Tuesday 27 February 2018

Is Business Becoming Corbyn-Friendly?

Hegemony is coming, hegemony is coming. Or is it? Among the responses to Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit speech was a cautious but nevertheless welcoming statement from the CBI. Meanwhile, The Times led with the disgraced Liam Fox's attack *on business* for applauding the Labour leader's speech, going on to brand any attempt to stay in the (or a) customs union a "sell-out". It's a funny old world. This begs a couple of questions about the bizarre situation in which the anti-austerity socialist leader of the Labour Party is more in tune with business interests than the trade secretary of the natural party of capital. That is whether business warming to Labour is a pragmatic orientation to a possible government in waiting, a contamination of their thinking by the modernisation programme outlined in the celebrated 2017 manifesto, or something else? And is the customs union divergence between the government and the bosses' union episodic or symptomatic of a deeper alienation?

Capital-in-general is an ensemble of competing businesses with common but divergent interests, and so there has always been some fracturing of political loyalties. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and their predecessors, and the SNP historically have and continue to attract rich backers. But more often than not, capital's chosen clearing house, the party traditionally best suited to serve their class interests is the Conservative Party. Not only has it enjoyed their backing, the Tories have and do adjudicate competition among fractions of capital through the rough and tumble of inner party (parliamentary) battles and the balance struck by the Tory leader in their top team. The party is a continually evolving project, a movement of the minuscule minority in the interests of the minuscule minority (and now, almost with the membership to match), but the party is arguably the most electorally successful political party in the West - even if it is based on a dishonest conceit. Its success lies in being reactive, when not reactionary, and adapting itself to new politics welling up from below. In the 1950s it was carrying on the Keynesian restructure of British capital started by Labour, and preserving and extending its achievements, such as the NHS, nationalisations, council house building and full employment. And again, one cannot understand the basis for Thatcher's long 1980s without accepting her simultaneous adaptation of the Tories to proletarian consumerism all the while smashing proletarian collectivism.

It was this decade that saw a problem inserted into the Tories' relationship with capital. In the first place, the destruction of the post-war settlement didn't just smash union power and sink working class communities, large sections of capital went to the wall as well. The capital tied up in the supply chains of the nationalised industries saw huge losses. The myriad small capitals supplying services to the manufacturing working class - dispersed and destroyed. New avenues of investment were opened up by Thatcher's privatisation programme and the undermining of social housing via right to buy, but nevertheless a wedge was driven into the alliances the Conservative Party expressed. The second problem is not entirely unrelated to the first. With the collapse in confidence in the Major government after the ERM fiasco, and following the untimely death of John Smith, the New Labour project firmly and consciously established itself as a safe-for-business and capital-friendly party that would do nothing whatsoever to imperil those interests. While a Smith Labour Party was never going to do the full communism thing, and business would have made their own unenthusiastic overtures in time, Tony Blair beamed with the zealotry of the convert. Labour would have won in 1997 come what may, but the courting and getting into bed with business ensured New Labour was the new party of capital-in-general. Modelled consciously on Clinton's Democrats, the Blair/Brown alliance was about transforming the B team of British capitalism into the preferred party of business. And it worked, after a fashion. Redistribution came via booming tax receipts and not restructuring capital a la 1945 vintage Labour. Light touch regulation and credit balloons kept finance and property happy, and it made Tory private finance initiatives very much its own, along with myriad other ways in which public services and the state were opened up to profiteering. New Labour was responsible for the creation of new markets that, in theory, would secure business loyalty to it in the same way Thatcher hoped the transformation of council tenants into owner occupiers would turn them Tory.

