Get ready to have your mind blown. Are you part of the PMC (Professional Managerial Class)? Odds are, if you are reading this, you ARE. So many of us who work in nonprofits, or in government, are virtue hoarders. What is a virtue hoarder? Virtue Hoarders are the Professional Managerial Class. I first heard about this book on the Upstream podcast, and was AMAZED. Catherine Liu, author of Virtue Hoarders, writes,
“Dear reader, you are probably like me, a member of the PMC, where you’ve been educated and indoctrinated into its institutions. I hope that the short introduction to the false consciousness of a class that still wants to believe itself a heroic and virtuous political actor will strengthen the readers resolve to reject PMC politics, building on this critique of its reactionary class positions.
Having been imbued with liberalism and its ideologies, we all have to work to undo the effects of PMC propaganda to join the class war from below.”
I have a terrible confession. I have absolutely been a virtue hoarder.
Time to snatch your own wig, Virtue Hoarder!
As a Virgo, I am ALL ABOUT being self critical, as well as critical of everyone else! What? I JUST WANT YOU TO BE BETTER! ARE YOU NOT GRATEFUL?
Catherine Liu writes, “If you are reading this, you’re probably, like me, an ambivalent member of the PMC. I do not like what I see of my class and I’m determined to fight to socialize the things the PMC wants to hoard: virtue, grit, persistence, erudition, specialized knowledge, prestige, and pleasure, along with cultural and actual capital.
Identifying the changing contours of a class to which one partially belongs is to enter into the difficult process of political self-criticism, beginning with an exfoliating and brutal reconceptualization and an interrogation of one’s own values, sensibilities, and affects. “
Catherine Liu continues, “Because of the ideological distortions of leftist politics by PMC values, self-criticism must be at the beginning of all political engagement.” So, let’s talk about self criticism for a second.
To become more aware of how we’ve been brainwashed, we have to abandon the way to PMC wants us to think about:
- – success,
- – intelligence,
- – racism,
- – violence,
- – children,
- – reading,
- – healthcare,
- – well-being,
- – pleasure, and sex.
Do you work at a think tank? University? political organization? Private Foundation, publishing or media? MAYBE you can help your company or nonprofit do better. How?
First, renounce your narcissistic fetishization of intelligence and refinement! Simple, right? No? Liu writes, “PMC positions are in these best defended places- political organizations, publishing, media, private foundations, think tanks, and the University. While the right represents an obdurate obstacle to economic reorganization and large-scale social redistribution, it’s actually a liberal PMC that stands in the way of the political revolution necessary to forge a different kind of society and center the dignity of ordinary people in the working-class.“
How did we get here?
In the 80s, stockbrokers and upper management were well rewarded for their work in downsizing workforces (oh, they still are!). They made a new world for capitalism, a world of public austerity and private luxury, which has only gotten worse during the Pandemic. They executed neoliberalism’s orders, and they snorted coke while they were at it, only limited by their credit card limits.
Liu writes, “The Yuppie briefly took center stage in the American imagination as a figure who pointed the way to a gaudy self-indulgent future. The Yuppie reconciled 60s Hedonism and 80s debt-fuelled consumerism according to Ehrenreich. Prayer beads became Rolexes for the rich. They said, “pleasure will set you free.”
But it’s not just about economics. It’s about class, and who we fear becoming, as well as the future that is laid out for us just out of reach.
Why You Might Feel Afraid of Poor People
Catherine Liu brilliantly writes, “The more Reagan tore away the social safety net, the more the poor appear to the fragile middle class as nightmarish doubles of who they would be if they were to lose their toe holds on bourgeois respectability.”
We conflate homelessness with poverty with criminality. I do this too! “The PMC saw the classes below them through the eyes of the ruling class and they could not distance themselves fast enough from the enmiserated poor.
Liu writes, “As downward social mobility became a terrifying reality, poor people were increasingly seen as the monsterous other. Poverty was racialized and the poor were demonized by right-wing talking points.”
You want proof of this demonization? In Portland, where I live, since the pandemic started there have been so many articles demonizing people who are in the streets, asking for change, Articles saying things like; Portland is overrun by homeless people and it’s hurting business! Portland’s protests are destroying property, aka Portland is unlivable, and then of course, the hysterical, “Portland is OVER”! Give me a break.
