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This is an important book that demands to be read
on 15 August 2013
This is an important book that demands to be read. The book details and explains why it is that as the neoliberalisation and throw-everything-to-the-market policies increase inequality in Great Britain the media and our politics is becoming increasingly saturated with objects of disgust: the bogus asylum seeker, the chav, the benefit scrounger, gypsies and travellers, and hoodies. Tyler explains how disgust is central to this process, that these groups are represented as `human waste', a drain on society, and this justifies their exile from the benefits of living or claiming asylum in a developed, civilized country.
The book first develops a theory of abjection and then applies this to the cases of asylum seekers, gypsy and traveller people, young people and briefly disabled people. Again and again these media folk devils are created and the waves of antipathy that emerge in society are rode to justify the further retrenchment of policies that continue to exclude and worsen inequality. For example, the behaviour of young people during the riots of 2011, at least some of whom as Tyler notes were jobless and felt marginalised from society, are used to drive forward Workfare policies where the young are forced to work for free. Vilified images of poor people being used to retrench welfare spending. And the cycle goes on.
The various machinations and collusions between politicians and the state and the media to identify those to be made abject and to execute a campaign of vilification are startling. There are huge profits now being made from the asylum complex that are handed over to private companies, and in the media for companies making programmes such as `My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding'. The flip side of this are the social and psychological the consequences for the people who have to live with an abject identity, facing the stigma and violence leveled against `human waste'.
Reading `Revolting Subjects' it is hard not to read into it Martin Niemoller's famous reflection on the rise of Nazism, `First they came for the communists... and there was no one left to speak for me." Neoliberal economic and social policies have thus far exacerbated inequality and there is no reason at all to think that with, for example, Amazon becoming the world's one-stop shop, MOOCs replacing universities, and the replacement of various white-collar jobs with algorithms, the vast majority of us are at risk of becoming the `wasted populations' pushed to the edge of society and have the various apparatuses and techniques applied to demonize us and legitimate our exclusion and abjection. There are in the book examples of how those that society finds revolting cab become sites for protest and revolt, such as the naked protests of African asylum seekers and more importantly, drawing on Raymond Williams and Ranciere, that we need to move beyond classificatory policies and perceive and act on what we have in common with those made abject by an unfair and demonizing political and economic order.