« Millions Striking and Protesting Across the Globe | Main | Image, mirror, screen: "the world has become a mere multimedia representation" »

March 30, 2006


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Bill Gates is the icon of what he has called ‘frictionless capitalism’, the post-industrial society and the ‘end of labour’. Software is winning over hardware and the young nerd over the old manager in his black suit. In the new company headquarters, there is little external discipline; former hackers dominate the scene, working long hours, enjoying free drinks in green surroundings.

This is quite good. Of course the green-corporate communist interacts with other rich hipster leftists, discusses warez, product, maybe even some leftist cause du jour, but the 100s and 1000s of people trying to get into the Redmond utopia (or silicon valley) via an emailed resume are stopped at the HR gateway, usually by a 'bot. So the dirty work formerly done by some hard-ass lower management clown has itself been automated, and hard-ass himself probably one of 1000s doing some piecemeal work until an HR bot maybe grants him an interview. You want a programmer or admin. job? Crack the system server, man.


Surely Zizek meant to send this manuscript to The Baffler, no?

While this is kind of funny, I have to wonder what the point is. Why should anyone be concerned about the self-image of Davosistas but the Davosistas themselves?

Adam Kotsko

He almost managed to pull off an all-new article, but then he had to throw in the stupid chocolate laxative thing. I have never known chocolate to cause constipation! It doesn't even make sense!

(There's a huge blank space at the end of the post.)


Thanks, Adam. Fixed! (I musta been leaning on the space bar). Yeah, ditto on chocolate. What's up with that? Well, at least it wasn't the kinder egg.


I think it's late 80's Eastern European chocolate that causes constipation.

Amish Lovelock

Maybe Zz is the only one here who gets constipation from chocolate and he doesn't know it? Or, maybe none of us gets constipation from chocolate but the chocolate doesn't know it?

Larry Lamb

Similarly, didn't Z somewhere derive something awfully important from the observation that, in sex, the woman just lies there while the man does all the work?

So perhaps also the "chocolate laxative" is a worked example, reader participation required, of a grab at universalism that founders on pragmatic grounds.


Maybe chocolate induces mental constipation (it sometimes does for me) - but then I don't get the ExLax reference.

Sometimes I'm too literal.


Adam: "I have never known chocolate to cause constipation! It doesn't even make sense!"
Try here:
and here:

Nevertheless, there is such a product, and a number of brands:

"Ex-Lax Chocolate Laxative - Regular Strength - 18 Pieces"

"Ex-Lax - Experts in gentle,
dependable overnight relief."

"Brooklax Chocolate Laxative":

I think I'll go take my overnight-relieving Zizek Laxative now ...

"... the very thing which causes damage should already be the medicine. The ultimate example of it is arguably a chocolate laxative, available in the US, with the paradoxical injunction "Do you have constipation? Eat more of this chocolate!", i.e., of the very thing which causes constipation. Do we not find here a weird version of Wagner's famous "Only the spear which caused the wound can heal it" from Parsifal? "

"The structure of the "chocolate laxative," of a product containing the agent of its own containment, can be discerned throughout today's ideological landscape. There are two topics which determine today's liberal tolerant attitude towards Others: the respect of Otherness, openness towards it, AND the obsessive fear of harassment — in short, the Other is OK insofar as its presence is not intrusive, insofar as the Other is not really Other… A similar structure is clearly present in how we relate to capitalist profiteering: it is OK IF it is counteracted with charitable activities — first you amass billions, then you return (part of) them to the needy… And the same goes for war, for the emergent logic of humanitarian or pacifist militarism: war is OK insofar as it really serves to bring about peace, democracy, or to create conditions for distributing humanitarian help. And does the same not hold more and more even for democracy: it is OK if it is "rethought" to include torture and a permanent emergency state, if it is cleansed of its populist "excesses," and if the people are "mature" enough to live by it… "


See also: Public Administration & The Paradox of the Chocolate Laxative, Thomas J. Catlaw
Arizona State University


Zizek is not merely claiming that a billionaire-led "communism" such as that of Soros or Gates (I doubt Gates considers himself a communist or even a leftist) is misguided or not the proper course for progressives, but that the barons are themselves injust, or the winners in an injust, inefficient, inequitable system. The underlying assumption, then, as any Phil 300 student realizes, is that there is some abstracted notion of economic "justice", based on entitlement, if not obligation, which capitalism fails to achieve for, presumably, the majority of humans. Thus a claim.

Yet many people do feel capitalism is somehow just, or at least works--for them. They might not object to Gates or Soros, or to high powerfed capitalism or finance. WHy should they? That is the issue which Zizek and most leftists writing today skirt; they fail to show, one, that there is some ideal of distributive economics which individuals, companies, factions must work towards--thus, Zizek holds there is an socialist ideal binding on all, and we are obligated to work towards it, and historical problems of applying socialism are not sufficient to alter or reject that ideal---those are the sorts of a priori assumption. Yet That ideal is more a matter of faith or perhaps desire rather than factually existent.

McKenzie Wark

The larger point is surely that the structure of the ruling class has changed. It no longer controls the production and consumption cycle via a monopoly on manufacturing technique, but rather through the control of information, from brands and copyrights to logistics.

Not surprisngly, this new ruling class has a new ethos, which might look 'progressive', and in a sense is, but which has nothing to do with overcoming the inequities of the commodity economy.


Zizek is the untouchable intellectual celebrity.

Some months ago on the web site "Wrong side of Capitalism" ,which presented the colourful images from Zizek's wedding in Argentina, I proposed the foundation of an "Anti-Zizekian League" and gave my email for contact. The result of this initiative was nill,which is probably worst than disastrous.

