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August 12, 2010


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Conrad DiDiodato

Žižek’s shown (in "Living in the End Times") a way to the possibility of communism as radical critique of "circuits of drive" through a fundamental Lacanian & Marxist analysis. Study is prerequisite to social-political utopianism of any kind. I envisage a communism of "sense" and "understanding": a communitarian model in which participants meet at the table of discussion on equal terms.Žižek uses the terms "solidarity and social discipline" to describe that responsible, mindful egalitarianism on which a radical Leftist system can be based. But I don't mean this in an academic, elitist sense as a pool of expert knowledge that privileges some forms of representation over others.

The global capitalist system (as seen in the obscene practices of banking, financial speculation,fiscal measures etc) is a roadblock to freeing our democratic system from the vicious self-generating cycle that makes even criticism seem a legitimate off-shoot of capitalist ideology. It's a kind of Hegelian Absolute whose particularity needs to be wrested from the self-justifying liberal-democratic version of the postmodernist "End of History" web that's appropriated that Absolute & in which the present system's caught.

Can we step out of the "state mechanisms" that perpetuate that infinite Hegelian circle? Yes, in radical thought grounded in communitarian ideal of "popular mobilization" or activism.
It has the potential to reunite the lost commoditized subject to a sense of the substance of ethical & political life.


You said a large mouthful. I'm left with excited indigestion. I'm excited to read this. Another word for neo-liberalism, Despotic Financialism. Perfect.
Thank you for pointing out that real existing neoliberalism has not unleashed competition. It has a despotic nature and competition is a fantasy one can believe if they want.
There is a lot in what you wrote. I hope you will expand on what you wrote. There is a lot. I cannot even sum it up. Thank you. As yet, no one else has offered this in writing.
The last paragraph somehow comes from my experience.


Wow Jodi - while I have been away you have been posting some great stuff - really substantial food for thought. But in your last paragraph, which I think is powerfull, you suggest that communism is necessary but democracy is not an option any longer. I know from your past work that you equate democracy as the political form of neoliberalism, but is true communism imaginable without a different notion of democracy? In his comments above, Conrad makes several intriguing suggestions in a communitarian direction - would your view of communism be open to this? If so, how is this all that different from participatory models of democracy? As always, thanks for the provocation. Take Care.

Jodi Dean

Hi Alain--thanks for the comments; sorry for the delay in responding. Your response is one I've been encountering for a while now, something like, "well, sure, but you really aren't against democracy are you?" I think of it as a way to distance oneself from the fact that democracy is not working for the left and that we cannot hope to end capitalism through democratic means. So, the question is one that doesn't want to talk about violent means, or taking power, but wants instead a kind of peaceful vision of community. The difference between communism and participatory models of democracy is who owns what and how production and distribution are organized. Democrats might think that we should decide these things by a vote. A communist thinks there is no vote--there is collective production and collective ownership. Participatory democracy is compatible with capitalism. Communism isn't.


thanks for the response. I am open to violence (if it has a chance of doing something positive) and taking power is a prerequisite for getting anything changed. And I am aware, as Zizek likes to say, there are no guarantees, once must act without certainty or reassurance from the "Big Other"- which in democracy is usually understood to be the "will of the people" or whatever or whoever get the most votes. So are we back to the idea you introduced at the end of your Zizek book of the Party? In the past I have been a dutiful liberal and resisted this notion, but given the complete failure of our government I am interested in revisiting it.

Jodi Dean

probably--I'm not sure what else to call a militant organization that aims at taking control of the state; you are right to put the caveat in on the matter violence--a chance of doing something positive. This is a crucial caveat. It seems difficult to imagine violence that could have positive effects in the current setting. The US tends to like lone heroes--like the Jet Blue flight attendant. Creative violence against property could be a good idea (like dumping eggs and egg cartons on the CEOs and Boards of the salmonella egg companies). It's almost as if creative violence would need to be a means not just to wake people up (the situationist approach), but it would have to be organized and connected to a positive program (eliminate most financial services; have one national bank for important collective project; nationalize the 'leading sectors' of the economy; expel the current federal government; be open to the secession of Texas; declare all unoccupied buildings common property; etc....)

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