Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On Never Completing Essays, another fragment

The initial fragment was a self-reminder of what I find an impediment to thinking through the problem of action, not merely for myself, but for anyone.  I have, over many years of navigating this divide to no one's satisfaction, most especially not my own, come to the point where I believe that both positions taken in extremis or as the kids like to say these days, hypostatized, cannot but do injury to reason.  One might in another context call this the split between Marxism and anarchism, if not for the fact that both are themselves split internally over the same divide.

The nature of a fragment is that it is not connected to that which makes it comprehensible to anyone but the person who produced the fragment in the first place, and it may only be partially comprehensible to them as well.  So I feel the need to at least connect a few more fragments to the initial one and maybe then we can tell if it was a jar or a plate or a phallic totem or something else entirely.

The reason for mentioning Marcel Stoetzler's article and quoting the footnote was not to discern if Bataille was a fascist or gave in to Left fascism, but to raise the problem that an anti-politics which in its ethical purity, in its rejection of all law as that which it most wants to denounce, as politics, loses the capacity to recognize any meaningful distinction between fascism and democracy, between irrationalism and a limited rationalism, it cedes too much ground and disarms reason against unreason.  In the same manner, one might say that in the case of those who are so eager to get their hands dirty, who are so ready to do whatever must be done without consideration for what ought to be, and not be, done, that is, those who embrace politics and discount the ethical as a purely illusory or personal affair, they will produce what they most consciously do not wish to, a new domination, a new Master, a new subordination.  The matter is posed most poignantly in the penultimate sentence: "What is at stake here is the old question of whether ‘the left’ can afford even the slightest ambiguity in its stance towards ‘the right’ while struggling against liberalism."

[Note: This is completely in line with what is at stake in Marcuse's essays in Negations and in One-Dimensional Man.  If there are problems in Marcuse's answers, it is maybe less in how he poses the questions than in the limits of his critical theory, which I have pointed to earlier.  Nonetheless, whatever their other failings I believe Marcuse, Adorno, and Fromm were acutely aware of what is entailed by ambiguity in the stance towards fascism while struggling against liberlism.  Fascism is indeed ambiguous here.  There is a tension between a period and a tendency internal to capital, always at least latent in the way in which rationalization poisons rationality.  For Marcuse it is clear that liberal rationalism, faced with the threat of the annihilation of a freely held and disposed of property which for it is inseparable from liberty and equality, views fascism as historically justified and would willingly submit to it again if the need presented itself.  Gaspar Tamas, aware of the tension, refers to the present "right" therefore as post-fascism because of the particularities that inhere in it despite other similarities.  Tamas in particular makes a powerful argument for why the difference between the Enlightenment and post-fascism matters.  He could have, in the vein I am working through here, noted that Left anti-politics can therefore dovetail with right-wing anti-politics, one because it has no faith in the public sphere, the political and law and therefore makes a virtue of its refusal, ad the latter because it sees the destruction of the aforementioned as the safest way to assure its corporatist privilege and self-certainty.]

The hypostatization of the pole of ethics, formulated as 'anti-politics', entertains exactly this ambiguity insofar as it throws out the problem of law and legal status, of democracy, tout court.  It is the view which says of the struggle against racial oppression that the right to vote or other merely political rights do not matter.  It is the view which says to gay men and women that the right to marry is irrelevant.  It draws similar conclusions in practice to those of the racist and anti-gay troglodytes in the name of a purer liberation.  I could trace a dozen different examples, but the problem remains the same and will not become clearer for all the piling on.

This is not to overlook the problem of those who hypostatize the political, it is simply that in a way because they try to engage the world as it is their own failure is, for myself at least having already been down that road, already self-evident.  Their obedience to the law as overriding any ethical prerogative, any ethical injunction to disobey or to refuse is present in every act of self-deception and self-mutilation in the name of a higher law, whether it is "the revolution", "the party", "the class", etc.

I am not interested in the problem of politics/anti-politics on the plane of Leftist organizations because I cannot claim to any longer have any interest in enacting this self-mutilation in the name of a New God.  Their Marxism or Anarchism does in fact reproduce the forms of organization and thought of this society in a law-like manner because to succeed in this society is to obey its laws, and to succeed on a larger scale is to take a certain shape in conformity with what is possible as capitalist organisms, should we wish to follow the line of thought of one of our most generous readers.  That is not my concern and it is a line I have only the slightest interest in because at the moment it does not effect me.

However it may also be that the retreat from action leaves us in the position of the sheer refusal.  It is hard not to become a beautiful soul, refusing to partake in anything that does not conform to one's impossible purity, to a withdrawal into a radical hermitude in which one simply awaits the coming revolution, in which all that exists is our speech and the world really only exists as the echo of that selfsame speech.  It is a kind of revolutionary anorexia, a refusal to eat because one is convinced that to eat is the same things as to be fat and ugly and distasteful.  Of course, all one can talk about is eating and the correctness of not eating and then one cannot distinguish between someone who eats without any self-consciousness and a gluttonous pig.

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