot like a Marxist to him. And it’s, it’s bad. And then later in the review, he says, talking about Krystal Ball again, and the consensus between them: “Ball’s arms-length relationship with “socialism” might have something to do with one area where she and Saagar agree most — not on markets nor the role of government, but on the invidiousness of identity politics. Unlike many millennial left wingers…” Notice the word ‘millennial’ is always used as a modifier…

Maxx Seijo  20:41


Will Beaman  20:52

… to go by that, you know, these are university students. Yeah, their children, basically, they’re superstructure. “Ball is completely uninterested in identitarian pandering. She loathes it. And part of Rising’s successful formula is that the hosts reject the “woke” culture-war approach to politics that so many on the…” oh god…”is that so many on the young, hip Brooklyn-by-Oakland left mistake for politics.”

Maxx Seijo  22:06

Brooklyn-by-Oakland is one of the most heinous…Ughhhh

Will Beaman  22:09

Yeah, I mean, it’s brutal. It’s also just really funny whenever Jacobin, you know, kind of does. It’s just you can just feel the self-loathing.

Maxx Seijo  22:19

Yeah the Cosmopolitan. We are the Cosmopolitan elites. Like, that’s the ooo…yikes.

Will Beaman  22:24

Yeah, we have to check ourselves that we’re not, that our globalist roots aren’t gonna betray the working class.

Maxx Seijo  22:32

It’s so funny, because this actually reminds me and it’s something that the left spent so long making fun of is this, like, this really reminds me of the sort of JD Vance kind of Hillbilly Elegy in reverse, right? So after 2016, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party really thought, “Oh, well, we haven’t been listening to these, you know, these white working class voters in Pennsylvania and in Michigan, and in Ohio, and we have to go on the ground. And we have to give them a voice.” Right? “We have to look at them with nuance, and really take into consideration why they hate Black and brown people so much.” And, you know, obviously like this is all not to say that we shouldn’t take everyone into consideration, and that symptoms and racism isn’t filtered through an entire social structure of scarcity and ideology that can be addressed at its roots. Right? Which is not–that’s not what that is. It’s about naturalizing and reifying the ideological and economic “realities” that a left political movement has to address.

Will Beaman  23:18


Maxx Seijo  23:53

And to say that “Oh, okay, the Brooklyn and Oakland, left woke identity…”

Will Beaman  24:02


Maxx Seijo  24:03

Brooklyn-by-Oakland – excuse me for not paying homage to the literary sophistication. The Brooklyn-by-Oakland elite, the Brooklyn-by-Oakland sort of woke identitarian left needs to take a backseat like I don’t know, I mean, it’s one of those things that as you’re suggesting, if The Daily Caller and Jacobin are agreeing, and if you really can’t see why that’s a problem, I really, that’s a bad sign. And it comes down to this question of the spectacle and ignoring the superstructure and ignoring identity politics, and the alchemy associated with a non-class base, reductively class-based vision, what dependence and what inclusion and what a sort of unified or universalist lens brings. Because the moment we start reducing to class, we start excluding.

Will Beaman  25:19

Right, and they have a way that they talk about identity itself, even though they believe that identity is bullshit, they also seem to believe that it is scarce and that you need to protect the identities of everybody that you need in order to win. And therefore, you know, you shouldn’t alienate them with woke identity politics, and, you know, blah, blah, blah. And, of course, it all comes back to, you know, denying the ability to just like, they deny that you can create money and give it to people to you know, build something new, they, they similarly deny that you can paint a new picture of the world that includes everybody, you know, and there’s a connection, you know, between the fact that they think that, that the world and everything in our lives is a scarce thing that we’re fighting over. And that therefore we all need to make make sacrifices for each other’s interests, which are opposed to each other. But ideally, you know, there’s like some kind of a happy medium that we could find. And the idea that politics itself is just kind of redistribution through either, you know, the dispersion between wages and salaries at the point of production, or through taxation, basically. There’s just no discussion on the left about building a new world, it’s just fighting over the world that has already been created solely on the terms of people who had no intention of including everyone.

Maxx Seijo  27:02

Yeah, it’s such a great lens to think through it. I mean, one gets this sense that, like, the majority of the last sort of five years of US politics has been a debate over whether we should be taxing whiteness, to pay for, you know, a space for Blackness, or taxing Blackness to pay for a space for whiteness. And, obviously, we need to shatter that entire structure. And I think, you know, something that probably is going to come up on this show, as we move on more is gender and the question of, really the malleability of identity forms, and how that actually can be mapped back on to economic formulations, in a non-zero sum way. And I don’t want to get too far ahead, but that’s just a sort of signpost for listeners to think about what we can expect on this show. And I think now would perhaps be a good time to move to another example of this sort of thinking.

Will Beaman  28:07

Yeah, so it’s not even just the Marxist left. I mean, don’t get me wrong, like it is the Marxist left. You know, you have other podcasts like Red Scare, you know, that just had Steve Bannon on. You know, things like that, but even among people who are, you know, interested in fiscal policy as something that’s constructive, and not just redistributive, it’s, you still get this refrain that is basically this kind of the same sound finance logic, you know, that they’re applying to just culture and identity instead. So I wanted to read something from a really big Twitter thread that Thomas Fazi had a couple of months ago now. I think this was right after the big labor wipe out when, you know, kind of similar to what’s happening in the US, you know, what was happening there is you have basically a bunch of Marxists who had kind of dug their heels in on defending zero sum terms. And actually, before I even get into Thomas Fazi, I guess I should set it up with an article that James Medway wrote. James is a policy adviser to John McDonnell.

Maxx Seijo  29:29

Former policy adviser John McDonnell.

Will Beaman  29:31

Former policy adviser

Maxx Seijo  29:32

Shadow Chancellor for Corbyn’s opposition.

Will Beaman  29:36

Right. Yeah, and so I won’t read the whole thing, but there is a section that starts literally with “the economy is a zero sum game.” “The economy is a zero sum game. This is the starting point. Understanding this was critical to the success of the 2017 Manifesto. Failing to understand it was critical to the failure of 2019. The economy has grown weekly since 2008. Real wages have not, and public services have disintegrated. An economy that behaves like this in which some people get richer, but most very visibly not, is one in which the broad promise of growth is broken down. Many people perceive the economy to be, broadly speaking, a racket in which a minority at the top are doing well at the expense of others. And they are broadly speaking, correct.” So we have growth in this finite world, but for some reason, we’re getting all this economic growth, and we’re still, you know, just producing this shit world. So what he then gets to is where we would just be like, okay, well, maybe we should talk about growth differently in a way that’s, you know, inclusive, he says, “To see the economy like this is to see it as a zero-sum game whose brutal logic is this: I can only do better if somebody else does worse. If I want to be better off, someone else must be worse off. The political logic that follows from this is equally simple: to talk about winners, you first have to talk about losers. You will get a license to describe the new world you want to build if you first describe, to be blunt, how it will be paid for.” Which is basically like, you know, you only get to talk about the new world that you want to see if you put as a disclaimer that we’re really just moving things around in the old world and not building anything new.

Maxx Seijo  31:30

And it’s so just mind bogglingly, like, upsetting about this is the fact that this is how Nancy Pelosi views the world.

Will Beaman  31:39


Maxx Seijo  31:40

This is the Nancy Pelosi vision of the world. That’s why you need PAYGO. Right? I mean, it’s so interesting to think about it in these terms. Because how do you then go to an electorate and say: we want to, for example, build houses for the homeless, and just do that, and give people who are “rough sleepers”, as it’s called in the UK, a place, a space to live.

Will Beaman  32:24

Yeah, in order to talk about that, you have to first say whose space you’re taking away.

Maxx Seijo  32:29

Exactly, right?

Will Beaman  32:29

So you have to tie the existence of homeless people to parasitism.

Maxx Seijo  32:36


Will Beaman  32:37

The non-existence of someone else.

Maxx Seijo  32:39

And we have the space!

Will Beaman  32:40


Maxx Seijo  32:41

We have the space! I mean, isn’t that obvious? And so, it’s one of those, you know, I mean, I think there’s gonna be a sort of theme, which is just: I am angry. I am angry about the world and about these naturalizations of scarcity, and that’s gonna come out because you know, what? The left, you know, sure, the right, they’re reactionary, they’re racist, they’d much rather kill half the earth than cede any ground and have to be defeated. But the left is reifying that worldview. And that is deeply, deeply upsetting for anyone who believes any sense of universal justice and universal inclusion.

Will Beaman  33:30


Maxx Seijo  33:31

And it’s one of those things that played out in the Labour election, and, you know, there’s a way in which, to be nuanced about it, it’s sort of understandable, you know. You tell a precarious polity that someone has to lose. Someone has to lose. Of course, they’re going to think that it’s them. Right? And these are people like, and that’s not to say that the polity as such, are this sort of middle class, white cosmopolitans, right? I think we even saw this playing out in Biden’s popularity in the South, and I’d be interested to bring on more perspectives on this, but there’s a lot to lose. Even for people who are marginalized, people have a lot to lose, and to tell them that we can’t do anything better, unless we lose.   

Will Beaman  34:29

Right. Or that you’re not really going to lose because there’s this global financial elite that actually has all of the money. It’s very easy then for that to, you know, obviously it begs the question of why aren’t we retrenching into nationalism, and national identity?

Maxx Seijo  34:47


Will Beaman  34:48

If the core of all people can more or less be okay, which is what the left is basically arguing, then, we’re supposed to still be giving things up to external actors? Like the whole thing is, yeah, and it just paves the way for people to critique the Meadway position on the ground, basically correctly pointing out that it’s weak.

Maxx Seijo  35:20


Will Beaman  35:21

But in a way that affirms some sense of expansion, but only on the terms of the Nation. And one big example of this that we saw is this guy, Thomas Fazi, who is, you know, a prominent MMT-adjacent person. I think he would definitely identify himself as MMT, but we want to be clear that there’s a distinction that we’re drawing here which is basically: if you accept that money is boundless and abstractly mediated creation of society is boundless, then you can’t keep talking about everybody’s place in the world, as if it’s not also, you know, like that also turns on whether or not we’re choosing to use our boundless potential to give everybody space in the world. And Fazi is a really good example of somebody who, you know, kind of mobilizes the rhetoric of, you know, the government could just deficit spend, but we’ve had that ability taken from us by the EU, which is, of course, true, in a sense. But the narrative that comes out of it, basically, is that we’ve been alienated from our own sovereignty by the global elite, and what we need to do is unlock the power of the nation-state, but realize, then—and this was kind of his sleight of hand—realize then that the nation-state is dependent on a culturally-fixed subject, if that makes sense.

Maxx Seijo  37:16

And territorialized, as well.

Will Beaman  37:17

Right. Yeah. So in this Twitter thread, he says, “The woke left likes to vilify the nation-state, but all the major social, economic and political advancements of the past centuries were achieved through the institutions of the democratic nation-state, not through international, multilateral or supranational institutions.” Which, you know, I mean, there’s, I’m pretty sure I can think of some examples of internationalist movements and internationally-coordinated.

Maxx Seijo  37:48

No, no, no: we’re just gonna, we’ll pass right through that one.

Will Beaman  37:52

Yeah, actually, let’s just skip over that counterfactual. “Furthermore, modern concepts of “natural identity” of national identity…” You see a little Freudian slip, there.

Maxx Seijo  38:04


Will Beaman  38:05

“…are incredibly ‘progressive,’ based as they are on transcending individual particularities – sex, race, biology, religion, etc. – to create cultural-political identities based on participation, equality, citizenship, representation.” I just I love how kind of paradoxical this little line is, you know, that we’re transcending individual particularities in order to create a universalism that’s exclusive.

Maxx Seijo  38:35

Yeah, well, it’s just yeah, it’s an individual identity-particular social relation. That’s what the nation is. You critique a internationalist vision that seeks to sort of take these given forms, which are ambivalent these nation-states, and sort of create some sort of universalist project in order to transcend them in order to just round down that same logic as a mode of justifying the exclusion which you ultimately want to conduct. And it’s so funny to me, and this also comes back down to the sort of Meadway, like, essentially he’s teeing up fascism here.

Will Beaman  39:22


Maxx Seijo  39:23

Which is to say that you’re not going to out-exclude the right. You’re not going to out-scarcity the right. I’m sorry.

Will Beaman  39:34

Right. Because they’re the ones who believe in Manifest Destiny and believe that you should take maximally in a zero sum situation. So of course they’re going to be the ones who are making a more compelling vision than your fully-costed.

Maxx Seijo  39:48

Yeah. Fully-costed, fully-automated luxury communism. I mean, I’m sure there’s many ways to metaphorically like render this just complete absurdity of this vision. I mean, essentially what the left has been trying to do is walk on to the field, right? And Meadway talks about, you know, the economy as a zero sum game, and it’s to accept that this thing called the economy is this sort of thing, right? Not a social relation that we have agency at varying levels of the process over. And to then say, “Okay, well, we’re gonna play your game on your your field. We’re gonna play your scarcity struggle game, and on your terms, and we’re going to try and beat you where you have the advantage and the upper hand. Because, yeah, sure we have these morals that they hamper us. They make us strategically less effective. They make us worse at the game.”

Will Beaman  40:59

Right. Which is such a repeating trope that you hear in all the postmortems about Bernie.

Maxx Seijo  41:05

Yep. We’re worse. We’re not as we’re not as ruthless, right?

Will Beaman  41:09


Maxx Seijo  41:10

Chapo has gone on about this about Hillary Clinton, just how ruthless she is. “We’re not as ruthless. We can’t win this game. We lose most of the time because we don’t have the alchemy that the right does.” But you know what that alchemy that the right has is? It’s the full embodiment of the commitment to scarcity that the left is just is dabbling with and hoping that it can, you know, have a little exclusion as a treat. Instead of rejecting the logic of exclusion in the first place, and really taking on a non-zero sum vision that calls into question—it really calls into question. This is unsettling. And I understand how unsettling this is. The fact that all of these forms—what constitutes the economy, what constitutes growth, what constitutes identity—these are malleable; these are up for debate; these are not biological forms.

Will Beaman  42:06

Yeah. Well, I would stop you there and continue reading from Fazi because he actually has a theory of national biology that I want to get into.

Maxx Seijo  42:18


Will Beaman  42:19

Yeah, he says, “While national identity is, of course, constantly evolving, the pace of the change is everything.When the national community perceives the pace of change to be too fast (for example a too-rapid inflow of immigrants with very different cultural and social norms), it naturally, instinctively…” like white blood cell, no I’m just kidding. “…instinctively reacts against the breakdown of social cohesion. To equate this with racism is absurd.” Yeah, and in case any of us were thinking about racism, for some reason, while he said that.

Maxx Seijo  42:55

Yeah, yeah, yeah, no. Famously “borders,” they’re good for the left! They’re good for, you know, communities of color. You know, it’s funny that there’s one thing like, we’ve been shit-talking a lot of the sort of established left, but there is a segment of the American left that has a sort of nuanced understanding. And, you know, and most importantly, a historical understanding of…

Will Beaman  43:08

Right, yeah.

Maxx Seijo  43:30

…the forces that have been at play here. And I’m thinking as well of the likes of, you know, some like Daniel Denvir, who hosts The Dig podcast. In his book about how the American border and the struggle for not only immigrant rights, but also indigenous rights as a sort of function of, of borders, and territorialization has been the crux of the left’s fight for justice. And it’s been the crux of the right’s project. And you mentioned Manifest Destiny, and I also think Greg Grandin despite a lot of problems that I have.

