Slavoj Žižek Quote About Domination

“In short, a master can exert domination only if he ‘bribes’ the servant by way of throwing him some crumbs of enjoyment. This enjoyment has two opposed main forms: I directly enjoy the very subordination to the Master whom I serve and this subordination provides a kind of security and meaning to my life; or, the Master who controls me discreetly allows me to violate his prohibitions when I am out of his view, knowing that such small transgressions will keep me satisfied”

Slavoj Žižek, “The Libidinal Economy of Singularity”

 

Bonus links: Read My Desire (Chapter 6) and “The Appeal and Limits of Andrea Dworkin” (“Offering close readings of now-forgotten but influential memoirs by right-wing women with titles like The Gift of Inner Healing and The Total Woman, Dworkin demonstrated how the religious right provided women what seemed like a workable set of rules through which to navigate male power and the threat of male violence: ‘For women, the world is a very dangerous place . . .  The Right acknowledges the reality of danger, the validity of fear. The promise is that if a woman is obedient, harm will not befall her.'”) and “Malcolm Describes the Difference Between the ‘House Negro’ and the ‘Field Negro.'”; and on the other hand T.A.Z. the Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism and transgression

Christine MacDonald – I Went to a Climate Change Denial Conference

Link to an article by Christine MacDonald:

“I Went to a Climate Change Denial Conference. It Made Even Less Sense Than You’d Think.”

 

This article was published on the magazine In These Times’ web site.  The publication is populist, meaning that it constantly strives to demonize its political opponents and construct an enemy.  Aside from that, what the article explains about climate change deniers is that they are engaged in what Jacques Lacan called “university discourse” in order to defend a particular social structureBruce Fink explained this concept of “university discourse” in his book The Lacanian Subject (1995):

“the university is an arm of capitalist production (or of the ‘military-industrial complex,’ as it was called . . . ), suggesting that the truth hidden behind the university discourse is, after all, the master signifier.  Knowledge here interrogates surplus value (the product of capitalist economies, which takes the form of a loss or subtraction of value from the worker) and rationalizes or justifies it.”  (p. 132).

 

“Working in the service of the master signifier, more or less any kind of argument will do, as long as it takes on the guide of reason and rationality.” (p. 133).

 

Populists generally avoid getting into these issues, because to do so would tend to reveal the large degree of agreement between them and the political far right.  But this article is still a good example of how the right doesn’t care about making “good” arguments as long as they serve their desired (if unstated) social arrangement.

Josh Cook – World War II’s Poisonous Masculine Legacy

In his review of Jared Yates Sexton’s The Man They Wanted Me to Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making (2019), under the title “World War II’s Poisonous Masculine Legacy,” Josh Cook makes the following statement:

“Some of the racist, sexist, and homophobic vitriol spewed at Trump rallies is performative, spewed by men who did not believe it, or at least with that intensity, but were afraid their masculinity would be questioned if they did not pose as an angry, hateful Trump supporter, who doesn’t care about your feelings. Many of Trump’s supporters engaged in the same kind of pissing contest as internet trolls, where the point was not actually to advance an idea, but to prove how tough you personally are through a specific demonstration of emotional disregard and potential, and occasionally actual, violence.”

This is an important statement — though hardly a novel one, see “Ten Must-Read Books About White Masculinity and the Rise of Trump”.

But what is missing (the elephant in the room), is that Cook’s critiques of performative identity do not address his own performative identity.  Read his review, and one is left with the sense Cook is performing the identity of the sensitive (beautiful soul) male who would never advocate violence.  The problem here is that this nonviolence seems to be advocated precisely when violence is ethically justified.  On the one hand, insistence upon non-violence is one of the hallmarks of cold war (neo)liberalism.  On the other hand, advocacy of non-violence as the sole legitimate strategy is both a self-serving myth and a form of liberal blackmail meant to de-legitimate systemic change.  This is a problem inscribed in the kind of identity politics that Cook takes a given, which tend to trivialize the difficulty in switching identities that are adopted unconsciously and pursue a tactic of shaming/guilting opposed groups into submission.  Consequently, such “identity politics” tactics simply don’t work at the broader political level particularly when there are real disagreements between social classes:

“As Yuval Harari noted, in his Homo Deus, people feel bound by democratic elections only when they share a basic bond with most other voters. If the experience of other voters is alien to me, and if I believe they don’t understand my feelings and don’t care about my vital interests, then even if I am outvoted by 100 to one, I have absolutely no reason to accept the verdict. Democratic elections are a method to settle disagreements between people who already agree on the basics. When this agreement on basics falters, the only procedures at our disposal are negotiations or (civil) war. That’s why the Middle East conflict cannot be solved by elections but only by war or negotiations.”

