Transmissions Episode 2: Ukraine, NOBS, and the End of the End of History (w/ George Hoare)
Welcome to Episode 2, of Class Unity Transmissions! Our guest for this episode is George Hoare, co-host of the Bungacast (neé Aufebunga Bunga) podcast, and co-author along with Alex Hochuli and Philip Cunliffe, of The End of the End of History (Zero Books, 2021).
In this episode, we begin with a discussion of Francis Fukuyama’s concept of the end of history, and how many intellectuals misread it as a ‘triumphalist’ celebration of American victory in the Cold War. The better argument, according to Hoare et al., is that Fukuyama was talking not just about the birth of a new era of liberal freedom, but of the dawning of an epoch of gloom — one which would bring disappointments to many of its more enthusiastic advocates.
We also discuss the war in Ukraine. So far, in western media at least, accounts of the causes of this war seem to rest upon simplistic caricatures of Putin’s flawed personality. Yet these accounts are contested, and a well-reasoned minority opinion suggests the deeper issue is NATO expansionism. Given that the West is typically used to getting its own way, to what extent is the Russian invasion of Ukraine a kind of reality check for neoliberal technocracy? While the invasion of Ukraine is illegal and monstrous, can it be understood as marking the return of politics?
As the interview progresses, we touch on numerous core concepts from the book, including the anti-political turn — also known as the “return of dissensus.” This turn was perhaps nowhere more clearly on display that in the 2016 election of Donald Trump. For Hoare et al, this moment occasioned the breakout across the United States of what they term ‘Neoliberal Order Breakdown Syndrome’ (NOBS). However, argue the Bunga crew, it was not without its historic antecedents. And, in some ways, we can see the effects of NOBS already at play in the politics surrounding Silvio Berlusconi’s rise to power in Italy, in the 1990s.
We also push back a little on Hoare in the interview, challenging some of the book’s characterizations of the limits of left-populism. While it is undoubtedly true, as Hoare et al. contend, that left-populism is anti-political in the sense that it has no theory of adequate “authority,” and that left-populist leaders like AOC and Bernie have failed thus far “to key into the agency of their own citizens,” we put it to him that this may be more of a bug than a feature. After all, as Thomas Frank and others have argued in recent times, there is a long and venerable history of left populist success, in the United States.
Other topics addressed include the applicability of the book’s arguments to the recent Canadian trucker rally against covid vaccination requirements, and contemporary debates around “techno-populism.”
We hope you’ll enjoy this discussion. If you have any feedback, please feel welcome to drop us a line:
Your hosts for this episode are Nicholas Kiersey, Steph K, and Dave F.