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October 17, 2006

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dan

As someone who is in the International Political Economy subfield of International Relations, I have always found it a rather large omission by Zizek to argue that we need to think politics and economics together. I think Political Science is so compartmentalized especially in North America, that there is no recognition of the critical, Marxist and post-structuralist work being done in Political Economy outside the United States and Canada. Our stream is heavily indebted to British scholarship on this, and increasingly non-North American scholarship relies on this tradition to develop conceptualizations of politics and economics.

As someone who is in Seoul right now doing work on contemporary anti-capitalism, it is remarkable how many activists/scholars are debating Zizek, Agamben, Deluze and Derrida while organizing against the current FTA with the United States. My own work is an effort to develop the political economy of these efforts within a framework that sees 'Capital' itself as the most real fiction of the belief in the separation of politics and economics. Understanding capital as a social relation means that to assume politics and economics are separate already concedes far too much. Economics is a poor a social science (if not much more so) as anything done in political research – they just are much better at hiding it.

Amish Lovelock

Parallax is odd on this point, your right, and it niggles at me every time he repeats it. After all the whole argument on Fascism in They Know What Not They Do is organized around something which can only be described as a relationship between the political and capital. "Is not fascism a kind of inherent self-negation of capitalism, an attempt to change something so that nothing really changes by means of an ideology which subordinates the economy to the ideological political domain?"

Democracy too. Cries for ever more democracy, or democracy to come require places of non, incomplete democracy otherwise there would be no need for it in the first place. So a system which creates such places of uneveness is needed - capitalism. Another politics-capital relationship. Is the argument just not to get confused when thinking about an alternative?

Zizek's Politics was great by the way. My copy is now multiply thumbnailed and post-it noted!

Craig

When did - since the establishment of the universal franchise, at least - did citizen at the time of election become co-terminus with "ratepayer" or "taxpayer"? While I don't have exciting congressional and governor-nal elections like you (I love, by the way, the commercials from Michigan; took me a while to understand they were saying "Dick Devos" and not "Da Boss" as in "Who created all these jobs? Da Boss did"), but, in Ontario, we are having municipal elections. Few care, of course, but I get all sorts of strange letters addressed to "Dear Taxpayer." I'm not sure which tax I'm being singled out for: property, sales, income, federal excise tax on gasoline, debt retirement "charge" on my electricity bill, etc.

Has anyone written this dissertation yet?

Adam Kotsko

Craig, That same thing really irks me. It seems to be an insidious ploy to make it seem like the poor should not have a say in politics (when paired with the lie that the poor don't pay taxes -- everyone pays sales taxes, for instance) -- although I'm sure it has other ideological functions as well.

Craig

It seems, if I am to believe the local candidates, that only taxpayers have the right to be concerned about snow removal, ice pad rentals at the arena, resurfacing of roads, putting plants and flowers on the main street for decoration, and whatever else it is that the town does - water and sewage, I suppose. But maybe that's right: don't the poor live in filth?

The problem is - and hasn't any attempted to capitalize on this? - is that it isn't just people ("citizens") who pay taxes: companies (although increasingly less) pay taxes, yet we don't let them vote (lobby, buy candidates; sure - but they don't get ballots). Similarly, organizations who do not pay taxes - churches, charities, etc - should, like the non-taxpaying citizen (where taxes = property taxes) should, like myself, but excluded from the great issues of the day.

That won't fly, I'm sure. All the candidates also want to appeal to my Christian sensibilities: they're all active in their church.

I'm breaking my "no comments after midnight rule."

dan

Doesn't Zizek have a piece in 'The anti-captialism reader'? And Gyn Daly of 'Conversations with Zizek' wrote a piece in RIPE oulining the problems of thinking of the economic and the political as seperate spheres of social analysis.

Isn't the Zizekian shorthand of the encounter of the Real today the lack of ability to confront capital directly? Doesn't returning the debate of economics and politics to sides of the Parralax just further that?

I don't know, I always introduce my classes by asking students if we live in an all-pervasive capitalist system with no viable alternatives, can they tell me what 'capital' is? I think there is nothing more ideological than seperating the capitlist system into spheres where expertise in one complicates the other - privledging or no privledging.

Alain

The fiction of distinct domains (economics/politics) obviously has served a very useful ideological function. But Zizek would seem useful in "traversing the fantasy" - we can not simply negate or step out of this dichotomy but must go through it. If the United States were to actually implement radical, unencumbered free trade policies, the results would be devastating. It is holding the elites accountable for their rhetoric, suggesting that they go "all the way," that may in fact lead to an escape from this impass.

Jodi

I'm not sure how current 'tax-payer' is as a replacement for citizen in the US. Another term of replacement/displacement is consumer (eliminating workers). Taxpayer may have more connotations of male head of hetero household. When the so-called war on terror is the topic, folks in New York are addressed as New Yorkers (to accentuate our apparently unique relation to the attacks). Others are addressed as Americans, rather than consumers or taxpayers.

