[Marxism] Bagehot: Harry, Meghan and Marx

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jan 21 06:51:36 MST 2020


The Economist, Jan. 18, 2020
Bagehot: Harry, Meghan and Marx

In "The English Constitution", Walter Bagehot explained why: far from 
undermining capitalism, the monarchy, in its British form, reinforced 
it, acting as glue in a society divided into antagonistic classes and 
distracting the masses from the real sources of power. Prince Charles 
gives the profits from his Duchy brand to charity, and misses no 
opportunity to preach the superior values of the "old world" to this 
venal age, denouncing intensive farming methods and modern architecture, 
while telling off business people for putting profit before principle. 
Ensuring that their brand remains hot and providing their "distribution 
channels" with "content" will require them to extract more and more 
value from the monarchy-perhaps including revelations about racism and 
sexism at the heart of the royal family.

Marx predicted that capitalism would destroy every remnant of feudalism. 
It would tear asunder "the motley feudal ties that bound man to his 
'natural superiors'", in the words of "The Communist Manifesto". It 
would drown ecstasies of religious fervour and chivalric enthusiasm in 
the "icy water of egotistical calculation". And it would subject every 
national institution to the revolutionary logic of the global market.

So far the British monarchy, one of the last vestiges of the country's 
feudal system, has proved a splendid refutation of Marxism. The Crown 
has survived both the high-noon of Victorian capitalism and the revival 
of market orthodoxy after 1979. In "The English Constitution", Walter 
Bagehot explained why: far from undermining capitalism, the monarchy, in 
its British form, reinforced it, acting as glue in a society divided 
into antagonistic classes and distracting the masses from the real 
sources of power. It injected pageantry, romance, mystery and drama into 
the lives of British people, mitigating the dreary business of being a 
cog in the wheels of capitalism.

But the Duke and Duchess of Sussex may be about to prove Marx right. 
They represent the most profound danger to the monarchy's settlement 
with modernity since Bagehot wielded his pen. Previous threats have been 
mere individuals-Edward VIII, Princess Diana and, most recently, Prince 
Andrew. The current one is an entire economic system. In stepping down 
as "senior royals" while pronouncing that they "value the freedom to 
make a professional income" the Duke and Duchess threaten to unleash the 
spirit of capitalism on the very core of the monarchy.

This is not the first time the Windsors have experimented with 
capitalism. Princess Diana referred to the royal family as "the firm" 
because it was so businesslike in its approach to monarchy. Prince 
Charles sells over ?200m ($26om) a year worth of organic food under his 
Duchy brand. But until now the firm has treated capitalism as a servant 
of feudalism. Prince Charles gives the profits from his Duchy brand to 
charity, and misses no opportunity to preach the superior values of the 
"old world" to this venal age, denouncing intensive farming methods and 
modern architecture, while telling off business people for putting 
profit before principle.

The Sussexes are doing something new. They are embracing capitalism in 
its rawest, most modern form: global rather than national, virtual 
rather than solid, driven, by its ineluctable logic, constantly to 
produce new fads and fashions.

This type of capitalism is the inverse of feudalism. In a feudal society 
you are bound to your followers by mutual bonds of obligation. In 
21st-century capitalism you accumulate followers in order to monetise 
them. In a feudal society you are bound to plots of land: Harry is the 
Duke of Sussex while his elder brother is the Duke of Cambridge. In a 
21st-century-capitalist society you are propelled around the world in 
pursuit of the latest marketing opportunity. It is only fitting that the 
principal agent of the current debacle, Meghan Markle, is the product of 
an entertainment business that has done more than any other industry to 
fulfil Marx's prediction that "all that is sacred" would be "profaned" 
and "all that is solid" would "melt into air".

The Sussexes are determined to turn themselves into a global brand. 
Their first move after they announced that they were stepping down from 
many of their royal duties was to unveil the name of their brand, Sussex 
Royal, which sounds a bit like a potato but will soon start to glitter 
with Hollywood stardust. They started working on their new website in 
September, according to coding logs, and trademarked the Sussex Royal 
logo, for use on hundreds of items ranging from socks to counselling 
services, in December. They have hired a branding agency called Article 
whose clients include the children's channel Nickelodeon, the fashion 
house Diane von Furstenberg and the Toronto Maple Leafs ice-hockey team. 
They are exploring the possibilities of forging a relationship with 
Disney, an entertainment company that knows a thing or two about 
monetising princes and princesses.

Various branding experts have pronounced that Harry and Meghan have "a 
ready-made brand" that could earn them as much as ?5oom in their first 
year. InfluencerMarketingHub, a website, points out that, with 10m 
Instagram followers, they could expect $34,000 for a sponsored post. 
SEMrush, a Boston-based marketing analytics firm, says that Ms Markle's 
"search volume" is nearly three times Beyoncé's.

Already Harry and Meghan are rewriting the rules of royalty, so that 
they can behave as celebrities rather than as public servants. They are 
planning to abandon the system of royal reporting, whereby royals put up 
with journalists chosen by the papers, who share their material with the 
rest of the press. Harry and Meghan intend to back out of that, in 
favour of choosing their preferred media toadies-though since it appears 
that they want to continue to receive money from Prince Charles, the 
older generation has a certain amount of leverage. Negotiations are 
under way. The Palace held a "crisis summit" on January 13th to try to 
work out a peace treaty between the Crown and the Sussexes. Ms Markle, 
who is in Canada, did not attend, leaving Harry to defend the Sussexes' 
corner against his grandmother, father and brother.

Branding experts purr that Harry and Meghan have an interest in 
preserving the integrity of their brand. But the logic of 2ist-century 
capitalism is against a peaceful settlement. They will need more than 
Prince Harry's inheritance, which is estimated at ?20m-30m, to keep up 
with the global super-rich. Ensuring that their brand remains hot and 
providing their "distribution channels" with "content" will require them 
to extract more and more value from the monarchy-perhaps including 
revelations about racism and sexism at the heart of the royal family. 
The daylight that Walter Bagehot said should not be let in upon the 
magic of monarchy is as nothing to the glare of 21st-century capitalism.



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