Monthly Archives: January 2013
Derrida’s The Politics of Friendship (1994) is as fine an act of deconstructive tightrope traipse as any of his other works; combing through quotations from known philosophers, through tendentious citations severally removed from the original locutions, in unknown light, and situating in them the inscrutable intentionality embedded in language [langue] as such. As ever, his reading of almost trite, or Canonical, texts bringing about a moment of alterity native to them, and so surprisingly impugning the judgment of their conventional senses, is entertaining, vigorous, prolix and fecund. And, after all these qualifications one must get to the brass tacks, irreducible takeaways tacked onto all iterations hung on his every word: what of the irreducibility that cannot be recovered and yet latches onto what does get said, even beyond the speaker? In so many words, why do people say what must by nature betray them? It is perhaps necesary…
It is easy to sympathise with the death of coherence via meaning as such [a handy philosopheme], and with the entire post-modernist camp which here lights bonfires to undecidables that outlast their urgency, but being tied as we are to finite contexts that both define us and are defined in tangential, even aporetic, ways the motivation for tarrying with imponderables— or, as is the wont of Derrida, the constitutive imponderables which circumscribe the meaning of speech— must remain so long as it is tarrying with ineluctability an impossibility of determination, theory as everlasting hesitation. The impasse of all Derridology [po-faced post-modernist malingering, of which Derrida is less guilty than Derrideans], in the ethical sense of such a nonce word, is that seeking to eliminate the temerations and abuses that speech is liable to is no excuse for a longwinded avoidance of the ineliminable community of meaning which persists despite its impossibility, despite its deconstruction, as the arché-stencil from which traces must incessantly derive themselves. One may say, such spectator position theory theorises itself always-already and is either beast or sovereign, but not human.
The denial of permanence of meaning denies also that such permanence be sought out, infinity paradoxically must end— after what infinite fashion may such a token be sought [such that it is never found]? In summary, even as Derrida says, “infinite différance is finite”, and may one be loathe to rejoinder, sufficiently: finitude is the stuff of the infinite, and insofar as speech, both apt and abortive, is finite, finitude must be privileged? This deflationary movement reduces the deliberation of imponderables to mere preponderances that eliminate finite responsibility, which remains necessary for action; though it risks being misguided action, one must concede, it exceeds theory infinitely in differing from theories’ impasses. Here, one must become, again, a naïve Kantian if only to understand Derrida, Others and their communities to come, to affirm in their cacophonous and wily witnesses decidables that impinge on many a finite existence, finite well being and finite ethics. Infinite responsibility is the ruse of those who must deny finite justice, it is gentrified hubris patient with its ear to the ground, stuck there.
Derrida, Jacques. Trans. Collins, George (2005). The Politics of Friendship. London, UK: Verso.
The certain power of people who identify as “liberals” to have an ideology that still mirrors the society they critique because of two basic assumptions is pretty telling; although not in the simple double-think or hypocritical way that so-called “conservatives” often accuse them of belying It is not that these marginally richer working class (called middle class in the US) are bad or crypto-racist necessarily even if they often blindly do benefit from such exploitation, but they are often blind to the structures they assume could be fair. Even terms like privilege imply that it is just systemic unfairness that could be reformed out, and not something that is fundamental to the structure of economic situation itself. After all, privilege is granted and can be taken away without fundamental social change at the roots of production. You can deprivilege an ethnic group in feudalism for example (the dominance of say the Anglo-Saxons by the Normans) but not change the fundamental social structures of the society. These unconscious assumptions are hidden within the language of many liberal “radicals” who adopt the nomenclature without fundamentally doing historical work to see the development of the idea at hand. This gives even progressive liberalism a limitation that tends to be conservative under stress: It’s fundamental assumptions are in line with a “progressive” notion of the present to be managed into improvement without fundamentally changing the structure of class, and thus not deeply changing the nature of race or gender. (Read the recent discussion in mostly liberal magazines about the end of men, which does not discuss that the pay for women while improved is still off and that benefits of middle class society are disappearing for lower income “middle class” including things like marriage without liberating the work load on single mothers, etc.)
