Slavoj Žižek for the win
These words simply demonstrate that today’s liberal-democratic state and the dream of an ‘infinitely demanding’ anarchic politics exist in a relationship of mutual parasitism: anarchic agents do the ethical thinking, and the state does the work of running and regulating society. Critchley’s anarchic ethico-political agent acts like a superego, comfortably bombarding the state with demands; and the more the state tries to satisfy these demands, the more guilty it is seen to be. In compliance with this logic, the anarchic agents focus their protest not on open dictatorships, but on the hypocrisy of liberal democracies, who are accused of betraying their own professed principles.
The big demonstrations in London and Washington against the US attack on Iraq a few years ago offer an exemplary case of this strange symbiotic relationship between power and resistance. Their paradoxical outcome was that both sides were satisfied. The protesters saved their beautiful souls: they made it clear that they don’t agree with the government’s policy on Iraq. Those in power calmly accepted it, even profited from it: not only did the protests in no way prevent the already-made decision to attack Iraq; they also served to legitimise it. Thus George Bush’s reaction to mass demonstrations protesting his visit to London, in effect: ‘You see, this is what we are fighting for, so that what people are doing here – protesting against their government policy – will be possible also in Iraq!’ [ In LRB in 2007]
This is the beauty of the “professional left” position: one stakes out a position of moral clarity, far from the ugly compromises entailed in the policies of liberal democracies, and then .. and then that’s it. One’s beautiful soul is safe and clean, and if one is actually in the professional left there is an article for The Nation or a grant proposal or something as well. And for the few thousand in the “mass base” of the professional left there is absolution as they go on with their jobs in IT or media or whatever form of middle management is their metier.
Žižek is making this argument from the position of a somewhat homeless Marxist would-be-revolutionary, but the weak quality of the responses from his indignant colleagues is quite hilarious. Hold high the banner of the revolutionary proletariat in the letters section of the LRB, comrades!