August 12, 2008

Progressives and electoral politics Democrats insist that progressives must fully support Obama. A McCain presidency just continues the nightmare of the last 8 years. It must be avoided at all costs. With this insistence, Democrats want progressives to fall into line, refrain from criticizing Obama, wait to raise our criticisms and issues until after the election. Again, too much is at stake. So they deflect attention from the issues at stake--free speech (FISA laws), climate change (drilling), military aggression, economic collapse --and proceed as if the only issue is the election. Once the election happens, though, critique continues to be deflected and ignored. The new excuse will be: we need to work across party lines in order to get the country moving again. The Democrats have used this tactic before. Nancy Pelosi took impeachment off the table. Winning the presidential election in 2008 was too important, as if anything like the rule of law or even an aspiration to some kind of constitutional ideals can survive the last 8 years without some kind of war crimes trial or truth commission. I suspect that the real reason the Democrats have failed to push for impeachment or a truth commission is that their leaders are culpable in the decisions to imprison and torture. Some of them likely knew about and approved administration policy (they confirmed administration appointments, for example; also, it is full public knowledge that the administration discussed torture techniques in the Oval Office and that these techniques are illegal). I would expect that Hillary...
Fricative Power A number of years ago, I was the outside reader on a fabulous dissertation from Australia on fisting. I haven't come across the text in book form or even seen any articles based on it. It was very smart. Anyway, sorry to disappoint, but this post isn't about fisting but rather the larger concept fisting illustrated: fricative power. It can be a useful heuristic to consider power via the opposition between lubrication and friction. Power might work by smoothing, easing, facilitating; by opening up, producing flows. It can also work in an opposing fashion by, well, opposing, objecting, barricading, obstructing, delaying, blocking. (It's also the case that these two aspects of power can be thought as two sides of the same phenomenon as in the example of a channel, tunnel, path, passport, procedure, etc). It's tempting, but wrong, to presume that state power is necessarily fricative and capitalist power is necessarily lubricative. It's also wrong to assume that one form is normatively or politically preferable; these are modes of power's operation--activists as well as states set up blockades. As the dissertation pointed out in a wonderful, creative discussion of bureaucracy, the best (as in efficient in facilitating direct outcomes) bureaucracies are lubricative (Jane Bennett has also written on the positive, enchanting aspects of bureaucracy). We don't often think about this, but delays and fuck ups at airports should remind us of what happens when bureaucracies don't work well. I was appalled when flying out of San Antonio this summer at...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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