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I think this hits the mark. I have a 20 year old daughter and I speak to her friends. Given the proliferation of social media, ironically, I think these kids are more isolated and detached. And you are definitely correct regarding exposing government corruption and general institutional failure: all of this only confirms the mistrust young people have in collective solutions. Since all the institutions are rigged for the benefit of the few, why bother trying to change them. You are better off looking out for yourself. That is why Occupy was so hopeful - it was an expression of collective action and collective will. And it was outside the reach of existing institutional expressions of dissent. But it is this very lack of institutional structure that has made it difficult to sustain. As you say, "If people feel isolated, we have to build connections that prove they are not." This is the great challenge for any leftist movement today, communist or otherwise. But I think it is the only way forward.
Toggle Commented Oct 29, 2013 on Read Coming Up Short by Jennifer Silva at I cite
I would suggest that "TP" is not just an astro-turf movement. There are literally millions of true believers and I personally know many of them. This doesn't negate the importance of money in terms of their effectiveness but it is a mistake to dismiss them as simply the useful tools of a segment of the elite. Even in the mainstream narrative of events it has been noted how traditional business elites (especially wall street) have been unable to exert the same influence as they have with Republicans in the past. And I would note that there is huge opening for the left. Here in Minneapolis there is a real Socialist running for city council and he has a legit chance of winning. His campaign has generated a lot of excitement. Electoral politics is not everything but it has to be part of a broader strategy.
It is interesting that the only reason provided in the article as the banks' motivation is a government program designed to reward them for throwing the family out. Unfortunately this only reinforces the idea (surely accurate) that the government works against the interests of working people. It is ironic that a conservative could use these cases as an argument against "government intervention" in the ecconomy.
This appears to be the conventional take on Occupy from those who are sympathetic (they wanted to "change the system" but "they could never pin down what this change would be was their undoing.") But isn't Occupy just the beginning of something inchoate, the seeds of what will come next? And we don't know what forms the resistance is going to take but people like yourself have begun to imagine an alternative. And as disorganized and contradictory as OWS may have been, it was a glimpse of what could be - even if it relied too much on what already is. It seems to me that the conventional wisdom, even from those who are sympathetic, misses this point. These critics still think the system still believes in itself and don't recognize that the game as it has been played is almost over.
Its interesting how automation and technology are used in the article as a weapon to maintain labor discipline. Most of the time the mainstream media downplay the pernicious costs of technology. In this case it is seen as a choice - either slave wages or no job at all.
I have always found it strange that Chomsky has general tried to segregate his theoretical work in linguistics from his political engagement. I wonder if the search for a "universal grammar" and a universal politics are really so distinct?
Toggle Commented Jul 26, 2013 on Zizek v. Chomsky (from Lacan Dot Com) at I cite
Thank you for posting this. I think it is positive that Zizek decided to take something that started as petty name calling, and use it to clarify what distinguishes his approach from Chomsky's.
Toggle Commented Jul 26, 2013 on Zizek v. Chomsky (from Lacan Dot Com) at I cite
Thanks for posting this. I took a quick glance at it but it seems to argue for participation within the electoral process, albeit through a new party. And it doesn't seem to challenge the notion of democracy but rather to establish a new institution within it.
His critique seems to come down to the fact you do not engage with the elements of the Marxist tradition that he finds compelling. These also tend to be the elements that were most critical of actually existing communism in eastern Europe. But you raise what is a key area of contention - the status of democracy. Over the last several years you have insisted that democracy (at least as we currently understand and experience it) is inextricably linked to capitalism. From this you draw the conclusion that it cannot be the path forward for an emancipatory politics. But people like Isaac (and myself) are devoted to this political form despite its failures. I respect your consistency on this issue and find it challenging. But if not democracy then what? I have not read your communist book yet (it is on my list though)but from the review it sounds like you flesh out a bit more about the formation of a Party, vangardist or otherwise. I look forward to reading it.
