Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ideology Pt. IV

"[W]here is the place of ideological illusion, in the 'knowing' or in the 'doing' in the reality itself? At first sight, the answer seems obvious: ideological illusion lies in the 'knowing'. It is a matter of a discordance between what people are effectively doing and what they think they are doing - ideology consists in the very fact that the people 'do not know what they are really doing', that they have a false representation of the social reality to which they belong (the distortion produced, of course, by the same reality). Let us take again the classic Marxian example of so-called commodity fetishism: money is in reality just an embodiment, a condensation, a materialization of a network of social relations - the fact that it functions as a universal equivalent of all commodities is conditioned by its position in the texture of social relations. But to the individuals themselves, this function of money - to be the embodiment of wealth - appears as an immediate, natural property of a thing called 'money', as if money is already in itself, in its immediate material reality, the embodiment of wealth. Here, we have touched upon the classic Marxist motive of 'reification': behind the things, the relation between things, we must detect the social relations, the relations between human subjects.

"But such a reading of the Marxian formula leaves out an illusion, an error, a distortion which is already at work in the social reality itself, at the level of what the individuals are doing, and not only what they think or know they are doing. When individuals use money, they know very well that there is nothing magical about it - that money, in its materiality, is simply an expression of social relations. The everyday spontaneous ideology reduced money to a simple sign giving the individual possessing it a right to a certain part of the social product. So, on an everyday level, the individuals know very well that there are relations between people behind the relations between things. The problem is that in their social activity itself, in what they are doing, they are acting as if money, in its material reality, is the immediate embodiment of wealth as such. They are fetishists in practice, not in theory. What they 'do not know', what they misrecognize, is the fact that in their social reality itself, in their social activity - in the act of commodity exchange - they are guided by the fetishistic illusion." - Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology
Reblogged from

"Imagine a noted scholar of religion, who happened to be Jewish, writing a book on the historical Jesus. Then imagine him appearing on a television show, where he is repeatedly badgered with some version of the following question: 'What’s a Jew like you doing writing a book like this? Raises questions, doesn’t it?' And now watch this interview with noted scholar Reza Aslan, who happens to be Muslim, and tell me that Islam is not the 21st century’s Jewish Question."

Also, it's clear that the people at Fox News have just as much difficulty with the presentation of Jesus as an enemy of the state as they do with Aslan's faith. I'll let Klaus Kinski speak for Jesus on this subject:

"I am not your superstar who must keep playing his role on the cross for you and whom you hit in the mouth when he falls out of character. And who therefore cannot call out to you: I’m sick of your show and your rituals! Your incense disgusts me! It stinks of burnt human flesh! I can no longer tolerate your holy festivals and celebrations! You can pray as much as you want I will not listen! Keep your idiotic honors and praises! I’ll have nothing to do with them! I don’t want them!
I am also not the support of peace and security!
The security and peace that you achieve with tear gas! With rubber truncheons! I am also not a guarantee of obedience and order! Obedience and order of correctional institutions prisons penitentiaries asylums! I am also not a guarantee of success savings property! I am the homeless with no fixed abode! Who always and everywhere causes unrest! I am not the official Church-Jesus who is acceptable to police bankers judges hangmen officers evil clergymen politicians and similar representatives of violence! I am the caller! The instigator! The outcry! I am wanted by the police because you can’t argue with me that the existing order is collapsing! I am the hippie dropout Black-Power Jesus-People!"

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ideology Pt. III

"If the dominant ideology must work beyond the experience or ‘world’ of the rulers to become ‘normal’ (and normative) in society, it must be universal in some strong sense. We are led to the following question: which is the (imaginary) experience that can be universalized, that is both generalized and idealized in society? Contrary to the common assumption of most sociological theories of legitimacy and hegemony, it cannot be primarily the ‘lived’ experience of the rulers, but only the ‘lived’ experience of the dominated masses, which – as Marx said of religion – involves at the same time an acceptance or recognition and a protest or revolt against the existing ‘world.’ We reach the paradoxical thesis that in the last instance there is nothing like a dominant ideology of the rulers (for example, a dominant ‘capitalist’ ideology). The dominant ideology in a given society is a specific universalization of the imaginary of the dominated: what it elaborates are such notions as Justice, Liberty and Equality, Effort and Happiness, etc., which draw their potential universal meaning from their belonging to the imaginary of the individuals who live the masses’ or the people’s conditions.

