Thursday, September 30, 2010

Unlicensed Metastasis of Zizz

Walter Benn Michaels has raised some hackles by stealing chunks of Zizek's Liberal multiculturalism is the Hegemony – it’s an empirical fact… routine:


Furthermore, when we talk about anti-imigration measures, about the diferent forms of immigrant exclusion, and so on, we should always bear in mind that anti-immigration politics is not directly linked to capitalism or the interests of capital. The free circulation of labor is, on the contrary, in the interests of big capital, since cheaper immigrant labor will put pressure on "our own" workers to accept lower wages. And is outsourcing not also now an inverted form of employing immigrant workers? Resistance against immigrants is primarily the spontaneous-defensive reaction of the local working classes who (not wholly unjustifiably) perceive the immigrant worker as a new kind of strike-breaker and, as such, as an ally of capital. In short, it is global capital which is inherently multiculturalist and tolerant.

You cannot have a living democracy in this pure multiculturalist liberal dream.


First of all, neoliberal economists are completely for open borders, in so far as that’s possible. Friedman said years ago that, “You can’t have a welfare state and open borders,” but of course the point of that was “open the borders, because that’ll kill the welfare state.” There’s a good paper you can get off the web by Gordon Hanson, commissioned by whoever runs Foreign Affairs, and the argument is that illegal immigration is better than legal immigration, because illegal immigration is extremely responsive to market conditions.

So it’s quite striking that you have all this protesting against illegal immigration, and especially at a time when it’s down. So why are people so upset about it? They are upset about it not because it has gotten worse, it hasn’t, but because they somehow recognize that one of the primary sort of marks of the triumph of neoliberalism in the U.S. is a very high tolerance of illegal immigration, and that illegal immigration is the kind of ne plus ultra of the labor mobility that neoliberalism requires.

Note the difference between Zizek's pseudo-argument by racist innuendo which delights his audience and Walter Benn Michaels' structural analysis which infuriates them. In Zizek's rant, "immigrants" are just cheaper, by nature, cheaper even in conditions of "free circulation of labour". These "immigrants" are everywhere immigrants, even when living and working in the country of their birth. That is "immigrant" is serving as at once description and euphemism - we are to understand the cheap immigrants do not include Zizek himself. These cheap immigrants are simply a vision of a lower race, a cheaper people with a culturally lower standard of living no matter where they are or what their situation - primitives in comparison to the "white working class". In contrast, WBM argues that it is the condition of illegality, imposed on people - that is, not the free circulation of labour that Zizek fatuously evokes as preferable for capital, but the restrictions on labour movement while capital freely circulates that really is to the advantage of capital - with all its insecurities and pressures, that makes immigrant labourers cheaper. Moreover, Zizek is stressing, with appeals to emotion, a competition between these cheaper foreigners and the "white working class", emphasising the threat and damage the former - figured as scabs - pose to the latter. WBM, in contrast, does not even concede this mechanism, a fantasy of Zizek's xenophobic mythology, but is instead describing the way capital uses illegal immigration to regulate its supply of labour. That is, WBM foregrounds the conflict between labour and capital, while Zizz in his neofascist manner foregrounds one between natives and immigrants, racialised, and asserts, in the tradition of political anti-semitism, the existence of an alliance between immigrant workers and capitalists against "our" "local working classes".

WBM's taking up of a similar topic but making a crucially distinct point - which additionally is stated with clarity and precision (so that he cannot evade responsibility for his assertions and for the considerable quantity of simply unfactual history embedded as assumptions) - threatens to disturb the function of the minstrelsy of Zizek's racist, pseudo-leftist rant, which relies on a confusion of the reality WBM refers to (the uses of illegal economic immigration to capital) and on the increasing acceptability of the prevarication and equivocation of propagandistic discourses as practised by the Zizz. The very existence of WBM's remarks, in which he can be specific and clear, and distinguish legal immigration from illegal, threatens the Zizzian project which involves naturalizing a style of punditry whose cageyness and evasiveness is seen as a merit, allowing the author to refuse all interpretations and all responsibility both for her enunciations and for their implications. WBM writes in an adult and educated style which assumes responsibility for its content. The principle project of Zizzianism is to popularize a style which allows for the propagation of odious and patently fallacious content with the provision of various built-in alibis such as "sloppiness", ambiguity through vagueness, and floating "irony".*


