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April 15, 2008

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Alain

This is a very provocative idea - I think I agree with you to a certain extent. But I would insert an old fashioned distinction between the jouissance of the left (or of the individual leftist) and the consequences of politics as such. I realize you may not accept this initial distinction, but it seems that the complete accomplishment of communism (or marxism or socialism - however you wish to define completion or accomplishment) would result in its ver disappearance.

But isn't Marxism's problems larger than one of desire? Isn't there a question of the "scientific status" of marxian theory? And its claims to empiricism? I only raise these issues because it seems there is a distinction to be made between the psychology of the left and the psycho social limitations of politics under neoliberalism.

Does that make any sense?

Jodi

Hi Alain,

What I'm writing here (and its connected with something on Ranciere I posted in late March) are some initial thoughts that I hope are steps or opening toward a new project on politics and drive. I confess that in the above 'the left' was just a placeholder so that I could start the sketch.

But, that said, I still think it is correct to reject the claim (made by Laclau) regarding 'complete politics.' I think this is a fantasy construct that covers over losing/sublimation. Why would anyone ever think that socialism would be completed and that this completion or end is the goal? This assumption empowers the shift toward democracy as a shift toward process for its own sake, a shift to drive where jouissance comes from process. So, I reject the assumption that socialism aims at the end of politics. (I also recognize that a proper argument for this would take, oh, 20-30 pages and so could be the chapter of a book.)

Next, I don't understand how you are connecting 'Marxism's problems' with the limitations of politics under neoliberalism. The shift in the left I mention above happened before 1989, an aspect of the left attack on regulation and the state that enhanced the environment under which neoliberalism stopped seeming like crazy talk and started becoming common sense.

Alain

Thank you for the clarification. I think you are right that the left, however understood, was complicit in the emergence of neoliberalism. That said, it seems that today we are in a different place, where neoliberalism itself creates the co-ordinates for its own self defeating opposition - thus neutralizing it.

I guess I misunderstood your initial point. I agree that obsession with the process of democracy, of it being necessarily an incomplete task, is an excuse to avoid challenging the fundamental assumptions of today's political discussion. I look forward to you posting more.

Thanks.

Jodi

Alain--are you saying that neoliberalism today is destroying itself or that it's a totalizing formation out of which the left hasn't been able to escape and is basically co-opted/implicated?

At first I thought you were saying the first but then I thought you were saying the second. I think both are true--in fact, neoliberalism is doing a better job destroying itself than leftists have done under neoliberalism.

And this probably establishes a key task for the left today--trying to fill the gap that is opening up in the mess of neoliberalism, trying to push what is going on in one direction rather than another. The Nation, I think, has been running articles on the new deal and different kinds of regulations and how they might be structured. It will be interesting to see if the imperial presidency of the Bush administration will enable an executive powerful enough to secure vital economic changes/regulations/reforms.

Alain

I actually was saying the second but I like your idea better - it both pre-empts alternatives but it is also in the process of destroying itself.

And I did see the Nation issue that celebrates the New Deal at 75. Many of the contributors talk of a new New Deal - which I like. But in order for it to gain popular support it will have to be framed within a different discourse - one that not only captures the nature of today's challenges but also convinces people that government can contribute to the common good. That still seems to be a pretty tall order.

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