Nobody,absolutely nobody, conected with my idea for the foundation of this "Anti-Zizekian" organisation.

It tells a lot about the current safely top cultural status of our camrade Zizek.All the "bullets" shot at him bounce off the "Pro-Zizekian" protective shield made out of his zealous corporative sidekicks: academic publishers,lacanian sectarians and the languid pop-ideology fans that google after the smallest patches of that fabulous and virtually radical discourse which Zizek so successfully disseminates through the web matrix.

Well,I must confess that I also was a Zizekian fan and that I also thought that his ideas were offering a certain free path for thinking and living in this unutopic world of ours.But ,at some point in my life, the effect of his ideas was so cumulative on me that I found myself on the verge of seeing everything in the universe divided in two/or three/or 69.

At that moment I understood that Zizek's ideology has a falsifying effect on our perception of our immanent/immediate reality.

The problem with Zizek's dualisam is that he constantly insists on dividing the world around and within the subject into good and bad (or for that purpose Imaginary-Real-Symbollic,whatever that means) while at the same time he is not offering a reader/follower the coherent orientation in this absolute division,this non-stop subject/substance gap and apocalyptic repetition of opposites:politics and money,state and society,mind and body.

Of course,it surely happens because for Zizek the subject contingently exists in Heideggerian/Lacanian way only radicaly losing itself within that uninterrupted spliting of the Hegelian essentialist "absolute knowledge/mind/spirit" or the Deleuzean plural "plane of immanence",for that matter. A croatian writer Borislav Mikulic in his excellent "Criticism of Zizek's Imagery" says that for Zizek subject is "more precisely, a field of subjectification".

Let's look , for a moment,at his most recent piece "against liberal communists":"Nobody has to be vile".

Once again ,after reading this Zizek's article,we end up intellectually frustrated because while biting/reading we feel that he tells us something ENORMOUSLY new and important and sly and secretive,but while digesting/having a second thought we could sum up our experience as "fascination with a fog machine".

The text provokes in us ,at first, an uplifting feeling for giving us a crucial insight into some kind of important synthesis or sublation("aufhebung") between two oppossing instances: Davos and Porto Alegre,liberal managers/statesmen and leftist/anti-globalisation activists.

So here is a field of the real opposites and complementaries and suddenly Zizek , as if following precepts of Crowleyian "Golden Dawn" magik invocation, contracts all the nuances/differences and converts that interwoven and contrasting multitude of phenomena into a monstrous pulsating plane of glitzy slime-at one moment Davos merges into Porto Alegre,at next Porto Alegre merges into Davos and so "ad infinitum".

Finally, Zizek ,in an abrupt yet sleazy way,appears in front of the audience as a logorheic master of ceremonies in an ideological postmodern/postmortem freak show proclaiming:"Ladies and gentlemen,and now...for the first time in your marvellous town...Smart...Frictionless...Creative...Flexible...
Problem-solving...Liberal Communists".And in this way "liberal communists" appear on the stage marching over expiring ghosts of Davos/Porto Alegre ,stepping over the infamous corpse until it rots and is blown away by laughable trick explosions.We hear the canned laugh and updated song:"oh,when the consequences were marching in/ oh,when the consequences were marching in..."

What we always get with Zizek are "consequences"."Liberal communists" are "consequences" of Davos "fucking from behind" Porto Alegre (or vice versa ).This recalls to our mind the Zizek's sentence from "Organs without Bodies:On Deleuze and consequences".It says on the page 47:"what monster would have emerged if we were to stage the ghastly scene of the specter of Hegel taking Deleuze from behind".

Deleuze is relevant for the argument about "liberal communists" because Zizek is constantly trying to (ab)use Deleuzean imagery when speaking about
"countercultural geeks who have taken over big corporations".But we will come back to Zizek's problem with Yuppy-Deleuze shortly.

Now is time to see what is phoney-baloney in this article about "liberal communists".

I've read one book written by George Soros and I leafed through a book written by Bill Gates.In the book of Bill Gates I did not find anything remotely related to communitarian ideals.In a book of Soros I found a good writing style and the discourse of a trickster.

SOROS ONLY WANTS TO CHANGE THE RULES OF THE CAPITALIST GAME IN ORDER TO EARN MORE MONEY-so one does not have to be neither "smart" nor Lacanian in order to see that Soros is not a communist-he is a liberal that wants to represent himself as a universal agent of elitistic jurisprudence.In other words:he is promoting change of capitalist rules that can favour his business.Nothing more.

So Zizek is falsely discovering the truth behind the Davos/Porto Alegre shadow theatre - I am sure that neither Soros nor Gates would call themselves "communists".I do not know where Zizek heard that expression,but if that neologism exists somewhere outside of his article it is only meant as a cruel joke.

When Zizek is saying as a piece of news that "the ruthless pursuit of profit is counteracted by charity" ,I almost cannot believe that he is so dumb not to be historically aware that practice of charity was always a compensatory mechanism among the rich in order to relieve themselves from the guilty feelings and to market their persona within the political and social structures.

Let us try to resume this critical reading of Zizek's "Nobody has to be vile" .Once upon a time there were 2 contrary concepts.By dirty contingency and putting on display all his showmanship,a philosophical titan Slavoj Lecter cooks naked ,on a shadow-theatre stage, 1 cannibalistic dish in which 2 concepts made flesh/meat are used as 2 saucy ingredients.In the end,while cooking - the dish explodes and half-raw bits of the obnoxious mixture are presented as "consequences" that all the followers of philosophical cannibalistic cult should eat as an aphrodisiac.