Today’s celebration of “minorities” and “marginals” IS the predominant majority position. … take those critics of patriarchy who attack it as if it is still a hegemonic position, ignoring what Marx and Engels wrote more than 150 years ago, in the first chapter of The Communist Manifesto: “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations.” – is still ignored by those Leftist cultural theorists who focus their critique on patriarchal ideology and practice. Is it not the time to start to wonder about the fact that the critique of patriarchal “phallogocentrism” etc. was elevated into a main target at the very historical moment – ours – when patriarchy definitely lost its hegemonic role, when it is progressively swept away by market individualism of Rights? What becomes of patriarchal family values when a child can sue his parents for neglect and abuse, i.e., when family and parenthood itself are de iure reduced to a temporary and dissolvable contract between independent individuals? (And, incidentally, Freud was no less aware of this: for him, the decline of the Oedipal mode of socialization was the historical condition of the rise of psychoanalysis.) In other words, the critical statement that patriarchal ideology continues to be today’s hegemonic ideology IS today’s hegemonic ideology – its function is to enable us to evade the deadlock of the hedonist permissiveness which is effectively hegemonic.


There is almost a kind of liberal nostalgia for the time in which anti-racism wasn’t so mainstream in American society. Today we’re living in a deeply anti-racist society ... officially committed to anti-racism ... which you can tell when Glenn Beck thinks it’s a good idea to couch his criticism of Obama by calling Obama a “racist.” It’s the killing word to say to anyone. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t still racism, it means that there is an important sense in which anti-racism is absolutely the official ideology because no one can imagine themselves to be committed to racism.

A further difference is that after delivering the old Golovinski-Schmitt "critique of liberalism" which Zizz has attempted to brand as his nostrum, WBM issues plainly sincere calls for a renewal of militant working class praxis aiming at redistribution of wealth which he in his bigotry and ignorance imagines to be obstructed or distracted from by feminism, anti-racism and other concrete working class struggle** while Zizek, with his Goebbelsian cynicism and cunning, his propagandistic weave of innuendo, insinuation and provocation, is only trying to recharge stereotypes and reactionary mythology***, defame leftist public intellectuals, incite/justify pogroms against Roma, and perhaps convince his privileged white male audience to assert their supremacy harrassing women and calling their African-American colleagues by the n-word. Or at least to dream and now and then boast of doing so. And sell all this processed as naughty titillating entertainment commodities to a slice of clerks.


* compare:


In 1947—seven years before the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, sixteen years before the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique—the top fifth of American wage-earners made 43 per cent of the money earned in the us. Today that same quintile gets 50.5 per cent. In 1947, the bottom fifth of wage-earners got 5 per cent of total income; today it gets 3.4 per cent. After half a century of anti-racism and feminism, the US today is a less equal society than was the racist, sexist society of Jim Crow. Furthermore, virtually all the growth in inequality has taken place since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965—which means not only that the successes of the struggle against discrimination have failed to alleviate inequality, but that they have been compatible with a radical expansion of it. Indeed, they have helped to enable the increasing gulf between rich and poor.


The mass entry of women into the workforce has corresponded with an overall stagnation or diminution of wages. It is as if employers have taken the very worst aspects of women's work in the past – poorly paid, precarious, without benefits – and applied it to almost everyone, except those at the very top, who remain overwhelmingly male and incomprehensibly rich.

This is equality as a race to the bottom.

Not only does the Zizzian author refuse to articulate unequivocally the relationship she evisions between the phenomena she presents in proximity as somehow linked (to enable later refusal of responbsibility for implying any connection between women in the workforce and the stagnation or diminution of wages that "correspond"), we are even invited, by the adolescent, silly, faintly sarcastic tone, to excuse the fallaciousness of the concluding assertions regarding this connection on the grounds that we must suspect the author doesn't know what a "race to the bottom" is but is just parroting some authority she has not understood.