Will Beaman  44:09

Future friend of the show, Greg Grandin. Yeah.

Maxx Seijo  44:11

Future friend of the show, Greg Grandin. A lot of the problems I have with his framing, also, like historically captures this is that, you know, Fazi is not your friend. Blue Labour is not your friend. Amber A’Lee Frost. Red Scare. They’re not your friend. Right? These are people who represent a segment of “the left” that will capitulate to The Daily Caller. They will. They will sacrifice. They will make pragmatic sacrifices.

Will Beaman  44:48


Maxx Seijo  44:48

In order to “attain power”. And you know, historically speaking, you know, if you look to the Weimar example, if you look to other examples, this is a sort of mode that has not turned out to be one that forwards the inclusive vision of what the left needs to represent and what we will posit⁠—this sort of non-zero sum MMT-inflected ideological project⁠—needs to represent.

Will Beaman  45:21

Yeah, I mean, it’s just put simply, it’s a lot easier to defend your humanity if it’s not on zero sum terms, you know? If it’s not on the terms of I have a right to exist even though that’s going to bring down wages a little bit. You know, which is, it’s the position that really good people on the left, and you know, the reason why I strongly identify with the left even with people who I don’t think are MMTers yet is because I think that we do, nevertheless share values. And I just think that MMT is, you know, you need that non-zero sum vision in order to realize them, and in order to not just be plunged into a huge kind of pessimism, you know? And you saw that kind of like, when we opened with the with the Chapo clip, you know, I mean, Matt Chrisman was just extremely, extremely pessimistic. You know, Amber was in the acceptance stage of grieving already and was ready to move on to newer and better anti-woke alliances.

Maxx Seijo  46:31


Will Beaman  46:31

Yeah, coalitions. Right. Yeah, just another good member of my coalition that I need to win.

Maxx Seijo  46:36

Yeah, and it’s funny, because this is a sort of nice way to actually think about what came of Bernie’s campaign that was actually quite, quite inspiring, which was. And I think, the impulses are there too, even within Chapo Like, there’s a lot of things that they talked about, and did that was, that was really moving. And important. But the Brooklyn rally with AOC, when Bernie said to, you know, look around to your left and right, and really see the shared humanity of everyone, it really foregrounds the fact that, you know, I’m sure people look to their left, and they look to their right, and there were people in the top 5% of the tax bracket.

Will Beaman  47:23


Maxx Seijo  47:24

I mean, which is not to say that people in the top 5% of the tax bracket aren’t privileged in some sense, or don’t have more power or don’t have far too much power over the political process. That’s not the point. The point is, is that you don’t need their money. We don’t need their money.

Will Beaman  47:41

Yeah. We shouldn’t be hearing from that “Are you willing to pay higher taxes for somebody that is different from you,” you know, or something.

Maxx Seijo  47:49

Right! And that’s not what Bernie was saying either.

Will Beaman  47:52


Maxx Seijo  47:52

Right, then that’s important. And that’s one of the things that, you know, which is why Bernie is so important for the left. But it’s one thing to say “Bernie is all we have and ever have. And his ideas are all we have are all we’ll ever have.” And it’s another thing altogether to say, “There are kernels of a path here. We need to hone in them. We need to develop them. We need to build a cohesive vision out of them and leverage every site of power we have over the political process along the way.”

Will Beaman  48:35

Yeah, I mean, it’s profoundly pessimistic to look at this situation where because Bernie lost, even though we are now completely throwing paying for Coronavirus relief out the window, the first time we’ve done that for anything, like ever in decades, you know.

Maxx Seijo  48:59

Except for wars.

Will Beaman  49:00

Right. Yeah, except on the terms of, you know, righteous exclusion that we’re gonna need to do.

Maxx Seijo  49:06

Wall Street, wars, righteous exclusion.

Will Beaman  49:06

Yeah. But no, like, this really is the first time in a while that, like, there is an ideological paradigm shift. And, you know, I mean, there’s Ross Douthat was just on on The Daily, you know, the other day. Ross Douthat, The New York Times columnist…

Maxx Seijo  49:20

Yeah. You have to listen to that? I’m sorry, Will.

Will Beaman  49:27

Yeah, well, you know, living at home during the summer has its perks. And then it’s not so perks. But yeah, I mean, even he was saying he thinks that, you know, now social democracy is on the table, more or less. So he’s more optimistic than the left is.

Maxx Seijo  49:46

Ugggh. I mean, we could critique even what his conception of social democracy is, but I think…

Will Beaman  49:53

Yeah, to the extent that he wasn’t lamenting it, it’s probably because it was just like some kind of a Herrenvolk like. You know, Scandinavia, for white people.

Maxx Seijo  50:04

We can have a little bit of Scandinavian racism as a treat.

Will Beaman  50:08

Yeah. So like, I just want to cap off the reading from from Fazi with, you know what, what, what it all leads up to for him. “This is not an argument against the evolution of national identity. It is an argument for respecting a national community’s right to have a say in the pace and form that such evolution takes. To ignore the latter is, quite simply, political suicide.” I just I love the use of the word suicide here because it just…

Maxx Seijo  50:39

Oh yeah.

Will Beaman  50:42

It just completely gets across that creation is not an option: if things change, it’s because we’re dead.

Maxx Seijo  50:48

That’s right.

Will Beaman  50:49


Maxx Seijo  50:49

It’s only a death drive.

Will Beaman  50:50


Maxx Seijo  50:51

That’s all there is.

Will Beaman  50:51

So he says “We are now in a position to offer a different explanation of “social conservatism”: this is simply society’s self-defence against those factors – internal or external – that are perceived as threatening its members’ need for community, belonging, rootedness and identity.”

Maxx Seijo  51:09

Signed Carl Schmitt.

Will Beaman  51:10

Yeah, I mean, that is just like, holy shit, the math is off.

Maxx Seijo  51:14


Will Beaman  51:15

Yeah, I don’t know how you have internal, setting aside the problematic external thing, but like the fact that they’re internal, you know, that there are people who are internal to our society who really are external to it, because they’re not part of the program. You know, it’s the nationalist conception of the Marxist idea of what the economy is, you know, which is, you know, this is the material world the way that it is, you know, this is the material political body the way that it is.

Maxx Seijo  51:47


Will Beaman  51:47

And all we can do really is…

Maxx Seijo  51:51


Will Beaman  51:52

Yeah! Very, very slowly improve things, but not too quickly. And it’s really interesting also, that this is basically how Krystal Ball will talk about anti-racism or transgender issues or anything like that, you know, where she will kind of say, you know, “of course, I’m on your side, you know, on this one leftists, but you have to understand that these things are going to take time.” She talks about, you know, managed progressivism in the same way that that people like Fazi are talking about managed migration, as well as manage progressivism.

Maxx Seijo  52:28

Yeah. And I mean, we’ve been going for a little while here, but I do think as we’re sort of starting to wrap up this first episode and think about the way we move forward, it’s important to say that at some level, right, we here are wholehearted proponents of a non-zero sum material vision for the left. But at the level of ideas, this is not a view that should be tolerated.

Will Beaman  53:04

Yeah, we’re not interested in a debate with Krystal Ball.

Maxx Seijo  53:07

No, we’re not. We’re not interested in debate. She represents a reactionary anti-left trend. And that’s a trend that has to be stamped out. And we have to win that debate. And so it’s important to say, like, non-zero sum is not a sort of participation trophy for all the competing intellectual approaches to left wing progress. No, no, no, no, don’t confuse the fact that we allow a space for all people, for all life to flourish, and we demand that space, as allowing a space for ideas that…

Will Beaman  53:55

That are predicated on the opposite of that.

Maxx Seijo  53:57

That are predicated on the opposite of that.

Will Beaman  53:59


Maxx Seijo  54:00

And that is the central gambit, I think, of this podcast. And ultimately, I think that the rise of the MMT project, and the MMT movement or things like the Modern Money Network, has been through the insistence on that non-zero sum vision as a matter, not just of a sort of intellectual fancy or we would like it to be this way, but as a matter of the technical facts. A matter of the technical operations themselves. And that’s the vision.

Will Beaman  54:01


Maxx Seijo  54:01

I think this is a pretty good place to leave it, as well.

Chaplin’s Modern Times: Pretty Pro-Communist (Essay)

How awful the thought of oneness… One merging into all and all merging into one. Just think of merging into Herbert Hoover.

-Charlie Chaplin

In 1952, facing harassment from J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, Charlie Chaplin left the United States and moved to Switzerland. Chaplin shared personal tragedy with thousands of suspected communists across American society, swept up in the blacklists and persecutions of the McCarthy era. Perhaps more so than many of the “subversives” whose nonidentity with white middle class culture earned them the communist label, Chaplin’s social criticism really did take on the monopoly capitalism of his day. It’s not difficult to read Marxist themes into Chaplin’s slapstick depictions of Taylorism and “scientific management” in Modern Times (1936). But to honor the creativity of Chaplin, it is important not to conflate his respectful willingness to think alongside Marxist problems with a dogmatic commitment to thinking exclusively within them. 

Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times is an ambiguous meditation on the political economy of his day. Though Modern Times speaks most recognizably through a Marxist lens, it gestures beyond Marx in its ambivalent depictions of the social roles played simultaneously by various institutions. While Chaplin’s “Tramp” is dehumanized by the factory’s reduction of his individuality to an appendage of private profit, his work advances the narrative in ways that outstrip profit.

At points, Modern Times does feel like a dramatization of Marx’s descriptions of capitalist industry in the Communist Manifesto. In the first part of the Manifesto, Marx writes that the modern factory worker “becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him.” Marx describes this enslavement of men to machines as “alienation,” in the sense that their labor becomes directed towards alien ends rather than their own. Chaplin portrays this zero-sum formulation to comic effect in the opening factory sequences, in which The Tramp disastrously switches his attention back and forth between the assembly line and his coworkers, losing track of both.

However, this Marxist formulation is complicated and undermined at the level of narrative. Even as this opening scene manifestly depicts a contradiction between The Tramp’s labor and attention serving his own ends and those of capital, both cohere narratively in maintenance of the society more broadly. Events outside of the factory—on the street, at home, and in prison—work in tandem with those inside the factory to produce a narrative that contains each of these settings. While prison seems to serve the capitalist class structurally as an institution to discipline troublemakers before they are sent back to the factory, The Tramp also finds that within prison he is self-directed. This is played for laughs, but the irony of prison being a place for self-directed behavior belies a paradox of Marx’s critique of alienation: that self-directed collectives require institutional mediation beyond their immanent boundaries.

Of course, Marx would be the first to admit that factories rely on other parts of society for maintenance and reinforcement. “No sooner is the exploitation of the laborer by the manufacturer, so far, at an end, that he received his wages in cash,” Marx writes, “than he is set upon by other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.” While Marx here is allowing for events beyond the factory to be socially meaningful, the social whole in which they cohere is conflated with the social goals of the bourgeoisie. And to be sure, Modern Times does clearly critique the prison and the factory for working in tandem. But contra Marx, it does not necessarily follow from the film’s critique of wage labor that every institution under capitalism serves capital as its ultimate end.

We see a similar polyvalence in the café that The Tramp and his love interest (“the Gamin”) work at, where management’s discipline of the employees does not fully define the terms by which the café can be engaged. The Tramp’s job in the café is waiting tables, and at first this seems to resemble his stints at the factory, in which he is unable to conform his body to the rhythm and pace of work. This seems to culminate in a diner’s roast duck being thrown across the room, but at the moment that this happens, it is caught by a group of athletes and the scene breaks into a performance of a rugby chase that destabilizes the clear division between diners and servers. The diners are folded into a theatrical production, not as a negation of their respective class positions, but as a social valence that was always there to be read.

Later, when The Tramp loses the lyrics to the song he is supposed to perform, he makes up his own song that wins over the audience. Unlike in the factory, The Tramp’s creativity and deviations here are rewarded. The café offers many analogs of social mediation at once, insofar as its social valuation is figured as multidirectional and polyvalent. Whether The Tramp’s mimetic creativity is allowed is a social decision that implicates more than just management. The diners, wait staff, and management are responsible in different ways for the social meaning of The Tramp’s performance. 

Leftists today who are anxious to unify around a single mass organization or “theory of change” would do well to study Chaplin’s non-identical engagements with the problems and themes of Marxism. At a 1942 dinner held in Chaplin’s honor, Chaplin frustrated an FBI informant in the audience with this exact maneuver. “I am not a Communist,” Chaplin declared, “but I am proud to say that I feel pretty pro-Communist.”

The Neoliberal Blockbuster: Toy Story Part 2 (Full Episode)

This Money on the Left/Superstructure episode is the eleventh premium release from Scott Ferguson’s “Neoliberal Blockbuster” course for Patreon subscribers.  Typically reserved for Patreon subscribers, this special two-part episode about Toy Story is available to the general public in full. 

For access to the rest of the course, subscribe to our Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure.  

If you are interested in premium offerings but presently unable to afford a subscription, please send a direct message to @moneyontheleft or @Superstruc on Twitter & we will happily provide you with membership access.  

Course Description

This course examines the neoliberal Blockbuster from the 1970s to the present. It focuses, in particular, on the social significance of the blockbuster’s constitutive technologies: both those made visible in narratives and the off-screen tools that drive production and reception. Linking aesthetic shifts in American moving images to broader transformations in political economy, the course traces the historical transformation of screen action from the ethereal “dream factory” of pre-1960s cinema to the impact-driven “thrill ride” of the post-1970s blockbuster. In doing so, we attend to the blockbuster’s technological forms and study how they have variously contributed to social, economic, and political transformations over the past 40 years. We critically engage blockbusters as “reflexive allegories” of their own technosocial processes and pleasures. Above all, we think through the blockbuster’s shifting relationship to monetary abstraction and the myriad additional abstractions monetary mediation entails.


2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)

Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)

RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)

Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)

Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993)

The Matrix (Wachowskis, 1999)

Avengers: Infinity War (Joe & Anthony Russo, 2018)

The Last House on the Left

CW: trauma, abuse

Will Beaman draws on personal experiences to reflect on how the problematic reduction of “deradicalization” to dialogues between fascists and anti-fascists resembles other forms of emotional and relational abuse. When the imperatives of “coalition-building” require victims of right wing violence to double down on dialogues with hostile interlocutors, the supposedly public realm of ideas resembles an abusive household, in which leaving is not an option. After a cold open from Briahna Joy Gray’s recent interview with Talia Lavin on the “Bad Faith” podcast, Will suggests that distinctly non-carceral and non-“paid for” modes of institutional mediation are necessary for deradicalization to be something more than the emotional blackmail of victims via toxic social norms.

Link to our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure

Music: “Yum” from “This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” EP by flirting.
Twitter: @actualflirting

Superstructure Cancels the Pope (New Transcript!)

We are thrilled to present our very first Superstructure transcript, brought to you by the generous effort of friend-of-the-show, Mike Lewis.

