Monday, June 29, 2015

Not Your Founder's Republic

As for the US themselves, Zakaria's diagnosis is that "America is increasingly embracing a simple-minded populism that values popularity and openness as the key measures of legitimacy. /.../ The result is a deep imbalance in the American system, more democracy but less liberty." The remedy is thus to counteract this excessive "democratization of democracy" (or "deMOREcracy") by delegating more power to impartial experts insulated from the democratic fray, like the independent central banks. Such a diagnosis cannot but provoke an ironic laughter: today, in the alleged "overdemocratization," the US and the UK started a war on Iraq against the will of the majority of their own populations, not to mention the international community. And are we not all the time witnessing the imposition of key decisions concerning global economy (trade agreements, etc.) by "impartial" bodies exempted from democratic control? Is the idea that, in our post-ideological era, economy should be de-politicized and run by experts, today not a commonplace shared by all participants? Even more fundamentally, is it not ridiculous to complain about "overdemocratization" in a time when the key economic and geopolitic decisions are as a rule not an issue in elections: for at least three decades, what Zakaria demands is already a fact. What we are effectively witnessing today is a split into ideological life-style issues where fierce debates rage and choices are solicited (abortion, gay marriages, etc.), and the basic economic policy which is presented as a depoliticized domain of expert decisions - the proliferation of "overdemocracy" with the "excesses" or affirmative action, the "culture of complaint," and the demands for financial and other restitutions of victims, is ultimately the front whose back side is the silent weaving of the economic logic.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Too Much Democracy" (4/14/03)


FreeThinke said...

Zizek is right, as usual but isn't he a bit late to the party?

This country ceased even to try to fulfill the Founder's' Vision wen it allowed Abraham Lincoln to do what he did.

It may be a good thing to make every legitimate attempt to initiate policies one believes are "right," but once we start to do "The Right Thing" by Presidential Edict or Supreme Court Fiat, every pretense at living under The Rule of Law in a Democratic-Representative Republic, which is what we are supposed to be is tossed away, kicked to the curb and trampled into Oblivion never to be seen again.

"They that can give up essential liberties for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

"Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last, but in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes."

~ Franklin (1706-1790)

"Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty."

~ Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Our goals, since 1930 at least, have been short-term, short-sighted, self-serving and our methods at implementing them merely expedient.

We have deserted PRINCIPLE in favor of Venality and Expediency.

No entity could pursue such a course for long and cherish any reasonable hope of long-term survival.

-FJ said...

What Zizek "brings to the table" is exposure of the hollowness to all that talk of democratizing China, Iraq, and other foreign nations... of the 'myth' that capitalism and democracy were hand-in-glove partners in the project of liberty. As China has proven, "capitalism" works VERY well without democracy, and is perhaps the best 'modern' indicator of where Europe and America are headed. Democracy represents the 'circenses' part of the old phrase panem et circenses. Capitalism is the real 'bread'. And "how" one allows it to become structured, makes all the difference vis a vis "liberte".

Gert said...

[...] the US and the UK started a war on Iraq against the will of the majority of their own populations, [...]

Re. the UK, that strikes me as factually incorrect. Due to Blair's 'sexy dossier' approval for the participation in the invasion in Iraq was about 65 %, IIRW. There was also bipartisan approval in the Commons.

Other than that Z. is spot on.

-FJ said...

It's questionable whether the statement was factually correct about the US, either... from Wiki:

March 2003

Days before the March 20 invasion, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll found support for the war was related to UN approval. Nearly six in 10 said they were ready for such an invasion "in the next week or two." But that support dropped off if the U.N. backing was not first obtained. If the U.N. Security Council were to reject a resolution paving the way for military action, 54% of Americans favored a U.S. invasion. And if the Bush administration did not seek a final Security Council vote, support for a war dropped to 47%.[1]

An ABC News/Washington Post poll taken after the beginning of the war showed a 62% support for the war, lower than the 79% in favor at the beginning of the Persian Gulf War.[2]

May 2003

A Gallup poll made on behalf of CNN and USA Today concluded that 79% of Americans thought the Iraq War was justified, with or without conclusive evidence of illegal weapons. 19% thought weapons were needed to justify the war.[9]

-FJ said...

...but all this just goes to show that "democratic" decisions aren't always "better" than bureaucratic ones.

Zizek likes to joke about being a "Stalinist", but I suspect that deep down, he believes that many of the seemingly "intractable" problems that the world is facing, the environment/climate-change , human-genetic modifications, etc., will require "expert" solutions. Voters in a democracy are essentially pursuing the discourse of the "hysterics"... and therefore both unable and unqualified to enunciate the "Master Signifier". And it's the "analyst" job, in this respect, to play "pervert (or 'void')" and "educate" him as to the "true" nature of his jouissance that occupies the place of the Master Signifier.