** And, second, multiculturalism and diversity more generally are even more effective as a legitimizing tool, because they suggest that the ultimate goal of social justice in a neoliberal economy is not that there should be less difference between the rich and the poor—indeed the rule in neoliberal economies is that the difference between the rich and the poor gets wider rather than shrinks—but that no culture should be treated invidiously and that it’s basically OK if economic differences widen as long as the increasingly successful elites come to look like the increasingly unsuccessful non-elites. So the model of social justice is not that the rich don’t make as much and the poor make more, the model of social justice is that the rich make whatever they make, but an appropriate percentage of them are minorities or women. -

*** "Furthermore, the liberal-multiculturalist’s opposition to direct racism is not a mere illusion whose truth is the protection of racism: there is a class-coded dimension in it ... directed against (white) working class fundamentalism/racism/antifeminism."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Reverse Exploitation" and the Recession of Reality

Boil-in-a-bag banalities, pre-interpreted and ready for reading. Season to taste.

Last and best on the menu: The dead flesh is not ‘obscene’, while her naked living body would be considered so by the broadcasters of the awards show and the publishers of Vogue, unfit for viewing. We must not expose the red of the living, pleasure-feeling nipple, but if the woman were dead, and her breast ripped off, turned inside out, that would be acceptable to show kids. Here’s an idea of how it would look, the celebrity in the flesh and in the raw, her acceptable appearance nuda e cruda.

That is, the meat is a surrogate for the flesh inside her, her own flesh.

A surrogate. Through the use of surrogates for their pain and death, the supreme race produce their supremacy and the other’s abjection and subjection. Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Toni Morrison all explained how it works, concretely and symbolically.

She signifies her torn flesh but not with her torn flesh, not the torn flesh of the multi-millionaire individual, whose flesh of course cannot be literally torn, but whose every emotional discomfort attains that metaphoric status. The grand task of expressing the dissatisfactions of the divine individual of the supreme race is pretext enough for the tearing of the flesh of another creature. White supremacy, the forerunner, model and foundation of capital species supremacy, provided her with a virtual being, an ideal wraith, even before cinema and the digital media realized it practically in such a way as to stablize it for maximum flexibility and render it all but completely invulnerable. The politics of idealism are for this: that if we were to be informed that the material of Lady Gaga's dress was not the flesh of a cow but say that of the 11 year old daughter of a Congo coltan miner or Afghan poppy farmer, this performance, avidly consumed in digital reproduction, would assuredly be received and promotionally "read" by the Guardian, BBC and New Statesman as no less purely discursive, the referent victim no less absent and looming in the wings for frisson-production. Because it is already so, every day. Lady Gaga adorned, as always but a little less sophisticatedly, in the flayed carcass of the class of life she accumulates might come across as only slightly artier, more retro, than she looks in the corny beef getup, but no doubt to the commentariat it would still involve merely and all-importantly the manipulation of signs – the concrete exploitation dismissed as only the unavoidable means of a “critique” of the (reverse) exploitation - by those entitled to do so. (see Hegel).

A good post-modern education prepares the professional audience-leaders to receive the expression of the master race’s anguish, the hog-squeal of capital, of Lady Gaga of the ruling class, victim of the insatiable spectatorial mob, as capitalists require: the celebrity aristocrat is admired for being so generous as to entertain the hoi polloi with an education in her suffering at their bloodsoaked hands as the greedy consumerists butcher and consume her, another proprietor Individual martyred for the pleasure of the depraved cannibal rabble.

At the most basic level, grasping mediation as the extraction of productive labor (value) from the body radically alters the question of visual pleasure by contaminating it with the question of murder.

