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writers (lefters?) block

with 5 comments

Nothing new, I suppose.

My opinion is that the left is not able to offer a true alternative
to global capitalism. Yes, it is true that ‘capitalism will not be
around for ever’ (it is the advocates of the new politics of resistance
who think that capitalism and the democratic state are here to stay);
it will not be able to cope with the antagonisms it produces. But there
is a gap between this negative insight and a basic positive vision. I
do not think that today’s candidates – the anti-globalisation movement
etc – do the job.

So what are we to do? Everything possible (and
impossible), just with a proper dose of modesty, avoiding moralising
self-satisfaction. I am aware that when the left builds a protest
movement, one should not measure its success by the degree to which its
specific demands are met: more important than achieving the immediate
target is the raising of critical awareness and finding new ways to
organise. However, I don’t think this holds for protests against the
war in Iraq, which fitted all too smoothly the space allotted to
‘democratic protests’ by the hegemonic state and ideological order.
Which is why they did not, even minimally, scare those in power.
Afterwards, both government and protesters felt smug, as if each side
had succeeded in making its point.

I agree, I guess. But maybe we need to enter into a pact to sit quietly and not speak or write until we’ve come up with even the tiniest “basic positive vision.” Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, at least at the moment, etc etc.

Written by adswithoutproducts

January 22, 2008 at 8:55 am

5 Responses

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  1. I generally dislike the ideology and rhetorical strategies used by Zizek, but here I think he’s hit the nail on the head.

    ‘The left,’ overwhelmingly, proposes neither viable alternatives to capitalism nor viable ways to use capitalism itself to achieve these goals. The viability of alternatives to capitalism should be judged not just in a moral contest with capitalism but also on efficiency – that is, we must defeat/replace capitalism on its own terms. What’s needed here is someone who understands the tools of the ‘enemy’ in order to create a more effective form of social relations that maintains certain benefits of capitalism while restructuring the systemic mechanisms thereof. As for strategies for this defeat and replacement, these same tools need to be turned against themselves not to encourage the collapse of capitalism but to begin building its replacement.

    These don’t seem popular approaches on the part of ‘the left,’ since they seem blinded by their moral revulsion to systemic inadequacy to the point of being, as Zizek formerly accused them, a purely ideological dissent.

    Dave

    January 22, 2008 at 1:03 pm

  2. Hmmm. . . While I admit that Zizek is often useful inasmuch as his willingness to occupy every conceivable position on the left, contradictions and his erstwhile Hegelianism be damned, means that he’ll get a hit every once in a while, I do think that he’s about as fatalistic as they come. (A consequence, I suppose, of a commitment to Lacan). Sometimes this looks like realism, and sometimes it’s just gas. Isn’t it in Sublime Object that he does, in fact, say that capitalism, like diamonds, is forever? [see 49-50, in the Verso, with his use of Lacan contra Marx]

    Isn’t the positive vision what it has always been: that is, class struggle? As far as intellectuals, what we need are broader coalitions on the left, but ones that have the kind of cut to them that allows for some coherence. A minimum set of anti-capitalist principles that’s a bit better defined than those of the World Social Forum. Something with some visibility that could demonstrate the different forms of thinking on the far left, and demonstrate especially that people are aware of, and have thought long and hard about, the failures and dirty hands of the 20th cent. Sophisticated ideology critique a la Zizek, as useful as it is, would be much better served with such a coalition as one of its targets and platforms. It might not be the subject-object of history, but a start. . .

    Jasper

    January 27, 2008 at 1:03 pm

  3. My tentative tuppence worth…

    Isn’t what is interesting about Zizek over the last few years (and by association other figures I find potentially useful but untrustworthy, eg Badiou) is that there has been a serious attempt to rehabilitate certain political strategies – Leninism – which has been derided both by liberals and the remains of the left for some time now. So you have his obsessive interest in the anti-clean hands Brechtian rhetoric, in vanguardism and voluntarism. My problem with this is 1) funnily enough, the left is currently so disengaged that our hands are clean whether we like it or not and 2) it totally ignores all the serious Marxist critiques of vanguardism, not just Menshevism or what have you but Luxemburg, council Communism, Victor Serge etc…and not only that, but the positive ideas of both Leninist and non-leninist currents, whether Fourier or LEF, all of which seem to hold little interest for him (although the current fashionable use of term ‘utopianism’ implies that there’s a been more thinking about it going on lately than there has been for a while…)

    In a theoretical sense I think his general war on liberals entirely valid, but as for actual political change, what (at least in the UK) is needed is some sort of unity – a coalition of the few Marxist parties (who would have to stop hating each other), the Greens (who would have to stop being petit-bourgeois moralists) and the Labour left (who would have to lose their sentimental Party attachment). Considering the mess we’re in right now, such a group would actually do very well, I’d guess. Mind you I hold out around 0.005% of hope it’ll happen. Yet one of the reasons it isn’t happening is the persistent belief, almost like some spell that has to be broken, that New Labour, Barack Obama, Lula (etc) are somehow on ‘our’ side, rather than Thatcherism with a human face – and Zizek has made this point more often than most.

    Owen

    January 31, 2008 at 2:05 pm

  4. Yet one of the reasons it isn’t happening is the persistent belief, almost like some spell that has to be broken, that New Labour, Barack Obama, Lula (etc) are somehow on ‘our’ side, rather than Thatcherism with a human face – and Zizek has made this point more often than most.

    Yes he certainly has.. and more polemically than those he borrowed it from, too. Slogans against slogans still being slogans, etc.

    I think you’re confusing a reluctant, enraged compromise born out of sheer necessity with outright delusion.

    Granted this happens all the time, and american democrats against the neoliberal market fundamentalism/new DLC/DNC influx should probably be used to it.

    matt

    February 1, 2008 at 9:20 am

  5. […] just like that, with the Witty reference, it dawns on me I’ve written this post before. See? The nastiness of genres. They breed like the mice Magri mentions in the piece, Marx’s mice, […]


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