“We must understand that there is no ‘illusion,’ no ‘alienation’ here (if only because the basic discourse of the dominant ideology is not to present justice or happiness as already realized, but rather as common values and objectives for which to continuously strive). The mystification lies only in the denegation of a structural antagonism between the dominated and the dominant. But for this very simple reason there is a high degree of ambivalence. Just as the accumulation of capital is made of ‘living labor’ (according to Marx), so the oppressive apparatuses of the State, Churches, and other dominant institutions function with the popular religious, moral, legal and aesthetic imaginary of the masses as their specific fuel. And just as there is a latent contradiction in exploitation, there is a latent contradiction in ideological domination. When the dominated take seriously the universality of their own imaginary, which has been returned to them ‘from above,’ more precisely, when they collectively undertake to act according to the calling of their own imaginary, they don’t any longer accept the existing order, but revolt against it. And when in given historical conjunctures the contradiction of exploitation and ideological revolt meet, you can call it a revolution (successful or not). No class is the absolute ‘Subject of History,’ but there is no doubt that only the masses really ‘make history,’ i.e., only they can produce political changes." - Étienne Balibar, "The Non-Contemporaneity of Althusser"

Ideology Pt. II

"Ideology is best understood as the descriptive vocabulary of day-to-day existence through which people make rough sense of the social reality that they live and create from day to day. It is the language of consciousness that suits the particular way in which people deal with their fellows. It is the interpretation in thought of the social relations through which they constantly create and recreate their collective being, in all the varied forms of their collective being may assume: family, clan, tribe, nation, class, party, business enterprise, church, army, club, and so on. As such, ideologies are not delusions but real, as real as the social relations for which they stand.

"Ideologies are real, but it does not follow that they are scientifically accurate, or that they provide an analysis of social relations that would make sense to anyone who does not take ritual part in those social relations. Some societies (including colonial New England) have explained troublesome relations between people as witchcraft and possession by the devil. The explanation makes sense to those whose daily lives produce and reproduce witchcraft, nor can any amount of rational 'evidence' disprove it. Witchcraft in such a society is as self-evident a natural fact as race is to Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. To someone looking in from outside, however, explaining a miscarriage, a crop failure, a sudden illness, or a death by invoking witchcraft would seem absurd, just as explaining slavery by invoking race must seem absurd to anyone who does not ritually produce race day in and day out as Americans do. Ideologies do not need to be plausible, let alone persuasive, to outsiders. They do their job when they help insiders make sense of the things they do and see - ritually, repetitively - on a daily basis. [...]

"Ideology is not the same as propaganda. Someone who said, 'Anti-slavery ideology infiltrated the slave quarters through illicit abolitionist newspapers,' would be talking rather about propaganda than about ideology. The slaves' anti-slavery ideology could not be smuggled to them in alien newsprint. People deduce and verify their ideology in daily life. The slaves' anti-slavery ideology had to arise from their lives in slavery and from their daily relations with slaveholders and other members of slave society. [...]

"To insist that ideology and propaganda are not the same is not to suppose that they are unrelated. The most successful propagandist is one who thoroughly understands the ideology of those to be propagandized. When propagandists for secession before the American Civil War emphasized the danger that the Northerners might encroach upon Southerners' right of self-determination, they emphasized a theme that resonated as well with the world of non-slaveholders as with that of planters, even though the two world differed as night from day. 'We will never be slaves' was good secessionist propaganda. 'We must never let them take our slaves' would have been poor propaganda and the secessionists knew it [...]

"Neither is ideology the same as doctrine or dogma. Pro-slavery doctrine might well hold, for example, that any white person's word must take precedence over any black person's. But the push-and-shove reality of any planter's business would tell him or her that some situations call for accepting a slave's word over an overseer's. After all, overseers came and went, but slaves remained; and the object was to produce cotton or sugar or rice or tobacco, not to produce white supremacy. The perfect subordination of the slaves to the overseer, if coupled with poor production, would spell disaster for a planter. Thus, the ideology of a planter - that is, the vocabulary of day-to-day action and experience - must make room for contest and struggle (perhaps couched in paternalistic or racist language), even if doctrine specified an eternal hierarchy. Doctrine or dogma may be imposed, and they often are: dissenters can be excommunicated from a church or expelled from a party. But ideology is a distillate of experience. Were the experience is lacking, so is the ideology that only the missing experience could call into being. Planters in the Old South could have imposed their understanding of the world upon the non-slaveholders or the slaves only if they could have transformed the lives of the non-slaveholders and slaves into a replica of their own.