“Superstructure Cancels the Pope” represents a pivotal episode from the Superstructure archive. Contra leftist praise for today’s seemingly anti-capitalist papacy, co-hosts Naty Smith, Maxx Seijo, & Will Beaman offer a critical close reading of “Fratelli Tutti,” Pope Francis’ third and most recent encyclical. Unearthing the austere logics that inhere in Bergoglio’s ideas of encounter, charity, and reconciliation, Naty, Maxx, and Will take on the pope’s not-so-lefty Jesuit career and Peronist history, as well as the Franciscan ideology and history that inspired his Covid-era message to the world. Framed by readings of Scott Ferguson’s work on the symptomatic search for solidity in the modern and neoliberal moments, the gang exposes the deeply toxic nationalistic impulses behind the Pope’s metaphysical, theological, and political exhortations. Superstructure, in other words, cancels the pope.

Transcript: Mike Lewis

Link to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure

Music: “Yum” from “This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” EP by flirting.
Twitter: @actualflirting


Will Beaman  00:15

So, hey everybody. This is another episode of Superstructure. This is Will Beaman and I have my co-hosts Natalie Smith.

Naty Smith  00:24

Hello! What’s going on?

Will Beaman  00:25

That is Natalie Smith, and I also have Maxximilian Seijo.

Maxx Seijo  00:29

Ciao bello. Oh wait, wrong site.

Will Beaman  00:33

I wasn’t ready for the language bit. Okay, so this is an episode that I have really really been looking forward to for like a while. Mostly because we’ve been teasing the shit out of it forever, but ever since I started kind of going down the historical rabbit hole of Franciscanism, which is the theme that we covered between Superstructure and Money on the Left in several of our latest content over the last couple of weeks.

Naty Smith  01:05


Will Beaman  01:06

We’ve been wanting to go over review I guess this is a media review of the Papal Encyclical from last year.

Naty Smith  01:16

Zero stars. The reason we’ve been teasing it so long is that it was Natalie’s job to read the Encyclical, and it was pretty boring. So it took me some time until I just like was like alright, I got to read this motherfucker. Not literally, but yeah. I think.

Will Beaman  01:32

If you were transcribing people performing the rosary for an hour, it would have been less repetitive than the Encyclical. Yeah. Not a great writer. But um, yeah. So Naty, do you want to tell us a little bit about the Encyclical? Like, what is the Encyclical?

Naty Smith  01:52

The Encyclical is an exciting bedtime story about how we have to love our neighbors. No.

Will Beaman  02:00

I mean, yes.

Naty Smith  02:04

I think it’s interesting because a lot of people sort of have been excited about Pope Francis, sort of some of his nods to economic populism, or immigration reform, or the UN, or poor people’s movements ish. But it’s interesting that Encyclical is his third Encyclical. He released it in October 2020 at a memorial ceremony for St. Francis of Assisi in Assisi, Italy. It was the first trip outside Rome since COVID had started. The title Fratelli tutti is like “we’re all brothers” and comes from some quote of Francis. And it’s interesting, like, did you want me to get into his bio a little bit?

Will Beaman  02:51

Yeah, well, um, one thing that I want to say kind of adding on to this before you go into some biographical details. So as we’re recording this, the big COVID relief bill finally passed. So hopefully should be seeing that $1400 pretty soon, although I haven’t yet. I digress. This is a very, like future-facing document that is very much like grounded in politics. And there are a lot of I think that a lot of these ideas will end up inflecting a response to Trumpism or, you know, any of these people.

Naty Smith  03:29

Well, and Biden is interested in Catholic liberalism, I mean…

Will Beaman  03:35

Yeah, he’s very Catholic.

Naty Smith  03:35

Yeah. And also, I mean, this is drenched in the past too, and a lot of the history of Argentine complications of political economy and all different things that have kind of gone between statist and corporatist and Peronist and neoliberalism and dictatorship and then the Pink Wave and just a lot of currents go through it.

Will Beaman  03:57

Absolutely, yeah. So as we talk about this, I guess the question that I want to have in our mind, and like, you know, a criteria for like, how are we evaluating the actual content of this text is, you know, it lays out a global political vision. Is this a global political vision that we can see adequately responding to this moment? Because it’s not like the Pope is nobody, you know. This is already an extremely influential document.

Naty Smith  04:27

And I also think we want to kind of push the left in that we understand where there’s good things you can see and “oh, this is good, like, international institutions are like caring about people who are in poverty”, but like pushing to be like, okay, but like, let’s look deeper. Let’s look at the details. Let’s look at what is he really saying like at a deeper level, and what are the real implications and backwards and forwards in history of like this way of looking at it. Like instead of just seeing the “Oh, he said a few things that sound good”, you know?

Maxx Seijo  05:04

Also, I think, to an earlier point, things are shifting right now. And I think that’s also what the Biden administration represents. Even, you know, in probably the most ambivalent terms that you could imagine and in ways that we still don’t quite understand, but…

Naty Smith  05:23

I love him. He’s cute.

Maxx Seijo  05:28

But when things shift, you know, it’s important to look at what powerful thinkers and and authorities are offering as a vision to not just respond but shape the way the political ground and the way we envision a political future is changing. And so, unpacking not just the historical lineage of the Pope himself, but the way that these ideas tap into a history that we’ve tapped into various times on this podcast: the history of a Franciscan rejection of money. I think it’s important to put it in those terms.

Naty Smith  06:12

You liberal!

Will Beaman  06:14

Well, you know, ever since I saw Pope Francis go on the Joe Rogan Experience, I knew that he was going to become a really influential thought leader.

Naty Smith  06:24

What was your favorite joke he made?

Will Beaman  06:27

Well, I thought it was really cool when they smoked a blunt together because it was just so unique for the podcast.

Naty Smith  06:35

Then he sucked Joe Rogan’s toes…To wash them! to wash them!

Will Beaman  06:42

Anyway. So perhaps, perhaps now, we can get into some of the biographical details about Pope Francis and set up the political context that he came from. I know Naty did a lot of research on this.

Naty Smith  06:57

I did a lot of research.

Maxx Seijo  06:59

She taught herself how to read for this podcast.

Naty Smith  07:03

I read an entire article. It was pretty long. Yeah, it’s interesting, because he doesn’t come out of some leftist Catholic tradition by any means. You know, he wasn’t a liberation theologist. I mean, within the Jesuits, he was known as a conservative disciplinarian, and not just to the lefty Jesuits. And, you know, there’s a lot of crazy politics going on in Argentina in the 70s. And I mean, you have sort of after the major Peronist split in 73, you have kind of a left and right Peronism. You have lefty Jesuit terrorists, the Montoneros, but then you also have people like on the right of Peronism that are Jesuits. The Pope was associated with Bergoglio at the time. The Iron Guard, right. And he was pretty much silent during the dictatorship, you know, he was sort of just doing his Jesuit thing and being a right wing Jesuit. But there’s certainly some shady implications. I mean, one of the biggest ones involved like some more lefty Jesuit priests, who he kind of helps probably get arrested, but maybe not, you know. And then I don’t know, do you want me to go through his whole career?

Maxx Seijo  08:23

I heard he was pretty hot.

Naty Smith  08:25

No, no, he wasn’t. But in the 90s, he actually got disciplined with the Jesuits for being too difficult. In the 90s, he starts kind of becoming a rising star. He like hitches his wagon to this guy, who was at the time like the Archbishop in Buenos Aires, or something, Quarracino who was just like a raging homophobe. He said on TV that gay people should be locked in ghettos, and was living in opulent luxury. This is sort of when in the late 90s, the Pope starts to make more gestures of reconciliation, like “the Church should not have said nothing during the dictatorship”

Maxx Seijo  09:11

If I had a nickel every time I heard that.

Naty Smith  09:14

Yeah, right. No, totally. And then he was also associated with this neoliberal Peronist in the 90s, Carlos Menem. It’s interesting, though, that some of these contradictions because like, at a party with the or like an event in the late 90s, is one of the first times he spoke out against (for Menem) he spoke out against economic injustice, you know, and the oligarchs who preside over the few. This is sort of one of these fascinating Peronist contradictions where this right wing Bishop and this right wing Neolib are like “yeah, talk about some economic populism and make some apologies”. And this is when he starts washing more people’s feet and poor people and people with AIDS and you know, starts bringing photographers to the washing up the feet and so forth. All the while that this Quarracino is the one basically making his career as far as getting him to the Vatican and so forth.

Will Beaman  10:13

The washing of the feet is really interesting. On the one hand, that’s just biblical, right? Like that’s what Jesus does. But in the Franciscan tradition, there’s a preoccupation with touching and with experiencing firsthand, whether it’s experiencing poverty firsthand or experiencing, you know, nature or suffering. There’s a way in which the touching of the feet very much fits into this kind of visiting of the poor that I think we wanted to dig into.

Naty Smith  10:54

It’s worth noting, again, the two priests that there’s the most questions around—him and his associations with them getting in prison—I mean, he like withdrew their right to give mass because they were lefty Jesuits who were living in the slums with poor people in non-hierarchical living situations. You know, he’s not like some friend of the poor. I mean, the first time he speaks about the poor is the late 90s with a neoliberal guy like next to him, and he’s like, “let’s bring some photographers to wash feet. Also this guy who’s the bishop, who’s gonna make my career is living in luxury, but I take the bus.”

Maxx Seijo  11:31

But I think even if..

Naty Smith  11:33

I know, but it’s worth noting the hypocricy. I get it, but it’s worth saying that’s not actually who he is, anyway, because that’s true of the Franciscans in many ways as well. Right?

Maxx Seijo  11:45

Yeah, yeah. So that’s what I wanted to sort of break into a little bit. The contradiction is baked into the Franciscan project, right? It’s both the need to be like casting people off for being too radical, but also sort of doubling in through the mediation of like, you know, thinking of our Money on the Left episode, like, they would have helpers carry their purses filled with money, right?

Will Beaman  12:14

Because they weren’t supposed to touch money.

Maxx Seijo  12:16

Right. So the contradictions are baked in. Right? So it’s not like he’s some impure, necessarily, Franciscan. Right? And he’s just like, you know, pretending to be a Franciscan necessarily. I think that’s important to say as well.

Will Beaman  12:32

Yeah. And also it’s, it’s worth noting, Francis himself, while he certainly I don’t think can be accused of cynicism. I mean, he was kind of nuts. And he was really like, he was really serious about it when he went to visit the lepers and you know, go live in nature and he got sick and almost died from that like several times. There is something really interesting that Francis and his followers come from like a really affluent background as well.

Naty Smith  13:05

Like my hero, the Buddah.

Will Beaman  13:09

Oh my gosh, I thought that Dasha blocked all of us on Twitter, but…

Naty Smith  13:14

I don’t believe in blocking. That prevents encounter.

Will Beaman  13:19

She’s more into ghosting is what I’ve heard.

Naty Smith  13:22

Ghosts have a lot to teach us.

Maxx Seijo  13:24

So yeah, I think having like, you know, started there’s so much to talk about with this. But I think we can really focus on this point about touching, right? About this need to touch right, and this sort of sense of material and embodied relationship that is not mediated.

Naty Smith  13:46

He’s trying to torture me because I’m currently in isolation because my partner has COVID. But yes, touching. I hate it.

Maxx Seijo  13:56

Well, you’re not valid, then.

Will Beaman  14:00

Naty has retreated to something even more basic and unmediated than touch.

Maxx Seijo  14:07

More radical, yeah.

Will Beaman  14:09

Pure isolation. She’s visiting herself right now, which is extremely radical and Franciscan.

Naty Smith  14:16

Super radical.

Maxx Seijo  14:17

So I kind of wanted to get into that and touching like, problematic in the context of, you know, where historically this encyclical is situated. Right? Very interesting that it came out during COVID, which I think is not something that we necessarily have the full range to discuss. We’ll leave that for Agamben to discuss.

Naty Smith  14:44

I think you just did.

Will Beaman  14:48

He’ll knock it out of the park.

Maxx Seijo  14:49

I guess he will. But I think it’s interesting the way we can think about neoliberalism as this further accelerating a sort of ongoing liberal precarity at the political economic level, and the way we all relate to the production process, and the way that caretaking goes on and these sorts of things. Which is not to say, of course, that prior to neoliberalism, things were perfect in any way. Like, that’s not what’s being articulated here, but there’s an acceleration associated with it that also speaks to I think, a sort of broader horizon of political economic relations specifically when we’re thinking about touch and when we’re thinking about political, economic dare one say metaphysics, and how these things are all interlocking,

Naty Smith  15:49

I want to touch the soil and my neighbor, and I will hug my neighbor and wash their feet, and that will be the economic exchange, and then we kiss the ground together, and that will be a good system.

Will Beaman  16:02

The whole point of when Maxx says this problematic of touching, right, the impulse behind all of these touches, and these encounters, and, you know, hugging the poor, and all of these things, that impulse is an impulse to care, which is why these stories are so powerful, right? Because under neoliberalism, there’s this contraction in the fiscal sphere. Nothing is being organized to take care of people at any kind of big or abstract scale.

Naty Smith  16:39

You know why? Don’t put this in, but it’s because women’s pussies are too tight. So nobody’s getting laid. That’s the contraction.

Maxx Seijo  16:46

No, we’re putting that in, we’re putting that in.

Naty Smith  16:49


Will Beaman  16:49

I have to edit these fucking things Naty, so yes, anything that you say is fair game to put in.

Maxx Seijo  16:54

That’s its own Dasha file. We’re just gonna release 10 seconds of that.

Will Beaman  17:01

Just to set up, the reading that Maxx is about to do. The impulse to touch is an expression of an impulse to care, right, and to take care of people, but it’s very historically specific that aesthetic representations of care focus so much on this imagery of touching and encountering and visiting and all of these things that are you making contact with the other in a kind of a charitable way. And, of course, you know, this should also make you think about, you know, the not-so-charitable forms of, you know, the touch or the encounter, right? It’s like economics is all built on the exchange, right? The barter, or you have vulgar political theorists who will reduce everything to this immediate proximate act of violence. But in this particular case, I think that we want to talk about the touch as grasping toward possibilities for taking care, but taking care of oneself and taking care of the other who’s importantly an other.

Naty Smith  18:15

Right, and what the left sort of identifies with, I think, is that impulse, and what we want to draw out is the way in which these gestures at that care are a fundamentally impoverished vision, and not in a good way.

Will Beaman  18:31

Right. And on that note, I think, Maxx has a reading that hopefully we’ve set up like two thirds of the way.

Maxx Seijo  18:39

Yeah, so I’m going to start by framing this discussion of the encyclical through reading Mommy, and by that I mean, Scott Ferguson, who you might know as

Naty Smith  18:51

Scotia, let’s make it feminine.

Maxx Seijo  18:53

Yes. Right. Scotia. Scotia or of the famed you know, Money on the Left podcast. I think he’s been on Superstructure before.

Naty Smith  19:02

World famous.

Will Beaman  19:03

Yeah, I met him once.

Maxx Seijo  19:04

Yeah. In his book Dec…

Will Beaman  19:06

He was fine.

Naty Smith  19:06

Is he a slut?

Maxx Seijo  19:08

Yes. In his book Declarations…

Will Beaman  19:11

Strong handshake, though. A lot of care.

Maxx Seijo  19:16

He does not have a strong handshake. Anyway.

Naty Smith  19:18

We love you, Mommy.

Will Beaman  19:23

Strong hugs. Strong hugs.

