The world we live in is indelibly marked by organized and systematic theft and violence, facilitated by the dual fictions of Law and Order. The worst crimes of capitalism, perpetrated by capitalists, are legal, and therefore hidden in plain sight.
The crimes of Jeffrey Epstein, of which we know of only a few, took place over decades and were also never really hidden, only dissembled. Through the sophistry of a Law and Order beholden to money and influence, and a ruling class that loves the smell of its own shit, this particular atrocity exhibition was, in a word, enabled by that scatalogical fixation. If our ruling class can be said to have a culture, this is it. But, however despicable Epstein’s predations undoubtedly were, in terms of sheer injury they pale in comparison to, say, the crime of a luxury condominium development and the homelessness that results therefrom. While shocking and outrageous, its important to place Epstein’s organized rape along a continuum where it can be viewed alongside the daily violations of wage labor, gender inequality, racism and the general plunder that characterizes the world we live in. So when considering Jeffery Epstein, we would do well to do so in light of the ongoing evisceration of women’s reproductive health services, especially abortion rights, and the hundreds of miles and dollars a woman must often travel and spend to try and secure what should belong to her as an inalienable human right. Epstein’s crimes were illegal, after a fashion, while these other outrages are legal. But I insist: they are different not in kind, only degree.
When treated exclusively as a form of extreme pathology allowed to fester because of cracks in that edifice of Law and Order, Epstein’s crimes are diminished. On the contrary: Epstein’s crimes are the plaster and glue that hold that edifice together. He is not an outlier; he is emblematic. Their moral reasoning was sound according to the depraved precepts it follows. Refusing to say as much sets the crimes of the rich aside, in relief, where they can continue to be repackaged as progress. The ‘Epstein affair’ becomes spectacle when it is ripped from the only context that can explain it: The crimes of our ruling classes.
Showing how Epstein’s crimes are symptomatic of, rather than exceptions to, elite domination is one task of the radical. This must involve a refocusing from the spectacular to the quotidian, from the retail to the wholesale, from the individual to the political economy, and from there to an examination of what the Epstein criminal syndicate tells us about capitalism and its ruling classes. What do his predations share in common with other forms of oppression? How were they different? Then, finally, what do they tell us about ending their rule?
The toxic masculinity Epstein practiced for decades, out in the open and with the full support of his peers is inconceivable without those international pleasure palaces. It is from such a position of invulnerability that those heinous assaults on women were organized again and again. They are inseparable–the palaces and the pimping–and work well together. Private property and the theft it is based on is also an expression of illegitimate power; that this is currently legal in our society doesn’t change that universal human truth.
Just as there is no moral equivalence between neo Nazi violence and antifascist resistance, there is no analogy to be drawn between the depravity of the rich and the violence of the poor. The rich are the grand heavy weight champions of exploitation and domination; we are the only social force that can end their rule.
Capitalism and justice are mutually exclusive terms, as are capitalism and feminism.
A socialism of the 21st century must by definition be a feminist one. Where there is gross inequality, mass predation, and immeasurable suffering, one will always find the powerful justifying it all through Law and Order. That means we will never be rid of the Jeffrey Epsteins of the world, or for that matter the Elizabeth Holmes, until we are rid of the rich.