"An ideology must constantly be created and verified in social life; if it is not, it dies, even though it may seem to be safely embodied in a form that can be handed down." - Barbara J. Fields, "Slavery, Race, and Ideology in the United States of America"

Ideology Pt. I

"It will suffice to know very schematically that an ideology is a system (with its own logic and rigour) of representations (images, myths, ideas or concepts, depending on the case) endowed with a historical existence and role within a given society. Without embarking on the problem of the relations between a science and its (ideological) past, we can say that ideology, as a system of representations, is distinguished from science in that in it the practico-social function is more important than the theoretical function (function as knowledge). [...]

"Human societies secrete ideology as the very element and atmosphere indispensable to their historical respiration and life. Only an ideological world outlook could have imagined societies without ideology and accepted the utopian idea of a world in which ideology (not just one of its historical forms) would disappear without trace, to be replaced by science. For example, this utopia is the principle behind the idea that ethics, which is in its essence ideology, could be replaced by science or become scientific through and through; or that religion could be destroyed by science which would in some way take its place; that art could merge with knowledge or become 'everyday life', etc. [...]

"So ideology is not an aberration or a contingent excrescence of History: it is a structure essential to the historical life of societies. Further, only the existence and recognition of its necessity enable us to act on ideology and transform ideology into an instrument of deliberate action on history.

"It is customary to suggest that ideology belongs to the region of 'consciousness'. We must not be misled by this appellation which is still contaminated by the idealist problematic that preceded Marx. In truth, ideology has very little to do with 'consciousness', even supposing this term to have an unambiguous meaning. It is profoundly unconscious, even when it presents itself in a reflected form (as in pre-Marxist 'philosophy'). Ideology is indeed a system of representations, but in the majority of cases these representations have nothing to do with 'consciousness': they are usually images and occasionally concepts, but it is above all as structures that they impose on the vast majority of men via a process that escapes them. Men 'live' their ideologies as the Cartesian 'saw' or did not see - if he was looking at it - the moon two hundred paces away: not at all as a form of consciousness, but as an object of their 'world' - as their 'world' itself. [...]

"So ideology is a matter of the lived relation between men and their world. This relation, that only appears as 'conscious' on condition that it is unconscious, in the same way only seems to be simple on condition that it is complex, that it is not a simple relation but a relation between relations, a second degree relation. In ideology men do indeed express, not the relation between them and their conditions of existence, but the way they live the relation between them and their conditions of existence: this presupposes both a real relation and an 'imaginary', 'lived' relation. Ideology, then, is the expression of the relation between men and their 'world', that is, the (overdetermined) unity of the real relation and the imaginary relation between them and their real conditions of existence. In ideology the real relation is inevitably invested in the imaginary relation, a relation that expresses a will (conservative, conformist, reformist or revolutionary), a hope or a nostalgia, rather than describing a reality.

"It is in this overdetermination of the real by the imaginary and of the imaginary by the real that ideology is active in principle, that it reinforces or modifies the relation between men and their conditions of existence, in the imaginary relation itself. It follows that this action can never be purely instrumental; the men who would use an ideology purely as a means of action, as a tool, find that they have been caught by it, implicated by it, just when they are using it and believe themselves to be absolute masters of it."- Louis Althusser, "Marxism and Humanism"

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"As a political precept, tolerance has unimpeachably anti-democratic credentials, dividing society into persons entitled to claim respect as a right and persons obliged to beg tolerance as a favor. The curricular fad for 'teaching tolerance' underlines the anti-democratic implications. A teacher identifies for the children's benefit characteristics (ancestry, appearance, sexual orientation, and the like) that count as disqualifications from full and equal membership in human society. These, the children learn, they may overlook, in an act of generous condescension - or refuse to overlook, in an act of ungenerous condescension. Tolerance thus bases equal rights on benevolent patronization rather than democratic first principles, much as a parent's misguided plea that Jason 'share' the swing or seesaw on a public playground teaches Jason that his gracious consent, rather than another child's equal claim, determines the other child's access." - Barbara J. Fields, "Of Rogues and Geldings"

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Obama and a handful of other economically and politically successful Black individuals are often held up as a vindication of American democracy. In his last run for president, Obama was fond of saying, 'My story is only possible here in America--the belief that here in America, if you try, you can make it.'