I really like the way you lay this out. Recently I have been reading accounts of the rapid reduction in "socially necessary labor time." In this discussion the assumption is that technological innovation and outsourcing have greatly reduced the amount of labor it takes to produce necessities and consumer goods. The proposed "solution" to this is to reduce the work week, perhaps in half (20 hours a week for full time work). The argument is that many people are working a series of partime jobs to make full time wages. The merits of this are clear but I have yet to see a political means of implementation - since greater concentration of wealth continues to accumulate what will force this shift without organized labor? The accounts I have read seem to assume some sort of evolution to this new distribution of labor but I don't think that is realistic.
Toggle Commented May 28, 2013 on Three economies at I cite
To me this is the most interesting or self revealing part - that he himself, like the great majority "wants to be passive and rely on an efficient state apparatus to guarantee the smooth running of the entire social edifice, so that I can pursue my work in peace." I am usually reluctant to judge a theorist by their personal idiosyncrasies - but doesn't this reveal something about his analysis of the contemporary situation? Not only that we need a master, leader or party organization, but that the passivity of the masses is something inherent to the current situation? And he seems to endorse this? It's funny that he approvingly mentions Lippmann - someone that Dewey had an epic argument with precisely regarding the issue of elites. If only we had "enlightened elites" everything would be better. I realize this isn't what he is saying but it comes close.
Thank you for posting this. I will give Zizek credit for being consistent. But he always begs the question - who gets to chose the left's new master? Presumably centralization of organization is a prerequisite but he certainly should offer more. Perhaps Chavez is a better model than Thatcher, who had the power of the elite behind her.
I think this reflects a general sense from some members of the elite that the regular solutions to economic development are inadequate to the task. And the post on socialism you linked to is also of interest here - people are looking for other solutions, especially young people. But my fear is that some sort of explicitly militarist fascism is also a likely outcome. Perhaps with the violent suppression of occupy and the drone wars we are already there. But I appreciate your effort to point out seedlings of change. Thank you.
Certainly "market sentiment" is essential for short term investing. Even the very notion of how the market will react to certain news, or how it reacts when certain expectations are not met. Feelings are shared, and yet we still interact with the market through our individual investments, even if it is only a 401k or 403b. I know the personal anguish of people who retired soon after the crash in 2008, or those who couldn't retire at all. These people certainly experienced the impersonal forces of the market in a very personal way. But having said that I appreciate that you are occupying these concepts, pushing them to the limit. And clearly the economic collapse has demonstrated our impotence before mammon. I appreciate the provocation.
I just finished my last comment on the previous post and then saw this. I think Zizek makes my point for me - how can we possibly understand the experience of "rising expectations" without a notion of the autonomous individual? Even if this ends up being a fiction, we can not have the conditions of rising expectations without a notion of individual entitlement. Democratic politicians continually tell us that if I "work hard and play by the rules" I ought to be able to have a comfortable life (materially) and provide for my family. You may suggest that this is bull shit, but the rhetoric expresses a real feeling expressed by real individuals.
I guess I don't assume that personhood or individuality is clear. In fact I think the individual is a contested concept just as the collective or the commons is contested. Whether it is a fantasy in the ordinary sense or a psychoanalytic sense - I don't know. But since we do not start from a position of multiple collectivities, at least as I understand the contemporary situation in the United States, I don't how you ignore the notion of an autonomous individual when engaging in politics, either theoretically or politically. I have read a great deal of your commentary on the Occupy movement, and among your criticisms is that its notion of consensus relied on a fetishizing of the individual. My experience with it confirms this. But it still doesn't makes sense that because the neoliberal suject is largely a fiction that you would dismiss the notion we have of ourselves as individuals, in this time and place. Its funny that we are having this disagreement at this moment. I really admire what your recent work has tried to sketch out - how to think communism at this moment, with all the risks and barriers it entails. I just don't think dismissing the fantasy of the autonomous subject eliminates the problem. Even from a strategic point of view, how do you convince people who conceive of themselves in this way to join or sympathize with a movement that tells them their sense of autonomy is a fiction. While it is obvious to everyone that we have no freedom in terms of the decisions that really matter in our economic lives, most of us (myself included) still believe that individual freedom is an essential part of our self consciousness. Even if this self understanding ends up being transitional, you can't ignore its reality. If you do I don't see how you can work toward anything that has an effect in the world. As always, thanks for your willingness to engage.
