Haydar Khan – Set Theory of the Left

Link to an article by Haydar Khan:

“Set Theory of the Left”

 

Bonus links: “The Politics of Identity” and The Trouble With Diversity and “What’s Wrong With Identity Politics (and Intersectionality Theory)? A Response to Mark Fisher’s “Exiting the Vampire Castle” (And Its Critics)” and Liberalism: A Counter-History (“Liberalism has always pivoted, Losurdo argues, on drawing a dividing line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – those who are worthy or capable (morally, intellectually, biologically/racially) of the gamut of rights and liberties we associate with liberalism and those who are not.”)

Slavoj Žižek – Three Variations on Trump Quote

“There is an even greater problem with the underlying premise of those who proclaim the ‘death of truth’: they talk as if before (say, until the 1980s), in spite of all the manipulations and distortions, truth did somehow prevail, and that the ‘death of truth’ is a relatively recent phenomenon. Already a quick overview tells us that this was not the case. How many violations of human rights and humanitarian catastrophes remained invisible, from the Vietnam War to the invasion of Iraq? Just remember the times of Reagan, Nixon, Bush… The difference was not that the past was more ‘truthful’ but that ideological hegemony was much stronger, so that, instead of today’s greater melee of local ‘truths,’ one ‘truth’ (or, rather, one big Lie) basically prevailed. In the West, this was the liberal-democratic Truth (with a Leftist or Rightist twist). What is happening today is that, with the populist wave which unsettled the political establishment, the Truth/Lie that has served as an ideological foundation for this establishment is also falling apart. And the ultimate reason for this disintegration is not the rise of postmodern relativism but the failure of the ruling establishment, which is no longer able to maintain its ideological hegemony.”

Slavoj Žižek, “Three Variations on Trump: Chaos, Europe, and Fake News”

Kalundi Serumaga – On Reinventing Europe: An Open Letter to Mr George Soros

Link to an article/letter by Kalundi Serumaga:

“On Reinventing Europe: An Open Letter to Mr George Soros”

 

This pieces raises many excellent points.  But it is also worth pointing out some questionable aspects of its theoretical framework and recommendations.  First, while the article characterizes the essence of Europe as Bonapartism, it does so by applying philosophical standards that originated in Europe, or at least drew from European precedents.  While it may well be fair to call the current hegemonic ideology of Europe (and elsewhere) Bonapartist, to treat all of Europe as monolithic and without couter-currents seems rather reductionist.  Second, the “tasks for EU civil society” include “2. Find out what your countries truly owe, and make them pay it back”  This is basically both a politics of victimhood and an expression of ressentimentFrantz Fanon once wrote, “The colonized man is an envious man.”  That seems accurate in this context, but as a statement of limitation of vision.  The last chapter of Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks explicitly rejected Serumaga’s approach, and that is a big part of why Fanon is a stronger theoretical reference point than what is expressed in Serumaga’s article.  Lastly, the article concludes by saying, “It is time for the North to (once again, after Ancient Egypt) learn from the South.”  This is a dubious offhand assertion of identity politics, yet again in the service of the valorization of victimhood status and ressentiment.

Summary of Dupuy on Social Hierarchy

“The arbitrariness of social hierarchy is not a mistake, but the whole point, with the arbitrariness of evaluation playing an analogous role to the arbitrariness of market success. Violence threatens to explode not when there is too much contingency in the social space, but when one tries to eliminate contingency. In La Marque du sacré, Jean-Pierre Dupuy conceives hierarchy as one of four procedures (‘dispositifs symboliques’) whose function is to make the relationship of superiority non-humiliating: hierarchy itself (an externally imposed order that allows me to experience my lower social status as independent of my inherent value); demystification (the ideological procedure which demonstrates that society is not a meritocracy but the product of objective social struggles, enabling me to avoid the painful conclusion that someone else’s superiority is the result of his merit and achievements); contingency (a similar mechanism, by which we come to understand that our position on the social scale depends on a natural and social lottery; the lucky ones are those born with the right genes in rich families); and complexity (uncontrollable forces have unpredictable consequences; for instance, the invisible hand of the market may lead to my failure and my neighbour’s success, even if I work much harder and am much more intelligent). Contrary to appearances, these mechanisms don’t contest or threaten hierarchy, but make it palatable, since ‘what triggers the turmoil of envy is the idea that the other deserves his good luck and not the opposite idea – which is the only one that can be openly expressed.’ Dupuy draws from this premise the conclusion that it is a great mistake to think that a reasonably just society which also perceives itself as just will be free of resentment: on the contrary, it is in such societies that those who occupy inferior positions will find an outlet for their hurt pride in violent outbursts of resentment.”

Slavoj Žižek, “The Revolt of the Salaried Bourgeoisie”

This is essentially a rejection of the liberal philosopher John Rawls‘ position, as articulated in A Theory of Justice.

Ilan Kapoor – Žižek, Antagonism and Politics Now

Link to an article by Ilan Kapoor:

“Žižek, Antagonism and Politics Now: Three Recent Controversies”

 

I’m not sure I agree with the criticisms of Žižek this offers, partly because they seem conclusory and underdeveloped, even if intriguing.  For instance, the notion that Žižek is overexposed seems to call for an explanation of what “overexposed” means, and why it applies.  For example, a discussion of that concept in view of Žižek’s well-known critique of liberalism’s inability to cope with the destructive power of envy seems apropos.  Or perhaps something out of Bourdieu or another branch of sociology?

Alain Badiou Quote

“The goal of all enemy propaganda is not to annihilate an existing force (this function is generally left to police forces), but rather to annihilate an unnoticed possibility of the situation.”

Alain Badiou, “Seminar on Plato” at the ENS, Feb. 13, 2008 (unpublished), quoted in “No Way Out? Communism in the New Century,” in The Idea of Communism 3 (2016).

See also “Ernst Lubitsch, Censorship, and Political Correctness” (“Alain Badiou put it in a wonderful and precise way: the main function of today’s ideological censorship is not to crush actual resistance—this is the job of repressive state apparatuses—but to crush hope, to immediately denounce every critical project as opening a path at the end of which is something like a gulag.”)