Even though he finds in favour of the audience already for several years ,theoretically Zizek has its prominent and longlasting weak spot - it is Gilles Deleuze.Zizek's book on Deleuze is the weakest thing he ever wrote,because Deleuze requires patience and temperance (characteristics that irascible Zizek-the-Fast-Vampire does not possess in abundance). These are obviously superficial reasons,but there are also some deeper motives within their countrpointing philosophical thematics and styles.

As I mentioned before,Deleuze is all about "plane of immanence"-it is a convoluted concept but the idea is that there is an attractor for our thoughts called "plane of immanence" on which virtualy we can think the unthinkable:body and mind are the same,state and society are the same,politics and power of money are the same,and at the same time all this is inexisting becuse "plane of immanence" is unexperienceble.On that plane,flatland,plateau exteriority and interiority,substance and subject cancel each other and there is no loss,no remainder.Feeling immanence is feeling detachment and we could venture to see in this Deleuzian expression a kind of Nirvana,but more philosophically grounded.

Deleuzian subject thinks upwards beyond subject,while Zizekian barred subject thinks itself romantically poised above the horrid abyss.

For Deleuze while thinking beyond subject-the subject disappers because our need for subjectification disappears. We encounter the stronger,potentially more creative attractor for our thoughts than subject (I/ego/self)-and this attractor for our whole being is the plane of immanence,virtual-inexisting abstract level on which nothing matters,but which is not idiocy-which is an open fold between immediate nothingness and everythingness.

For Zizek what is important is to give hints about how we can form our subject.These hints are mostly misleading because they are sustained by emptiness,abyss,gap.So,Zizek is founding his subject in air or in fog or in the Hegelian darkness where all the cows are...

My conviction that we still need "Anti-Zizekian League" is based on the position of defence of the left ideals that I could formulate as:"my things are mine,your things are yours and we could help each other".

Left needs new discourse.We ,from the left , should read Trotsky,Lenin and Marx but also try to forget them.Perhaps some liberal contextualisam (instead of liberal universalisam) could be a good starting point for the new left thought.

Zizek,as a good example of Slovenian offbeat catholicism,strongly supports religion through his unclaer attacks on "puppets and dwarfs" and that pro-religious stance is totally disastrous for the survival and resistance of left ideals.Actually,it is bad for human health in general.

I know that all this criticism of Zizek is useless because you guys love to be fooled,but I wanted to kick in the ass "the holy cow",because,as you know,in the darkness all the cows are...


Today within the Left there is a necessity to incorporate the liberty into its political discourse , so even though Slavoj Zizek makes fun of "liberal communists" in his recent writing - what the left ideology probably needs in order to become possible/actual is a turn towards "communistic liberalism".

What kind of liberty the present day communism is able to offer us or should be able to offer us ? In order to answer this question we should seriously focus on exploitative transactions or relations in the capitalist society because when the capitalist class exploits the proletariat, it employs the ordinary wrongful behaviour/mechanism in which one party exploits another getting unfair and undeserved benefits from its transactions or relationships.

At the most general level, A exploits B when A takes unfair advantage of B. (I shall always refer to the alleged exploiter as A and to the alleged exploitee as B).
Let us survey two possible and most frequent capitalist formulas for the everyday explotation:
1. A owns his properties and in addition A is also given right to owns the properties of B.
2. A owns his properties and in addition A is given free acces to the properties of B.

Through the CRUCIAL CAPITALIST CONCEPT which is THE PRIVATE PROPERTY (and not COMMODITY as Marx wrongfully believed) we can distinguish between harmful exploitation and mutually advantageous exploitation.

Case 1 is obviously harmful explotation (or force inclusive explotation,as it were ) because in this case the issue of exploitee«s consent does not arise at all. There are other similar concrete instances in which the exploitee may be entirely passive.

A may sell photographs of B without B's knowledge, or rob a purse from a sleeping B. In these cases, B's will is not involved. Call this nonvolitional exploitation.

If nonvolitional exploitation operates without the engagement of B's will, then nonconsensual exploitation operates against B's will, as when A coerces B or deceives B.

In general, A coerces B to do X only if A proposes (threatens) to make B worse off with reference to some baseline condition if B chooses not do X, although specifying the appropriate baseline against which to measure the proposal can be a complicated matter.

If A gets B to pay A $100 per week by threatening to bomb B's store if he does not pay up, then A coerces B into paying $100 a week. By contrast, if A gets B to pay A $100 per week by proposing to clean B's store each night, then A has made a non-coercive (or inducive) offer to B. A does not propose to worsen B's situation if B rejects A's proposal.

Fraud also undermines the validity of B's consent. Suppose that A offers to sell B a car for $10,000. A tells B that the car has been driven only 50,000 miles, but has set back the odometer from 90,000 to 50,000. B has not given valid consent, because valid consent must be informed (or not misinformed) as well as uncoerced.

Let us also consider the situation in which A oppresses B when A deprives B of freedoms or opportunities to which B is entitled. If A gains from the oppressive relationship, as when A enslaves B, then A may both oppress and exploit B. But if A does not gain from the oppression, the oppression is wrong but not exploitative. We might say that the unemployed are oppressed, but unless we could specify the ways in which some gain from their lack of employment, the unemployed are not exploited. Marxists would claim that capitalists pay exploitative wages to the employed precisely because there is a "reserve army" of the unemployed with whom the employed must compete. But that merely confirms that they are exploited because the oppression generates a gain to the capitalist class, and it is the employed who are exploited and not the unemployed that make such exploitation possible.