Maxx Seijo  19:24

Strong hugs. So in his book, Declarations of Dependence: Money, Aesthetics and the Politics of Care, he does, you know, obviously a lot of work in the MMT Humanities space, one might say founds MMT Humanities. Definitively I would say that.

Will Beaman  19:42

He’s the Steve Jobs of Left MMT. I think is how he likes to be described.

Maxx Seijo  19:48

That is right.

Naty Smith  19:49

Or even the Mother Teresa.

Will Beaman  19:55

Who are we kidding? He’s the Francis of MMT.

Maxx Seijo  20:00

So, in the book, he obviously does the work thinking about the aesthetic experience of not just neoliberalism, but modernity, sort of writ large. And I’m going to read a little bit so we can start to get into in relationship to this idea of touching the poor and touching the impoverished that Pope Francis offer. Some of the underlying assumptions that create the necessity for that aesthetic experience. So in discussing a bunch of aesthetic forms, though, he talks about this aesthetic experience as “an intimate indexicality and all encompassing gravity.”

Will Beaman  20:44

Scott Ferguson is a film and media studies professor, but for those who aren’t in the know about indexicality…Yeah, Maxx’s pantomiming two things touching. In film, in media theory, people use it to kind of describe the sort of unmediated imprint of light on to celluloid in a camera. And the idea is that an indexical, like identical one to one impression of at least a surface of the world. And, and this is not to say that people who use indexicality think that the photo is like, all of reality, but the point is that it captures something that really is part of reality, that is an imprint. Anyway, which again, ties in with touching.

Maxx Seijo  21:33

Yeah, yeah, full story. It’s touching. In talking about this sort of aesthetic experience that we’re, we’re discussing with this Franciscan of touching the poor, Scott is referring to it as a sort of intimate indexicality, which ends up becoming an “all encompassing gravity.” And this touching is meant to “transmute sensations of loss, falling and disintegration into assuring affections and rhythms.”

Will Beaman  22:09

So, you know, I’m tapping my finger on the table right now because I’m just perennially anxious. That is me finding and assuring an affectionate rhythm to the touch.

Maxx Seijo  22:23

Right? A sort of ground, dare one say a base that you can rely on because we’ve been evacuated, and we’re precarious, right? And so this, as Scott says, what it does is “miming a convulsive and dangerously misallocated fiscal apparatus. These affections and rhythms repeatedly register the feeling that there’s no there there under neoliberalism” but at the same time, “an ardent there there answers monies evacuation from neoliberal existence.” So it’s this act of trying to find ground, because you’re falling, and the registering of that ground is the act that both reinforces the fact that there is a ground but also that we were evacuated of a sort of collective existence that could ground us in safety.

Will Beaman  23:24

And we talked about this in talking about the kind of fetish of a difficult and almost unwinnable class struggle, right? That is kind of perversely comforting and self soothing because at least you know how difficult it is. So it becomes a familiar surface that you have mastery over rather than the precarity and uncertainty of just kind of falling and not even knowing where to grab.

Naty Smith  23:54

Right. It’s trying to accept precarity by making precarity like inevitable as opposed to politics is hard, and it is precarious and precisely it’s precarious emotionally to try to transform something, but that sense of there not being a there there is not a call to nihilism, it’s a call to embracing the openness of contingency.

Will Beaman  24:18

Yeah, and the last thing before Maxx continues reading this quote it’s, as Dan Berger noted on a previous episode, we have a tendency to make not finishing the readings into like a bit that we all perform. But the last comment before

Naty Smith  24:34

Mostly my fault.

Will Beaman  24:36

I mean, I’m doing it right now, but the idea but there there, this is a double entendre, right? This is also like, imagine comforting a child, right? Like “there there.” Like we’re all looking for our there there.

Naty Smith  24:53

That’s a good point. I never thought of that before with that.

Maxx Seijo  24:55

And so Scott making these arguments on the terms of like sensory experience is suggesting that this touching, this grounding, “it furnishes a nervous sensoria with disastrously insufficient forms of collective care,” right? So lacking collective care, “the contingent immediate ground and touch and rhythm and in this sort of assuring affect of the repeated touch, of the repeated knock is what one might call a symptom of carelessness, right? This need to ground and reduce. We could think about looking for the base looking for the base, where’s the real where’s the real? Where am I grounded? Right? And so, he says “in the care symptoms, sensations of loss incoherence and disintegration index environmental precarity at the threshold of worldly disclosure.” So I want to take a second to elaborate on what this means.

Naty Smith  25:57

Scott is a master of a high end language.

Maxx Seijo  26:00

He absolutely is. It’s total superstructure.

Will Beaman  26:04

These aren’t even real words.

Naty Smith  26:07

A disintegration index? Like I thought I was stuck on intimate indexicality and like the various wink wink implications, and now of my index is disintegrating.

Maxx Seijo  26:17

All indexes disintegrate. That’s the point.

Naty Smith  26:19

Oh, so frustrating.

Will Beaman  26:21

This really ruffles my index.

Maxx Seijo  26:25

I think we can think about this, and you know, the environmental precarity at the threshold of worldly disclosure. Environmental precarity is precarity amidst a neoliberal hellscape of evacuated care, right? That’s pretty clear. And so then at the threshold of worldly disclosure, can mean multiple things. And I think in one instance, it’s the touche is the threshold of your disclosure of yourself, right? And so the touch grounds the self in a world where the money cradle has been evacuated, right? It’s not present. But also we could think about thresholds here, when we’re thinking at the register of touch, we can’t have distance, right? Touch is predicated on the reduction of distance, and so we now have thresholds as as a sort of sensory matter. And so we can start to think about the borders of existence. And the way touching at the borders is implicated in the care symptom of this sense of loss. And so we’re gonna play more with that later when we think about borders and nations

Naty Smith  27:38

And immigration, and…

Maxx Seijo  27:39

And immigration. Exactly. And so what Scott says is symptoms of this sort of function as attempts at self care, and as opaque messages to the other. And so, this touching is the opaque message to the other which then grounds the self.

Naty Smith  28:02

The real encounter. The handshake. The Trump, I can smell your sweat as we shake hands, right?

Maxx Seijo  28:08

I pick up the thing. I dig the commodity out of the ground, right? There’s this encounter, there’s this touching there’s this…

Naty Smith  28:15

Then I get it from a Argentine. I’m having some Malbec right now, and living in Chile, it’s like, oh, this is from Argentina. Like,

Maxx Seijo  28:24

That’s self care, because you’re touching the other.

Naty Smith  28:26

That’s true. It’s a cute accent, the Buenos Aires accent. Not you bitch.

Maxx Seijo  28:38

And so, you know, in this sort of singular encounter relation of touching is then positive for Scott against relations of macro interdependence and the political economic process that we talked about on this show constantly, right? This relationship of structural provisioning that enables our existence as nodes that aren’t the totality of the production process.

Naty Smith  29:06

And interestingly, sorry, just to jump in, but the Pope, I think, if you don’t look deeply you would think well, yeah, he totally looks at the macro, global scale. He talks about the UN constantly, and that is one of his, like, decent things. But like, he’s very stuck in this dialectical movement of global to local, particular to universal. And he very much does kind of have the sense of the UN or even of regional blocs of oppressed countries that what you see more often coming from him is an obsession with the particular identity of the national and he makes gestures to encounter into the global and the macro, but it never escapes from this sense of that need for the touching, original, particular.

Maxx Seijo  29:54

Right. And so specifically to this point, I’m going to jump to another moment in Scott where he’s actually talking about Franciscans. But he’s talking about Franciscans on precisely these terms that we’ve just discussed with the touching. So he says “this thinning of experience”, and he means thinning, as in, contracting to the touch, not thinking with macro structure.

Naty Smith  30:14

Not about the hair.

Maxx Seijo  30:16

Right, not about the hair.

Will Beaman  30:17

This is the threshold of what the world can disclose to you is what you can touch. That’s what I know is real.

Maxx Seijo  30:23

Exactly. So this “thinning of experience promises a stronger and more abundant ground for being that lies beyond the excesses of papal mediation and the anxieties of political economy.” Right? And so this is where we’re starting…

Naty Smith  30:40

Papal mediation…

Will Beaman  30:41

Papal Mediation is like the globalist, you know…

Maxx Seijo  30:47

Transnational capital, right? I mean.

Will Beaman  30:50

Right, yeah, transnational, woke capital conspiracy cabal. You know.

Maxx Seijo  30:55


Will Beaman  30:55

It’s like, in the early modern period, there’s this sense that, you know, the pope is off over there. And he’s, you know, controlling everything, and we’ve lost our local sovereignty, because, you know, because of the Pope. And then the Reformation happens kind of as a sort of a right wing populist reaction to what is something more like, and dare I say, neoliberal, Holy Roman Empire, that is lost all credibility.

Naty Smith  31:21

And to be super clear, we’re not some sort of papal revisionists or defenders. I mean, it’s interesting you can really see in this encyclical some of the particular history that you can see through some of the book with the Crusades and with like, East-West encounters. He’s constantly like, talking about this Imam that he knows, and they’ve like worked together to like synthesize the scientific West and the spiritual east, you know? But there is like, I lost my train of thought a little bit, but my point is that it can be true that there’s a conspiracy and that also we’re not defending something.

Maxx Seijo  32:00

Yeah, we kind of hate all Popes, I would say.

Naty Smith  32:02

Yeah, Yeah.

Will Beaman  32:02

We hate them in different ways, right? Like we can criticize Trump and Joe Biden, right?

Maxx Seijo  32:08

I don’t know about that. That’s a step too far.

Naty Smith  32:10

Joe is pretty cute. I mean, you’re pushing me.

Maxx Seijo  32:17

But, but right, so the idea of that the abundant ground like in this sense of touching and grasping and contracting to the touch, as a sort of epistemology of knowledge, right of what I can touch is meant to lie beyond the excesses of this papal mediation, ie globalism, and then the anxieties of political economy which are associated with that. So then I’m going to continue right. So Scott says, “But in truth, the incessant phenomenological diminishment not only hardens the sensorium against disintegrating effects, but also deepens the poisonous contraction of metaphysics that arises from” you know, thinking of the early modern period “from the era’s impoverishment of worldly existence.” And there, we can start to see poverty being posited here, as well as, again, this sense of disintegration. So, if the care problem, right, if the care symptom, reckons with being abandoned, through needing to touch the other, then what Scott is arguing is that the touching only reinforces the disintegrating effects of a sort of metaphysical structure that can’t allow for a sort of action that’s macro, right? A sort of political, economic, macro provisioning coordination or, you know, a cradling, a caring that is collective. And so this gets hardened. And I mean, that’s for Scott, what the sort of modern, again, not to dilute any sense of the difference that’s associated, but that this carelessness in this modern problem of touching and force and how we can reconcile the dialectics of the particular and the universal. This is what plays out, and Pope Francis, importantly, is participating in this problem. And so I think we’ve pretty much set up finally, where we can really read from Pope Francis, in a way that really takes on precisely what this problematic, lays bare, and then we’ll can get into all of our critiques of him. Pope Francis writes, “At a time when everything seems to disintegrate and lose consistency. It is good for us to appeal to the solidarity born of the consciousness that we are responsible for the fragility of others, as we strive to build a common future. Solidarity finds concrete expression in service which can take a variety of forms in an effort to care for others. And service, in great part means caring for vulnerability. For the vulnerable members of our families, our society, and our people.” Note the order there. “In offering such service, individuals learn to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power before the concrete gaze of those who are most vulnerable.”

Naty Smith  35:27

I don’t like when the concrete…yeah.

Will Beaman  35:29

Yeah, I hate when they look at me.

Maxx Seijo  35:33

So and this is, you know, we get into some of the real juicy touching bits, right? “Service always looks to their faces, touches their flesh, senses their closeness, and even in some cases, suffers that closeness, and tries to help them. Service is never ideological.”

Naty Smith  35:53


Maxx Seijo  35:54

“For we do not serve ideas. We serve people.”

Will Beaman  35:58

Yeah, which is also a rejected McDonald’s slogan.

Maxx Seijo  36:07

So we might say that this is on the nose, and like we’ve we’ve chopped off the nose and like touched it and juggled it.

Will Beaman  36:15

We’re passing it. Yeah, I’m gonna pass the nose to Naty.

Naty Smith  36:19

Well, it’s interesting because I’ve been exploring a bit of the some of the ideas of Martha Fineman legal theory talks about vulnerability and an attempt and Martha McCluskey tries to actually frame this in an MMT light, sort of. Instead of seeing things from this sort of place of individual Lockean wills that are all equal, it’s trying to say, okay, well, how is actually vulnerability at a macro scale systematically baked in. But it’s interesting the ways in which he really sort of highlights the ways this is sometimes one critique could be sometimes still thought, especially in Francis, in a kind of individuality. I mean, Maxx pointed out how the order with which says “vulnerable members of our families, society, people”, and it’s like, there’s always the sense again, like we brought up of encounter before that you have a unified family that’s one thing. That you have a unified people, that’s one thing, and that all these one things have their essence, which is their fucking essence, and they come into cod

Maxx Seijo  37:26

You can touch it.

Naty Smith  37:26

Yeah. And they come into contact, and they touch. And that that can’t be coordinated beyond the level of encounter. It can’t be that like, there’s a, I don’t know if we like the word web, but there’s like this complicated form that entails in different ways bringing things in. No, it’s like each thing, you have to go, you have to suffer with them, you have to wash their feet on the bus, you know, and that that’s, it’s not surprising that that might have a sort of self serving element, you know, where the Pope’s having photographers come, because like, everybody knows that washing people’s feet on buses is not the global solution. And he’s like washing feet on buses, but also the UN like to cover his bases, you know, but there’s still a sense of…

Will Beaman  38:13

Micro and macro.  And that it’s a sacrifice. That you’re losing something.

Naty Smith  38:14

Yeah. And it’s just, it’s like this sense of this meeting this concrete gaze in the sense that also the sense that service is apolitical. That’s like a super liberal point of view, like, “oh, charities and NGOs just arise in nature, and like, we just all try to donate our money for the common good. That’s not ideological at all or…”  Yeah. Right.

Maxx Seijo  38:42

You have to tax yourself to touch. Right?

Will Beaman  38:45

Yeah. And so there’s, there’s the sense of, you know, like, it’s the unpleasant thing that, you know, sometimes you have to just deal with the concrete gaze of the poor, while you, you know, wash their feet once a week.

Maxx Seijo  38:57

And then the reason why for him it’s apolitical is because it’s literally objective. It’s an object, right? There’s nothing for him that’s political about that. Because for Pope Francis and his metaphysical tradition that he’s drawing on, touching is the only way you actually know something right? It’s the only epistemological ground you can have for existence.

Naty Smith  39:18

That must explain why he claimed that he didn’t know about all the disappearances during the dirty war until…First he said till 20 years later, and then he revised that to “No, I only found out at the 1985 trials.”

Maxx Seijo  39:35

That’s because he didn’t touch the bodies.

Naty Smith  39:39

The same way he dismissed in Chile, and this is like in the last five years where he’s dismissed victims of like, right wing, Pinochet, Pinochetista, like priests of sexual abuse, and he says, “Well, I need evidence.” Because somebody’s testimony is not evidence. He had to be there.

