A lot of the more popular critiques of the NYMag profile of Benjamin Kunkel suggest that Kunkel’s credibility as a “Marxist” disintegrates because he flies internationally and has apartments in both New York and Buenos Aires (baitingly, referred to as a “pied-e-tierre” and an “airy two-bedroom apartment with 14-foot ceilings,” respectively.)
This is a very easy and pithy conclusion to draw. It fits in to a tweet! And, probably more importantly for those that are lobbing it, a remark like that shores up the political credibility of its pitcher: the bells of leftist credentialists ring loudest for he who exposes the hypocrisy of a poseur. Remember when MIA ate a “TRUFFLE FRY”?!?
The trouble is, remarks like this set up political life as a performance, as something you can do “better” than someone else by better embodying a political stereotype. But, strong political understanding isn’t a cultivated aesthetic. This sense that wealth—especially wealth acquired through sales of a novel—disqualifies someone from leftist ideology is an absurd criticism built on the flawed glorification of exploitation. Also, If international air travel and second homes in nice neighborhoods are only accessible to the wealthy, that’s not so much an indictment of wealth as it is a condemnation of a society built around the idea that those things should only be available to the wealthy, right?
Look, I’m not out here carrying a flag for the ultra-rich and I’m not denying that wealth distorts your worldview by a hideous degree. It just seems counter-productive to most agendas to jump around policing how and where a progressive thinker should live. Kunkel could be a total asshole, I don’t know him, but let’s ignore his pay-stubs and at least let his book—a BOOK OF ESSAYS OUTLINING HIS POLITICAL IDEAS—dictate his credentials.