Basically and "in nuce",A is the real harmful capitalist exploiter when s/he uses other people under the dull compulsion of property relations trating it as a means in pursuit for greater property rights.In harmful exploitation exploitees do not voluntarily agree to their transaction status and we should bear in mind that:

1. "To exploit a person involves the harmful, merely instrumental utilization of him or his capacities, for one's own advantage or for the sake of one's own ends." (Buchanan 1985, 87).

2. "Capitalist social relations are exploitative, not only in the specific sense of extracting surplus labour, but in the more general sense of using someone as a means, utilizing her to detriment as a way of promoting one's own good" (Kymlicka 1989, 114).

3. "There are four conditions, all of which must be present if dependencies are to be exploitable. First, the relationship must be asymmetrical .Second, the subordinate party must need the resource that the superordinate supplies .Third, the subordinate party must depend upon some particular superordinate for the supply of needed resources .Fourth, the superordinate enjoys discretionary control over the resources that the subordinate needs from him" (Goodin 1988b, 37).

4. "Persons are exploited if (1) others secure a benefit by (2) using them as a tool or resource so as (3) to cause them serious harm." (Munzer 1990, 171)

5. "Exploitation of persons consists in wrongful behavior [that violates] the moral norm of protecting the vulnerable." (Goodin 1988a, 147).

By mutually advantageous exploitation, we refer to those cases in which the exploitee gains from the transaction as well as the exploiter. The advantageousness of the transaction is mutual, not the exploitation. To use somewhat different terminology, exploitation is mutually advantageous only when the transaction is a transaction that leaves all parties better off.

In Case 2 we could have the example of this kind of explotation because:

1. "Exploitation [in exchange] demands that there is no reasonably eligible alternative [for the exploitee] and that the consideration or advantage received is incommensurate with the price paid. One is not exploited if one is offered what one desperately needs at a fair and reasonable price." (Benn 1988, 138).

2. "An exploitative exchange is an exchange in which the exploited party gets less than the exploiting party, who does better at the exploited party's expense. The exchange must result from social relations of unequal power exploitation can be entered into voluntarily; and can even, in some sense, be advantageous to the exploited party." (Levine 1988, 66-67).

So,one thing is that exploiter A as in Case 1 is given right to the property of exploitee B (we talk about appropiation in this case) and a slightely different thing is to consider as in Case 2 how the exploiter A is given free acces to the properties of exploitee B-we could refer here to some kind of sharing or cooperation.

There are other, more specific formulas of explotation in the capitalist reality but we should revert at this point to our question from the beginning and see how the exploitation through private property affects the communist consideration of liberty.

However,before giving a possible reply to the question-What kind of liberty the present day communism is able to offer us or should be able to offer us ?-we need some extra background info on libertarian theory and how we possibly link freedom to communism.

As examined and defended in depth by Isaiah Berlin in the 1950s and Ô60s:negative liberty is the absence of obstacles, barriers or constraints, while positive liberty is the possibility of acting - or the fact of acting - in such a way as to take control of one's life and realize one's fundamental purposes.

Imagine you are driving a car through town, and you come to a fork in the road. You turn left, but no one was forcing you to go one way or the other. Next you come to a crossroads. You turn right, but no one was preventing you from going left or straight on. There is no traffic to speak of and there are no diversions or police roadblocks. So you seem, as a driver, to be completely free. But this picture of your situation might change quite dramatically if we consider that the reason you went left and then right is that you're addicted to cigarettes and you're desperate to get to the tobacconists before it closes. Rather than driving, you feel you are being driven, as your urge to smoke leads you uncontrollably to turn the wheel first to the left and then to the right. Moreover, you're perfectly aware that your turning right at the crossroads means you'll probably miss a train that was to take you to an appointment you care about very much. You long to be free of this irrational desire that is not only threatening your longevity but is also stopping you right now from doing what you think you ought to be doing.

This story gives us two contrasting ways of thinking of liberty. On the one hand, one can think of liberty as the absence of obstacles external to the agent. You are free if no one is stopping you from doing whatever you might want to do. In the above story you appear, in this sense, to be free. On the other hand, one can think of liberty as the presence of control on the part of the agent. To be free, you must be self-determined, which is to say that you must be able to control your own destiny in your own interests. In the above story you appear, in this sense, to be unfree: you are not in control of your own destiny, as you are failing to control a passion that you yourself would rather be rid of and which is preventing you from realizing what you recognize to be your true interests. One might say that while on the first view liberty is simply about how many doors are open to the agent, on the second view it is more about going through the right doors for the right reasons.

In a famous essay first published in 1958, Isaiah Berlin called these two concepts of liberty negative and positive respectively(Berlin 1969). The reason for using these labels is that in the first case liberty seems to be a mere absence of something (i.e. of obstacles, barriers, constraints or interference from others), whereas in the second case it seems to require the presence of something (i.e. of control, self-mastery, self-determination or self-realization). In Berlin's words, we use the negative concept of liberty in attempting to answer the question "What is the area within which the subject - a person or group of persons - is or should be left to do or be what he is able to do or be, without interference by other persons?", whereas we use the positive concept in attempting to answer the question "What, or who, is the source of control or interference that can determine someone to do, or be, this rather than that?" (1969, pp. 121-22).

It is useful to think of the difference between the two concepts in terms of the difference between factors that are external and factors that are internal to the agent. While theorists of negative freedom are primarily interested in the degree to which individuals or groups suffer interference from external bodies, theorists of positive freedom are more attentive to the internal factors affecting the degree to which individuals or groups act autonomously. Given this difference, one might be tempted to think that a political philosopher should concentrate exclusively on negative freedom, a concern with positive freedom being more relevant to psychology or individual morality than to political and social institutions. This, however, would be premature, for among the most hotly debated issues in political philosophy is the following: Can individuals or groups achieve positive freedom through political action? Theorists that are critical of Liberalism, like Rousseau, Hegel and Marx, are typically classed as answering ÔyesÕ to this question and as defending a positive concept of political freedom.

