It has been a few days, and Russell Brand's revolution has not happened yet. Truth is the 'Brand's revolution' will never happen. Why? Because his statements are neither revolutionary nor subversive. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying Brand does not genuinely believe in what he says, nor I am denying the good nature of his position. I actually share the political sentiment that is behind Brand's critique. However, I believe that by criticising the system the way he did, Brand is helping to re-enforce the status quo. Only few 'lefty voices' have commented on his statements, mainly they have accused him of being sexist and chauvinist. This criticism is important, but none has focused on the true faults of Brand's pseudo-revolutionary outburst: if you reduce the call for change to a generic rant you diminish the chances that change might actually take place.
Good old Hegel used to say: every system contains its critique. What he meant it is that for a system to function it needs to have a degree of internal (ineffective) criticism. It is all part of the game, as thinkers like Marx, Laclau, Lacan, Turner and Zizek have shown. Let me give you an example. A canteen has a complaint log sheet to be filled up in case you are dissatisfied with the food. If you make a complaint the canteen might make changes in the menu, but the 'structure' of the canteen will still be there. The management put the log there to give you the illusion that your criticism is effective, while in fact all they want is to keep the structure in place. In his rant Brand told us that voting is like filling up the complaint sheet. Better to boycott the canteen, he said. It seems to me, however, that in this case the true Hegelian 'false criticism' is not the act of voting, but rather Brand's rant itself.
Britain has (and has always had) a degree of political alienation that is un-paralleled in Europe. Over here young people never go to vote, and this is one of the reasons why they are excluded from power. The system gains from having people not going to vote. Brand's exhortation is therefore tautological. It looks like Brand is criticising the system, while in fact he is telling people to do what they have always done. Shout a bit, but do not bother too much: post Brand's articles on Facebook, announce that revolution is coming, and then go back to what you were doing before. Brand is not a revolutionary. Rather he is one of the many pseudo- revolutionary voices we hear every day, those Hegelian 'false criticisms' that fill up conversations, meetings, discussions, lectures. It is like buying a Che Guevara T-shirt. All part of the game.
Does it mean all criticism is doomed to re-enforce the system? Not at all. What it means is that the 'style of the critique' is important for the effectiveness of the critique. You want to make a call for change? You need to be specific. Have specific claims, specific requests, specific arguments. It does not need to be boring (Brand's witts are much appreciated), but it has to be precise. Something more than a generic outburst against the political class, more than an inarticulate call for re-distribution of wealth (whose wealth? Not clear in Brand's statements.... the Corporations? The Rich in general? This is kind of relevant given that Brand is a millionaire...). Otherwise it becomes an ineffective critique that re-enforces the status quo. Being charming is easy, being specific is not. This is why true changes take ages. Think about what you want Russell, and then write an article about it. You are a good writer, but so far you have been playing the game.
On a last note, if people think that New Statesman hired Brand because of his critical acumen then they do not know anything about marketing. Brand is undeniably clever, but the system is deceptive.