Marxism and Autism discussion notes, 11 June 2016

Janine read through the notes from the previous meeting, and reported on the process to draw up a Labour Party autism/neurodiversity manifesto. Discussion followed, and included:

Capitalism and autism
– capitalism makes problems and pressures for us
– capitalism is both developed and distressing, and increasingly so
– work provides no scope for people who think differently
– is neurodiversity “good for business”?
– class differences in autistic experience; autistic people from bourgeois families can often cope better
– education system: narrow curriculum

Labour Party
– Autistic equality would be expensive to capitalism, so Labour in government could not do much.
– Nevertheless, we demand that it challenges capital: Marx’s concept of the political economy of the (neurodiverse) working class.
– Should we call on Labour to add a tenth protected characteristic to the Equality Act: neurological status?

The politics of autism charities
– ignoring autistic people’s demands to campaign against false/abusive ‘treatments’/’cures’
– reliant on funders
– expect autistic people to work for free
– NAS senior managers group includes no autistic people
– narrow focus on education
– if they were successful, charities would abolish themselves!
– their patrons tend to be conservative
– NAS is shifting its language and image, but what about its theory and practice?
– There are, however, self-organised autistic social enterprises eg. Autscape, AutAngel, Autonomy Project.

Diagnosis and identity
– ‘identification’ vs ‘diagnosis’
– differences in how society relates to visible and invisible disabilities
– “You can go through half your life without a diagnosis or label but still know you are somehow different.”
– need to take care with terminology and avoid compartmentalising ourselves
– this year’s Autscape theme: ‘identity’

Campaigns and issues
– Justice for LB (Connor Sparrowhawk)
– Steven Simpson
– autistic people being detained in assessment and treatment units (ATUs) away from family
– scapegoating of neurological conditions eg. when a mass killer is autistic, commentators focus on this rather than on their right-wing views
– migration is good, and it makes diverse communication even more important

Theories and approaches
– intersectionality, including people who have multiple neurodivergent conditions
– Goffman’s theory of stigma as socially discrediting
– Simon Baron-Cohen’s comment some issues eg. empathy, are unhelpful and woolly

We agreed to continue holding meetings following those of PARC (Participatory Autism Research Centre) at South Bank University
– PARCs and Marx :-)

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