Candidate messages of the Occupy Movement

Žižek gave his take Wednesday:

Their basic message is: the taboo is broken; we do not live in the best possible world; we are allowed, obliged even, to think about alternatives.

via Occupy first. Demands come later | Slavoj Žižek | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Here’s mine for today: The way things work is not working.

It is certainly possible to link onto my candidate phrase, as well, using the language of obligation — if the way things work is not working, then we are obliged to think about alternatives. Moreover, there is power, rhetorical and perhaps even political, in doing so.

But there is also some danger involved. Žižek at first seems willing to embrace that danger:

While it is thrilling to enjoy the pleasures of the “horizontal organisation” of protesting crowds with egalitarian solidarity and open-ended free debates, we should also bear in mind what GK Chesterton wrote: “Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” This holds also for politics in times of uncertainty: the open-ended debates will have to coalesce not only in some new master-signifiers, but also in concrete answers to the old Leninist question, “What is to be done?

A merely negative moment is necessary, but not sufficient for change. But should we not still question any proposed positive moment?

What one should resist at this stage is precisely such a quick translation of the energy of the protest into a set of concrete pragmatic demands. Yes, the protests did create a vacuum – a vacuum in the field of hegemonic ideology, and time is needed to fill this vacuum in a proper way, as it is a pregnant vacuum, an opening for the truly new.

And what is this truly new? That remains to be determined. And so the question of how to achieve the new must be postponed.

The art of politics is also to insist on a particular demand that, while thoroughly “realist”, disturbs the very core of the hegemonic ideology: ie one that, while definitely feasible and legitimate, is de facto impossible.

To invent the truly new is our challenge (perhaps our obligation). This will require something more than a merely negative message. But perhaps our obligation, if we are not too quickly to settle on a positive program that can be co-opted by the current regime, is to invent a way of phrasing the positive demand that plays by a new set of rules. This is the meaning of the de facto impossible: that we play by a new set of rules, rules sought by, proposed by, perhaps found by us.

As Žižek notes, however, “time is needed to deploy the new content.”

The time needed to deploy the new content must also wait until we have determined the new goal: logos must come before logistics.


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2 Responses to Candidate messages of the Occupy Movement

  1. Keith Brown says:

    I would actually caution as well about the “new”or “novel” fetishism of modernity that became a contributing factor to things not working.

    Maybe what we need is a new relation (going foward) with what has always been (looking backward). I am reminded of the opening of Plato’s PHAEDRUS: O beloved Phaedrus, to where do you go & from whence do you come?

    We have spent four hundred years entertaining and maintaining ourselves with novelties while letting what obtains and sustains get lost in the shuffle. Seeking after what obtains is the path of philosophizing. Especially if we are to go outward into this currently occupied & occupying field, we might consider disclosing what does not seem to change in order to grasp more delicately what is changing.

  2. Agreed, Keith: It is a new new of which we speak, obviously yet lacking language for it.

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