It seems to me that we only have a consciousness of what self determination might be because of the values of modernity. That this constellation also offers us up as exploitable labor is also true. That is in fact the paradox of being modern - the promise of autonomy inextricably linked to the reality of wage slavery. But I disagree that exploitable labor precludes the promise of freedom. In fact it is a prerequisite for the consciousness of real freedom. And it seems that communism has to address both individual liberty and our collective ability to determine the conditions for freedom. Ignoring individual liberty doesn't make any less essential.
I think this is a very challenging discussion. But I wonder if you risk losing something important in dismissing the "happy story of modernity" to quickly? Specifically, one of the true accomplishments of modernity is the emphasis on individual autonomy, that one is not determined by tradition or one's place in society. Of course Marx, Nietzsche and Freud are among the "masters of suspicion" who have complicated this narrative, but they do not do away with it. It seems to me that a communism worthy of our allegiance is one that incorporates individual autonomy with a collective sense of a common good. And that this tension is not easily overcome by recognizing that neoliberalism over-emphasizes individual freedom. Is there a sense in which the subject is both individual and collective?
Hi Jodi. Thank you for posting this - I will definitly read the entire article. My initial response is that you would have to seize control of the state (and the federal reserve in the US)in order to buy all the shares of outstanding/ publically held equity.Where I think it breaks down (assuming you could pull off the initial steps) is the idea of a "common fund" that reestablishes a “tamed” capital market on a socialized basis. It would seem the very notion of capital markets has been done away with. And the transition that the author wishes to make less "catastrophic" would throw our economic relations into chaos. This may be the goal or may in fact be necessary for what needs to be accomplished - I'm not sure. But it certainly would not reassure the millions of people who would no longer be employees or small business owners or bureaucratic technocrats. This would indeed be a new world, one that would at least initially require some form of centralization. And as you previously referenced, the threat of oligarchy. All that being said I am thrilled that people are actually trying to envision what an alternative would look like - what would actually have to take place in the world of finance and banking. Given my real world life, this actually gives me some hope. Thanks.
Toggle Commented Jan 30, 2013 on The Red and the Black | Jacobin at I cite
Hi Jodi. I like this analysis (without having read the article you cite). But I wonder if it still begs the question of leadership - if the intellectual is merely providing suggestions, who or what decides the relevance and efficacy of those suggestions. If the Party is a necessary part of the movement coming to consciousness, coming to know itself for itself, it still needs a structure in order to be more than a fleeting effervescent spark.
Toggle Commented Jan 16, 2013 on On "Leninism and the Ultra-Left" at I cite
Happy New Year Jodi! Thanks for linking to this interview. As someone who has read quite a bit of Zizek's work (both popular and theoretical) I find it puzzling he is annoyed by all the sychophantic attention and yet seems to crave it simultaneously.
I wonder what you thought of the reviewer's assertion that communism was actually the "highest form" of democracy? I assume you wouldn't agree. :) But this may be the best review of your new book I have seen so far.
Hi Jodi. I really appreciate your sentiment. But people do need to feel like there is some connection between us - even if it is a longing for something we no longer have (or never had to begin with). I think "we persist in the lie" because we have to - we need it in order to go on. Of course that contributes to political apathy and is perhaps the greatest obstacle to mass mobilization.
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2012 on Keep Calm and Carry On at I cite
I had meant to ask you about this passage I recently read on Paul Krugman's blog: "I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn’t seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications. But I think we’d better start paying attention to those implications." When a liberal is noticing that marxist economics may explain what is happening we have entered a new day. What do you make of it, if anything. while Krugman is the far end of what is tolerated in mainstream political discussion, he is largely marginalized in terms of actual policy. But I wonder if someone like him could become more radicalized? And if so, would he lose his perch at the NYT? Interesting times.
These stories are inspiring, as well as the Occupy movement. But i suspect this is the beginning of something long term, something that will involve a great deal of failure and violent suppression before we see any positive results. I think as long as we are prepared for a long fight, maybe over several decades, something good is bound to come out of it. There are alot more of us than there are of them. :)