In short, the mistake is that they actually assume the world as it is could be tweeked into something ideal without radical (and thus violent in some fundamental sense even if no blood is spilled) change, and thus they read the current into the past when trying to understand it. Recently, more or less liberal sociological work by people like Jonathan Haidt read a fundamental separation of political ontology into determined psychological framework ignoring that historically these divisions are very modern. For example, many liberal narratives about the South Eastern US ignores the history of populist and even progressive politics in the South: William Jenning Bryant was the presidential candidate of the “Solid South” after all. Keynesian redistribution is assumed because that is all managerial tax policy, and no look at how fundamentally un-equal the work structure would be even under Keynesian redistribution schemes and how dependent semi-capitalist social Democracies actually are on exploited labor in countries that are not social Democratic. The problems of the EU make this abundantly clear.
Many “Leftist” critique of liberalism actually accept fundamental liberal categories (Keynesian just needs to be more radicalized, the state is enemy but it could be run by more leftist technocrats to the benefit of all, the assumption of nation-states as somehow real national actors) and just try to push them further. This in a way makes sense because the origins of left-liberals and Democrats have an ideological genealogy that is on the same spectrum of bourgeois politics out of a mostly European framework. Even “radically” “non-Eurocentric” radical liberal critiques (such as say Judith Butler) still fundamentally use categorical terms which are out of European thought itself (“the other” for example being a primary one).
In this, the self-identified radical or even the self-identified moderate liberal, can be somewhat forgiven for reflecting the divided and uneven nature of semi-capitalist liberal modernity. It sees the world as “it is” but the world as it is is a reflection of the structures in which our economic and political lives are limited. But while they can be forgiven, as long as they do not recognize the fundamental structural impossibility of their project due to the nature of representation and production, they are often their own enemies and the enemies of the very social improvement they advocate. Keynesianism does not work without outside exploitation of labor to give grist to the mill of the welfare state’s production capacity. Mutliculturalism doesn’t work unless one has a definition of culture that is purely ideal and thus involved with tolerance and tokenism of native languages without any respect for their own development or separation from the traditional ideologies of their society.
Many of my “liberal”–and remember I realize how confused this term is in North America, but also in Europe (which often denies the liberal origins of most contemporary social Democracy after the say 1930: Was it not the German Social Democrats, the former party of Marx, who removed minimum wage laws in Germany)–friends actually do see these contradictions in the paradox of Obama’s actual governing record, or the realization that most neo-liberalization of the US economy was actually accelerated under Bill Clinton. They see it, but still holding on to the theories and social categories of soft psuedo-Marxian analysis of a re-distributional (which is really just radical Keynesianism often), sociological categories which have idealist modes of ideology, and notions the vague “system” is “systemically unfair” (instead of doing what it logically must do to maintain itself as a mode of production and distribution) limit how they can address the problem, and so the march continues and economic cycling and stagnation maintains itself.
On what it takes to be a Soldier
Like all young nations, at some point in their historical emergence, India realised the instrumentality of military as the armature of governance while breaking free from the mother country. Before independence, however, joining the army was a sure way to alleviate social and economic backwardness. This also allowed an escape from the hegemony of caste and indigenous systemic equality to the otherwise dispossessed: among the lower classes consciousness arose that serving the government which professed egalitarianism was better than suffering under the wasms of a hereditary master class. The so called “untouchable” community of Mahars who were martial men under Shivaji, for instance, found meaningful political presence accorded them by joining the British-Indian Army: Dr. B. R. Ambedkar too was brought up in an army cantonment (Roy, K., 2006, p. 165).
The advent of the nineteenth century, however, brought about changes in recruitment policies and the Mahars were excluded from recruitment opportunities in the British-Indian Army; to this, the natural reaction of the community was one of perceived insult and removal from British governmental patronage (ibid. 165). The community, suddenly disenfranchised by government policy, sought to negotiate a reconsideration of their people as fit for the army- in the deeply ingrained caste system which characterised colonial India the British Indian Army offered a singular opportunity to acquire both social and economic emancipation for the oppressed classes. This is the historical juncture where joining the army first proved itself the social ladder which the Indian theopolitics of caste had engendered and perpetuated for centuries. In an unequal society surrender to warfare is the only possibility of peace.
