Slavoj Zizek, "First as Tragedy, then as Farce" (excerpts)
The "New Spirit of Capitalism"
The fear of the "toxic" Other is thus the obverse (and the truth) of our empathy with the-other-reduced-to-a-fellow-man, but how did this syndrome arise? Boltanski and Chiapello's "The New Spirit of Capitalism" examines this process in detail, especially apropos france. In a Weberian mode, the book distinguishes three successive "spirits" of capitalism: the first, the entrepeneurial spirit, lasted until the Great Depression of the 1930s, the second took as its' ideal not the entrepeneur but the salaried director of a larger firm (it's easy to see here a close parallel with the well-known passage from individualist Protestant-ethic capitalism to the corporate-managerial capitalism of the "organization man.") From the 1970s onwards, a new figure emerged: capitalism began to abandon the hierarchical Fordist structure in the production process and in its' place developed a network-based for of organization founded on employee initiative and autonomy in the workplace. Instead of a hierarchical-centralized chain of command, we now see networks with a multitude of participants, with work organized in the form of teams or projects, and with a general mobilization of workers intent upon customer satisfaction thanks to their leader's vision. In such ways, capitalism is transformed and legitimized as an egalitarian project: accentuating auto-poetic interaction and spontaneous self-organization, it has even usurped the far Left's rhetoric of workers' self-management, turning it from an anti-capitalist slogan into a capitalist one.---
In keeping with this new spirit of capitalism, an entire ideologico-historical narrative is constructed in which socialism appears as conservative, hierarchical, and administrative. The lesson of '68 is then "Goodbye Mr. Socialism," and the true revolution that of digital capitalism--itself the logical consequence, infdeed the "truth" of the '68 revolt. More radically even, the events of '68 are inscribed into the fashionable topic of the "paradigm shift." The parallel between the model of the brain in neuroscience and the predominant ideological models of society is here indicative. There are clear echoes between today's cognitavism and "postmodern" capitalism: When Daniel Dennett, for example, advocates a shift from the Cartesian notion of the Self as a central controlling agency of psychic life to a notion of auto-poetic interaction of competing multiple agents, does this not echo the shift from central bureaucratic control and planning to the network model? It is thus not only that our brain is socialized-- society itself is also naturalized in the brain, which is why Malabou is right in emphasizing the need to address the key question: "What is to be done to avoid the consciousness of the brain coinciding directly and simply with the spirit of capitalism?"
Even Hardt and Negri endorse this parallel: in the same way as the brain sciences teach us how there is no central Self, so the new society of the multitude which rules itself will be like today's cognitivist notion the ego as a pandemonium of interacting agents with no central authority running the show... No wonder Negri's notion of communism comes uncannily close to that of "postmodern" digital capitalism.
Ideologically - and here we come to the crucial point - this shift occurred as a reaction to the revolts of the 1960s (from May '68 in Paris, to the student movement in Germany, and the hippies in the U.S.). The anti-capitalist protests of the 60's supplemented the standard critique of socio-economic exploitation with the new topics of cultural critique: the alienation of everyday life, the commodification of consumption, the inauthenticity of a mass society in which we are forced to "wear masks" and subjected to sexual and other oppressions, etc. The new spirit of capitalism triumphantly recuperated the egalitarian and anti-hierarchical rhetoric of 1968, presenting itself as a successful libertarian revolt against the oppressive social organizations characteristic of both corporate capitalism and Really Existing Socialism - a new libertarian spirit epitomized by dressed-down "cool" capitalists such as Bill Gates and the founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
We can now understand why so many insist that Che Guervara, one of the symbols of '68, has become the "quintessential post-modern icon" signifying both everything and nothing - in others words, whatever one wants him to signify: youth rebellion against authoritarianism, solidarity with the poor and exploited, saintliness, up to and including the liberal-communist entrepeneurial spirit of working for the good of all.
I recommend that anyone struggling with sexual (or other) identity problems to watch the video of Aristophanes' speech in Plato's "Symposium" and try and understand what it signifies for your own personal sense of identity. For no one, alone, is "whole".