This problem with Cook’s analysis is compounded by his rather confused invocation of “abuse” in relation to the concept of “trauma” and, more broadly, using the term “violence” in a way that seems to (purposefully) exclude systemic violence.

Cook seems to argue that “toxic masculinity” performance should be ceased.  Aside from the problem of defining exactly what is “toxic” here, or why it is specifically “masculine”, that seems like a good enough objective.  But readers should be questioning the performances that Cook implicitly substitutes because they are just as problematic, and Cook provides no conceptual framework for analyzing the normative ideological battle he fights.  He rejects some ideologies and endorses others.  But his reasons for choosing one over the other are not explicitly discussed in any way.  Sounds a lot like his point is not actually to advance an idea, but to prove how “sensitive” he personally is through a specific demonstration of alleged moral superiority and a resort to emotional blackmail, coupled with potential/implied coercive ostracism.  We see that his objective is not about overcoming social hierarchies but shuffling them like a game of musical chairs.  When will Cook be cured of this “chronic illness”?  If the goal of ideology is to conceal its aims of domination, then Cook’s analysis is principally ideological.  The more urgent point is the one Henry Giroux later made (drawing on the notion of victimhood status under neoliberal capitalism):

“At its heart, the alignment of white masculinity with the racist discourse of hate and xenophobia has to be condemned while also understood as a mode of depoliticization. As a mode of depoliticization, this script of victimhood robs poor and middle-class whites of their sense of agency and possibilities for individual and collective resistance against the very forces of structured inequality and economic and social abandonment produced by neoliberalism.

***

“This is particularly true for segments of the white male population who are constantly being told that they are the victims of a society that increasingly privileges racial and ethnic minorities.

“Susceptible to calls by demagogues to express their anger and resentment at the societal selfishness, greed, and materialism that surrounds them, many white males have found a sense of identification and community in the racist, sexist and xenophobic appeals of a range of current demagogues that include Trump, Bolsonaro, Orbán, and Erdoğan. While I don’t want to excuse the poisonous politics at work here and its dangerous flirtation with a kind of fascistic irrationality and the toxic pleasures of authoritarianism, the white males seduced by the pleasures of a toxic authoritarianism need to be addressed in a language that not only speaks to the roots of their fears and economic securities, but also as Michael Lerner has brilliantly noted, to those fundamental psychological and spiritual needs that have been hijacked by a ruthless capitalist disimagination machine.

***

“The pain and suffering of different groups under neoliberalism has to be understood not through shaming whites or other supporters of a fascist politics, but through efforts to unite these disillusioned groups across race, gender, and class divides.”

In other words this fits into a de-politicization based on envy, with fetishist enjoyment of impotent rage proffered as a kind of bribe to accept a destructive social structure.  Or basically what the French have long called ressentiment.  But, as Giroux noted, class struggle is an alternative to this populist temptation.

Saritha Prabhu – The Coming Civil War in the Democratic Party Won’t Be Pretty

Link to an article by Saritha Prabhu:

“The Coming Civil War in the Democratic Party Won’t Be Pretty”

 

Bonus links: “Was I right to back Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton? Absolutely” (“by the way, the proper name of this ‘civil war’ is class struggle”) and “Democrats and the Politics of Change” (“the Democrat’s aversion to left political programs is more probably stated as deference to existing power. This is the central impediment to democratic action within the Democratic Party. The Democrat’s fear isn’t of losing elections, but of winning them with a mandate to upend the existing order.”) and “CNN’s Attempted Hit Job on Sanders and Warren” (excellent summary of corporate media advocacy for one side in this class war within the Democratic party) and “The Big Lie Democratic Centrists Are Telling About 2018” (the prose is a little hard to follow but this puts context around some tactics of the class war being fought within the Democratic party) and “MSNBC’s Anti-Sanders Bias Makes It Forget How to Do Math” and “Here’s the Evidence Corporate Media Say Is Missing of WaPo Bias Against Sanders” and “Truth Is Many Democrat ‘Moderates’ Prefer Trump to Sanders in 2020 White House Race” and Right Turn: The Decline of the Democrats and the Future of American Politics (1987)

John Molyneux – How Fast is the Climate Changing?

Link to an article by John Molyneux:

“How Fast is the Climate Changing?”

 

Bonus quote:

“That the capitalist class is most interested in protecting its power, position, wealth and way of life means that the struggle to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of global warming is a class struggle. It is a struggle for power — not a struggle over morality or individual consumer choices. The capitalist class holds out the promise of ‘more of the same’ because that is the way that it can continue to accumulate wealth while working people get the same raw deal of exploitation, racism and oppression that they have for centuries.”

Jodi Dean, “Climate Change Is Class War”

See also “Global Warming and U.S. National Security Diplomacy” and “The Discovery and Rediscovery of Metabolic Rift”