“In the first decades after Independence,” a retired officer told The Hindu, “enlisted men came from backgrounds which led them to unquestioningly accept feudal attitudes and values. The officers were also products of the same feudal landscape. It doesn’t exist anymore — but the institutions remain.” (Swami, P., 2012). Stephen Cohen elaborates, contrarily, that caste and region continue to be the major determinants of hiring in the Indian Army, also the lower rung soldiers who are the largest part of the army are hired from villages which possess this martial tradition of deference. “[they are] inculcated with traditional notions of obedience, but he remains tied to the village authority structure; [their] behaviour in the army reflects upon their village, and caste elders ensure that any runaway is returned to the army for discipline” (2004, p. 21). Indeed today, the world over, it is the poor and the occupationally curtailed[i] who form the biggest demographic for recruitment into military forces[ii] (Anderson, M., L. & Taylor, H., F. 2007, p. 529).
Thus, it is clear, that there is an obvious perceived benefit, i.e. the alleviation of poverty, relief from social prejudices and a shot at experiencing power which moves large numbers of people from the poorer and oppressed sections of society to serve their country. The will to serve thus making itself manifest in sections of the population socially and economically waylaid if not for the military is a prime component of existential patriotism. In exchange of their mortal selves, without much recourse to success in a relatively less dangerous but painful and subjugated life of normal society, these men and women choose to buy a chance at power: herein, consists ur-patriotism. The material logic of muscular ascent is undeniable when one considers the genesis of these real patriots, indeed, it possess the brute force of a malformed pundigrion.
Why would disenfranchised people choose to join a fight for a prodigal idea, an idea which doesn’t liberate them from the necessity for its defence, even shielding its abstract hieroglyphs with their flesh? Simple necessity compels them. But what about the higher castes, more prestigious ethnicities and economically well established who join the army? Are they given to risk their life and limb, secure as they are with their fingers in a bowl of rarefied butter and a platter of cashews- as a Hindi proverb goes-, for the love of a piece of land joined only by the slenderest thread of rhetoric? The lust for power and impunity drives them to patriotism[iii]. The passion for an idea, which makes it ideal, must not expose the core nihility of the tasks which it consists in, as this would prove the idea a mere set of orders and obedient actions carried out: if patriotic soldiers knew that their patriotism consisted in serving the roughshod diktats of their superiors they would desist from endangering their lives for its phantasmal appellation and glory (Belkin, A. 2012, p. 67). This transaction of patriotic acts of self-endangerment must be carried out symbolically, if it is to function. The boots and berets serve a psychical need for ceremony, the parades a need for ritual adoration for their brave surrender to the behemoth of governance. Warrior masculinity is a performance (ibid. p. 67); this is precisely why any pointing out of this performance as artifice rouse such genital anger in warriors and their defenders: for these charades of honour to continue their vassalage at the feet of bureaucracy it is necessary that they play their part as Real Men with complete self assurance that they are the chosen ones. Is it not obvious in the ad copy of the Indian Army’s recruitment program: Be an Army Man. Be a Real Man.
The brisance of missiles, the phallicism immanent to projectile weaponry and the roughshod passion of patriots-of-the-bicep is not too oblique an analogy to the pathic avidity of a rapist in action, who given over to a passionate consummation of his ‘territory’ violates all that prohibits his satiation- even the very grounds of his desire- just to stake his passionate claim, to legitimise it in fulfilment. Celebrating soldiers is to celebrate the dire situation where the happenstance muscular egoism of nations becomes a grand procession of national spirit, pulverising all that is best in us and at hand and setting it aside to ride the arseholes of projected enemies, rivals to some insane national glory-hole, rivalling our claim to that sovereignty which is but an idea realised by luckless chance and nuclear warheads. Doing honour to soldiers is a foil that allows some men to sacrifice other men to an idea which is no one’s in particular; the defence of an idea by loss of life is not the defence of an idea, Brecht once rightly said, it is merely the loss of life.
Anderson, M., L. & Taylor, H., F. (2007). Sociology with Infotrac: Understanding a Diverse
Society: Fourth Edition. Belmont, CA: Thompson Learning Inc.
Belkin, A. (2012). Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American
Empire. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Cohen, S. (2004). India: Emerging Power. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution.
Roy, K. Ed. (2006).War and Society in Colonial India: Oxford in India Readings, Themes in
Indian History. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.
Swami, P. “Ladakh troop revolt underlines Army class tensions”. The Hindu. Updated
on May 12, 2012. Accessed on January 1, 2012. <http://www. thehindu.com/news/national/article3412907.ece >Web.