Think about it. Becoming tied to manual labor that breaks your body down is something you might be afraid of. As you are trying not to become a poor person, because you know we try to pretend poor people don’t exist, you try to tell yourself a comforting story, whcih is, well, I’m never going to make the bad choices they made. The thing is, when you see a poor person struggling, that’s the system failing them. Not their bad choices. Maybe it’s time for Universal Basic Income.
Cheeto Dust and Donuts-Virtue Hoarders would never!
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’m better than them because I… (Do Insert Healthy Thing Here)?
Why did you think that?
Maybe because… of all of those magazines you saw, or the articles or ads you saw? Liu writes, “The post 1968 PMC Elite has become ideologically convinced of its own unassailable position is comprising the most advanced people the Earth has ever seen. They have in fact made a virtue of their vanguardism. Drawing on the legacy of the counter culture and its commitment to technological and spiritual innovations, PMC elites try to tell the rest of us how to live, and in a large part they’ve succeeded in destroying and building in their own image the physical and cybernetic infrastructure of our everyday lives.” How can we reclaim our radical imaginations?
Keto + Fasting = You are a better person? YIKES
Today’s capitalists and PMC Elites have anxiety about their privilege, which makes them work very hard to humiliate others and project themselves tirelessly as a cultural and political vanguard doing things to themselves which ordinary people are incapable.
PMC elites are always experimenting with themselves: and returning to the land or the ideas of new communalism the keto diet, to only drinking sewage laden raw water, and intermittent fasting, their self indulgence is always a kind of sanctimonious austerity.Catherine Liu, Virtue Hoarders
Liu writes, “At the time of Reagan a new narrative of poverty emerged: poor people had no impulse control. They did not live within their means: the story began in the 60s when Daniel Moynihan argued the property was a question of quote unquote “culture”.” This is a dogwhistle for racism.
She continues, “We have to reject making a virtue out of taste and consumption habits. We have to understand ourselves as a universal subject to history dominated by capitalism’s exploitive and punishing powers. It will not be easy because PMC elites control so much of our lives and quietly threaten us with exclusion we do not follow their sanctioned lines of milquetoast politics.”
So many of us believe that our habits are what make us virtuous.
And it’s a slippery slope to sneering at people who watch trashy TV, or eat cheetos, or have the audacity to decide they want a different kind of commitment than monogamy.
I thought I was better because I was trying the keto diet. I thought I was so smart for doing super slow weight lifting and not spending my time in bars.
AND honestly it really does not matter what my habits are. And it doesn’t matter what yours are either. It doesn’t make us virtuous or less virtuous if we sit around and stuff our faces with donuts all day, or adhere to intermittent fasting. It’s simply a habit, and has no morality either way.
And our habits CERTAINLY do not give us the right to tell other people what their habits should be.
We Created Trump
Catherine Liu, who wrote the book Virtue Hoarders, Against the Rise of the Professional Managerial Class, has a few key things to say about why we have a rise of fascism in the US, and also why people have lost faith in the democratic party.
“To build a socialist future, we have to engage in a constant struggle to overcome the political paralysis to which both centrism and pseudo-liberalism lead to.
Across the world ordinary people without college degrees have rejected PMC technocracy in favor of populist authoritarianism (like Trump) because they no longer believe in the dominant neoliberal narrative about austerity and competition.
To the majority of non-college-educated people, the PMC increasingly appear as pedantic, hypocritical, and punishing. In authoritarian conservative leaders, they recognize their own helplessness, rage and ignorance.
Of course their support for billionaire populists and their minions is entirely reactionary, but the political answer to populism is not liberal reformer’s more moderate centrism. It is committed socialism.”
Performative Activism with Virtue Hoarders
Does it seem like there’s a ton of outrage online lately, without a lot of… action?
According to the book Virtue Hoarders, by Catherine Liu, “The PMC labor in a world of floating signifiers, statistics, analytics, projections, predictions and identity performativity, virtue signaling and effectual production. Their loves and lives are both virtual and disembodied. Their war continues unabated despite the ravages of the covid-19 pandemic. People trained in this regime of symbolic manipulation love to weaponize outrage to fuel moral panics, but they’re unable and unwilling to face their identity as a class.”