I'm not New Labour's biggest fan, but it does have one lasting achievement to its name: driving another wedge into the assemblage of capital sustaining the Tory party. The Blair/Brown partnership may have eviscerated its own base which, ultimately, rebounded on the Labour right, but they did draw more political support from capital than any prior Labour government. Yes, that didn't save them when the stock markets came crashing down, nor did they show due recognition to Gordon Brown for sparing them the trauma of a depression, but their backing of Dave's Tories and endorsement of austerity was more hedged, more hesitant, more mercenary than previously. Despite the socially liberal makeover, Dave was determined to capitalise on the crisis and push Britain even further in the direction of deregulation, market fundamentalism, and a race to the bottom in wages. In a number of ways this was warmed over Thatcherism, and the interests such a project served were those parts of capital invested in the city - the most superficially dynamic but socially useless sections - and the largely uncompetitive and labour intensive forms. Who benefited most from austerity, an increasing labour supply, and the scandal of precarious working? These people, these capitals did. Dave's coalition government was therefore very far from being a general committee for the common affairs of the bourgeoisie and more a sectional administration. With Dave's gamble on EU membership failing to pay off and all of us lumped with the losses, it at first appeared the new administration of Theresa May had ditched this blatant sectionalism, stitched together the fraying alliances underpinning the Tories and set about renewing the class settlement established by Thatcher. Her utter incompetence and shambles of an election has fractured all this. Some of capital clings to the Tories out of fear for Labour, but others are thoroughly alienated by the capturing of a decaying party by leading lights who prefer delusion to a clear sighted take on Britain after Brexit from capital's point of view. The crisis of the Tories then was long in making, but the effect is spectacular - a party not just dropping to bits, but becoming increasingly unmoored from the interests that made it and are (were) articulated through it. It is starting to resemble a husk empty of all but the personal ambition of certain dramatis personae, and a compulsion to meet the approval of the editorials of collapsing newspapers. Attacking business for looking out for business interests, dismissing the Irish border issue as if it were flim-flam, pretending Britain's going to get a sweet deal with the EU because Britain, every day the ravings of a fast declining party are heard and broadcast to millions.

Just as some leftists used to argue New Labour meant the working class was without a party, we are getting into a situation where capital itself is caught politically homeless. With the Tories absorbed by existential crisis, and Theresa May's likely successors to be just as short-termist and ruinous for business prospects as she, the Labour Party is the only game in town. But it is a big risk. Labour is under new management and is composing, assembling, and pushing the rising interests of the rising worker and, fundamentally, cooperation with Corbynism means subordinating capital's interests to it. The price of that cooperation is reform and a tilt in the balance of power away from business to labour, but the reward is continued profits, access to Britain's biggest export market and, ultimately, stability inside a new framework. The Tories offer more of the same, which is a status quo that threatens business, and exacerbates the polarisation of politics to such a degree that Corbynism's anger at the Tories might harden into an antipathy against business per se. It's not a case Labour is becoming hegemonic and its views are the new commonsense, at least yet. But it is true that as far as the boss class are concerned, Jeremy Corbyn (Jeremy Corbyn!) is to be preferred over the decadent and dying mess the Tories have become.

Sunday 25 February 2018

Fully Automated Luxury Communism

These days I don't often thank remnants of soi disant centrism in the Labour Party, but credit where credit is due. Were it not for Adrian McMenamin's rubbish column on fully automated luxury communism for Progress magazine, I wouldn't be writing this. The specifics of his piece need not detain us - as polemics go it misfired so spectacularly it's a wonder his keyboard didn't have his hand off. Nevertheless, this phrase, 'fully automated luxury communism', has knocked around for a few years now and deserves a few notes by way of elaboration.

You know it, but I'm going to say it anyway. Communism has an image problem. For decades associated with the mind-numbing bureaucracy and grey tyranny of sundry Stalinist regimes, if communism is going to be reclaimed in the spirit of Marx and Engels then we must do more than talk about the "true meaning" of communism. It's not about repackaging it, but restating what communism always was even when Uncle Joe imprisoned millions: a possible, but nevertheless tangible future immanent in and inseparable from the development of capitalism. Let's take FALC's two propositions in turn.

Fully Automated does what it says on the tin. Despite the fancy propaganda posters trumpeting Soviet achievements, the reality of Stalinist dismalism saw the squandering of resources and environmental despoliation that rivalled capitalism for its inefficiencies. The advances the USSR made in ballistic technology and space travel were certainly impressive, and the latter should be celebrated alongside other key technological milestones. But this was only possible because the state's bureaucratic plan was able to concentrate resources. Following the war, reconstruction was able to improve living standards up to a point, but from the 70s economic stagnation set in. The leading edge of Soviet technology was a simulacra of dynamism, a stand-in for deep seated sclerosis in virtually every other area save the military. Yes, fantastic that you can assemble a fully functioning space station for long-term stays in low Earth orbit, not so great that shoddy housing and shortages were the everyday grind for Eastern bloc citizens.