Amish--glad you liked the book; thanks for your kind words. In the passage you cited from FTKNWTD, I thought that the point of non-relation was that the effort to deal with the economic problem was avoided and turned into a political problem instead. So, traveling along the mobius strip of economics, we end up in politics. The Nazis, according to Z, didn't real confront the economic problems they were facing, hyperinflation, unemployment, greedy corporationsl instead, they relied on the fantasy of the Jew as a way to locate the problem.

Maybe, then, the parallax structure tells us that we slide from one to the other, that we can't think them both together; and, this reminds us of class struggle as the fundamental antagonism. Amish, you may have convinced me to love again...

Amish Lovelock

Yes.

Anyhow, I just read an article on photographic parallax and apparently the only way to eliminate parallax in photography entirely is to use a "panoramic head" that allows you to accurately position your camera so that when you take pictures you are rotating the the camera around the nodal point of the lens. This all sounds far too dizzy and Deleuzian.

Jodi

I feel like throwing up just imagining it.

Eric

Isn't the distinction between the economic and the political primarily a philosophical one anyway? Is there really such a divide in "reality"?...But it's hard to think that there's not a distinction, as you are going against several hundred years of accepted thought. Even people I respect very much, like Marx and Wendy Brown, insist that they are two different things. I want to say that it's urgent we stop thinking that way, but I'm not sure I want to make that kind of a commitment.

john buell

This exchange makes several stimulating comments about relations of economics and politics and about current political rhetoric. I hope I have not procrastinated too long in jumping in here. I am especially interested in the point about the replacement of the concept of citizen with taxpayer. And taxpayer itself is often coded as white, working class, family man. Jody is also right in suggesting that consumer often plays a similar discursive role. All serve to depoliticize us, or at least to suggest that our only role in politics is to fight for lower taxes and more opportunities to buy goods and services.

Obviously there are corporate currents that push and thrive from these conceptual shifts, but are progressives of all stripes free of any intellectual and political responsibility here? It seems to me that progressives have an increasingly outmoded understandings of how the welfare state actually works. Conservative business interests portray the welfare state as taxing the hard working middle class to support a feckless working poor, replete with racial and gender aspersions. But that model, if it was ever true, is now defective in two ways. If one looks at the net incidence of taxation, our tax structure when all state and local fees, sales taxes etc are factored in, is mildly regressive. People on the bottom are paying more as a percentage of their total incomes. In addition, the beneficiaries of government spending are increasingly the corporate wealthy, especially the very wealthy. From cost plus contracts for military suppliers, including Iraq, to huge research subsidies for the drug companies (which then get monopoly rights on resulting discoveries), to the Medicare prescription drug program ( a virtual license to print money for the drug companies), government policies operate to fund those who are already doing well. On a more subtle level, Federal Reserve policy, supposedly focused on the technocratic job of regulating inflation rates, really serves to control labor at the bottom of the spectrum. In standard neoclassical theory, workers are supposed to be paid in accordance with their marginal productivity. But in an economy that Fed policy maintains with considerable unemployment, those at the bottom never have the power to demand what they are worth.

I think progressives should move away from a rhetoric of rich and poor and instead talk about a three tiered socio-economic class system—the entitled, the disposed, and the marginalized middle class. The dispossessed suffer not only from rigged job markets but urban development projects that uproot them and selectively harsh law enforcement through the so called drug war. Deindustrialization and outsourcing even of many middle class jobs leave many middle and working class families desperate to hang on to their standard of living and sense of identity. Meanwhile, the wealthy now view their success in the market as not merely a consequence of their skills but as a permanent entitlement, a proof of their own moral worth and they have used their economic power to shape public policy—including both appropriations, lobbying techniques, redistricting, media consolidation-- that reflects this sense of entitlement.

Consumption patterns play a role in both the expression and cementing of this class structure, a reason why I think the concept of consumer tends to displace older views of citizens. Luxury consumption doesn’t merely increase expectations but also fosters new needs. Cell phones start as expensive toys, but as they spread to the upper middle class, public pay phones are eliminated in many locales and many who even hate cell phones find themselves compelled to purchase them. One can find many other examples. So the middle and working class is being squeezed both on the income end and on the level of expenditures thought necessary to sustain a certain way of life.

I believe these points have implications for the discussion of the autonomy of the political and the economic. A marginalized middle and working class, with its own history of ethnic, racial, and gender identifications, can gravitate toward xenophobic or homophobic forms of scapegoating in the absence of a politics that addresses its economic insecurity.However desireable one may think the notion of the autonomy of the political process and its capacity to foster new surprises and ways of thinking, politics will remain overwhelmed by repressive fundamentalisms if it does not confront these massive economic disparities and insecurities. But a redemptive politics has the best chance of getting some foothold if, rather than focusing on the need of the state to redress inequalities that have supposedly emerged by virtue of talent or “God given” luck from a neutral market, it makes citizens aware how these inequalities today are the result of conscious government policy conducted by and at the behest of a group that views itself as entitled.

cabdi raxiim

please i nead to learn economy and political science so help me

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