Will Beaman  39:56

Yeah, my fingerprints aren’t on those people. So…

Maxx Seijo  40:00

Right. And just to reiterate too, because I think it’s important as we move forward, right? For us in our vision, how we correct for this reductive base, touching and grasping in this sort of assuring rhythmatic-like grounding is, of course, through the money as a sort of what Scott calls a boundless public utility, right? Because it’s boundless, because it’s abstract, because abstraction is the locus of caretaking at a macro level of our political economic ongoing…

Will Beaman  40:32

It’s conditioning all of the touching.

Maxx Seijo  40:34

Exactly. It precedes, right? It’s an a priori in the fancy speak.

Naty Smith  40:40

That means before.

Maxx Seijo  40:45

So there’s this sense of mediation, right? The mediation of our world and of the way we are continuing to reproduce it and transform it at various nodes of political and economic agency, as well as administrative agency and legal agency and all of these, all of these points, right? We could push you back to all of our Fred Lee talk from other episodes. But the reason why we say this is because it’s the causal locus of existence is not touch, right? That’s not the causal locus. Because if it was just immediate, contracted encounters, we could not coordinate, it would not be possible.

Naty Smith  41:24

And that’s where you can reclaim. I mean, that’s where the vulnerability…that’s why it’s so crucial McCluskey’s use of Fineman, because that’s precisely the point with MMT is that you’re not falsely saying that, like some part of society has to, not that taxes are bad, but because of democracy, but that in order to provision, you can provision publicly beyond like taking from somebody else to provision for the vulnerable.

Maxx Seijo  41:50

And touching is importantly, zero sum, right? You have to go, you know, whether it’s relationally, you know, in that sense, or you have to go literally grab the money scramble across town, right, or scramble from New York down to Washington, and then deposit it at the Treasury. And then you can then send out a bunch of checks, right, and they hit people’s accounts. We can even think of the ways our metaphors are operating here, too. But importantly, right, what MMT shows and then the Left MMT, Left Humanities project shows is not just that taxes don’t fund spending, but zero-sum relations of contiguity

Will Beaman  42:30

Of touching.

Maxx Seijo  42:31

Of touching…aren’t the causal mechanism by which reproduction is afforded. And so now, it might be useful to get into the way he thinks about the nation-state.

Naty Smith  42:43

He loves it. Loves it.

Will Beaman  42:45

Really quickly. First, I think that there’s something really interesting here, and this will tie into the nation-state because as we see, the way that he thinks about the nation-state is sort of a rounded-up version of how the ideal human should behave. The ideal collective should behave that way too. And this sort of selfish in order to then be selfless, right? And

Maxx Seijo  43:05

Like a taxpayer!

Will Beaman  43:06

Yeah, right. There is something like rhythmic and self assuring, like in the Franciscan tradition, I think about visiting the poor, right? Because in a certain sense, what you’re visiting, right, you’re having encounters with what it would be like, if you gave up money, right? If you gave up your entanglements with forms of abstraction, and just kind of, you know, we’re just roughing it with the indigenous and with the poor. And you can think about missionary work, right? Which ties in directly to the early modern nation-state.

Naty Smith  43:43

And what is this is maybe something we don’t always lay out, but what is the use of money? Why, outside of like, in negative relief of the Franciscans? What is it that people don’t understand that money when organized a certain way can do?

Will Beaman  43:57

Well, so what I would say is that, like, fundamentally, if you think that touch and immediacy is always prior to abstraction, then money cannot be a properly abstract potential for everybody to be cared for. Because in order for money to exist, there has to be a cabal of people controlling it, right? Like it had to have come from somewhere. It has to come from a nation state or a capitalist class or any of these things. And then also, you know, you have this ontology of everything as bounded and limited and finite, because abstraction has just been kind of banished, and it’s unthinkable. So they also can’t imagine that money could be anything other than privational. Other than something that you’re going to run out of it and then you’re going to be sorry that you were so focused on it. We can’t think about money from any perspective other than this kind of pre-abstract self fumbling for reassurance from the rest of the world and for, you know, when you’re just this kind of disembodied subject, right? Or you’re a household, right? An individual, right? Who then gets thrown into a social contract. You’re thinking from the perspective of an individual, and if you’re an individual, right, this is the MMT 101 stuff, right? A currency user, it’s finite for you. A currency issuer, it’s not finite. But I think the twist that we want to add onto that is that currency issuance is actually much more of an ongoing negotiation across many overlapping institutions that, you know, we have the unique proposal that people can look into with universities issuing their own forms of credit and forcing from the “outside” of the monetary issuing, like fiscal institutions. Forcing some recognition of monetary answerability, for all of us, and all of our different swap lines.

Maxx Seijo  46:05

“You get a swap line, you get a swap line.” But yeah, and also, I think, importantly, just as a simple like, from a simple analytical perspective, if an encounter with a thing and the touching of it precedes money, then the horizon of possible futures, if you’re trying to get rid of money, will always come back to that encounter. Because it’s the Eden that then leads to heaven. Right. And so it’s that movement. And so what we want to do is submerge in a sort of ongoing problem, as Will said. That takes the circle and doesn’t see primal unity on one side and then fallenness, and then primal unity at the end, right? But the whole premise here being that of touching as the ground of like, I can’t touch stimulus packages into being, right? It requires an infrastructure that is mediated abstractly. And so, you know, we’re living the ongoing not touching, and that’s the relation.

Naty Smith  47:19

Is that like the internet?

Maxx Seijo  47:21

Yeah, it’s like you right now in your isolation.

Naty Smith  47:26

Ugghhh because right now I feel like, I’m recording with you guys on the internet, but it feels like…

Maxx Seijo  47:32

I’m not touching the flesh of your face.

Naty Smith  47:35

No, like, what do I smell? Like? You don’t know.

Maxx Seijo  47:37

I don’t know. That’s right.

Naty Smith  47:39

So what do you know, do you know?

Maxx Seijo  47:41


Will Beaman  47:42

I know, but I’m not gonna say.

Maxx Seijo  47:46

So I think it’s now important to get into what, you know, I think I put down in my notes on Naty’s notes, because now we’re getting meta. The contradiction between the global and the national that Pope Francis articulates. And he wants to make sure that like when he’s talking about this sort of being open to the stranger or being open to the other, or like being open to a migrant coming, and like asking and you going and touching them, and seeing how you feel about it.

Will Beaman  48:18

As you do. Yeah.

Naty Smith  48:21

You can learn from their local flavor.

Will Beaman  48:24

Uh huh. What’s so funny is what he’s really describing is just like customs at the airport.

Maxx Seijo  48:29

Yep. Not really, what he’s describing is pat downs. But priests at the airport.

Will Beaman  48:35


Maxx Seijo  48:35

Which gets us into some fuzzy territory.

Naty Smith  48:40

It’s not fuzzy which side he’s on.

Maxx Seijo  48:42


Naty Smith  48:43

He’s on the side of the molesters.

Maxx Seijo  48:46

We can say it we can be that provocative.

Naty Smith  48:47

Yeah. The Pinochetista molesters? He’s like “I need some more evidence.”

Maxx Seijo  48:53

I haven’t touched those particular instances.

Naty Smith  48:57

Not sure. 12 out of 50 Chilean bishops came to this ceremony of a Pinochetista molester priest that I am promoting, but I need more evidence.

Will Beaman  49:09

Well, I’ve never touched that boy. Ergo, he has never touched that boy.

Naty Smith  49:13

Yeah, exactly. How could we know anything? I haven’t even touched him.

Will Beaman  49:19

Any way. So contradiction between the global and national, what reading do you want to kick em off with?

Maxx Seijo  49:24

Yes. So in 139, he wants to make sure that when he’s talking about like his openness to migrants that it’s not on the terms of like a utilitarian approach. Like he’s not Matt Yglesias who is like, “immigrations is great for the economy. We need a billion Americans.” So the pope wants to make sure that everyone knows he doesn’t have a substack. Though, you know, maybe one day.

Naty Smith  49:52

Well, that sounds like that’s in the pipes.

Maxx Seijo  49:56

Yeah. If he ever gets canceled…

Will Beaman  49:58

Yeah. The only options are fluffy papal mediation and grounding yourself in a substack.

Maxx Seijo  50:06

So he wants to make sure everyone knows there’s always a sense of like it’s a gift that    he’s bestowing by patting down migrants. And so he writes, “there is always the factor of gratuitousness; the ability to do something simply because they are good in themselves. Without concern for personal gain, or Recompense. Gratuitousness makes it possible for us to welcome the stranger, even though this brings us no immediate tangible benefit. And so, so I can’t like…

Naty Smith  50:37

Sounds like a great guy.

Will Beaman  50:38

Yeah, you’re really making me feel welcome, Francis, thank you. Yeah.

Naty Smith  50:42

You have nothing.

Will Beaman  50:44

You don’t even mind that I’m a parasite. That’s so nice of you.

Naty Smith  50:47

You have nothing to offer, which is why I’m being so kind to let you come on in.

Maxx Seijo  50:52

And so we can continue from the next paragraph, “Life without fraternal gratuitousness becomes a form of frenetic commerce, in which we are constantly weighing up what we give and what we get back in return. God, on the other hand, gives a freely to the point of helping even those who are unfaithful. He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good.”

Naty Smith  51:16

This is like when Liz Bruenig let’s Matt Bruenig have an extra hour on the computer.

Maxx Seijo  51:24

So importantly here…

Will Beaman  51:26

Even though it has never helped her to do that.

Naty Smith  51:30


Maxx Seijo  51:31

And she knows that she knows that. So the migrants are evil, they’re unfaithful. But God gives us freely. And so while we have to sacrifice here and now and touch these people who are coming over our borders, because God is giving us and so we sacrifice for God. That’s why we’re taxpayers.

Naty Smith  51:58

And he’s very into this idea of like, you know, there’s this constant dialectics within but you know, I mentioned before, but yeah, he has good policies about giving migrants full citizenship, but even says at one point, like, it is not ideal, like, the best would be for us to not have to migrate, like for you to be able to kiss the blood and soil of your lands.

Will Beaman  52:21


Naty Smith  52:22

When your original identity, that is a real thing.

Maxx Seijo  52:26

Look, I mean, but we got to blame the Medicis for that. Going back, you know, so what he writes is, “all of us are able to give without expecting anything in return. To do good to others without demanding they treat us well in return.” And so Mexican migrants might debase our blood and soil, but we can’t expect them to treat us well. But we have to treat them well in return. It reminds me exactly of the Liz Breunig reading we did in the last episode, right? Look, I forgive you Black Lives Matter. Because I forgive everyone.

Naty Smith  53:04

Yeah, well, and he does say like, you know, the indigenous people do have their own culture and different ideas of progress. But like, also, mixing has been good in many ways.

Maxx Seijo  53:14

Thanks, Pope!

Will Beaman  53:15

I mean, I think that, you know, to kind of put a finer point on this, I think we’re starting to tease out how built into the premises is like, it’s not in your self interest to be kind to the other, right? But you should do it anyway. And I think a really good example of where that led to in the past is with the original Francis of Assisi, right? Who certainly throughout his lifetime did nothing but you know, like, yeah, maybe was sort of fetishizing the poor a little bit in kind of a weird way, and kind of flattened them into being like, I’m going to visit the animals today, then I’m going to visit the poor on Wednesday, you know. 

Maxx Seijo  53:59

To be fair, he thought he himself was a horse. He saw himself as a horse a little bit eating grain.

Will Beaman  54:04

Yeah. A horse on Wednesday, a worm on Thursday. Yeah. And that’s Francis and the first generation of his followers, right? But then Franciscan metaphysics are then the basis of what a lot of the early modern, late medieval, early modern European jurists are drawing on when they are first coming up with what will become the social contract in the nation-state. Right? And all of these things that are from a surface level reading are like, Oh, this is the exact opposite of Franciscan-ism. But that’s kind of the point, right? Is that he set it up to say, gravity will lead you towards acting in your own self interest, but you have a moral obligation to resist and be selfless. Eventually, people are going to come along and say, well, that’s stupid. We should just act in our self interest because I have family and I have a country and I have all these people who are counting on me, and I don’t even know a stranger.

Maxx Seijo  55:05

Yeah, it’s built to dialectically fail.

Will Beaman  55:08


Naty Smith  55:08

It’s like how Ian said last episode that Matt Bruenig, just like kind of like, has all these implications to eugenics, and then like one paragraph is supposed to suffice that’s basically like, “but don’t do that.”

Maxx Seijo  55:19


Will Beaman  55:19

Right. So it’s this kind of weird, historic irony where like, he’s saying, “No, I’m saying don’t be selfish. I’m saying that you should selflessly help the other.” But in doing so, right? He’s saying that you’re actually like losing something tangible, by visiting the poor, but this is why you should do it.

Naty Smith  55:35

You’re giving freely. There’s no blackmail in the Catholic Church giving freely.

Maxx Seijo  55:51

And so, if this wasn’t clear enough, I’m just going to keep reading from the next paragraph. In the encyclical where he writes, “Just as there can be no dialogue with others without a sense of our own identity, so there can be no openness between peoples except on the basis of love for one’s own land, one’s own people, one’s own cultural roots.”

Naty Smith  56:13

Bam, love that. So good.

Will Beaman  56:15

One’s own blood, one’s own soil.

Naty Smith  56:19

Some of the fascist countries work together. You know, you had Germany with Italy with Japan, you know.

Will Beaman  56:27

Yeah. Remember, when Hitler visited Mussolini?

Maxx Seijo  56:30

Like a multi headed snake? “I cannot truly encounter another unless I stand on firm foundations. For it is on the basis of these that I can accept the gift the other brings and in turn offer an authentic gift of my own. I can welcome others who are different and value the unique contribution they have to make.” Just a quick note for the Deleuze fans, notice the univocal difference right there in that sentence. “I can welcome others who are different and value that a unique contribution they have to make.”

Naty Smith  57:04

That’s like Regina George, just a line. I didn’t just feel her in Mean Girls being like, “that’s a really unique contribution you have to make.”

Will Beaman  57:14

Yeah, there’s a sense, right? Like they can visit, but they shouldn’t really stay. Or maybe they should stay right now. But we should be aiming towards the system where we’re all with our own kind visiting each other.

Maxx Seijo  57:27

Also with univocal difference, they are univocally different than I.

Will Beaman  57:30


Maxx Seijo  57:30

Right, we have no commonalities. There’s no analogies between us. Right?

Naty Smith  57:35

That’s how you make really nicely seasoned food.

Maxx Seijo  57:37

Yeah, that’s right. And so “only if I am firmly rooted in my own people and culture can that welcoming occur” And so I’m just going to keep going. “Everyone loves and cares for his or her native land and village just as they love and care for their home and are personally responsible for its upkeep.” Heimat. You know, famous.

Will Beaman  57:59

Yeah, I’m personally responsible.

Maxx Seijo  58:01

That’s right.

Will Beaman  58:01

No one’s gonna help you.

Maxx Seijo  58:03

That’s right.

Naty Smith  58:03

Paging Jordan Peterson.

Will Beaman  58:06

Yeah, I mean, you know, maybe if you help with the Pope’s book sales, then someone will visit you and help you a few years from now but uh, you know, don’t count on it.

Maxx Seijo  58:15

And, you know, what this reminds me of is I’m gonna keep right reading, and it’s reminds me, weirdly, of Judith Butler’s work on Hegel and ethics, but we’ll get there more, but…

Naty Smith  58:24

So many things are constantly reminding me of that.

