Asia and hormones: query

Rob Schaap rws at
Fri Jun 19 23:16:13 PDT 1998

Doug writes:

>Sure, Wendy & Judy & their friends have nothing to say about class or money
>or the nondiscursive realm. But it's too easy to pick on them for that.

Easy but necessary. I'm sitting here watching the lives and aspirations of several of my Thai and Indonesian students dissolve before my eyes (and these people are from erstwhile well-to-do families). In that light, I'm with PF on this. Not that some good basic theoretical questions aren't being honed in the sex/gender/exploitation thread ...

>I'm glad to hear that everyone else finds the answers to Brown's comments so
>>Now a third rejoinder to the challenges that some
>>poststructuralists analyses as well as some late modern political
>>formations have offered is that we simply want a unified movement back.

We do.

>>But to do what?

To discuss what needs to be done. To call people to your banner on condition they accept your prescriptions and strategies is to be sectarian because it is to ignore the voices of a multitude of variously oppresed.

>>To oppose what?

This we're good at already - and the answer seems to be 'just about everything'.

>>To demand what?

This we're notoriously bad at. We want to optimise human freedom but we're not very good on the variety of ways in which freedom is currently curtailed, so some of us get confused about how we get from variable oppressions to a commonwealth of freedom. I submit we must *unite in demanding the material requisites implicit in Liberalism's formal (self-legitimating) guarantees*.

The overlapping categories of woman, non-white, of non-dominant sexuality, unemployed, or employed (etc etc) all confront one common rhetorical problem. They are claiming status, dignity, and agency apparently already extended to them. This is Liberalism's trick - formalism. We should be demanding of our order that it extends to all the practical resources required to make real the freedoms Liberalism has (and has had to) formally promise(d). This does not seem difficult to translate into good agitprop. In practice, it stresses the voice of the particular, but in an importantly universalised context. And explicit political differences needn't be highlighted. An honest Liberal can't deny these claims, a SocDem would see this as precisely what s/he's been on about all along, and a revolutionary agrees with all this, but differs with the other two political groupings only in that s/he believes such demands will eventually show themselves to be unattainable under our order - so it's good revolutionary agitprop, it's good practice, and it recognises both the voices of different identities and the fundamental importance and (importantly) possibility of mass solidarity.

>>And in whose name?

I see no reason not to be a humanist, so I remain one. So my answer is: 'In humanity's name'.

>>To return to the dream that abolishing capitalism will abolish everything
>>else bad along the way?

I take the Albert & Hahnel 'multi-pillars of the social totality' line on this, and would remind comrades Judy and Wendy that too much time in Cultural Studies departments has a way of making you forget about the categories of 'forces and relations of production' and 'class' altogether. It is a mistake to expect utopia anyway, and it is certainly one to expect it on grounds of abolishing capitalism alone. It is a huge mistake to ignore the category altogether. Capitalism is based on alienation, exploitation and distributions of political power and economic resources such that the Liberal promise to all citizens is materially an impossibility in the long run (that is, I would have thought, a self-evident truth - or are we asked to retract this arrogant anachronism too?)

>>Who dreams that dream still?

Quite a few, I reckon. And many who don't, have not so much stopped dreaming it as not dreamt it yet. Just as we need some exposure to talk, media and experience to broaden the scope of our erotic dreaming (oops, sorry PF, my hormones ran away with me for a sec there), so do we need such exposure to broaden the scope of our political aspirations.

>>Who dreams the dream of total revolution, of one people united by a
>>common critique >>and common vision?

I'm trying to make the point that the commonality required is not that formidable a burden. We don't even all have to be revolutionaries at the outset - it's just that revolutionaries would feel a revolution lies at the end of it, as more of our Liberal and socdem allies begin to discern the logical limits of the order.

>>Our collective difficulty on the Left of projecting an
>>emancipatory future, our difficulty in sustaining as objects of
>>critique, liberalism, capitalism, and the state, critiques that have
>>quite literally defined the left for the last century, but no longer are
>>the main subject of almost anyone's critique....

Guess I'm saying we should rehabilitate these categories, not chuck 'em out - but then I'm a Left Conservative.

>>Our difficulty in believing that there will ever be viable alternatives
>>to >>capitalism....

Well, there's barbarism ... and anyway, if capitalism ultimately proves unable to meet its side of the social contract (as I persist in feeling it must) then capitalism isn't viable by definition. The above 'difficulty' occurs only to those who believe capitalism is viable!

>>Our difficulty in believing that there's very much left to
>>the history of class struggle in Euro-Atlantic nations.

There's plenty of it about in Europe. Don't these people read the papers?

>>Our difficulty
>>in imagining that the extraordinary powers of contemporary global
>>capitalism and the state can ever be contested let alone brought down.

We don't have to do all the work ourselves. We'd have to be a decisive factor, that's all. Anyone who reads the papers would have to admit there are tenable grounds for believing fundamental contradictions are at play in this utopian project of integration. After all, it's an awfully fractured integration just now, eh? Globalism, my arse.

>>Our difficulty in imagining that today's often nihilistic, apathetic,
>>consumerist and media-saturated, increasingly wired population could
>>ever be rallied for emancipatory struggle.

If they've no money to buy, all that lovingly nurtured consumerism can have a nasty way of striking back. And wired people are people who can more easily be reached by all - not just the hegemon.

>I'm glad the answers to these questions and challenges are so obvious
>because I sure as hell would like to know what they are.

There ya go, Doug. Any other questions? I'll leave the specific questions with which you close to others, as I haven't the foggiest what you're on about (a criticism of myself, I hasten to add).

Best to all, Rob.

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