McKenzie Wark on Mon, 14 Feb 2000 16:23:34 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Wark vs. Zizek

Monique writes:
"I have real problems with the oppositions McKenzie is activating in his
Zizek critique: the fantasy of rhetoric vs. real politics??"

Ah, here we go again! Criticism! It always finds problems. Everything is
a problem. It never has solutions! It's not that hard to find the real
politics, however. Its a question of looking in the right places. Of
course, power has a rhetorical form, on this i think we are agreed. But
not all rhetorical forms in the world are equally interesting or
significant. Power passes through some. Others just play with the signs.
And this is what Zizek does: play with the signs. If we were to look
seriously at an issue like national debt, for example, we might find that
it is not without rhetoric. How much debt is "too much"? What determines
the point at which debt becomes surplus? Accounting, after all, is
conventional, which is to say, it has a rhetorical dimension. But one that
has real effects.

I don't know why you are citing Althusser at me, however. I can't imagine
a better name to attach to the complete and utter failure of intellectual
leftism. The man was a Maoist, let's not forget, and party to some of
the most monstrous misjudgements in the politics of this half century. 
Althusser's name conjures up not just the complete failure to achieve
meaningful power of his faction within the party, but of his party within
the state, and what's worse, he was an apologist for Mao's mass murder.
Why leftism prefers to study only its failed ancestors is a curious

If socialism is, as Healy says, "the incremental overcoming of human
misery", then perhaps its best to look to the technics by which this
has actually been achieved, than to the rhetorics that speak only of
the extent to which it has not been acheived.


McKenzie Wark
Guest Scholar, American Studies, New York University
"We no longer have origins we have terminals"

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