Maxx Seijo  58:30

Pope Francis writes, “the common good likewise requires that we protect and love our native land. Otherwise, the consequences of a disaster in one country will end up affecting the entire planet. All this brings out the positive meaning of the right to property. I care for and cultivate something that I possess in such a way that I can contribute to the good of all.” So, here we have, you know, the Franciscan invention of private property, right? The sense of possession of a thing as the ground of private property which sits before relations of legal endowment, and legal naming of that which you have property over. And this is again, this is antithetical to a sort of legal history that thinks about the way property becomes and is relational rather than proximate about touching a thing.

Naty Smith  59:25

Interdependence comes first.

Maxx Seijo  59:27

Right and so, but what we have here is like quite clearly an articulation of: unless I know who I am absolutely different from you. Know my roots, know my land, have my home that I am personally self-subsistent for as a Lockean homo economicus.

Naty Smith  59:46

Who cleans my room.

Maxx Seijo  59:48

I cannot be open to someone that is absolutely other to me. But what he’s saying is as Will suggested, it’s like, “okay, yes. The world is kind of fascist. But what you should do is just say no to fascism.”

Will Beaman  1:00:05

Yeah, just resist it for as long as you can.

Maxx Seijo  1:00:07

Just say no to fascism, just like saying no to sucking those dicks. Men, you know, women too. And just say no to drugs as well, because, you know, we all heard that as a kid. But the idea is like, you set up the world in which fascism makes sense to then just say, “not for me.” And then you’re surprised when, on the other hand, it’s like as we just said, with the early Franciscans, it’s dialectically meant to fail, right? Its contradiction is then: I have my native land, but I don’t want to accept the other. But the built in premise that there’s an other and then there’s me.

Naty Smith  1:00:15

And the Pope is pretty Argentine nationalist.

Maxx Seijo  1:00:35

Well, of course. Exactly.

Naty Smith  1:00:44

I mean, he likes to kiss the fatherland and, you know, I know that we’re anti-Thatcher, but the Malvinas or Falklands War was like the last gasp of the dictatorship. I mean, and he’s all about that shit.

Maxx Seijo  1:01:17

Yeah, I mean, well, right. That’s the point.

Naty Smith  1:01:18

Yeah, yeah.

Maxx Seijo  1:01:19

He’s both calling for openness to the other while participating in the ongoing historical, you know, pseudo-fascism, post-fascisms that were around in his oeuvre, during his career.

Naty Smith  1:01:35


Will Beaman  1:01:36

Yeah. And the point also is, like, where, because that’s not possible, right? Because we’re ontologically entangled with each other, it will always be possible to say, “Well, I haven’t yet secured myself, so I’m not ready to accept the other.” Right? And we’re not even talking about somebody actively choosing to do the wrong thing. The point is that the proof of when it’s okay to accept the other is impossible to reach because it is this complete nation that is absolutely, like sure of its own identity and sure of its own self, but really that’s just gonna keep contracting. Right? Like that’s a death drive.

Naty Smith  1:02:21


Will Beaman  1:02:21

That’s what fascism is.

Naty Smith  1:02:22

You’ve set the search for the there, there as prior.

Maxx Seijo  1:02:25


Naty Smith  1:02:26

So that’s going to repeat itself.

Maxx Seijo  1:02:28

Exactly. I mean, what did Scott call it, right? It’s compulsive. It has this compulsive element to it. And so once you’ve designated the other, then you have to first achieve self subsistence. Which means now we first have to kill all of the others who are here and send them out.

Naty Smith  1:02:35

So you can charitably give gifts.

Maxx Seijo  1:02:48


Naty Smith  1:02:49

Once you’re self-subsistent, you can gift the other.

Maxx Seijo  1:02:50

Exactly. So first, we kick out all the Jews, and then we can have relations with Israel, right? That’s the the logic.

Will Beaman  1:03:02

Yeah. And while he does say he does say elsewhere, “oh, we should accept migrants with open arms until we can get to a point where unnecessary migration doesn’t happen.” Right? And he actually uses the phrase “unnecessary migration”, which, you know, I’m not really sure who decides that. Except Pope Francis.

Maxx Seijo  1:03:22

Socially unnecessary migration time. And so he keep goes on. And as Naty said at the beginning, it’s so repetitive. And, “the experience of being raised in a particular place and sharing in a particular culture gives us insight into aspects of reality that others cannot so easily perceive.” And he, you know, critiques a sort of sense of the universal that is uniform, standardized, bland.

Naty Smith  1:03:51

Right. This is like when he makes like a precept before he goes into encounter talking about the indigenous versus the colonial, you know, the East versus the West. He’s like, I don’t want to say that I’m, like, gonna use a universal that’s like some dominations. Like, sure. Whatever.

Will Beaman  1:04:09

I remember what he was going to say also, it was basically like, “in the meantime, until we can get to that point where unnecessary migration is limited. We should accept them and allow them to assimilate.” Right? So there’s this sense that, well, you know, the compromises…they’re going to be subsumed by our national identity, and their kids are going to be Argentinian.

Naty Smith  1:04:33

But not too much. Because you need a rich palate. You need some seasoning on that food. You need a little flavor.

Maxx Seijo  1:04:38

I was just about to read that phrase, right? And so what he’s saying is, you know, a universal that’s bland and standardized, right, we could think about a perhaps borderlessness in his sense, right, will ultimately lead to a loss of a rich palette of shades and colors and result in utter monotony.

Naty Smith  1:04:53

Borders maintain flavor.

Maxx Seijo  1:05:06

Literally, right? So there’s this sense of color, too. I mean, the reification of race and all of these social constructions is at play here. And it’s because we have this material touch, and touch, and touch and this emphasis on the material otherness by which one’s identity comes into being, which, you know, I’m just going to say is, is Hegel’s phenomenology. That’s just, that’s the whole thing, right?

Naty Smith  1:05:37

Little bitch Hegel.

Maxx Seijo  1:05:40

So he’s saying, “there can be no false openness, born of the shallowness of those lacking insight into the genius of their native land, or harboring unresolved resentment towards their own people.” This is just kind of disgusting and blatant on its face, right?

Will Beaman  1:06:00

Don’t be a self-hating blank.

Maxx Seijo  1:06:02

Exactly. Right?

Naty Smith  1:06:04

Very Zizekian.

Maxx Seijo  1:06:05

Yeah, right. Yeah. And so this sort of openness has to be quoting here, “done without evasion or uprooting, we need to sink, root our roots deeper into the fertile soil and history of our native place, which is a gift of God. We can only work on a small scale in our own neighborhood, but with a large perspective.” And there you have precisely the political economic problematic at stake in cultivating the sense of a localized encounter with material that you touch, right?

Will Beaman  1:06:38


Maxx Seijo  1:06:38

A kinetic world of causality.

Will Beaman  1:06:41

And we importantly, right, like, just to say this: we don’t believe that we can only work at a small scale.

Maxx Seijo  1:06:48


Will Beaman  1:06:48

Right? Like the point of money and abstraction being prior is, one, everything is already interdependent, right? And what we’re doing right now is related to other things. And like far off distances and like this kind of transcendent way.

Naty Smith  1:07:08

I hate the internet. Ugh.

Will Beaman  1:07:10

The answerability of monetary coordination, it’s at an infinitely large scale, potentially.

Naty Smith  1:07:17

What, just like infinite spending?

Maxx Seijo  1:07:20

Well, I mean, we could think about COVID, right? And this leads right back to the whole second episode of this podcast, and Agamben being like “COVID is not real, because that means that we need social relations.” Right?

Naty Smith  1:07:34


Maxx Seijo  1:07:36

The virus is a classic example where touch is not the locus of causality that can actually deal with this problem. We can’t just work at the level of our neighborhood or our native land, right?

Naty Smith  1:07:50

Although I wish my mother-in-law had touched less of everything.

Maxx Seijo  1:07:55

Well, exactly. Right? We need to coordinate non-touched provisioning. I mean, that’s the whole thing, right? That’s the whole COVID process.

Will Beaman  1:08:04

A kind of a small analog of this from today, right? Is this fetishization of—I hope that we do have a lot of listeners who are members of DSA—there’s a certain kind of Twitter DSA person who says that the answer to every single complaint or issue or anything, is to simply keep your head down and go to your local DSA chapter and be a rank and file person. We can affirm that, but to contract politics around this sort of fetishized local organization without acknowledging also, DSA dues paid with dollars, right? It’s nested within public infrastructures. It’s not truly local, because being truly local is not possible.

Maxx Seijo  1:08:53

And knocking on doors, right? We could think of the rhythmic assurance of knocking on a door.

Will Beaman  1:08:59

I was wondering why you’re pantomiming knocking while I was talking.

Maxx Seijo  1:09:02

Yeah, it’s a classic example of like, you know, there are people who say, “go knock on doors, go canvass, go do these things,” right?

Will Beaman  1:09:09

Go visit the voter.

Maxx Seijo  1:09:11

Right! Well, let’s go encounter voters, go encounter people, go encounter workers where it’s like, we need to talk to people. Of course, right? We’re not negating that. But to contract causality only down to doing the activism work on the ground, right?

Naty Smith  1:09:28

Love the ground. The ground is so good.

Maxx Seijo  1:09:28

On the ground. That’s the same metaphysical contraction, right? We need all of it, right? We can’t be reductionist, and that’s a part of this podcast: superstructure, base. We want to obliterate that entire reductionism like an eliminationist method that seeks to bracket things and say “that’s not real. That’s not the real causal locus,” right? “We need to look on the factory floor where the worker hits this commodity over and over and over again. And he hits it, and it’s rhythmic, and we watch it. And then it’s all of a sudden it’s an Eisenstein film, and we’re watching the rhythm in the circle and Oh, sorry. Anyway.

Naty Smith  1:10:04

All right, you just made an Eisenstein reference. Officially jumped the shark. I’m just kidding.

Maxx Seijo  1:10:16

That’s a metaphor. It’s disgusting. And so we can only produce on the ground in our local neighborhood. We can only knock on the doors of our self-subsisting Heimat. So what does that mean? What is his political economic program? Well, everyone, if you had any doubt, he writes later on in paragraph 172, “The 21st century is witnessing a weakening of the power of nation-states.” Is that Thomas Fazi? Oh, sorry.

Naty Smith  1:10:47

We have a problem. Houston, we have a problem.

Maxx Seijo  1:10:49

Sorry. I didn’t know I was reading from another Italian, Thomas Fazi, but we can keep going. “Chiefly because the economic and financial sectors being transnational capital,” right, “tend to prevail over the political” meaning the legal, right? So Matt Karp just wrote an awful take about this in Jacobin, but there’s this sense that capital can’t be beholden by the nation state. It exists out there in the global world of circulation, and of transnational circulation. It’s an other, right, but it’s not a good other. It’s a bad other.

Will Beaman  1:11:28

No, we don’t want it to visit us.

Maxx Seijo  1:11:30

We don’t want it to visit. Stay away!

Naty Smith  1:11:32

To be clear, the idea is not that we have tax breaks to have foreign capital visit our developing country. The point is that it’s a wrong framing.

Maxx Seijo  1:11:45

Capital is not a thing.

Will Beaman  1:11:47

Yeah, that’s not what’s happening.

Naty Smith  1:11:49


Will Beaman  1:11:50

What’s happening is that public functions are being carried out through public institutions that…

Maxx Seijo  1:11:59

Through the political.

Will Beaman  1:12:00

Right. Through the political which are designed with the aesthetics of private capital.

Maxx Seijo  1:12:05


Will Beaman  1:12:05

Right. But you know, there’s no institution that’s not publicly chartered somewhere. And, not even just to reify, you know, like, the nation-state charters its own institutions or something, because politics transcends that as well. What were you going to say Maxx?

Maxx Seijo  1:12:20

So I was just gonna say, absolutely. And so where he goes with this is we have all of these atomized nation-states, which are sovereign, essentially, he hopes. We probably have to deport a bunch of people to make them other first before then we can open up our borders to them…

Naty Smith  1:12:21

Just like not write off our sovereign debt, but pay it more slowly.

Maxx Seijo  1:12:43

Pay it more slowly. Exactly. He’s Argentinian after all.

Naty Smith  1:12:47


Maxx Seijo  1:12:49

As a joke, I think we should have asked Felix Salmon to record something for this podcast about the Argentinian debt crisis.

Naty Smith  1:12:56

I don’t know who that is.

Maxx Seijo  1:12:57

That’s like a early Obama-era Bloomberg joke that no one’s gonna get, but…

Will Beaman  1:13:03

Leaving it in. Continue.

Maxx Seijo  1:13:04

Yeah. So “given this situation,” he says, “is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions.” Seems good, right?

Naty Smith  1:13:13

Right. This is supposed macro, right?

Maxx Seijo  1:13:15

Right. “With functionaries who are appointed fairly by agreement among national governments and empowered to impose sanctions.”

Will Beaman  1:13:22

If you clean your room, then after school, you can do Model UN.

Maxx Seijo  1:13:26

Literally, right?

Naty Smith  1:13:27

And it’s interesting, because there are like historians, or scholars who’ve kind of looked at more lefty inflections of the history of the UN, like Adom Getachew and her book about African post-colonial movements. But I mean, it’s very clear in his writing some of the limits.

Maxx Seijo  1:13:47

Yes, and it’s importantly phrased too that this is a sacrifice. We have to sacrifice to enter into this global relation of the sovereign head that then get to argue it out in the marketplace of national ideas.

Will Beaman  1:14:00

It’s a social contract for nation-states.

Maxx Seijo  1:14:03

Yes, exactly. Right.

Will Beaman  1:14:04

Like nation states are giving up their sovereignty in order to become part of an even bigger sovereign.

Maxx Seijo  1:14:09

And it’s almost like this touching, as Scott would say, is this mimetic compulsion to reground. And we keep re-grounding. And we have to build a sort of pyramid, because gravity has to hold it up of an international institution.

Naty Smith  1:14:25

A pyramid scheme.

Maxx Seijo  1:14:26

That represents the collective will of each national, hardened, solid snake.

Will Beaman  1:14:34


Maxx Seijo  1:14:34

People. Yeah, ground, right? And all of these things. And so this leads to, I think the sort of culmination of his political economic vision, which is moving to paragraph 190: “Political charity is also expressed in a spirit of openness to everyone. Government leaders should be the first to make the sacrifices that foster encounter and see converge on at least some issues. They should be ready to listen to other points of view and make room for everyone. Through sacrifice and patience, they can help to create a beautiful polyhedral reality in which everyone has a place. Here economic negotiations do not work, something else is required. An exchange of gifts for the common good. It may seem naive and utopian, yet we cannot renounce this lofty aim.”

Naty Smith  1:15:24

I want to jump in quickly, which is like as the reader of Encyclical. This is embedded in the context of him going into forgiveness, and this is very clearly about, in many ways, his own silence, and the churches own silence, and his continued silence during the dirty war and his continuing silence regarding Catholic abuse, the massive feminist movement for abortion in Argentina, which was successful. I think that’s interesting to think in terms of political metaphors, because he’s like, “Well all the leaders…it’s a gift of all the leaders if they can sort of swallow their pride and come together and see all sides and everybody has their place.” And you know, he says, “I can’t oblige you to forgive but it would be good” you know. I don’t know if it’s like this context of convergence and sort of “if I can be sacrificial and patient. I can see that the right wing Pinochetista molester priests also have a point of view, and I don’t have to forgive them. But I could” and I think you guys can kind of articulate how that connects to political economy.