There is another legacy to be overcome here: the anti-technological bent of a chunk of the left. To one extent this was an absorbing of the Green critique of modern civilisation (note, not capitalist civilisation) and to a lesser extent the postmodern anti-science polemic that located technocratic and bureaucratic modes of power in the original sin of Enlightenment mastery over nature. What this meant in practice was the wholesale importation of neo-Malthusian ways of thinking, of identifying the human race and consumption per se as the vector of environmental destruction and climate change over and above the specific character of socio-economic relationships. It's all about commodification and markets, baby. The left wasn't immune to this, and its adoption by large sections of the left was the radical fringe of a complex mess of irrationalism working its way through popular culture. This broad trend has a wide and deep purchase across all the advanced countries and is symptomatic of alienated sensibilities, of a structure of feeling in which the world has run away from us leaving millions at turns fatalistic and pessimistic, with faith being invested in lotteries and quackery over and above our ability to do something about it.

Fully automated then is about taking back control, to coin a phrase. Or, to be more specific, taking conscious charge of the enormous promise of technology, to reassert the fundamental optimism of leftist politics and rethink technology in terms of how socially useful it can and should be. And what greater use is there, when all is said and done, than enhancing the powers of our species and freeing us from drudgery, and laying the basis of a pleasurable and luxurious life? From each according to their ability to each according to their needs, and the free development of each as the condition for the free development of all. These old phrases of Marx are well within realisation. Technology, if put to socially productive uses, can achieve the rapid decarbonisation of economic activity, switch from harmful and unsustainable power sources to renewables, build and rebuild a sustainable infrastructure to bring up the global standard of living, and diffuse technical know how and the very latest in replication technologies. Luxury doesn't mean indolence, though that should be available for those who want it, instead it means an abundance of choices and working toward a world where drudge is reduced to a bear minimum. Who, after all, doesn't want a better life?

And this is inseparable from the c-word. Communism didn't even get a schematic in Marx's writings, and he rightly argued that it's not the job for revolutionaries to create fantastical schemes and try and force the flow of history into its restrictive channels. That is the path to a new tyranny, which brings back all the old crap - as Marx so floridly put it. All Marx observed about communism is that it is only possible on the foundations capitalist development has laid for it. The technical basis for a society without classes is present, and has been since the Manifesto was published 170 years ago. Not only that, a prefiguring, a becoming of the communist future is present in two increasingly important aspects. Despite free market fundamentalism and increasingly threadbare arguments against collectivism, advanced capitalism in all its dynamism and decrepitude is not possible without planning. The giant multinational companies dominating the global economy marshal resources and plan production across oceans and continents, often paying lip service to competition while using their size to swallow up or squeeze out would-be competitors. And/or one titan can come to an accommodation with another and cartelise whole areas of the economy. It's no accident true competition is celebrated so much by capital's ideologists when it is the exception rather than the rule. Underpinning this all is the agency of the state which guarantees class rule, private property, and routinely arranges and plans economic activity. The second strand is the force of production itself: the working class, the proletariat, the multitude. For Marx it was the gravedigger of capital, the subaltern class that made possible the accumulation of capital (and the private acquisition of riches) thanks to their exploitation by their employers. Their labour power is purchased, but ultimately they are not. To use the language of orthodox economics, labour is an input, but unlike other inputs it is thinking, feeling, living. Thanks to experience, it can become aware that its interests and those of their employers are at odds and, crucially, without their cooperation the whole show cannot go on. With the recent mutation in capitalism with a strategic shift toward immaterial labour, that dependence is even more stark and the balance in the long-term is shifting decisively in labour's direction. How long before capitalism is viewed as an unnecessary excrescence?

Communism then is a becoming. It is not only an alternative form of advanced industrial society latent and immanent within capitalism, its partial materialisation in the present makes capitalism possible. Fully automated and luxury are key identifiers of 21st century communism from its forebears, but they are not mere bolts ons. They are fundamental to the kind of society we should be striving to build.

Local Council By-Elections February 2018

This month saw 52,824 votes cast over 34 local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. 12 council seats changed hands in total. For comparison with January's results, see here.

Number of Candidates
Total Vote
+/- Feb 17

* There was one by-election in Scotland
** there was one by-election in Wales
*** There were three Independent clashes
**** Others this month included Ewell Residents (398), Something New (59), and Blue Revolution (13)

Quite a volatile set of results this month, with movements taking place here, there and everywhere. With 12 seats swapped, the councillor gains/losses don't reflect what's going on. For example, the Tories lost four seats in February but were able to claw four others back - including two from the Liberal Democrats. Meanwhile the old pattern of liberal by-election advances have resumed as they have once more displaced UKIP as the none-of-the-above party, but again they are disproportionately taking seats off the Tories, as per the purple party before they commenced their death spiral.