In its political form, positive freedom has often been thought of as necessarily achieved through a collectivity. Perhaps the clearest case is that of Rousseau's theory of freedom, according to which individual freedom is achieved through participation in the process whereby one's community exercises collective control over its own affairs in accordance with the Ôgeneral willÕ. Put in the simplest terms, one might say that a democratic society is a free society because it is a self-determined society, and that a member of that society is free to the extent that he or she participates in its democratic process.

Many liberals, including Berlin, have suggested that the positive concept of liberty carries with it a danger of authoritarianism.Consider the fate of a permanent and oppressed minority. Because the members of this minority participate in a democratic process characterized by majority rule, they might be said to be free on the grounds that they are members of a society exercising self-control over its own affairs. But they are oppressed, and so are surely unfree. Moreover, it is not necessary to see a society as democratic in order to see it as self-controlled; one might instead adopt an organic conception of society, according to which the collectivity is to be thought of as a living organism, and one might believe that this organism will only act rationally, will only be in control of itself, when its various parts are brought into line with some rational plan devised by its wise governors (who, to extend the metaphor, might be thought of as the organism's brain). In this case, even the majoritymight be oppressed in the name of liberty.

Such justifications of oppression in the name of liberty are no mere products of the liberal imagination, for there are notorious historical examples of their endorsement by authoritarian political leaders. Berlin, himself a liberal and writing during the cold war, was clearly moved by the way in which the apparently noble ideal of freedom as self-mastery or self-realization had been twisted and distorted by the totalitarian dictators of the twentieth century - most notably those of the Soviet Union - so as to claim that they, rather than the liberal West, were the true champions of freedom. The slippery slope towards this paradoxical conclusion begins, according to Berlin, with the idea of a divided self. To illustrate: the smoker in our story provides a clear example of a divided self, as there is the self that wants to get to the appointment and there is the self that wants to get to the tobacconists. We now add to this that one of the selves - the keeper of appointments - is a ÔhigherÕ self, and the other - the smoker - is a ÔlowerÕ self. The higher self is the rational, reflecting self, the self that is capable of moral action and of taking responsibility for what she does. This is the true self, since it is what marks us off from other animals. The lower self, on the other hand, is the self of the passions, of unreflecting desires and irrational impulses. One is free, then, when one's higher, rational self is in control and one is not a slave to one's passions or to one's merely empirical self. The next step down the slippery slope consists in pointing out that some individuals are more rational than others, and can therefore know best what is in their and others' rational interests. This allows them to say that by forcing people less rational than themselves to do the rational thing and thus to realize their true selves, they are in fact liberating them from their merely empirical desires. Occasionally, Berlin says, the defender of positive freedom will take an additional step that consists in conceiving of the self as wider than the individual and as represented by an organic social whole - "a tribe, a race, a church, a state, the great society of the living and the dead and the yet unborn". The true interests of the individual are to be identified with the interests of this whole, and individuals can and should be coerced into fulfilling these interests, for they would not resist coercion if they were as rational and wise as their coercers. "Once I take this view", Berlin says, "I am in a position to ignore the actual wishes of men or societies, to bully, oppress, torture in the name, and on behalf, of their ÔrealÕ selves, in the secure knowledge that whatever is the true goal of man ... must be identical with his freedom" (Berlin 1969, pp. 132-33).

Those in the negative camp try to cut off this line of reasoning at the first step, by denying that there is any necessary relation between one's freedom and one's desires. Since one is free to the extent that one is externally unprevented from doing things, they say, one can be free to do what one does not desire to do. If being free meant being unprevented from realizing one's desires, then one could, again paradoxically, reduce one's unfreedom by coming to desire fewer of the things one is unfree to do. One could become free simply by contenting oneself with one's situation. A perfectly contented slave is perfectly free to realize all of her desires. Nevertheless, we tend to think of slavery as the opposite of freedom. More generally, freedom is not to be confused with happiness, for in logical terms there is nothing to stop a free person from being unhappy or an unfree person from being happy. The happy person might feel free, but whether they are free is another matter. Negative theorists of freedom therefore tend to say not that having freedom means being unprevented from doing as one desires, but that it means being unprevented from doing whatever one might desire to do.

Some theorists of positive freedom bite the bullet and say that the contented slave is indeed free - that in order to be free the individual must learn, not so much to dominate certain merely empirical desires, but to rid herself of them. She must, in other words, remove as many of her desires as possible. As Berlin puts it, if I have a wounded leg Ôthere are two methods of freeing myself from pain. One is to heal the wound. But if the cure is too difficult or uncertain, there is another method. I can get rid of the wound by cutting off my legÕ (1969, pp. 135-36). This is the strategy of liberation adopted by ascetics, stoics and Buddhist sages. It involves a Ôretreat into an inner citadelÕ - a soul or a purely noumenal self - in which the individual is immune to any outside forces. But this state, even if it can be achieved, is not one that liberals would want to call one of freedom, for it again risks masking important forms of oppression. It is, after all, often in coming to terms with excessive external limitations in society that individuals retreat into themselves, pretending to themselves that they do not really desire the worldly goods or pleasures they have been denied. Moreover, the removal of desires may also be an effect of outside forces, such as brainwashing, which we should hardly want to call a realization of freedom.