Will Beaman  1:16:38

Yeah. And connects to Liz Bruenig’s thing that we read in a previous episode.

Naty Smith  1:16:43

Yeah, but the sense of the gift and the sense of economic negot- It’s fascinating because he says economic negotiations don’t work. But it’s fascinating because he’s precisely talking about, “Well, we need to have like regional blocs. We need to have the UN.” And you know, he precisely opposed these kind of left wing Peronists during the aughts, the Kirchner’s in Argentina who were engaging in this Pink Wave project for regional associations like this left wing trade bloc, the Mercosur. And he was the head of the opposition to the Kirchner’s because he was a supporter of right wing Peronists, not left wing Peronists. But this and this is also tied up in the sense of Franciscanism, right? The sense of charity, the sense of the gift, the sense that I want to reject the economic in order to find the true economic, which is like the self-sacrificing love of a handshake.

Will Beaman  1:17:37

Foreign aid instead of loans.

Maxx Seijo  1:17:39

And I want to be a little cheeky here and do a nice analog. And because I think what this reminded me of, believe it or not, was Marx. And so I wanted to read from this because this idea of a polyhedral reality in which we don’t do economics across borders anymore. We exchange gifts. We barter, right? Is precisely how Marx describes world money in Capital Volume One. Because the the reconciliation people try and make with Marx and MMT is like: Marx describes credit money in the domestic sphere. And so that’s true. Marx does do that. Right? And that’s perfectly true. But once we leave the domestic…right? Now, we’re reifying this. What does that mean, right? Once we leave that home soil, that proximate ground that we can touch, then we go back into the world of commodity money, right? And so here we have the very beginning of Marx’s section on world money. And this is on page 240 of my Penguin version of Capital.

Naty Smith  1:17:40

Yeah. Let me open up my version.

Maxx Seijo  1:18:38

Yeah. “When money leaves the domestic sphere of circulation, it loses the local functions it has acquired there as a standard of prices, coin and small change and as a symbol of value, and falls back into its original form as precious metal in the shape of Boolean. In world trade, commodities develop their value universally. Their independent value form, thus confronts them hereto as world money.” And so there’s this sense here that barter holds, because the moment we leave the domestic sphere, which, you know, we have all this trust. We can do all sorts of credit because we’re the same. You and I, we’re the same, we look the same, we have the same, we’re already on

Will Beaman  1:19:43

Yeah, we’re already commensurable as opposed to being forced to be commensurable by global capital.

Maxx Seijo  1:19:48

Right. We’re already a people. Right.

Naty Smith  1:19:50

Alright, Angela, is that you Angela Nagle. Global capital made me believe in gay rights.

Maxx Seijo  1:19:58

And so the thickness of this people this ethnoi, as I’ve heard some call it, but on an international scale it falls apart because I am univocally different from you, right? You migrant. You trader. And so what do we have to rely on? Right? Okay, because we need a material ground. What is that ground for Marx? It’s the commodity again. We go back to the commodity theory of money. The melted silver, right? The value form as evoked in the universally commensurable commodity that is money, gold, silver, right? And so this is why we argue that MMT and Marx, perhaps on one side, could be imagined if you believe ardently in monetary sovereignty as a sort of commensurable, to be funny…

Naty Smith  1:20:28

The melted silver. Because also most people when…In my opinion, is that when most people like say Marxist and get defensive Marxists they just mean like economic justice.

Maxx Seijo  1:21:04

Well, right. And we affirm, and there are components of the Marxist tradition that we affirm. Absolutely.

Naty Smith  1:21:09

But I’m just saying that’s why I think people get so defensive.

Maxx Seijo  1:21:12

Yes, I agree.

Naty Smith  1:21:12

They don’t necessarily mean all these details.

Maxx Seijo  1:21:16

Marx is their thing.

Naty Smith  1:21:17

Oh, yeah. It’s like their way of saying economic justice against economic injustice. You know?

Maxx Seijo  1:21:23

Yeah, it’s a reassuring mechanism that we have on the left.

Will Beaman  1:21:28

There’s a there, there. Right?

Maxx Seijo  1:21:29

There’s a there, there.

Naty Smith  1:21:29

Yeah, and so if you go against it, you’re going against justice.

Maxx Seijo  1:21:35

Right. But here we see the analog by which Marx and Pope Francis have a similar view of the domestic as it’s coming into the relationship with the global world, right? Of transnational capital. And this is a huge problem, because it reifies what the domestic is: a sense of trust in relation as a people as proximate. Right? And this is why we say Marx relies on a barter, because he does at the global scale, right? It’s not just his phenomenology.

Naty Smith  1:22:09

He’s an Hegalian theorist of encounter.

Maxx Seijo  1:22:11


Will Beaman  1:22:12

I think that there’s something really interesting here in the way that going back to our “the virus is the virus” episode where we kind of dug into the “nature is healing” meme. This idea of nature, healing, right? That happens through people on the outskirt of society. Instead of bartering with the other, selflessly giving gifts to the other. Right? But it’s still this figure of an encounter, right? And of standing in what is this kind of void, where you can either establish economic relations, or you can give to charity.

Naty Smith  1:22:56

Charity is just the ethical version of establishing economic relations.

Will Beaman  1:23:02

Right! If you’re a good person, instead of exchanging where you get something in return, you just give. But the exchange where you get something in return, for Marx, ends up on the outskirts of civilization and on the outskirts of your immediate homogenous unit where you all trust each other. On the outskirts of that, you barter, and then that ends up…

Maxx Seijo  1:23:30

That starts capitalism.

Will Beaman  1:23:31

Yep, fast forward, the dialectic.

Maxx Seijo  1:23:33

It’s an encounter.

Will Beaman  1:23:34

Right? And capitalism. It spreads, right? Geographically, through touching, right.

Maxx Seijo  1:23:39


Will Beaman  1:23:40

Through exchanges, in the same way that this healing is supposed to spread.

Maxx Seijo  1:23:45

And I want to also, because I think it’s so honestly kind of haunting the way that this Encyclical comes out during COVID. Right? And famously like, some of the important and crucial historical periods that just precede the early modern one, which we can then locate as the sort of rise of this. This Franciscan tradition is preceded by the Black Death. And so there’s this violent sense of…

Naty Smith  1:24:14

But Maxx, Maxx, the Black Death was good for labor unions.

Maxx Seijo  1:24:19

It raised a raise the cost of labor, actually.

Will Beaman  1:24:22

A huge opportunity for ending capitalism.

Maxx Seijo  1:24:25

They squandered. Yeah, but there’s this sense of this violent…

Naty Smith  1:24:28

But we can learn from…

Maxx Seijo  1:24:30

Right. There’s this shock of interdependence, right? That confronts us. And, we have to say, it’s not necessarily something we love. Like we all feel the stress and anxiety associated when we all have our mechanism.

Naty Smith  1:24:44

You’ve heard me with Dasha…Like, I don’t love my neighbor, except one of them.

Maxx Seijo  1:24:50

But it’s hard. Dependence is hard. Solving the problem of COVID at macro scale is hard and complicated. It is really hard. But you can’t avoid the macro provisioning pressure.

Naty Smith  1:25:04

It’s not as hard as Agamben made it, though.

Maxx Seijo  1:25:07

Well, no, of course not. It’s not hard in the sense of…

Will Beaman  1:25:12

In the sense of a sacrifice, right?

Maxx Seijo  1:25:14

Exactly. It’s not a sacrifice.

Naty Smith  1:25:16

Yeah. As if those deaths were a gift.

Maxx Seijo  1:25:20


Naty Smith  1:25:20

A charity gift? Because you can’t macro provision.

Maxx Seijo  1:25:24

It’s hard because existence is hard. Right? There’s pain and suffering and joy and beauty. And we all share in these different problems. And we don’t have to have suffering, right? And we don’t have to have all these things like there are problems we can solve in certain ways. Right? There are ways to deal with things like COVID.

Naty Smith  1:25:45

As you can see in the countries that like actually dealt with it.

Maxx Seijo  1:25:48

Right, and that have done a better job than the United States and Chile and others.

Naty Smith  1:25:53

Probably because of their sort of natural identity with the soil.

Maxx Seijo  1:25:58

Yeah, certainly with New Zealand.

Naty Smith  1:26:00

It’s typical of the Chinese you know, because that’s very typical of them to sort of make a virus that they handle because they planned ahead for their own…

Maxx Seijo  1:26:10

Are you Matt Bruenig? You’re Matt Bruenig.

Naty Smith  1:26:12

Or Matt Stoller.

Maxx Seijo  1:26:13

Matt Stoller, too. You’re both of them, okay.

Naty Smith  1:26:15

Yeah, but they sent it on everyone else, because they had already planned ahead. Little communist bitches. Yeah, well, they are actually pretty right wing communists.

Will Beaman  1:26:25

Unified Matt theory.

Maxx Seijo  1:26:29

So we can think about these moments… I don’t necessarily want to take on the sort of quest for historical meaning necessarily, but there is something, I listened to a Bloomberg podcast about the Black Death. Like, there’s something hovering here in the way we have interdependence crises in a way that are ongoing, and they’re always ongoing. It’s unemployment, it’s suffering in countries in the global south. It’s suffering all over. I mean, we can look to all sorts of different types of suffering. And the response that we get by Pope Francis is we need polyhedral nationalism. But the reason why we come so hard at people like Marx is because built in to his schema of capitalism, and…

Naty Smith  1:27:20

Because he’s too daddy for us.

Maxx Seijo  1:27:22

That’s right, we just can’t handle how much of a daddy he is. Is this domestic fetish, right? This domestic reification, this reification of the thickness of the proximate. And that’s his reassuring sort of rhythmic care symptom.

Naty Smith  1:27:40

Oh, and, and it’s interesting because Marx, I’m, like, honestly, not a Marx expert, but I’m sure that like, at some point, in his writing, he said shit against the national and whatever, whatever. But, like, it’s not nothing that Lenin is, like, his most famous sort of progenitor, but also like, change some things. But I mean, Lenin is like the ultimate nationalist in many ways. I mean, the sense of like,

Will Beaman  1:28:04

Yeah, completely.

Naty Smith  1:28:05

Imperialism and anti imperialism and his sense of the nation. You know, there is like a convergence between these rivals of Woodrow Wilson and Lenin, right?

Will Beaman  1:28:17

Yeah, you start with taking over the univocal will of the nation-state.

Naty Smith  1:28:22


Will Beaman  1:28:23

And univocal meaning, right, when we talk about my will…My will, my name is Will. When we talk about my will as a person and we talk about a country’s will, the word will means the same thing, right? And that’s univocal is being speaking through one voice. So words mean the same exact thing regardless of how they’re being used, and in this case, right? Everything comes down to univocal will, and univocal difference, right? Everything is different in the same…there are two sides of the same coin. Yeah.

Naty Smith  1:29:04


Maxx Seijo  1:29:05

That produces the encounter.

Naty Smith  1:29:07

 And the ability to create the UN! Sorry.

Will Beaman  1:29:10

It’s an encounter between two wills, and the two wills can encounter because their wills in the same way.

Naty Smith  1:29:17

No, totally.

Maxx Seijo  1:29:18

I think we’ve done a pretty good job of doing most of the meat, you know, the fleshy, touchy meat of this Encyclical.

Naty Smith  1:29:27

The bony part of the episode.

Maxx Seijo  1:29:29

We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about his cancel culture critiques, because this just feels

Naty Smith  1:29:34

Oh, god.

Maxx Seijo  1:29:35

This feels so connected to our podcast in a way that I think it just makes me laugh.

Will Beaman  1:29:40


Maxx Seijo  1:29:40

Pope Francis hates cancel culture.

Naty Smith  1:29:44

He’s like, you gotta listen like you got some, you know, like, there’s different sides. The internet is like chaos, you know? You can’t smell people’s sweat.

Maxx Seijo  1:29:54

He signed the Harper’s letter with Samuel Moyn, I think.

Naty Smith  1:29:58

Oh my god. 100%. Like if he knew enough about the internet to know that existed, he would have 100% like scientists, he would have like, written his name over everybody else’s name and meant like not in a dominant way!

Maxx Seijo  1:30:10

No, no, just an enthusiastic way. Barry Weiss would’ve even got to sign her name. But it’s important, I think, actually, we could like think about media theory for a second.

Naty Smith  1:30:23

I think it’s interesting to think through. Yeah. Like how this does connect to his theories.

Maxx Seijo  1:30:28

It totally does. And it connects to like our conversation with Matt Chrisman about media and spectacle and all of these things. So we take then the globalized world of capitalism, of spectacle of all of these exchanges that ping pong touching each other until they created

Naty Smith  1:30:43

A global Jewish internet.

Maxx Seijo  1:30:46

I mean, you’re not that wrong, basically, with what he’s saying. But he says…

Will Beaman  1:30:50

You heard it here first, folks.

Maxx Seijo  1:30:53

I can’t wait for someone to quote that only and then put it on Twitter.

Naty Smith  1:30:58

Yeah, that’s like, as I said the words. Exactly the thought process I had.

Maxx Seijo  1:31:01

Yeah, exactly. So right, he talks about “in today’s globalized world…”

Naty Smith  1:31:08


Maxx Seijo  1:31:09

Right. So we start from that premise. “The media can help us feel closer to one another, creating a sense of unity of the human family, which in turn can inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all.”

Naty Smith  1:31:22

This is what we call the opening caveat before saying the radical opposite.

Will Beaman  1:31:29

We can touch people who are far away now.

Maxx Seijo  1:31:32

Right. “We need constantly to ensure that present day forms of communication are in fact guiding us to generous encounter with others, to honest pursuit of the whole truth, to service, to closeness, to the underprivileged, and to the promotion of the common good.” Right?

Naty Smith  1:31:47

So like, the internet introduced me to Liz Bruenig.

Maxx Seijo  1:31:52

Right. “So we cannot accept the digital world designed to exploit our weaknesses and bring out the worst in people.” Right. So it’s like love thy neighbor on the internet. This is the whole introduction to that, right? But then elsewhere… Elsewhere, he critiques “digital campaigns of hatred and destruction,” and says that they are not as some would us believe, “a positive form of mutual support. But simply…”

Naty Smith  1:32:18

Sorry, I want to go back to the the digital world designed for our weakness, because this is an interesting thing, because I think some people see us as just these sort of like, “we love the internet, we’re not aware of algorithms.” And there’s a very strong strain of left critique, whether it’s with Richard Seymour, or Jody Dean or all different. I mean, honestly, like throughout left internet, there’s a very strong sense of self. And there’s truth to that, right? Like the way profit is designed, the way algorithms are designed, the way it’s designed to be addictive that it does try to like capitalize on certain things. But people’s critique of this very much gets into this sort of Franciscan rejection of money, like touching the internet itself, is like kind of debasing myself, devaluing currency of true encounter and affection of knocking on doors, right. And I think it’s hurtful to most people, even though it’s like, very common, like, self exculpating thing, I think, especially during COVID. I think it hurts most people’s feelings a little bit, and that’s why they participate in it when you talk about being “too online,” and yada, yada. Because most of us are in this modern time, like, obviously, extremely online, because that type of abstraction is how you care for each other. Like, everyone I know does not live in my apartment.