All in all, there's not much more you can read off from these results. The Tories maintain a healthy lead in the popular vote, but this month was a massive Tory fest with some two thirds of the seats up either held by them, or were leaning definitely towards them with Labour coming next to nowhere. Though Labour are up on the year-on-year in very unfavourable territory - a straw in the wind or indicative of something else? And as the year wears on, are we going to see results reflect the polarisation in the polls, or will the LibDems carry on being a repository of protest votes? We'll see.

1st February
Cornwall UA, Falmouth Smithick Lab hold
Sunderland City Council, Pallion Lib gain from Lab

8th February
Brighton & Hove UA, East Brighton Lab hold
East Staffordshire BC Stretton Con hold
Eden DC Hartside Con hold
South Staffordshire DC Codsall South Con hold
Staffordshire CC Codsall Con hold
Weymouth and Portland BC, Tophill East Con gain from Ind
Weymouth & Portland BC, Tophill West Con hold

15th February
City of York UA , Holgate Lab hold
Doncaster MB, Armthorpe Lab hold
Northants CC, Higham Ferrers Con hold
East Northamptonshire DC, Higham Ferrers Lancaster Con hold
Epsom & Ewell BC, Ruxley Oth hold
Falkirk UA , Bonnybridge & Larbert SNP hold
Halton UA, Halton Castle Lab hold
Lancashire CC Morecambe North Con hold
North-East Derbyshire DC, Grassmoor Lab hold
North Norfolk DC, Worstead Lib gain from Con
Teignbridge DC Chudleigh Lib gain from Con
Teignbridge DC Dawlish Central and North-East Lib gain from Con
Tendring BC, St Paul's Con gain from UKIP
West Oxfordshire, Carterton South Con hold

22nd February
Arun DC, Marine Lib gain from Con
Boston BC, Old Leake & Wrangle Con hold
Chichester DC Fishbourne Lib hold
Dorset CC Bridport Con gain from Lib
Hertfordshire CC Goffs Oak & Bury Green Con hold
Lichfield Stowe Con hold
North Kesteven DC Eagle, Swinderby and Witham St Hughs Con gain from Ind
Scottish Borders UA, Selkirkshire Ind gain from Con
Torfaen UA, Trevethin Lab hold
West Dorset DC Bridport North Con gain from Lib
West Somerset DC, Minehead South Lib gain from Ind

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Shakedown - At Night

Throwing down a hot tune because I don't have time for blogging tonight. This placeholder *might* have to serve for Thursday and Friday as well - got a few lates on the cards. Still, whatevs. Kick off the slippers and let this club classic take you.

Monday 19 February 2018

Lies, Damned Lies, and Tory Politics

Once upon a time there was a man called Paul. He was something of a simple sort, but got lucky in life. He lacked all qualities, and was a failure in his chosen endeavour. This vocation was politics. And then fortune smiled. From plugging the Conservative Party on Merseyside he got into bed with our friends the United Kingdom Independence Party. This gave him a certain prominence and a job carrying bags in Brussels. His run of luck continued when he was elected to the European Parliament in 2009 on a hefty salary and given a seat on the Nigel Farage bandwagon. But the luck ran out and the stories he told about having a PhD, having close friends at Hillsborough, playing football professionally and being a member of NSYNC were revealed to be fantasies. Exposed and utterly discredited, Paul more or less disappeared into private life after resigning as UKIP's leader in June 2017. He still draws his MEP salary.

What has this got to do with the absurd claims Jeremy Corbyn was a contact of the Czechoslovak secret service in the 1980s? Quite a bit. The former agent making these claims, one Jan Sarkocy, has a record of fibs that would make UKIP's erstwhile leader blush. As Matt Zarb-Cousin points out, he claims Corbyn gave him highly detailed reports about what Margaret Thatcher would be eating and wearing the following day(!), and reckons his operation out of the embassy provided funds for Live Aid. Complete Walter Mitty nonsense. And yet (and yet!) the political situation is such that someone like Paul Nuttall is a discredited has been, whereas Sarkocy is a source credible enough for The Sun and the Daily Mail to spin a smear on.