The dialectic between pleasure and murder that underpins the society of the spectacle brings into relation the Freudian parameters for psychoanalysis – specifically the struggle between the pleasure and the reality principles – and Negri’s idea of participatory social production theorized under the category of “social cooperation,” and resolves it has a dynamic best grasped in the logistics of the image. For it is both pleasure and murder, indeed the (mass) pleasures of (systematic) murder, as worked out in the calculus of the image that sustain the reality of hierarchical society. A corollary to this deduction is that pleasure and murder do not have to be conceived in terms of individuals and their responsibilities or fates, but rather these are precipitated along the lines of force perpetuated by bureaucracies, such as the CIA, in which many participate but no one is accountable. Thus we can see that often as not, people neither work nor are murdered in discreet units: fractions of us work, fractions of us are killed both at the level of the concrete individual and at the level of the collective. The deep meaning of flexible production/accumulation includes not only the vertiginous movements of factories and markets, it is also that the shattered subject of the postmodern is a result of an organization of labor that produces value and takes life in inorganic units, units that do not respect, or better, have transcended the unity and indeed the singularity not only of locales, communities, and families but of the human individual. Whether we kill part of ourselves while watching TV or whether 8,598 viewers of Fox news are responsible for the death of one Iraqi child, value and exploitation are, like the shares in your pension plans, worked out to the nth decimal place in capital’s brutal calculus. -- Jonathan Beller, The Cinematic Mode of Production

Adalbert Volck

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

from The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution

Eugene Victor Wolfenstein 1981:

While he was still in Mecca, Malcolm wrote to his family and followers, sharing with them his “new insight into the true religion of Islam, and [his] better understanding of America’s entire racial dilemma.” He argued that “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.” “True Islam removes racism, because people of all colors and races who accept its religious principles and bow down to the one God, Allah, also automatically accept each other as brothers and sisters, regardless of differences in complexion.” Islam removes the “white” from the minds of white-skinned people; “If white Americans would accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man – and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their ‘differences of color.'”

Malcolm had been awakened to the true faith, but he would still have been dreaming if he really thought that he could awaken many Americans, black or white, from their white Christian slumbers. His practical task was not, therefore, to preach Islam to the [especially white] non-believers but, rather to teach oppressed people how to seek for and take possession of the political kingdom. Consequently, when he returned to the United States, he defined his position in this way:

Because of the spiritual rebirth which I was blessed to undergo as a result of my pilgrimage to Mecca, I no longer subscribe to sweeping indictments of one race….I am not a racist and do not subscribe to any of the tenets of racism. In all honesty and sincerity it can be stated that I wish nothing but freedom, justice and equality – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – for all people. My first concern is with the group of people to which I belong, the Afro-Americans, for we, more than any other people, are deprived of these inalienable rights.

Islam was a universal truth which transcended without transforming the existing situation. It was therefore no longer vital to the struggle for racial liberation. It was not opposed to the struggle: it was, after all, an important part of the cultural heritage of Afro-Americans, and it could still serve as a source of spiritual identification. But it no longer provided a definition of the enemy. Moreover, as Malcolm had often emphasized when black Christians attacked the Nation of Islam, the public airing or accentuation of religious differences among black people only served the interests of the white ruling class. Muslim Mosque, which defined Malcolm’s role in religious terms, was not an adequate vehicle for his political interests. Thus, when he was asked upon his return to this country if he would now call himself “El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz” he responded “I’ll continue to use Malcolm X as long as the situation that produced it exists. Going to Mecca was the solution to my personal problem, but it doesn’t solve the problem for my people.”

Malcolm’s decision to separate his religion from his politics does not in itself tell us why he reformulated his political position. To understand the change, we must consider the impact his two visits to sub-Saharan Africa had upon him.

After he left Mecca, Malcolm visited several other Middle Eastern and African nations, with most of his time south of the Sahara spent in Nigeria and Ghana. In Nigeria his principal contacts were with university students. Speaking to the student body of Ibadan University, he argued for the necessity of bringing the United States before the international bar of justice at the U.N., and he emphasized the need for American black people to become pan-Africanists. In other words, his argument reflected the same objective conditions that had led both Garvey and DuBois to seek international solutions to an apparently intranational problem. But the stay in Nigeria also had an important subjective meaning. The Nigerian Muslim Students' Society made him a member and gave him a Yoruba name, Omowale, meaning, “’the son who has come home’”. The seventh son had finally realized the ambition of the homeless Garveyite father. No wonder that Malcolm says; “I meant it when I told them I had never received a more treasured honor.” Still his personal homecoming was not a solution to his political problem – although the solution was implied in the statement of a Nigerian official who argued that “the world’s course will change the day the African-heritage peoples come together as brothers.”

