The Underground Lady [Page Fifty Three]

I have been thinking about the matter of strategies, and I believe a further philosophical discussion is necessary before we continue…

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In the opening section to The Ticklish Subject, Zizek points out that the relationship between the ontic and ontological in the field of ideology is far from obvious.  As he says, ideology is that system which refuses to declare itself as such, and so it can never reveal its own ontological premises—its operation must remain hidden behind the ontic, behind that which is imposed on being as being, rather than Being itself.  This has the consequence of limiting the strategies that can be used effectively in the fight against any ideology.

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One should never fight phantoms.  There is a difference, however, between fighting what a ghost is, and a ghost per se,  or rather, between fighting an apparition and making others aware of its manufactured quality.

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In the political fight over global warming, and its possible solutions, the environmentalist “side” has proposed a set of technological solutions—renewable energy replacing old fossil fuel technologies, technical improvements to the existing energy grid, better carbon disposal methods, etc.—but in doing so, the supposedly “progressive” activists in the debate are contributing to the further development of technology as an answer to problems created by technology.  Of course, this will only lead to increased production, and increased energy demand, thus intensifying the cycle that produced the problem to begin with.  (This is why one of the most effective and most serious counter-arguments from industry is that of carbon reduction cost-analysis—how, for instance, the production of ethanol consumes more energy than it saves.)  Here we have what appears to be two opposed positions, when in fact there is an underlying situation on the ontological plain that ties the two together in ways both more complex and more contradictory than the level of the ontic, of rhetorical-political confrontation, would suggest.

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In the same sense as the environmentalist activists in the above, we must beware our own entanglements with corporatism even while we criticize and fight against it.  And this does not primarily refer to the level of personal engagement, but rather to the ontic-ontological split driven into our own rhetoric and action.  Capitalism is, after all, as Zizek, Badiou and others have pointed out, the system that engineers revolutions from within itself, causing ruptures and changes in its own structure, which at first appear to represent a radical break with the system of production and control, only to feed back into the same systemic.  And since, as we’ve said, this is already a failed system, a system that constantly breaks down and begs us to repair it, we must be wary that our own efforts don’t simply lead to the maintenance of what we are trying to end.

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One of the strategies that is useful is what we are engaged in right here—by revealing to others the subtle retracings and reconstitutions of capital, we may be able to encourage those interested in interrupting the power structure to concentrate on more vital areas.  For instance, the concentration on the governmental side of the equation, rather than on the corporate side more directly, is one area where we should try to affect a mutative response.  The corporation is the issue, after all.  Concentrating on the government bureaucracy often provides a distraction for the corporate power centers.  Recent examples of this tendency are quite dramatic.  While all eyes were focused on the struggle over the 2000 presidential election results in America, the foundations of the financial structures and practices that led to the worldwide banking collapse, were busily being erected by large banks and their ratings firms.

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This movement to distract the public with politics also obscures the underlying interconnectedness between the government bureaucracy and the corporate bureaucracy—which have largely become one seamless structure.  And since it is through the construction of regulatory institutions, and their revolving door policy between the corporate and government sectors, that this connection has been built up, the “progressive” argument that increased regulation will “solve” the problem, and prevent future crises, should be viewed with deep skepticism.  The intermediate institutions used to regulate financial markets and their dependent currencies—the U.S. Federal Reserve, the World Bank, the European Central Bank—already provide for enormous control.  What would increased control do exactly? 

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It is not the degree of control or regulation that is the real issue—it is how these powers are used.  Since the financial agents who manage the system only represent the interests of the ruling class, there is no hope of improvement.  The entire debate over “financial reform,” in Europe as well as America, is happening at the level of the ontic.  What is missing, as always, is the singularly most crucial ontological fact: exploitation. 

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Only a radical departure from the system of capital itself will rid us of exploitation, and the destructiveness of its resulting crises.

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