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May 10, 2011


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okay, i see where you are coming from now. I agree that at the least, the OBL assassination was unlawful. perhaps, i am wiling to concede unjust, i don't know. what if he had been tried in a court and then put to death? would that be just? (not rhetorical, a serious quesiton--i am thinking of Arendt's writings on Eichmann--not that i believe there is a direct parallel btwn OBL & Eichmann).

"The result: murderous violence occurs, but that doesn't make it just or right." perhaps you are right. but it (murderous violence) may be necessary or perhaps inevitable (obviously not in the case of OBL). i guess at which point, *justice* becomes something totally other, maybe even obsolete. I can imagine this but have never lived through something like this but can see how this might be a *truth*, in a Badiouian (?) sense. I am thinking specifically of Israel/Palestine. and then, something Zizek wrote: "for the oppressed, violence is always legitimate—since their very status is the result of violence—but never necessary: it is always a matter of strategic consideration whether to use force against the enemy or not." http://newleftreview.orgpage=article&view=2853%23_edn1%23_edn1
how do we avoid moralistic, liberal (foreclosed) frameworks while maintaining symbolic efficiency (ie justice)?

your take on the big Other here is interesting. convincing, but i don't know if this changes anything because i think most people celebrating OBL's death know very well that torture is a reality and i think most of them are totally cool with it, in part because as you describe it, the big Other [allows them convenience]...but the more terrifying thing is that despite being at least somewhat conscious of this, they continue to dance. maybe we have reached a new threshold.


I largely agree with Jocelyn. I also find it curious that you have an issue with what you are calling political violence? Political violence is obviously justified in the revolutionary situation - at least in retrospect - so why not during the "state of emergency?"


I also think there would be an obvious problem you don't mention bringing Bin Laden to trial - it would be a circus of unprecedented scale. The right would want to execute him publicly on tv, the liberals would want him tried in the Hague, etc... and despite the comparisons to Bush, Obama has been relatively sedate in his use of this for propaganda. One suspects that Cheney would have carried OBL' head around in a case, traveling the country describing how he and Rumsfeld had "kicked his ass."

Of course your point about the obsenity of the cheering is accurate - it just seems to me not as important as putting Bin Laden behind us. This may seem crass or myopic (as an American) but I really think this was necessary.

As always, thanks for the discussion.

Jodi Dean

Thanks, Jocelyn and Alain, your comments are really helpful.

On political violence--what I've been thinking may not be consistent or convincing; I might have to rethink it, but I guess I'm looking for a way of acknowledging violence but not excusing it. I think the quote from Zizek about violence from the oppressed as always legitimate is too blunt and probably wrong. It's one thing to say that there are ways of explaining this violence, but that it (whatever it is--surely too vague) is ALWAYS legitimate? Is it legitimate for a community of unemployed, foreclosed upon, indebted poor people to blow up an airport? Is the only question one of whether this was a good or a bad tactic? I think that the challenge may be recognizing desperation and struggle without excusing, justifying, legitimizing everything done in that struggle's name.

Jocelyn's point that the move I'm trying here is effect makes justice completely other, disconnected, and outside is a good one and could well mean that I need to change approaches here. But maybe this is another way of expressing the contemporary decline of symbolic efficiency (on the one hand, no coverage in justice; on the other, competing, variable, partial attempts to designate it as just). And I think what I'm struggling around an idea of justice that won't include "acts that one finds politically expedient."

Alain--your pragmatic points are surely right; but, they also point to the ways that we deprive ourselves of opportunities to become better; we remain stuck in a realism of the worst, excusing our worst impulses as "realistic" (I'm also thinking of Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism here).


Thanks Jodi. I would generally agree with your point that "we remain stuck in a realism of the worst..." but I think this is one of those rare moments when being "realistic" is not only necessary, but may be the best option available. That doesn't mean I accept the supposed "pragmatism" of Obama and the democrats - they tried very small incremental changes to a system that is on the verge of collapse - being realistic was absolutely wrong in this case. So I am suggesting something like a situational politics, one that relies on core principles but also allows for the incongruity of any given set of circumstances.

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