11 August 2006

Whither Class Struggle, Wither Economics?

Today has been an extra-fun day. I got to go to the dentist to get some work done and now have half of my face paralyzed. Woohoo!

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I've been reading Althusser once again, trying to develop a geneology of how figures such as Zizek, Badiou, and Deleuze use the term "materialism". So far I'm getting the sense that there's a special tie to Spinoza here and the manner in which Spinoza conceives the attributes of substance. Reading Althusser is a bit like stepping into an alien universe. The manner in which he speaks of the scientificity of Marxism just seems so foreign to contemporary discourses today. By this I mean that much of it has the feel of something in history, in the past, rather than something that continues to be present. At any rate, I wonder if anyone had any thoughts as to why we so seldom here talk of class struggle and the economic infrastructural base determining the superstructure? Yes, yes, I know Zizek talks about the real of class struggle, but I find that these are so often just passing remarks. I'll have to read Jodi's book to find out what Zizek's positive political program beyond critiquing ideology is. So let's have it-- Has talk of class struggle and economic determination been somehow superceded? Or is the absence of anything save some hand waving and offhand remarks revolving around these issues a symptom of the triumph of "petty bourgeoisie" ideology in our contemporary setting? Or am I just ignorant of what's out there, having spent too much time with critters like Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Laclau, Ranciere, Balibar, Badiou, Zizek, Butler, etc.? What positive vision and set of problems guides political activism on the left (yes I know there isn't a single answer to this, but I can get your answers and thoughts)? I see a lot of identity politics and vague remarks about "power", but not much else. I see some nifty talk about events and truth-procedures and acts in Badiou and Zizek, but not much that is very specific. I must be missing something.


Anonymous pebird said...

I sense two things going on. One is that globalization and sequestering the working class into the third world while re-engineering the West for administration and ideological production has rendered terms such as class struggle as “quaint”.

The second is the impending capital crisis, whose symptoms emerge in a variety of social “issues”: wars, war on terror, energy, budget/trade deficits, immigration, partisan politics, rise of fundamentalism, civil liberty restrictions, housing bubble/non-bubble, etc., have created this sense of imminent doom.

So, on the one hand we have the production of material wealth hidden, and on the other this sense of things falling apart.

Also, the loci of power are difficult to determine – the term “ruling class” doesn’t contain much specificity. What exactly does one target? Starbucks? With the decline of symbolic efficiency these kinds of protests lose their effectiveness. I think that is one reason for the left’s interest in electoral politics. Of course, the criminals currently in power are one motivating factor, but also what else can you do?

In terms of positive actions – NGOs attempt to help the victims of globalization through non-state interventions appears one approach. Recently on BBC World News I heard this incredibly severe criticism of NGOs by some industry lobbyist – with the support of the BBC analyst!! I am aware of Zizek’s criticisms of NGOs – but as an experiment for intervening into the impact of globalization, there seems to be some value.

From that I get the sense that protests / actions have to be more “practical”. More real. What gets respect is when someone accomplishes something. In that sense, the fact that someone else gets tweaked in the process is understood, because the end result was worth it.

August 11, 2006 1:39 PM  

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