Video Killed the Radio Star

rc-am rcollins at
Wed Apr 28 21:20:28 PDT 1999

chuck wrote: [...]
>What does that mean? I am not sure. Assume social justice is
>un-attainable. Then what? How about fairness? How about a level battle
>ground? These are slightly different than justice, and in my mind
>don't bring with them the sort of skewing of discourse and material
>interest that the endless pursuit of moral rectitude entails.
___ the idea of a level ground is nice, but it too unfortunately presupposes a measure does it not? as in the 'free market': free because it is equality of everything subordinated to the calculations of money. ___
>I also think the Left in its pursuit of justice in the name of the
>dispossessed has lost its political dimension and critical edge. So,
>we get bogged down in which among mutually compelling atrocities is
>the greater or lesser evil--the measure of justice.
___ exactly. so the problem then is that the mode in which we recognise injustice is that of measurement, alongside the mode of recognition of identity as singular and self-sufficient. ___
>It gets worse. The whole religious or apocalyptic tone to Marxism and
>the Left derives, I think, from the intense concentration on social
>justice and the assignment of moral privilege to the underdawg. This
>amounts to a sales pitch, a moral appeal to right the wrongs of
>existing conditions.
___ I would qualify this significantly. the assignment of moral privilege is certainly a result of identitarian thinking (one could cite Lassalle here as well his successors the German social democrats who Walter Benjamin railed against in the Theses). but there is a significant difference between fantasies of redemption as founded upon the revelation of essence, and a belief in an apocalyptic, messianic rupture - I think Benjamin makes quite clear this difference as a difference between an iconic marxism and a negating marxism: the former founds its notion of justice on the assertion of the truth of what already exists (is the essence of the 'underdog'). ___
>I am trying to consider a different direction. The motivation is
>partly tactical. I want to undercut the Right and Neo-liberalism, so
>that at least in argument, they are stripped a priori. I think the
>Left in its use of moral justification reveals its own origin as a
>disaffected bourgeoisie. Disaffection is the origin of its critique,
>but then that edge is blunted by its bourgeois center, a moral
>purpose. I want to fight the good fight, but I want to win for a
>change and only way I can see is by changing the nature of the fight.
___ I admire your attempts to wiggle out of the dialectic of promise and disaffection, but the disaffection of the bourgeoisie is still important I think. it's important to show that liberalism cannot deliver on its promises of human rights, equality, fraternity, etc. not only as a rhetorical flourish, and definitely not as some triumphant discovery of the contradictions between ideology and the real, but certainly I think as an explanation of why there must necessarily be racism and sexism and nationalism WITHIN liberalism: they provide an alibi for its failures by ascribing them to 'others'. ___ [...]
>The simple way to put it is, I want the government back nosing around
>the boardroom and shop floor, and out of the bedroom and bathroom.

___ okay. now I see where you might be going with this. to put it another way, aren't you speaking about the role of the state? it seems to me that the role of the nation-state has changed quite dramatically, that things it could do before it cannot do now. it can't sniff around boardrooms because it is compelled instead to offer up a pliable workforce with lots of tax dodges so it can receive a dwindling amount of revenues from incomes taxes to do even minimal things, to put it crudely, under the constant threat of forced restructurings and capital flight. and, doesn't it sniff around bedrooms, not because of a moralism, but because faux democracies in late capitalism require, as Jim puts it, panics: the organisation of political subjectivity around the perception of a threat, usually vague or sexualized enough to sufficiently bear the weight of morphing (and feeding off) extreme disaffection into political pliability? and, these two are intimately connected.

Angela --- rcollins at

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