While it would be tempting to let these execrable rags stew in their idiot juice, there are serious consequences. As Matt notes the Finsbury Park murderer Darren Osborne wanted to kill Jeremy Corbyn because he saw him as a traitor, and it's not long ago since Thomas Mair gave his name as "death to traitors, freedom for Britain" at his first court appearance for murdering Jo Cox. These views do not fall fully formed out of the sky. Killers are made, right wing terrorists are not born. Every bit of poison, every single lie that paints people opposed to the politics of divide and rule as "un-British", as traitors, as agents in the pay of foreign powers adds to the making of more terrorists, of more would-be killers fantasising about murdering groups of people because of their religion, their sexuality, their politics. This, as you might expect, is par the course for the hate factories of the gutter press, but something else for Tory MPs to jump on the bandwagon and repeat things they know aren't true. The calamitous Ben Bradley was forced to delete a defamatory tweet after solicitors got in touch, but he was only following the well trodden steps of Gavin Williamson. And there was Theresa May herself who refused to shut the story down by insinuating Corbyn has a case to answer, while announcing thee Tories' intent to degrade higher education further. To be absolutely clear, THERE IS NO CASE TO ANSWER.

Why do the Tories lie? They know this story is untrue. The Sun hacks who indulged Sarkocy - and undoubtedly gave him a few bob for his services - know he isn't credible, but ran it anyway. They know lies can frame perceptions. Throw enough shit and some of it sticks, goes the old saying. However their lies, their record of distorting opponents' positions, talking up non-existent achievements, playing fake politics, outright lying is not an aberration. The Conservative Party is an engine of privilege. Its parts are lubricated by the snake oil of entitlement, its combustion fired by the fuel of minority class interests, the vanishingly small number of people who own the press, profit from finance, grow fat on the labour of others, and participate - directly and indirectly - in the party. The Tory party exists to defend its class power and its class interests, all the rest is window dressing and flimflam. Lying then comes as easily to Tory politicians as the confetti of gongs shower upon its well heeled supporters.

Fundamentally, Toryism is a dishonest project. Socialism can come out and openly declare itself to be the movement of the immense majority in the interests of the immense majority. Conservatism has no such luxury. To declare yourself a party explicitly concerned with protecting minority power and its right to the unearned wealth made by others is suicidal politics. Instead, we're treated to a politics that talks highly and haughtily of tradition, a politics of individuality and freedom - though the Tories block the substantive realisation of either - it is suspicious of anything smacking of collectivism, arguing conservative politics are the natural expression of the human condition, and zealously guards property rights as the well spring of liberty. Each of these ideas make for nice fairy tales, but only the deluded believe them and the cynical affect their profundity. They are but cloth gossamer-thin shrouds wrapping around class rule, hiding its ugly aspect but increasingly unable to do so.

The politics don't work because what the Tories claim and what millions of people, particularly the young, experience are fundamentally at odds. If that wasn't bad enough, the organs of the press the Tories have relied on for so much throughout the 20th century are collapsing, and voters are making their own way. They're connecting their own dots. When politics is failing and their media is failing, so the dishonest core of Toryism burns more visibly. The lies cease taking on fancy shapes in conservative political theory and, that most moronic of oxymorons, conservative values. Common sense is no longer a useful accelerant - all that is left is outright falsehood. Lies, lies and damned lies, the dishonesty of the Tory project come out into the open, like a black sun emerging from a cloud, and everywhere it throws shade and chases away clarity. Some welcome the darkness and worship it, but when millions are on the move they are finding their way in spite of the murk. The Tories know this too. The decibels struck by their lies grows shrill in proportion to their mounting terror, and a dawning realisation there may be no way out.

Friday 16 February 2018

The Sociology of Mass Shootings

Britain hasn't had a school shooting for almost 22 years, and the last indiscriminate killing spree with guns was eight years ago. Apart from mass casualty terror attacks, this sort of thing happens once in a blue moon. So it is in pretty much every other European country. Even in Switzerland, which has liberal gun laws closer to the United States than its immediate neighbours, there is hardly what you would call an epidemic of crimes committed with firearms, let alone mass shootings. Therefore given their awful frequency, surely there has to be something exceptional about US culture. What's going on? What is responsible?

Compounding the sadness of Wednesday's shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is the banality of it all. This sort of crime is now committed with such regularity that no one is surprised when it happens. Almost without knowing any specifics of the case the profile of the shooter can be surmised, and it is as regular as clockwork that the gun lobby and their paid for coterie of Capitol Hill legislators will wring their hands and say it is too early to talk about gun control. If social relations are probabilistic, how an American mass shooting unfolds is now the closest we have to an iron law.