Malcolm’s emergent pan-Africanism was further developed during his visit to Ghana. He viewed Ghana, which was then under Nkrumah’s leadership, as both a living expression of pan-Africanism and as a realization of the Gavreyite vision:

Indeed, it was Marcus Garvey’s philosophy that inspired the Nkrumah fight for the independence of Ghana from colonialism that was imposed on it by England. It was also the same Black Nationalism that has been spreading throughout Africa and that had brought the emergence of the present independent African states. Garvey never failed. Garvey planted the seed which has popped up in Africa – everywhere you look!

Nowhere did that seed seem more firmly planted than in Ghana. Not surprisingly, therefore, Malcolm was struck by the militant attitude of the people he met. Because he was widely and correctly regarded as the most militant leader of Black America, he was given the opportunity to meet Nkrumah himself and a variety of Ghanaian dignitaries, as well as students, Afro-American exiles, and the ambassadors to Ghana from China, Mali, British Guiana, and Algeria. From these meetings he came away with a strong impression of “Africa seething with awareness of itself and of Africa’s wealth, and of her power, and of her destined role in the world.” That on the one hand. On the other, he saw all too many signs of America’s neo-colonial penetration of the continent. He therefore decided “that as long as I was in Africa, every time I opened my mouth, I was going to make things hot for that white man, grinning through his teeth wanting to exploit Africa again – it had been her human wealth the last time, now he wanted Africa’s mineral wealth.”

In the African context, however, Malcolm’s polemical role was partially redefined. He was very much impressed by the Algerian ambassador to Ghana, who seemed to be “dedicated totally to militancy, and to world revolution, as the way to solve the problems of the world’s oppressed masses.” But the Algerian did not view the revolutionary process in racial terms.

When I told him that my political, social and economic philosophy was black nationalism, he asked me very frankly, well, where did that leave him? Because he was white. He was an African, but he was an Algerian, and to all appearances, he was a white man. And he said if I define my objective as the victory of black nationalism, where does that leave him?...So he showed me where I was alienating people who were true revolutionaries dedicated to overthrowing the system of exploitation that exists on this earth by any means necessary. So I had a lot of thinking and reappraising of my definition of black nationalism.

Malcolm was coming to accept the idea that the struggle for the liberation of black people could not be racially defined, could not be defined so as to exclude true revolutionaries. A more inclusive definition emerged when, in talking to the Ghanian press, he referred to the plight of the American “Negro.” He was immediately corrected by one of those in attendance: “The word is not favoured here, Mr.Malcolm X, the term Afro-American has greater meaning, and dignity.’” Malcolm had been familiar with the idea of Afro-American identity before he came to Africa, but the name only became self-definitional for him at this time. Once he became conscious of himself as an Afro-American, he took action with characteristic energy; in conjunction with the Afro-Americans in Ghana, he formed the first chapter of the OAAU.

Malcolm returned to the United States on May 21. One month later, on June 28, he led the first OAAU rally in Harlem. He began by observing that earlier in the year he had spoken of creating a “black nationalist part or a black national army.” Meanwhile he had gone to Africa, hoping to discover how Africans had been able to free themselves from “colonization, oppression, exploitation, degradation, humiliation, discrimination, and every other kind of –ation.” He had learned that in addition to their separate national struggles, Africans had formed a “coalition”, the OAU, through which they were able to work “in conjunction with each other to fight a common enemy.” In like fashion, he announced,

We have formed an organization known as the Organization of Afro-American Unity which has the same aim and objective – to fight whoever gets in our way, to bring about the complete independence of people of African descent here in the Western Hemisphere, and first here in the United States, and bring about the freeom of these people by any means necessary.

This we return to the historical moment with which our inquiry began.