With an increase in polarization comes a decrease in tolerance for ambiguity.
“Members of the PMC believe themselves to be virtuous vanguards, floating above historical forms and conditions, transgressing boundaries and inventing new ways of being and seeing. It is hard to argue with them, because they do not accept debate as a meaningful form of the advancement of knowledge. For them every conflict is moral, not intellectual or political.”
A way I’ve seen conflict not being intellectual or political, but MORAL, my friend has noticed that her liberal friends cannot stand the slightest disagreement with anything they believe. They become instantly filled with rage instead of reasoned discussion. This social and intellectual conformity fractures friendships.
But of course, where do the friends learn it? Liu writes, “In a liberal professions, they police each other to enforce the sort of social and intellectual conformity required by their class, one that is fundamentally fragmented by competition and individualism.
While PMC approve policies about inequality, racism and bias, these circle back to strengthening their sense of political agency and cultural and moral superiority.
In a viciously competitive market environment, they have abandoned once cherished professional standards of research while fetishizing transgression or better yet the performance of transgression.”
This makes me think of two examples of the performance of transgression and moralizing based on opinions.
I honestly am thinking of the people who wore pink pussy hats, and a black lives matter t-shirt, but never advocated for equal pay in their organizations. Or the yard signs that say love is love. There’s the performance of transgression, right there, without class solidarity.
Why an anti-bias training isn’t going to solve racism or sexism
What we do is we talk about “Equality of opportunity” not “Equality of outcomes” and that is what the above tweet is referencing. Just because you “went through a hiring process” doesn’t mean you found working class, immigrant, differently abled candidates. Just because you have a “diversity statement” doesn’t mean you’re actually doing things, day to day, to increase salaries for BIPOC people or oppressed people in your organization.
If you’re interested in actually showing your work instead of mouthing the words, join us at the Path to Action Conference November 18-19.
Liu remarks, “As a class the PMC love to talk about bias rather than inequality, racism rather than capitalism, visibility rather than exploitation. Tolerance for them is the highest secular virtue but tolerance has almost no political or economic meaning.”
Liu goes on, “In liberal circles talking about class or class Consciousness before other forms of difference is not just controversial; it is heretical. They call you a class reductionist if you argue that race, gender and class are not interchangeable categories. The PMC simply does not want its class identity or interest unmasked.
And in the interview below, Catherine Liu notes, when we do DEI trainings, we’re not actually “making people into better people” or “decreasing bias”. What we’re doing is teaching people to mask their bias better, to train them to keep their emotions visibly in check in a work environment. Which seems like the worst kind of hypocrisy, but what can you do with good intentions in predatory capitalism and corporate totalitarianism?
So how do we stop virtue hoarders?
We need to redistribute the wealth and embrace socialism. It turns out we DO need professionalism to redistribute the wealth. Liu writes, “Professionalism is not the enemy of solidarity. Professionalism in its disciplinary limits are necessary for nurturing social specialists who will be needed to oversee mass economic redistribution and the strengthening of public infrastructure and public goods that will be necessary for the environmental survival of the planet and the political survival of democracy.”
She continues, “We should be prepared to enter the field of class struggle on the side of workers and the exploited. Conservative Progressive PMC Elites and the institutions that control them are actively hostile to worker power and socialism as such. Therefore class solidarity and organization are more critical than ever to long-term political struggle.”
It’s honestly not a conspiracy. PMC Elite people just haven’t been taught to take responsibility and think critically about themselves or their actions.
Liu writes, “The PMC Elite has refused to name that the capitalist neoliberal system that has ruined our planet, undermined our trust in public institutions, destroyed public health, diminished our childhoods, and litigated our pleasures. Neither evil nor virtuous, the PMC is a secular and material antagonist.”
So what’s next?
We live in a political environmental and social emergency: class war over distribution of resources is the critical battle of our times.
Liu concludes, “My goal is simple: help normalize socialist economics and politics in the face of the concerted demonization of its vision of what is collectively possible.”
This means, it’s time to rest, reset, and expand our radical imaginations!
COME to our next event, A Path to Action, November 18-19. Will we see you there?