When, exactly, does the objet a function as the superego injunction to enjoy? When it occupies the place of the master signifier, that is, as Lacan formulated it in the last pages of his Seminar XI, when the short circuit between S1 and a occurs. The key move to be accomplished in order to break the vicious cycle of the superego injunction is thus to enact the separation between S1 and a. Consequently, would it not be more productive to follow a different path, that is, to start with the different modus operandi of l'objet a, which in psychoanalysis no longer functions as the agent of the superego injunction-as it does in the discourse of perversion? This is how Miller's claim of the identity of the analyst's discourse and the discourse of today's civilization should be read: as an indication that this latter discourse (social link) is that of perversion. That is to say, the fact that the upper level of Lacan's formula of the analyst's discourse is the same as his formula of perversion (a-$) opens up a possibility of reading the entire formula of the analyst's discourse also as a formula of the perverse social link: its agent, the masochist pervert (the pervert par excellence), occupies the position of the object instrument of the other's desire, and, in this way, through serving his (feminine) victim, he posits her as the hystericized/divided subject who "doesn't know what she wants." Rather, the pervert knows it for her, that is, he pretends to speak from the position of knowledge (about the other's desire) that enables him to serve the other; and, finally, the product of this social link is the master signifier, that is, the hysterical subject elevated into the role of the master (dominatrix) whom the pervert masochist serves.

In contrast to hysteria, the pervert knows perfectly what he is for the Other: a knowledge supports his position as the object of his Other's (divided subject's) jouissance. The difference between the social link of perversion and that of analysis is grounded in the radical ambiguity of objet a in Lacan, which stands simultaneously for the imaginary fantasmatic lure/screen and for that which this lure is obfuscating, for the void behind the lure. Consequently, when we pass from perversion to the analytic social link, the agent (analyst) reduces himself to the void, which provokes the subject into confronting the truth of his desire. Knowledge in the position of "truth" below the bar under the "agent," of course, refers to the supposed knowledge of the analyst, and, simultaneously, signals that the knowledge gained here will not be the neutral objective knowledge of scientific adequacy, but the knowledge that concerns the subject (analysand) in the truth of his subjective position.

-FJ said...


Recall, again, Lacan's outrageous statements that, even if what a jealous husband claims about his wife (that she sleeps around with other men) is all true, his jealousy is still pathological. Along the same lines, one could say that, even if most of the Nazi claims about the Jews were true (they exploit Germans, they seduce German girls), their anti-Semitism would still be (and was) pathological - because it represses the true reason the Nazis needed anti-Semitism in order to sustain their ideological position. So, in the case of anti-Semitism, knowledge about what the Jews "really are" is a fake, irrelevant, while the only knowledge at the place of truth is the knowledge about why a Nazi needs a figure of the Jew to sustain his ideological edifice. In this precise sense, the analyst's discourse produces the master signifier, the swerve of the patient's knowledge, the surplus element that situates the patient's knowledge at the level of truth: after the master signifier is produced, even if nothing changes at the level of knowledge, the same knowledge as before starts to function in a different mode. The master signifier is the unconscious sinthome, the cipher of enjoyment, to which the subject was unknowingly subjected. - Slavoj Zizek, "Jacques Lacan's Four Discourses"

...not a Platonic (pervert's) "noble lie", but a Lacanian "void".

The real problem is that the hysterics of a democracy listen to the voices of many propagandists and "subject's supposed to know," and not a singular analyst/ general/ or "state minister" speaking to a singular monarch (ala this.

Gert said...

"It's questionable whether the statement was factually correct about the US, [...]"

I was thinking that too. Certainly the 'renowned' US 'liberal' press didn't put up much resistance! ;-)

Gert said...

How did Puerto Rico rake in a debt of USD 72 Billion????

Thersites said...

Easy credit is proving to be the bane of democratic governments...

Thersites said...

I was thinking that too. Certainly the 'renowned' US 'liberal' press didn't put up much resistance!

Global capital needs to expand.

FreeThinke said...

_____ AUTUMN SONG _____

Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse's flowers will not last;
Nurses to the graves are gone,
And the prams go rolling on.

Whispering neighbours, left and right,
Pluck us from the real delight;
And the active hands must freeze
Lonely on the separate knees.

Dead in hundreds at the back
Follow wooden in our track,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.

Starving through the leafless wood
Trolls run scolding for their food;
And the nightingale is dumb,
And the angel will not come.

Cold, impossible, ahead
Lifts the mountain's lovely head
Whose white waterfall could bless
Travellers in their last distress.

~ W.H. Auden (1907-1973) - "On This Island"

The language of poetry –– if once troubles to familiarize himself with it –– is clearer, more direct, more succinct and closer to Immortal Truth than all the rambling, often rabid speculation of intellectuals given to producing verbose, obscurantist rhetoric bent on giving abstruse "new" names to ancient concepts and conundrums.

FreeThinke said...

What all that means, using the immortal words of dear Oscar Hammerstein II, is "We're done and we might as well be dead."

We've just been going through the motions for several decades, and "All our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death." Since our great "Victory" over the Axis Powers, our subsequent accomplishments have proven to be an exercise in futility.

We have literally thrown –– or worse given –– away every advantage we imagined we had gained in the Great Struggle.

"The Game," as they say, "is no longer worth the candle."

If there is to be any reward for virtue, surely it will come in the next world, for mortal existence has shown itself to be nothing but a ghastly farce.

-FJ said...

Carpe diem, FT!