In less than a year Malcolm had shifted from black nationalism to Afro-American internationalism. The first of these positions was racial-religious in nature, the second was political-cultural. It could be argued that Malcolm was changing from racial militant to political radical and that by so doing he was abandoning the perspective which gave him his historical significance; but such a judgement would be valid only if Malcolm ceased being a racial militant as he became a political radical. We shall now see, however, that Malcolm’s radicalism was really a politically self-conscious racial militancy. More specifically, we will find that the idea of Afro-American unity was a rational theoretical reflection of the existing situation; that the intended practise of the OAAU was the appropriate practical mediation of that theoretical position, and that the unity of theory and practise both derived from and resulted in an ethic of revolutionary responsibility signified by the expression “freedom by any means necessary.”

Like the Nation of Islam or Muslim Mosque, Inc, the OAAU was based upon the idea that all black people had a common enemy; that the critical task in the existing situation was to develop a program which would serve the interests and meet the emotional needs of the black masses; and that such a program must be aimed at transforming ghettoized black America into a virtual nation – into a black national party and army. The Afro-American concept added to these premises expanded grounds for black cultural identity and an enlarged field of political activity.

Ever since his conversion to Islam, Malcolm had stressed the importance for black Americans of recognizing their African origins and the role the white man had played in physically and spiritually removing them from Africa. The nominal sign of the white man’s criminality was the American Negro identity. What, Malcolm asked, does it mean to be a “Negro”?

Negro doesn’t tell you anything. I mean nothing, absolutely nothing. What do you identify it with? – tell me – nothing. What do you attach it to, what do you attach to it? Nothing. It’s completely in the middle of nowhere. And when you call yourself that, that’s where you are – right in the middle of nowhere. It doesn’t give you a language, because there is no such thing as a Negro language. It doesn’t give you a culture, - there is no such thing as a Negro culture, it doesn’t exist. They take you out of existence by calling you a Negro. And you can walk around in front of them all day long and they act like they don’t even see you. Because you made yourself non-existent.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Most Dangerous Clown In The Western World Split Marx from His Nape to His Gullet

Even Verso Books is now infected, and becoming as unscrupulous and hucksterish as their bestseller. On their Zizek page:

“The most dangerous philosopher in the West.”
– Adam Kirsch, The New Republic

But Kirsch actually wrote:

“The most despicable philosopher in the West.”

It was Zizek who called himself "the most dangerous philosopher in the West."

Hindu Work Ethic

Ha-Joon Chang: "Until Japan became rich, many people thought East Asia had not develop because of Confucianism. But when Japan succeeded, this thesis was revised to say that Japan was developing so fast because its unique form of Confucianism emphasised cooperation over individual edification, which the Chinese and Korean versions allegedly valued more highly. And then Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Korea also started doing well, so this judgment about the different varieties of Confucianism was forgotten. Indeed Confucianism as a whole suddenly became the best culture for development because it emphasised hard work, saving, education,and submission to authority. (...) Given India’s recent economic success, I am sure we will soon see books that say how Hindu culture – once considered the source of sluggish growth in India (recall the once-popular expression, “Hindu rate of growth”) – is helping India grow."

Thomas Friedman: "Right now the Hindus and Confucians have more Protestant ethics than we do, and as long as that is the case we’ll be No. 11!"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lazy People

Having toured lots of factories in a developing country, an Australian management consultant told the government officials who had invited him: “My impression as to your cheap labour was soon disillusioned when I saw your people at work. No doubt they are lowly paid, but the return is equally so; to see your men at work made me feel that you are a very satisfied easy-going race who reckon time is no object. When I spoke to some managers they informed me that it was impossible to change the habits of national heritage.”
This Australian consultant was understandably worried that the workers of the country he was visiting did not have the right work ethic. In fact, he was being rather polite. He could have been blunt and just called them lazy. No wonder the country was poor – not dirt poor but with an income level that was less than a quarter of Australia’s.
For their part, the country’s managers agreed with the Australian but were smart enough to understand that the “habits of national heritage”, or culture, cannot be changed easily, if at all. As the 19th-century German economist-cum-sociologist Max Weber opined in his seminal work, The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, there are some cultures like Protestantism that are simply better suited to economic development than others.

The country in question, however, was Japan in 1915.

Saturday, September 04, 2010