Did Zizek read Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472)?
When Zizek says that there remain only two teories that still show and practice the engaged notion of the real: marxism and psicoanalisis, I started to wonder if he had read Alberti. I consider that this humanist from the Renaissance developped a theory that practices and engages a notion of the real in many of his books including De re aedificatoria. So if Zizek read him, I would like to know why he doesn´t consider his theory as so.
In response to In Defense of Lost Causes
by Slavoj Žižek
Fetishization and Reification, Human Constants or the Particular Products of Capitalism?
Grappling with Marx's theoretical dilemma on whether class struggle is the product of capitalism, coterminus with it or its condition, Zizek suggests that this same dilemma illuminates the difference between Lukác's History and Class Consciousness and Adorno & Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment, wherein he latter authors "cut [the] link" (that Lukác maintains) between fetichization and reification on one hand and captitalism on the other, considering them products of "instrumental reason" (e.g. using people as a means to an ends), "...which functions as a kind of a priori of thewhole of human history but no longer rooted in any concrete historical formations. The over-arching totality is thus no longer that of capitalism, or commodity production : capitalism itself becomes one of the manifestations of instrumental reason." (p. 204)
This problem is resolved if we merely extend our notion of "human history" to go back to Pleistocene (hunter-gatherer) times and follow it through the agricultural revolution and the dawn of civilization, viz. citification, the creation of cities. Hunter-gatherer cultures are dominated by scarcity of the means of survival. There is a social hierarchy, but it is not based on possessions, because most daytime activity is devoted to the search for food. Once agriculture is discovered, however, a few milenia after the last glacial maximum around 12,000 years ago, there is surplus production, permitting substantial population grown and eventually leading to the establishment of cities, around six or seven thousand years ago. With surplus production comes the accumulation of wealth, the creation of classes (workers, owners, priests, etc.), the establishment of chiefdoms and then city-states, and finally conquest, as some city-states covet the resources of their neighbors, devote a certain amount of their surplus to military materiel, and gobble up their neighbors.
It is an abstract nicety to call the motivations for these appropriations "instrumental reason." They could also be called greed, covetousness, or imperial arrogance. In any case, they only arise when there is surplus, and the first sustained surpluses in human history (starting at least 40,000 years ago and not 5,000 years ago) come with the invention of agriculture.
Capitalism from this perspective is merely a concentration, institutionalization, mechanization, and acceleration of organizations based on technological advances and greatly expanded populations, to produce exponentially more surplus value and its resultant accumulation, and finally engendering the inequality and suffering that we are so familiar with, and which motivated Marx to deconstruct it.
So Adorno & Horkheimer had the right intuition; they simply lacked the expanded perspective in pre-history to concretize it.
In response to Living in the End Times
by Slavoj Žižek
Owen Jones LIVE on Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class
I will be answering questions about Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class on the discussion board on Tuesday 28 June, from 12 noon (BST). Post your questions here in advance, and please join us on the day.
From my latest blog post:
“In his review of my book, Michael Collins suggests that the ‘chav’ word is somehow outmoded. I strongly disagree. Its usage remains prevalent: whether in daily conversations or internet forums. But above all the use of ‘chav’ caricatures—whether the actual word ‘chav’ is invoked or not-is still rampant. The idea that we're all middle class, apart from a feckless, work-shy rump living on ‘sink estates’ is embraced by politicians and journalists alike. The reality of Britain's working-class majority remains absent from our TV screens, newspapers and from our politicians’ speeches.”
In response to Chavs
by Owen Jones
Gregory Wilpert, a freelance writer based in Venezuela’s capital Caracas, has written a very useful study of the history and policies of the Chavez government in Venezuela. He examines its governance policy, economic policy, social policy and foreign policy. He looks at the opportunities, obstacles and prospects facing the Venezuelan people, and explores Chavez’s ideas of 21st-century socialism.
In 1998, the people elected Hugo Chavez President, with 56.2 per cent of the votes. In the 2004 recall referendum, he won 58 per cent of the votes and in the 2006 election, 62.9 per cent.
Wilpert notes that the previous ruling class’s counter-revolutionary acts against the Chavez government have each radicalised the government. He also notes that between 2001 and 2005, the US state sent $27 million to opposition groups.
The government is promoting micro-credits, cooperatives, worker co-management, efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in food production, and skills training and logistical support to help people to start coops and social enterprises. Its social programmes have cut poverty from 44 percent to 38 per cent.
Wilpert shows how the Chavez government is trying to move from representative democracy to a more participatory democracy.
This is an excellent introduction to the history and policies of the Chavez government, joining Eva Golinger’s The Chavez code, and Bart Jones’ Hugo! The Hugo Chavez story: from mud hut to perpetual revolution.
In response to Changing Venezuela by Taking Power
by Gregory Wilpert
In this remarkable book, American journalist and researcher Christian Parenti shows how the USA’s economic and social crisis has produced a huge growth in criminalisation, especially through the war on drugs. He explains how capitalism creates poverty, through both crisis and policy.
From 1966 to 1974, profits fell by 30%. Reagan put interest rates up to 16.4% in 1981, causing a slump – ten million people were unemployed by 1982 and wages were slashed by 8%. Real unemployment for African American men has been more than 25% for three decades.
As Alan Budd, an economic advisor to Thatcher, said, “Rising unemployment was a very desirable way of reducing the strength of the working classes.” Capitalism creates a surplus population, the reserve army of the unemployed, to drive wages down.
To manage the rising poverty, inequality and unemployment that capitalism causes, the state uses paramilitary forms of repression, segregation and criminalisation. These include paramilitary policing, SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, zero tolerance policing, national surveillance and mass imprisonment. Both crime control and crime keep the people suppressed.
The US imprisonment rate was 100/120 per 100,000 until the 1981 slump. 31% of prisoners are in for property offences, 30% for drug offences, 9% for public order offences, and 29% for violent offences.
Parenti examines the USA’s appalling prison industrial complex, which surely provides the rest of us with a model – of how not to run prisons. However, this has not stopped Labour ministers rushing to the USA trying to copy their masters.
Parenti shows how US prison guard unions have often successfully opposed the opening of privatised prisons, which have proved to be even worse than the public ones. Prisons have become ever bigger, with Titan prisons making the problems even bigger as well.
Everyone has to choose whether to blame the system that produces poverty, or to blame the poor. Parenti quotes Lenin, “every state is a ‘special repressive force’ for the suppression of the oppressed class.”
Parenti concludes, “My recommendations, as regards criminal justice, are quite simple: we need less. Less policing, less incarceration, shorter sentences, less surveillance, fewer laws governing individual behaviors, and less obsessive discussion of every lurid crime, less prohibition, and less puritanical concern with ‘freaks’ and ‘deviants’.”
In response to Lockdown America
by Christian Parenti