In his introduction to a new book of Mao's teachings, Slavoj Zizek presents Mao: On Practice and Contradition, (Verso), Zizek writes:
The true victory (the true 'negation of the negation') occurs when the enemy talks your language. In this sense, a true victory is a victory in defeat. It occurs when one's specific message is accepted as a universal ground, even by the enemy.
Zizek's example is Blair and Thatcher. Blair is the victory of Thatcherism. In the US, we would say that Clinton--the destroyer of welfare--is the victory of Reaganism.
We might even say that religious fundamentalism (along the lines of Paul Weyrich, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell) is the victory of 'postmodernism' and/or cultural studies. These guys take social construction and the importance of packaging, marketing, representation absolutely seriously. They put it to work. To add one more example (and I'm thinking here of Thomas Frank's One Market Under God), we can also say that corporate capitalism is the triumph of a version of 'postmodernism'/cultural studies--think about wink marketing, bricolage, irony, etc.
All these examples suggest the implications of ideological victory--it is also ideological defeat. When one's enemy accepts one's terms, one's very point of critique and resistance is lost, subsumed. The dimension of antagonism vanishes. At this point, other antagonisms emerge, many that are small and non-fundamental, non-crucial. A new kind of confusion occurs as this multiplicity of small antagonisms, each seemingly central, make finding the key division difficult.
Confronting the implications of ideological victory, it seems to me, is what many of us who identify as leftists fail to do. So, academics may continue to repeat old battles--as if the right remains invested in essentialism and origins, for example, as if they don't already recognize the impact of representations and mediations. Feminism can provide another example: some feminists continue to think that exposing pornography as sexist male domination is radical and insightful. They fail to recognize that for some, this is why pornography is appealing--why are you telling me this is domination when I already know that? in fact, that's why I like it! That 's what gets me off! Or, a more difficult example--why bad guy imperialists present themselves as spreading democracy--you want democracy? ok, this is what democracy looks like!
When one's opponent takes over one's position, one is confronted with its realization, with its repercussions. And, for many of us, this is what we don't like, this is what we want to avoid. So, we say, no that's not it, but precisely because our enemy has taken over our language, our ideals, we now lack an ability to say what we want. We can't even dream something else--hence, Zizek writes:
in a radical revolution, people not only have to 'realize thgeir old (emancipatory, etc.) dreams'; rather, they have to reinvent their very modes of dreaming.