In a time when communities are being attacked in this manner, individual responses come to the fore. However, as should be clear from the aforementioned, due to the alienation of the skills necessary to care for ourselves and for each other our own capacities to do the work that needs to be done are placed under immense strain. The degree to which communities and individuals can bear this strain is limited by the degree to which they can identity and mobilise their capacities at any one time.
At a certain point, old modes of existence and old ways of managing the shit pile stop working and there is a period of breakdown and (hopefully) recomposition both for individuals and communities. Indeed, this period of crisis presents an opportunity for both individuals and communities to learn and develop and it is this which the current period is forcing us to recognise.
However, we should not let the recognition of a silver lining in the cloud allow us to forget that we are in the shit and that it is not us alone that put us there. We are not a radical other outside of the dynamic of class struggle. If anything, we are sometimes more involved than is healthy given the current context.
The radical common sense of permanent struggle which was evident in the 1970s no longer works. It does not work because we lack capacity to successfully reproduce ourselves as radical others, a capacity which was at one time founded on a solid material basis in a time of general public access to welfare. The contradiction here is that to conceptualise learning to care for each other as taking a break is to reproduce gendered forms of domination within our communities. It is so because care work is work. As such, the struggle is still permanent and we are now confronted by the need to develop our capacity to care for ourselves as radicalised Robinson Crusoes and each other as members of our communities.
The beat goes on in a different time signature. Both the content and the form of class struggle may have changed, but the struggle continues nonetheless. Furthermore, despite what the architects of neoliberal austerity would like us to believe, the struggle is ultimately still a collective struggle.
Let us imagine however for a moment that there is a radical otherness abstracted from the dynamic of class struggle. If so then what kind of subject, what kind of radical other, what kind of radicalised Robinson Crusoe would we be?
Within the class struggle it is easy to see what kind of subject we are. We are a subject that experiences our mental health in its ups and downs. We are a radical subject that gets tired over time. We are a subject which sees this in those around us and gets pissed off by it. We are a subject that has had enough of all of the bullshit. As such, it seems reasonable to imagine that the radical other abstracted out of the class struggle, alone on our desert island, would be a subject which experiences peace of mind, a subject always full of beans, a subject who has already completed the task of shovelling the shit into its proper place.
The question that this leaves open however is this: if it is only possible to posit the radical other by abstracting it out of the class struggle, and therefore out of its relationship with others, then what exactly is it other to?
This is the last part of Martin’s four article series on welfare, alienation and the poverty of radical otherness through the lens of Robinson Crusoe – read part three here