Can sociology offer any further insights? Yes, but the scholarship is relatively slight. Some have looked at mitigation efforts, and conclude they have limited prospects in reducing the number of incidents. America being America, there are even academic efforts aimed at talking down gun control, going so far as to suggest school shootings make the worst possible case for curbing firearms. While it is true if people really want a gun there are ways and means of getting one, apparently gun control measures, i.e. reducing the supply would have little effect - quite why is never explained. There are investigations of contagion, i.e. the media trope that one attack increases the probability of further attacks immediately afterwards, and the argument there is a contagion effect when it comes to school shootings. And others looking at how the violence of a mass shooting is culturally deployed to designate the mentally ill as a violent threat. And, you might suggest, how labelling shooters this way handily pathologises mass murder and heads off serious reflection on the relations that makes mass murder depressingly regular.

On the regularity of US mass shootings (defined as three or more victims in a spree), according to Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh Tober the frequency looks like this:

In their overview of their chapter in Focus on Social Problems, they suggest the problem is not a matter of drawing a simple line between toxic masculinities and guns. For one, the social conditions in 2015 (when this research was produced) were little different from five years earlier and yet the number of shootings rocketed. Nevertheless they are interested in exploring why it is nearly always men who commit these crimes, and why men elsewhere do not. On the one hand, what they call the social psychological explanation suggests men are likely to use violence if they are prevented from asserting their masculinity in other ways. Secondly, there is the national-specific culture of United States masculinity. This is a gender identity, at least in its hegemonic forms, that finds its privilege as the dominant mode of being a man under threat. Changing gender relations, increasing acceptance of alternative masculinities, the movement toward racial and sexual equality, the levelling of the competition for jobs, and so on all underpin a masculine anomie that can, under certain circumstances, feed into the violent explosions characteristic of the first explanation.

Yet we're no closer to the American specificity of the problem. True, the US is the home of redemptive violence. Shoot first, ask questions later sums its cultural logics up better than twee mom-and-apple-pie homilies. Yet this, like pretty much everything else, is exported. American masculinities are consumed and incorporated into masculine habits and styles all over the world without, at least in the West, anywhere near the same number of murderous outbursts. A different approach is adopted by Joel Cappellan in his PhD dissertation, submitted and examined in September 2016. This is the first properly full-length sociological study of the topic. As Cappellan notes, existing social science literature tends to look at individual risk factors instead of identifying it as a social problem that brings social forces into play. That isn't an invitation to crude sociological determinism, that shooters are helpless puppets of the forces animating them. The relation between context and agency is always complex, but never so rarefied that individual responsibility disappears. Nevertheless, there is social patterning, the shooters mostly share similar biographical characteristics and, yes, they tend to be men.

Cappellan advances two hypotheses: that low rates of social integration and social cohesion make populations more vulnerable to these sorts of attacks, and that media reportage boosts incidence and distribution of them. A review of cases 1970-2014 showed the hypotheses turned out not to be the case, in fact the opposite was true. Mass shootings are more likely in rural states with stable marriage rates and, interestingly, steady socio-economic status - profiles, Cappellan remarks, that bear more similarity to suicide rates than "normal" homicide.

This requires further work, of course. But really it shouldn't be that surprising. Marjory Stoneman Douglas is a middle American school. Sandy Hook is a middle American school. Columbine is a middle American school. What they appear to have in common is their situation in communities where social cohesion wasn't particularly frayed. Rather, the shooters were effectively outcasts within their communities. Nicholas Cruz, the latest name added to the roll call of infamy, was the stereotypical loner excluded from school. Adam Lanza hadn't left the house for three months prior to his attack, for which he planned methodically for. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were well known in their school for being weird, and were shunned and occasionally bullied. It seems the relationship between cohesion and exclusion is worth exploring in more depth, that from their standpoint the appearance of comfortable normalcy within sight but not within reach is a social tension that may (or may not) be a significant contribution to the making of a mass shooter.

And yet there is still the one thing missing: exceptionalism. As these relationships and tensions can be found in other Western societies, and given the export of American masculinities and its celebration of militarism and violence, the question remains unanswered and an explanation of why America missing. Gun control has to be a central component of any strategy that wants to stamp these massacres out. It follows that making them harder to get hold of makes a school shooting more difficult to do, but a lot more work has to be done to tease out the specifically American dimensions of the problem. Doing so is no idle exercise - it is research that, in the long run, can save hundreds of lives and spare further agonies.