Maxx Seijo  1:33:45

Right. Which is not to negate the work of people like Cathy O’Neil. And you know, there are others too, who talk about algorithmic bias.

Naty Smith  1:33:56

Like Frank Pasquale.

Maxx Seijo  1:33:57

Yes. Exactly, exactly. Frank Pasquale. I just finished TA’ing for a digital theory course, where we basically talked about this for 10 weeks in a row, right. And so it’s important to differentiate critiques of form as relates to the form of abstraction, and how that is being constructed and designed from critiques from, of abstraction as such, right? It’s critiquing the internet as such, versus the way it’s designed.

Naty Smith  1:34:24

And that collapsibility happens really fast. Just as you guys point out, like in “the virus is the virus”. Like “capitalism is the virus” collapses really quickly into “people are the virus.”

Maxx Seijo  1:34:36

Exactly, exactly.

Naty Smith  1:34:39

Not to say we’re not anti-capitalist again, you know what I mean?

Maxx Seijo  1:34:41

Right. Well, exactly. And we’re not anti-exploitation, like we obviously are, right?

Naty Smith  1:34:45


Maxx Seijo  1:34:45

It’s the entire framing of the structure.

Naty Smith  1:34:49


Maxx Seijo  1:34:49

And so we set up this sort of thing where it’s like, “we live in a globalized world we can reach out and touch someone,” right? This is like actually quite neoliberal when it comes to media theory.

Naty Smith  1:34:58

“Reach out and touch…” This is like part of the slippage of Peronism right? Like the slippage Peronism from this sort of like workers Red-Brown movement into like, inevitably, neoliberalism…

Maxx Seijo  1:35:16

It’s like this is a 1980s AT&T ad that’s like, “Reach out and touch someone.”

Naty Smith  1:35:20


Maxx Seijo  1:35:22

By the way, I stole that from Scott Ferguson’s class. So, anyway, but…

Naty Smith  1:35:27

This is typical of the problematic of having to have a mommy.

Maxx Seijo  1:35:30

Right I know, interdependent.

Naty Smith  1:35:33

I, though, am totally different from my mother.

Will Beaman  1:35:37

I always check the breast for new jokes.

Naty Smith  1:35:43

I wish I could express to the listeners like the facial expressions I made with some of Will’s jokes. Just this face of like dread and joy, just like, ooo, that was a brutal one. Love it. Ooo.

Will Beaman  1:36:00

Yeah. Well, it’s the same face Francis makes when he’s visiting the poor.

Naty Smith  1:36:06

Oooo, I love you.

Maxx Seijo  1:36:08

So, at the same time, when Pope Francis says we need to reject transnational capital and blah, blah, blah. He also says that “these digital campaigns of hatred and destruction,” i.e. cancel culture, “are not a positive form of mutual support, but simply an association of individuals united against a perceived common enemy.”

Naty Smith  1:36:31

It’s hard to know was that me was that Will? Was that you? Like, who were the Marxists mad at?  Who were the Marx- Right, exactly. I think it was all of the above.

Will Beaman  1:36:42

And the way that I find that a lot of Marx-inflected, or Marxist critiques of nationalism, sort of fall apart is they’re like, “Well, they’re just looking for a common enemy, when they should be looking…” And then they describe looking for a common enemy, but it’s global capital.

Naty Smith  1:37:01

Right. Right.

Will Beaman  1:37:02

And they exculpate with, “well, this is just an objective materialist analysis.”

Naty Smith  1:37:06

Which is isn’t. Like the…

Will Beaman  1:37:09


Naty Smith  1:37:10

The how do we name him Alex Williams Substack, who was talking about post-Keynesianism recently and discussed how, you know, like, economically speaking, if you look at post-Keynesian theory, like there is not a unified logic to capitalism, like profit seeking does not end up reducing to one single logic. That’s just like, not empirically the case.

Maxx Seijo  1:37:32

What? It’s not determinist? No.

Naty Smith  1:37:34

He was like, shocked. He was like, nobody, like got mad at my post with a line that there’s no unified logic under capital…

Will Beaman  1:37:41

Well, it was because he sounded really depressed, so the Marxists were like, Oh, okay he’s one of us.

Naty Smith  1:37:47

Or they just didn’t read that far.

Maxx Seijo  1:37:49

Okay, so I’m gonna continue now.

Naty Smith  1:37:51


Maxx Seijo  1:37:52

So the Pope writes, you know, so basically, what we’ve just articulated, too, is this Schmittian, and like reading Schmitt from the left, right? Common enemy, right? It’s…

Naty Smith  1:38:02


Maxx Seijo  1:38:03

Pope is like, “Wait, no, no common enemy.” But then he has his own Schmittian enemy. And we could think about our interview with Daniel Bessner and his insistence on being Schmittian. And…

Naty Smith  1:38:15

While also at the same time accusing us of being Schmittian.

Maxx Seijo  1:38:18

Well, this is the exact cancel culture, right?

Naty Smith  1:38:21


Maxx Seijo  1:38:21

They just want to cancel capital? And that’s the whole thing.

Naty Smith  1:38:23


Maxx Seijo  1:38:24

So we want to cancel fascists, they want to cancel capital. So I think this gets into the connection between that sort of double movement of this bad faith critique of cancel culture, because the Pope writes…

Naty Smith  1:38:38

Pretty personal. Yeah.

Maxx Seijo  1:38:40

“Digital media can also expose people to the risk of addiction, isolation, and a gradual loss of contact with concrete reality.” And there we have the touching and alienation.

Naty Smith  1:38:50

Concrete. That was the only thing I liked about Trump was his story of association with the concrete mafia.

Maxx Seijo  1:38:57

And this one’s really gonna hurt you, Naty. So this gradual loss of contact with concrete reality ends up “blocking the development of authentic interpersonal relationships.” So these so called non-authentic interpersonal relationships, which is hilarious, because now I’m thinking of like Heideggerian inauthenticity, and like how he brackets media theory.

Naty Smith  1:39:23

Oh, so I know, Marxists who are sleeping around on apps, but also like, my friend will be making a new app…My friend who grew up lower middle class, and they’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to add another new app to my phone.”

Maxx Seijo  1:39:40

That’s ironic.

Naty Smith  1:39:42

“Isn’t the real life always…isn’t meatspace always better than real encounters?” Like, Oh, is that how you meet girls in meatspace? Like really? Nobody? Not nobody. Like I’m not typically a huge online dater, but the idea that like there’s some space of meatspace in real encounters is just like fucking queer-phobic horseshit.

Maxx Seijo  1:40:04

Naty, I’ve never touched you, though.

Naty Smith  1:40:07

But like, honestly, I want to underline that

Maxx Seijo  1:40:09

Yeah, it’s so fucked up.

Naty Smith  1:40:10

Like queer-phobic horseshit.

Maxx Seijo  1:40:12


Naty Smith  1:40:13

Like oh, you’re not like in an alleyway in the Castro in 1978, so go fuck yourself. Are you serious? Like oh, and literally that in the 90s Quarracino said, the bishop who made the Pope’s career, that gays should be locked in ghettos, and that’s what some of this materialism is saying is like, don’t we miss when there was like a gayborhood that was like where you had to go to have like a physical encounter before the internet?

Maxx Seijo  1:40:39

And even further to the point, he goes on to list the things that these physical encounters lack, right? These these online encounters, sorry.

Naty Smith  1:40:47

This is my favorite part. I’m not gonna lie. This is pretty funny.

Maxx Seijo  1:40:49

“They lack the physical gestures, facial expressions, moments of silence, body language, and even the smells, the trembling of hands, the blushes and perspiration that speak to us and are part of human connection.”

Will Beaman  1:41:03

And that kind of make him cringe when it’s a poor person.

Naty Smith  1:41:06

This is just so fucking rude during COVID. So many people can’t like, apart from dating, like so many people can’t see their family for like, several years.

Maxx Seijo  1:41:14

They can’t hug their family.

Naty Smith  1:41:16

Yeah, and I live abroad and it’s like what, my family just like means nothing to me now because I can’t smell their fucking sweat?

Maxx Seijo  1:41:23

And that’s exactly what Agamben was saying when he said that Pope Francis should be out there hugging and touching the the poor, because that is what St. Francis of Assisi did. And that COVID wasn’t real, because the existence of COVID denies the validity of this metaphysical tradition. Because it foregrounds interdependence as a problem that is ongoing that we must wrestle with. It’s not a problem of one that’s created by money, right? It’s not money creates interdependence what then money has to solve. This is an ongoing problem of existence. And we don’t even have to look to political economy…

Naty Smith  1:42:01

The riddle of care.

Maxx Seijo  1:42:02

The riddle of care, it’s also biological.

Will Beaman  1:42:04

What’s really funny about this, too, is like, of all the people to be complaining about “fake relationships” because they’re not like in person. For it to be the Pope, who like people have pictures of him in their house and like, I want to see like, a bitchy Red Scare style Pope podcast where he’s like really shitty to all of his fans, because like their relationship with him is parasocial.

Maxx Seijo  1:42:34

r/Catholic That’s the subreddit for the Pope.

Naty Smith  1:42:38

That’s the next Dasha.

Maxx Seijo  1:42:40

Yeah, and right. But that’s built into the contradiction of the metaphysics because you can’t premise it on this sort of touching relation of reassurance and proximity, while also having a social order, and that’s what happened to the Franciscans.

Naty Smith  1:42:55

I did post on Twitter and someone commented something like that, like Will once said that he was like, everything’s become a kind of spectacle. And I posted, “is this the Pope or every hack, Marxist theorist?” My friends like, yeah, the Pope is a really good person to be like, criticizing spectacle, wearing a giant hat and like walking around with the staff as he broadcasts himself to a worldwide Catholic Church, Catholic, meaning universal.

Maxx Seijo  1:43:19

If I can’t smell the Pope, this shit is invalid.

Naty Smith  1:43:24

Smelling shit. One of my oldest couple evidence gathering techniques.

Maxx Seijo  1:43:29

And like what this leads is the reason why we’re so harsh on Hegel on the show is because…

Naty Smith  1:43:34

By we, we mean Maxx

Maxx Seijo  1:43:36

The Hegelian sense of contradiction is premised on a metaphysics that can’t be explained by that proximate relation, right.? That’s why you need world spirit.

Naty Smith  1:43:46

The Holy Spirit.

Maxx Seijo  1:43:47

Right. To account for all of this order, all of this existence, all of this interdependence and build this phenomenological Rube Goldberg machine that gets you to the state, which then gets you to the UN as world spirit. I mean, we we’re all there in this, and the problem is the premise. Right? The problem is the premise.

Naty Smith  1:44:06

And this premise of encounter, as this quote continues here in 43…his media theory really reveals the liberal nationalism baked into his idea of encounter because he kind of encapsulates this idea of illusion and fake news and that you’re in this like self-selected echo chamber. Which is like totally, all the shit all these supposed leftists were like dissing about centrist liberals whose entire reading of the media sphere was like, “there’s two sides. There’s the side that knows the truth. There’s the side that believes what Trump says. And like if you’re just in an echo chamber only listening to your own people, coastal liberals, and not with like the real workers in the real workers who are racist cunts in Montana, then you can’t…”

Will Beaman  1:44:54

In your local, grounded echo chamber.

Naty Smith  1:44:58

Yeah, totally.

Will Beaman  1:44:59

The problem is that we’ve all lost our based echo chamber, and now we’re in virtual echo chambers.

Maxx Seijo  1:45:08

As Richard Wolff said, “I think the assault on the Capitol really reflected the alienation of the working class.”

Comforted & Chastened : A Liz Bruenig Special

In this special episode, hosts Natalie Smith and @moltopopulare take on the austere sexual politics promulgated by cultural critic and commentator Elizabeth or “Liz” Bruenig. Mirroring the tacit zero-sum logics built into her spouse Matt Bruenig’s analyses of political economy, Liz regularly weaponizes social conservatism and conformity in cruel efforts to shore up a problematic vision of a proper social democratic populace. Natalie and Charlotte lay bare the sadistic violation of sexual freedom and identity that forms the core of Liz’s project by examining a wide range of articles on topics such as queer celibacy, the politics of pornography, and 50 Shades of Gray.

Link to our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure

Music: “Yum” from “This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” EP by flirting.
Twitter: @actualflirting

27 – Sunrise or DSA?

Co-hosts Will Beaman, Natalie Smith, and Maxximilian Seijo discuss recent critiques of the Sunrise Movement by influential members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) on social media and in the pages of Jacobin Magazine. Problematizing the DSAers destructive zero-sum rhetoric regarding the allegedly correct “theory of change,” the gang suggests an alternative mode for organizational provisioning, rooted in neither the sovereignty of a dues-paying membership structure nor the sovereignty of “outside” donors. It is impossible to take part in an interdependent social organization that knows no externality because everyone is responsible to everyone else, whether inside or outside a particular organization. Misunderstanding inter-organizational dependence, the Superstructure co-hosts argue, has led these writers to accuse Sunrise of “social disembeddedness,” a reactionary charge with little basis in reality. In contrast, the Superstructure team proffers a self-consciously generative and analogical model of social coordination that opens organizational activity to diversity and difference.

Music: “Yum” from “This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” EP by flirting.
Twitter: @actualflirting

26 – Mutual Aid By Any Other Name

Cohosts Natalie Smith and Will Beaman discuss mutual aid, highlighting the potentials of its often neglected monetary and linguistic dimensions. 

Reading against Dean Spade’s interpretation of mutual aid as fully internal or external to money and the state, Natalie and Will recast mutual aid practices as active and vital forms of contestation over the “monetary naming” of other fiscal authorities that naturalize austerity and unemployment. Viewing mutual aid this way, they argue, opens up possibilities for its expansion through monetary creation.

Music: “Yum” from “This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” EP by flirting.
Twitter: @actualflirting

The Neoliberal Blockbuster: Toy Story Part 1 (Full Episode)

This Money on the Left/Superstructure episode is the tenth premium release from Scott Ferguson’s “Neoliberal Blockbuster” course. Typically reserved for Patreon subscribers, this special two-part episode about Toy Story is available to the general public in full. Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon to your favorite podcast streaming service.

For access to the rest of the course, subscribe to our Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure.  

If you are interested in premium offerings but presently unable to afford a subscription, please send a direct message to @moneyontheleft or @Superstruc on Twitter & we will happily provide you with membership access.  

Course Description

This course examines the neoliberal Blockbuster from the 1970s to the present. It focuses, in particular, on the social significance of the blockbuster’s constitutive technologies: both those made visible in narratives and the off-screen tools that drive production and reception. Linking aesthetic shifts in American moving images to broader transformations in political economy, the course traces the historical transformation of screen action from the ethereal “dream factory” of pre-1960s cinema to the impact-driven “thrill ride” of the post-1970s blockbuster. In doing so, we attend to the blockbuster’s technological forms and study how they have variously contributed to social, economic, and political transformations over the past 40 years. We critically engage blockbusters as “reflexive allegories” of their own technosocial processes and pleasures. Above all, we think through the blockbuster’s shifting relationship to monetary abstraction and the myriad additional abstractions monetary mediation entails.


2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)

Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)

RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)

Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)

Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993)

The Matrix (Wachowskis, 1999)

Avengers: Infinity War (Joe & Anthony Russo, 2018)