May 12, 2008

Hooked on a feeling Although I remain confused and mystified by The Community Community and Means without Ends, one of my favorite ideas from these books is the spectacle's return to us of our linguistic nature in an inverted fashion. The spectacle contains and captures the possibility of a common good. We could even say its production of a common is its good or that the power of spectacle is its production of the common as a feeling, necessarily shared. Its form is inseparable from its affect. A spectacle is affective form and this is its common good. Yet this common good is so fungible, so commodifiable, that we feel its force most often as lost. Zizek would emphasize stolen. We might also call this feeling of lost common good a sense of corruption or distorted. The common, the we, appears or is manifest only through distortions, inversions, and corruptions, via theft, commodification, and capture. We feel the common, our commonality or a commonness, by feeling also and at the same time its corruption or capture. Conceptually it's possible to separate the common good from the spectacle that inverts and returns it to us, but only conceptually, not actually. Actually we encounter our hope for change channeled and manipulated into mainstream political parties and candidates, into commodities and ads and packaged experiences that promise to be different, this time, to be spectacular. We encounter or experience our own feeling pushed and distorted into too simple packages of for and against, optimist and pessimist. Where...
Can global capitalist democracy have a human face? At first glance, the question 'is global capitalist democracy with a human face enough?' doesn't help much to open up thinking about the dilemmas of the present. One way to approach its limits and maybe put it to work is by breaking the implicit claims apart, word by word. Global: since the global is not the world or even a world insofar as antagonism is Real, the question begins with the fantasy of a totality, a fantasy that the next term, capitalist, either reinforces as ideology or ruptures as Real. Thus, the next term Capitalist: already contradicts and calls into question the first as well as the second, unless Democracy: remains but an empty signifier. After all, there isn't an institution for a global democracy; democracy and capitalism are incompatible; democracy isn't global in its theory or practice. Human: is rather shocking in contexts of homo sacer, the critique of human rights, and the ongoing critical engagements with the anthropomorphic machine. In fact, it's so counter to Zizek's anti-humanism (what kind of neighbor is the human neighbor, anyway?) that it seems part of a phrase constructed for radio (tertiary orality?), especially when we recall his critical responses to Levinas's Face. And Enough: for what? For a slogan? A platform? An aspiration? Ideological formations combine dissonant and even contradictory ideas. We could then imagine left responses to the question (or, differently put, the implied left enunciating position): "yes, that's enough for us!" We could be so fortunate to live in such...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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