Politics

The word “politics” is often nonsense because it means too much. Perhaps we will someday reach a point where its meaning could stabilize again. It is a name for disagreement, and so it naturally gets torn apart in battle.  There is always disagreement about what the disagreements are about, and about the nature of disagreements. The sense of the word politics depends on the arrangement of the battle field. Far away from violence, politics coincides with parliamentary procedures, where wars are arranged bureaucratically and the enemy wears a suit. This is politics in a modern civilized sense. But this sense only holds insofar as conflicts are successfully channeled into the parliamentary system. Conflicts outside that system may be political in other uncertain senses.

If we consider larger less determinate conflicts, then there is no reason to separate the parliamentary from the extra-parliamentary, since they are connected in these strife systems. Extra-parliamentary conflicts are periodically re-consolidated back into parliaments, typically following the conclusion of wars. Parliamentary politics is often a false pretense which reflects only minor disagreements between certain groups, and becomes a weapon used against outsiders. Parliaments are then just one class of warriors, but they are distinguished because they are aligned with the power of law and remain at the center of all conflict in some sense. Parliaments evolved in close connection with the financial system, and the structurally integrated is consequential. A question frequently arises about whether these bicameral institutions have been reduced to legislative arms of the executive banking world. This question of institutional capture has arisen at many points over the last two centuries and relates to the de-politicization of central banking.

Next consider a standard classical model of radical political action. Violent demonstrations are often understood as responses to the absence of parliamentary representation. The assumption is that if parliaments are captured by narrow interests, then violence ensues, because some life force has not been sublimated into parliamentary conflict. Radicalism is typically based on this idea that liberal capitalism becomes vulnerable if it leaves too many people unrepresented, and is obliged to maintain some minimum levels of popular representation to ensure its own structural integrity. This common assumption, which is an essential tenet of Marxism, fails to recognize the asymmetrical relation between people and capital. Capitalism is actually not obligated to concern itself with justice, and the threat of mass demonstration poses absolutely no risk to it. It is not obliged to ensure any standards of living, or to respect any rights of any sort. If demonstrators destroy property, that provides a range of opportunities from building contracts, to beefed-up security, to contracts for redesigning urban space. And if a region proves especially uncooperative, they can be de-funded and resources moved elsewhere. Capitalism is interested in justice, not because they are threatened by the unemployed, but for other more complex reasons. Social justice is a force for integrating markets, and it is important for institutional morale. For capitalism, justice is an aesthetic principle, where the aesthetic sense of righteousness is part of consumer confidence and institutional morale. The work done by radicals is often misguided because they behave according to an outdated condition where power once depended on the discourse of justice, whereas today power only concerns itself with an aesthetics of justice, and dispenses with conceptual discourse. This scenario does not imply the impossibility of true justice, but it sharply distinguishes our present epoch from the age of Enlightenment idealism.

Moving beyond the limits of classical radicalism requires several conceptual innovations. It is essential to consider how NGOs use the term “governance”, and to recognize this as the self-consciousness of what Foucault called governmentality, or the unlimited diffusion of power through subject relations. It also becomes essential to use non-Euclidian or topological models so that the insides of institutions are linked with the outsides, and power ultimately lies in these relations fanning out through the professions into the non-institutional world. It may also prove essential to adopt a triple ontology which is suited for the modeling of transitions

Governmentality evolves towards aesthetic justice which is ever less conceptual. Justice is reduced to an image which is no longer symbolic of anything. This leaves radicalism that naively takes its bearings in symbolic discourse in the cold. The parliament replays old-fashioned symbolic discourses which ignore the aesthetic circulation of justice, and this is a distraction that helps keep aesthetic power unconceptualized. This raises the new political problem where a new imaginary justice must be recaptured into the old symbolic discourse of justice. The old notion of justice is not simply obsolete, but it must be woven together with the new irrational aesthetic justice. Politics should be considered from the perspective of an encounter between justice as an imaginary sensation generated technically, and justice as the old rational conceptual discourse of the Enlightenment.

Capitalism finds rationality dispensable, and only cares about an aesthetics of justice, which it separates from symbolic discourse. It’s symbolic discourse is hidden away and reduced to bourgeois zero-sum double entry accounting – that is how it conceptually represents sex and death, as debits and credits respectively. Binding the aesthetics of justice back to conceptual discourse of justice first requires recognizing the contingencies of aesthetic justice. Radical intellectuals needs to get more acquainted with the fake phantasmatic justice closest to power which must eventually be reconnected with the rational discourses of the Enlightenment. This way politics takes on more complex structural sense, and moves beyond parliamentarianism, into broader spectra of diagrammatic structural tensions. The premier difficulty lies in recognizing the singularities and contingencies of imaginary justice – to grasp the finite existential forms of false justice generated technologically. Only once those forms have been determined can we proceed to consider the possibilities for linking them with conceptual discourse. Justice has been alienated from itself, and the problem begins on the side of the aesthetic, because power operates through an aesthetic mode and the Enlightenment discourse is only practically consequential in relation to that.

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