"This narrative about the American Dream and the wonders of U.S. democracy isn't some folksy tale about self-empowerment and the rise of a Black president. It's a legend designed to redirect attention from structural inequality, racism, imperialism, genocide and all of the other ingredients that constitute the real story of America. Obama is held up as a prime example of how it's possible to advance under American democracy--and those who fail to rise and become successful are therefore told it's their own fault.

"The Zimmerman trial confirmed this when Trayvon Martin was systematically blamed for his own death. That ugly scapegoating is connected to the way African Americans are regularly blamed for all sorts of things--their unemployment, or disproportionate levels of poverty, or higher levels of imprisonment, or harassment at the hands of police, or higher levels of foreclosures and evictions, or the mass closures of the schools they send their children to. It's always the individual's fault--and never the system that creates and perpetuates inequality." - Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor, "The verdict on American racism"

"Underclass constructions revise the old nature/culture dichotomy, in which 'culture' stood for the principle of human plasticity and adaptation - in the old, Enlightenment view, the agency of progress. Instead, the power of the underclass idea derives from its naturalization of 'culture' as an independent force that undermines adaptability and retards progress.

"Culture-of-poverty ideology resuscitates the idea of cultural lag, itself a vestige of antique notions of racial temperament.

"The underclass image proceeds from a view of class in general that strikingly resembles Victorian convention. Victorians often used 'class' and 'race' interchangeably; each category was seen as innate. Class and race essences generally were thought to include - in addition to distinctive physiognomy - values, attitudes, and behavior. Thus, Victorian fiction fiction commonly featured characters in humble circumstances who, though unaware of their true, genteel natal origins, always felt ill at ease or out of place among their coarse fellows, as well as other characters whose base derivations, unknown even to themselves, nonetheless brought them low in polite society." - Adolph Reed, Jr., "The Underclass Myth"

" 'Race' is purely a social construction; it has no core reality outside a specific social and historical context. That is not to say that it doesn't exist or that it is therefore meaningless, but its material force derives from state power, not some ahistorical 'nature' or any sort of primordial group affinities - the nineteenth-century racist mush that has never lost its appeal as a simpleminded journalistic frame. Racial difference is not merely reflected in enforced patterns of social relations; it emerges exclusively from them." - Adolph Reed, Jr., "Skin Deep"

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

It's late.

"The widely held truism that all dreaming is the scrambled, disguised expression of a repressed wish is a colossal reduction of the multiplicity of dream experiences. The readiness of much of Western culture to accept the general outlines of such a thesis is merely evidence of the thoroughness with which the primacy of individual desire and want had penetrated and shaped bourgeois self-understandings by the early twentieth century. As Ernst Bloch and others have argued, the nature of wishes and drives has gone through enormous historical changes over the last 400 years. This is not even to address a much longer time frame during which the notion of 'individual desires' may have been meaningless. Over a century later, it is not difficult to see the irrelevance of some of Freud's proposals. It is impossible now to conjure up an individual wish or desire so unavowable that it cannot be consciously acknowledged or vicariously gratified. Now, during waking hours, reality shows and websites indifferently detail every conceivable 'prohibited' family romance or antagonism, while web pornography and violent gaming cater to any previously unmentionable desire. The unavowable now, in this milieu, is any wish for a collective overturning of omnipresent conditions of social isolation, economic injustice, and compulsory self-interestedness." - Jonathan Crary, 24/7

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ignore warning.

"Every representation of myself is the fictional imposition of a unity upon infinite component multiples. There is no doubt that this fiction is generally held together by interest. But since the components are ambiguous (they are also the ones that serve to link my presence in a fidelity), it can happen that, under the same rule of interest, the fictional unity is organized as such around the subject, around the Immortal, and not around the socialized animal." - Alain Badiou, Ethics