Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Limits of a "Reality-Based Community"

It may be somewhat untimely to raise this question, but why are folks so thrilled that the progressive blogging community is suddenly sounding a lot like Francis Fukuyama...?

In “The Neoconservative Moment,” Fukuyama turns a heat lamp on the cogitations of one thinker in particular, Charles Krauthammer, whose “strategic thinking has become emblematic” of the neo-conservative camp that envisaged the Iraq invasion. Krauthammer, one of the war’s most vociferous advocates, had somewhat famously fancied the end of the cold war as a “unipolar moment” in geopolitics – which, by 2002, he was calling a “unipolar era.” In February 2004 Krauthammer delivered an address at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington in which he offered a strident defense of the Iraq war in terms of his concept of unipolarity, or what he now calls “democratic realism.”

Fukuyama was in the audience that evening and did not like what he heard.

Krauthammer’s speech was “strangely disconnected from reality,” Fukuyama wrote in “The Neoconservative Moment.” “Reading Krauthammer, one gets the impression that the Iraq War – the archetypical application of American unipolarity – had been an unqualified success, with all of the assumptions and expectations on which the war had been based fully vindicated.” “There is not the slightest nod” in Krauthammer’s exposition “towards the new empirical facts” that have come to light over the course of the occupation.


Now, clearly there are cold hard facts, and Bush is fanatically oblivious to them, like all good "born again" zealots. "Reality-Based" is a good little slogan because it subverts the neo-cons' greatest source of pride and reclaims a terrain traditionally held by conservatives. There's no denying that. My point, however, is simply to remember the following observation (Derrida is here sort of mid-way through ripping Fukuyama and his infamous "end of history" thesis a new a**hole):

No one, it seems to me, can contest the fact that a dogmatics is attempting to install its worldview hegemony in paradoxical and suspect conditions. There is today in the world a dominant discourse, or rather one that is on the way to becoming dominant, on the subject of Marx's work and thought, on the subject of Marxism (which is perhaps not the same thing), on the subject of the socialist International and the universal revolution, on the subject of the more or less slow destruction of the revolutionary model in its Marxist inspiration, on the subject of the rapid, precipitous, recent callapse of societies that attempted to put it into effect at least in what we will call foor the moment, citing once again the Manifesto, "old Europe," and so forth. This dominating discourse often has the manic, jubilatory, and incantatory form that Freud assigned to the so-called triumpant phase of mourning work. The incantation repeats and ritualizes itself, it holds forth and holds to formulas, like any animistic magic. To the rhythm of a cadenced march, it proclaims: Marx is dead, communism is dead, very dead, and along with it its hopes, its discourses, its theories, and its practices. It says: long live capitalism, long live the market, here's to the survival of economic and political liberalism!

If this hegemony is attempting to install its dogmatic orchestration in suspect and paradoxical conditions, it is first of all because this triumphant conjuration is striving in truth to disavow, and therefore to hide from, the fact that never, never in history, has the horizon of the thing whose survival is being celebrated (namely, all the old models of the capitalist and liberal world) been as dark, threatening, and threatened...

Electoral representivity or parliamentary life is not only distorted, as was always the case, by a great number of socio-economic mechanisms, but it is exercised with more and more difficultry in a public space profoundly upset by techno-tele-media apparatuses and by new rhythms of information and communication, by the devices and the speed of forces represented by the latter, but also and consequently by the new modes of appropriation they put to work, by the new structure of the event and of its spectrality that they produce (both invent and bring up to date, inaugurate and reveal, cause to come about and bring to light at the same time, there where they were already there without being there: it is the relation of the concept of production to the ghost that is the question here). This transformation does not affect only facts but the concept of such "facts." The very concept of the event. The relation between deliberation and decision, the very functioning of government has changed, not only in its technical conditions, its time, its space, and its speed, but, without anyone having realized it, in its concept. (Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, 51-79, my emphasis in bold)


...A warning, then. Which is all to suggest, quite simply, that perhaps the distinction between a slogan or a tactic on the one hand, and a philosophy or a self-critical thinking on the other, is important to bear in mind during these times of mounting ribaldry and clattery.



[UPDATE: Some related thoughts are here.
And on a slightly different note, in case you missed it, the generous and Happy Tutor recently submitted a call for trolls from the PBA, and he got a few.]

1 comment:

cham-pagne said...
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