Because the concept of negative freedom concentrates on the external sphere in which individuals interact, it seems to provide a better guarantee against the dangers of paternalism and authoritarianism perceived by Berlin. To promote negative freedom is to promote the existence of a sphere of action within which the individual is sovereign, and within which she can pursue her own projects subject only to the constraint that she respect the spheres of others. Humboldt and Mill, both defenders of the negative concept of freedom, compared the development of an individual to that of a plant: individuals, like plants, must be allowed to grow, in the sense of developing their own faculties to the full and according to their own inner logic. Personal growth is something that cannot be imposed from without, but must come from within the individual.

Critics, however, have objected that the ideal described by Humboldt and Mill looks much more like a positive concept of liberty than a negative one. Positive liberty consists, they say, in exactly this growth of the individual: the free individual is one that develops, determines and changes her own desires and interests autonomously and from within. This is not liberty as the mere absence of obstacles, but liberty as self-realization. Why should the mere absence of state interference be thought to guarantee such growth? Is there not some third way between the extremes of totalitarianism and the minimal state of the classical liberals - some non-paternalist, non-authoritarian means by which positive liberty in the above sense can be actively promoted?
(to be continued)


(continuation of the previous post)

The two sides identified by Berlin disagree over which of two different concepts best deserves the name of LIBERTY. Does this fact not denote the presence of some more basic agreement between the two sides? How, after all, could they see their disagreement as one about the definition of liberty if they did not think of themselves as in some sense talking about the same thing? In an influential article, the American legal philosopher Gerald MacCallum (1967) put forward the following answer: there is in fact only one basic concept of freedom, on which both sides in the debate converge. What the so-called negative and positive theorists disagree about is how this single concept of freedom should be interpreted. Indeed, in MacCallum's view, there are a great many different possible interpretations of freedom, and it is only Berlin's artificial dichotomy that has led us to think in terms of there being two.

MacCallum defines the basic concept of freedom - the concept on which everyone agrees - as follows: a subject, or agent, is free from certain constraints, or preventing conditions, to do or become certain things. Freedom is therefore a triadic relation - that is, a relation between three things: an agent, certain preventing conditions, and certain doings or becomings of the agent. Any statement about freedom or unfreedom can be translated into a statement of the above form by specifying what is free or unfree, from what it is free or unfree, and what it is free or unfree to do or become. Any claim about the presence or absence of freedom in a given situation will therefore make certain assumptions about what counts as an agent, what counts as a constraint or limitation on freedom, and what counts as a purpose that the agent can be described as either free or unfree to carry out.

The definition of freedom as a triadic relation was first put forward in the seminal work of Felix Oppenheim in the 1950s and 60s. Oppenheim saw that an important meaning of ÔfreedomÕ in the context of political and social philosophy was as a relation between two agents and a particular (impeded or unimpeded) action. This interpretation of freedom remained, however, what Berlin would call a negative one. What MacCallum did was to generalize this triadic structure so that it would cover all possible claims about freedom, whether of the negative or the positive variety. In MacCallum's framework, unlike in Oppenheim's, the interpretation of each of the three variables is left open. In other words, MacCallum's position is a meta-theoretical one: his is a theory about the differences between theorists of freedom.

To illustrate MacCallum's point, let us return to the example of the smoker driving to the tobacconists. In describing this person as either free or unfree, we shall be making assumptions about each of MacCallum's three variables. If we say that the driver is free, what we shall probably mean is that an agent, consisting in the driver's empirical self, is free from external (physical or legal) obstacles to do whatever he or she might want to do. If, on the other hand, we say that the driver is unfree, what we shall probably mean is that an agent, consisting in a higher or rational self, is made unfree by internal, psychological constraints to carry out some rational, authentic or virtuous plan. Notice that in both claims there is a negative element and a positive element: each claim about freedom assumes both that freedom is freedom from something (i.e., preventing conditions) and that it is freedom to do or become something. The dichotomy between Ôfreedom fromÕ and Ôfreedom toÕ is therefore a false one, and it is misleading say that those who see the driver as free employ a negative concept and those who see the driver as unfree employ a positive one. What these two camps differ over is the way in which one should interpret each of the three variables in the triadic freedom-relation. More precisely, we can see that what they differ over is the extension to be assigned to each of the variables.

Thus, those whom Berlin places in the negative camp typically conceive of the agent as having the same extension as that which it is generally given in ordinary discourse: they tend to think of the agent as an individual human being and as including all of the empirical beliefs and desires of that individual. Those in the so-called positive camp, on the other hand, often depart from the ordinary notion, in one sense imagining the agent as more extensive than in the ordinary notion, and in another sense imagining it as less extensive: they think of the agent as having a greater extension than in ordinary discourse in cases where they identify the agent's true desires and aims with those of some collectivity of which she is a member; and they think of the agent as having a lesser extension than in ordinary discourse in cases where they identify the true agent with only a subset of her empirical beliefs and desires - i.e., with those that are rational, authentic or virtuous. Secondly, those in Berlin's positive camp tend to take a wider view of what counts as a constraint on freedom than those in his negative camp: the set of relevant obstacles is more extensive for the former than for the latter, since negative theorists tend to count only external obstacles as constraints on freedom, whereas positive theorists also allow that one may be constrained by internal factors, such as irrational desires, fears or ignorance. And thirdly, those in Berlin's positive camp tend to take a narrower view of what counts as a purpose one can be free to fulfill. The set of relevant purposes is less extensive for them than for the negative theorists, for we have seen that they tend to restrict the relevant set of actions or states to those that are rational, authentic or virtuous, whereas those in the negative camp tend to extend this variable so as to cover any action or state the agent might desire.

On MacCallum's analysis, then, there is no simple dichotomy between positive and negative liberty; rather, we should recognize that there is a whole range of possible interpretations or ÔconceptionsÕ of the single concept of liberty. Indeed, as MacCallum says and as Berlin seems implicitly to admit, a number of classic authors cannot be placed unequivocally in one or the other of the two camps. Locke, for example, is normally thought of as one of the fathers or classical liberalism and therefore as a staunch defender of the negative concept of freedom. He indeed states explicitly that Ô[to be at] liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from othersÕ. But he also says that liberty is not to be confused with ÔlicenseÕ, and that "that ill deserves the name of confinement which hedges us in only from bogs and precipices" (Second Treatise, parags. 6 and 57). While Locke gives an account of constraints on freedom that Berlin would call negative, he seems to endorse an account of MacCallum's third freedom-variable that Berlin would call positive, restricting this to actions that are not immoral (liberty is not license) and to those that are in the agent's own interests (I am not unfree if prevented from falling into a bog). A number of contemporary libertarians have provided or assumed definitions of freedom that are similarly morally loaded. This would seem to confirm MacCallum's claim that it is conceptually and historically misleading to divide theorists into two camps - a negative liberal one and a positive non-liberal one.

To illustrate the range of interpretations of the concept of freedom made available by MacCallum's analysis, let us now take a closer look at his second variable - that of constraints on freedom.

We have seen that for those theorists Berlin places in the negative camp, only obstacles external to the agent tend to count as constraints on her freedom. We should now note that these theorists usually distinguish between different kinds of external obstacle, restricting the range of obstacles that count as constraints on freedom to those that are brought about by other agents. For theorists who conceive of constraints on freedom in this way, I am only unfree to the extent that other people prevent me from doing certain things. If I am incapacitated by natural causes - by a genetic handicap, say, or by a virus or by certain climatic conditions - I may be rendered unable to do certain things, but I am not, for that reason, rendered unfree to do them. Thus, if you lock me in my house, I shall be both unable and unfree to leave. But if I am unable to leave because I suffer from a debilitating illness or because a snow drift has blocked my exit, I am nevertheless free, or am at least not unfree, to leave. The reason such theorists give, for restricting the set of relevant preventing conditions in this way, is that they see freedom as a social relation - a relation between persons. Freedom as a non-social relation is more the concern of engineers and medics than of political and social philosophers.

In attempting to distinguish between natural and social obstacles we shall inevitably come across gray areas. An important example is that of obstacles created by impersonal economic forces. Do economic constraints like recession, poverty and unemployment merely incapacitate people, or do they also render them unfree? One way of supplying a clear answer to this question is by taking an even more restrictive view of what counts as a constraint on freedom, and saying that only a subset of those obstacles brought about by other persons counts as a restriction of freedom: those brought about intentionally. In this case, impersonal economic forces, being brought about unintentionally, do not restrict people's freedom, even though they undoubtedly make many people unable to do many things. This last view has been taken by a number of market-oriented libertarians, including, most famously, Friedrich von Hayek (1960, 1982), according to whom freedom is the absence of coercion, where to be coerced is to be subject to the arbitrary will of another. Critics of libertarianism, on the other hand, typically endorse a wider conception of constraints on freedom that includes not only intentionally imposed obstacles but also unintended obstacles for which someone may nevertheless be held responsible (this means morally responsible or causally responsible), or indeed obstacles of any kind whatsoever.Thus, socialists and egalitarians have tended to claim that the poor in a capitalist society are as such unfree, or that they are less free than the rich, in contrast to libertarians, who have tended to claim that the poor in a capitalist society are no less free than the rich. Egalitarians typically (though not always) assume a broader notion than libertarians of what counts as a constraint on freedom. Although this view does not necessarily imply what Berlin would call a positive notion of freedom, egalitarians often call their own definition a positive one, in order to convey the sense that freedom requires the presence of what they call ÔcapabilitiesÕ.

So,finally we came to the end of our argument and what is still missing is to explain:whatthehell exploitation and liberty have to do with the question: What kind of liberty the present day communism is able to offer us or should be able to offer us ?

Well,the PROPERTY EXPLOITATION is the source of control or interference that can determine THE POOR to remain THE POOR.

"Communistic liberalisam" should offer us a legal possibility of PRIVATE PROPERTY FREE OF EXPLOTATION and its anticapitalistic formula should be a paraphrase of the exploitation formulas reading as follows:


Of course,that could be realized only through the political and legislative action the way Lenin in the past and Spain's president Zapatero succeeded to implement positive freedoms through presidential
decisions.However,neither Lenin nor Zapatero did not dare to fight the exploitation and specifically PROPERTY EXPLOITATION.

Meny Leftist think that private property should be communal,but it is a failure.I am originally from the country that was called Yugoslavia (now I am a Spanish citizen for more than a decade) and I was a witness of the blind alley of communal property.Now,there are theorists in Serbia,like a president of Serbian National Radio,Slobodan Divjak that are writing really interesting philosophical books (Divjak's "Traditional Essentialism and Pluralism" is much better than all the books of your favourite bad guy Zizek together).Divjak , even being a hardline liberal,is such an extraordinary well of serious philosophical wisdom that I can only measure him in creative magnificence with Deleuze.And even though politically he could only be an enemy of the Left,philosophicaly he could also give some awesome insights to the Left of post-communist era.

This final aside is made only in oder to reaffirm my opinion that the Left should learn from Liberals,but turn them upside-down ( the same way the materialist Marx turned head-over-heels the idealist Hegel).


* Benn, S., 1988, A Theory of Freedom, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

* Buchanan, A., 1985, Ethics, Efficiency, and the Market, Totowa: N.J.: Rowman and Allanheld.

* Goodin, R., 1988a, Reasons for Welfare, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
* ------, 1988b, "Reasons for Welfare: Economic, Sociological, and PoliticalÑBut Ultimately Moral," in J. Donald Moon (ed.) Responsibility, Rights, and Welfare, Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, pp. 19-54.

* Kymlicka, W., 1989, Liberalism, Community and Culture, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
* Levine, A., 1988, Arguing for Socialism, London: Verso.

* Munzer, S., 1990, A Theory of Property, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

* Berlin, I., 1969, Two Concepts of Liberty, in I. Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty, London: Oxford University Press. New ed. in Berlin 2002



"The position of defence of the left ideals that I could formulate as:"my things are mine,your things are yours and we could help each other.""

"Through the CRUCIAL CAPITALIST CONCEPT which is THE PRIVATE PROPERTY (and not COMMODITY as Marx wrongfully believed) we can distinguish between harmful exploitation and mutually advantageous exploitation."

So you're advocating Proudhon as an alternative to Žižek? I doubt you'll get many takers for that kind of liberalism round these parts. And how you can claim to be a Deleuzian and reject Marx's analysis of the commodity, I'm not sure.


Actually,I also feel that the formulation:"my things are mine,your things are yours and we could help each other" is weak and imprecise.The meaning of property and help should be tackled from my semantic position and made more understandable.
The whole point of writing my second and third post was an intention to reword this credo.I am still trying to give it a right form.
Anyway,the foundational idea is that the left should define themselves through their real life relationship towards property ,not through their relationship towards a broader term which is commodity and which also could include the property.This narrowing or focusing of perspectives is ,I think,truly valid for understanding what is left and what is right.
Other thing is help.I use the word "help" because I want to refer to a mutual relationship between people that is not sustained on theoric/abstract/ecological/religious/economic terms as "solidarity"/"conmiseration"/"colaboration"/"usefulness".Help is more basic/neutral concept for me.Help is "will not to exploit".I should work on this and try to explain it better.
I have never read Proudhon.If you are kind enough,you could tell me something about Proudhon and how he treats the property.I will also look ,on my side, if Proudhon can "help" me to express better my ideas,but your summerized interpretation of his theories about property are most welcome.
Finally,Deleuze and Marx...Deleuze wanted to write a book on Marx,and yes in general Deleuze as a social analyst is not my favourite philosopher.I prefer Manuel Castells ,a spanish theoretician or in extreme cases and on a more basic level Fidel Castro.
Deleuze is a more literary serious version of Zizek and therefore he is such a trauma for Zizek.
As Hanjo Berressem in his extremely insightful online critique titled "is it possible not to love žižek?" on slavoj žižek's missed encounter with deleuze says:
“The third consequence chapter… ( of Zizek’s “Organs without bodies”-my note)… opens with the image of a yuppie who reads Deleuze on the subway and who uses him to legitimate his deep investment in the 'intensive field of late capitalism.' This conceit is of course based on a very common misreading of Deleuze that has to do mainly with the reception of Anti-Oedipus, which installed Deleuze and Guattari as masters of anarchy|revolt and made them either loved or hated because of what was read as their relentless unleashing of 'pure desire' into the symbolic arena. For better or worse, however, neither Deleuze nor Guattari have ever promoted such a 'summer of desire' [one need only read Guattari's Three Ecologies to get an idea of his 'humanism' (London: Athlone Press, 2000)]. "Is this logic where we are no longer dealing with persons interacting, but just with the multiplicity of intensities, of places of enjoyment, plus bodies as a collective/impersonal desiring machine, not eminently Deleuzian?" (Organs 188), Žižek wonders about the late-capitalist dance of intensities. Well, yes, in a way. But quite definitely not in the way that Žižek's question implies. If one could so easily equate Deleuze's delight in intensities with the intensities that are [un]bound within and co-opted by an 'intensive capitalism,' things would indeed be as easy as they are for Žižek. Fortunately, one cannot. There is a plane of pure intensity and multiplicity in Deleuze, (…), but it looks nothing like the plane of 'intensive capitalism.' Another topic in this section is Deleuze's reading of fascism as a molar machine, which might indeed call for a close analysis. If Žižek's claim is that for Deleuze everything bad is fascist, one should, however, be careful in talking about "the fascism of the irrational vitalism of Deleuze" (195), even if such a statement is meant slightly tongue-in-cheek. Never mind that Žižek might well be right in noting that Deleuze and Guattari "indulge here in a true interpretative delirium of hasty generalizations" (195). What is more interesting is that Žižek does precisely the same, which is a sign that he is losing his cool. The rest of the chapter is about Hardt and Negri as 'representatives' of Deleuze, something that is an extremely questionable and somewhat unfair assumption to begin with. ... While Deleuze's project is to think the relation between production and representation, Žižek's project is to think an infinite representation. While Deleuze aims at including 'intelligent matter' into his semiotics, Žižek wants to purify information by subtracting matter from it…”
Deleuze deals with the concept of property in his book on Hume "Empiricism and Subjectivity" but he is not a sogiologist-he is a hardline philosopher with a strong literary talent competely in line with Bergson.
I am an admirer of Deleuze's writing style and vast culture,but I am not a Deleuzean.
I propose Fidel Castro as an alternative to Zizek-because Castro is the only existing communist of our time in spite of his many mistakes.On the contrary,Zizek is a simple liberal that puts on a show a crossdresses into a communist sandman for glamorous occasions.
Zizek is famous in the States because the Leftist there are repressed liberals.I look for the liberals that are repressed communists.There are few ,but they will appear.They must appear.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo