Symbolic fiction elected Trump!

For Marx the abstract liberal subject was correlated with the commodity form:

In what conditions do individuals experience themselves as subjects of universal human rights..? in a society in which commodity exchange predominates, individuals themselves, in their daily lives, relate to themselves, as well as to the objects they encounter, as to contingent embodiments of abstract-universal notions. 

The classical Marxist gesture is to ‘uncover’ the gap between the two, universal rights are unmasked as Trump (universal rights masks the privilege of white rich men), the value of a commodities appears to be a function of the interaction of supply and demand (“I will make a new trade deal with China/Mexico) when really it is class relations (Trump is a millionaire who is going to give unprecedented tax cuts to the rich) etc…

Zizek’s departure is to suggest that this fiction – “universal rights” – has a certain efficiency independent of that which it conceals:

the “appearance” of egaliberte, precisely, is NOT a “mere appearance,” but evinces an effectivity of its own, which allows it to set in motion the process of the rearticulation of actual socio-economic relations by way of their progressive “politicization” (Why shouldn’t women also vote? Why shouldn’t conditions at the working place also be of public political concern? etc.)

Which renders his recent intervention on the Presidential Election more perplexing when he seemed to suggest that second order effects of the election of Trump, may have progressive potential. Adam Kotsko highlights Zizek’s folly best here.

But whatever one can accuse liberal multiculturalism of, one should at least admit that it is profoundly anti-“essentialist”: it is its barbarian Other which is perceived as “essentialist” and thereby “false,” i.e., fundamentalism “naturalizes” or “essentializes” historically conditioned contingent traits

Trumps election victory seems to be the victory of this ‘barbarian Other’ at the expense of liberal multiculturalism. Here, using a form of argument familiar to any readers of Zizek, is it not that the universal ‘symbolic fiction’ is not really all that independent from the particular content? The symbolic fiction, elected Trump as a staging of our collective cynicism?


Rate of immigration on both sides of the Atlantic (2/3)

Rate of immigration on both sides of the Atlantic (2/3)

In a previous post we briefly talked about race relations on each side of the Atlantic and we noted a difference in attitude with regards to indirect discrimination, which highlights a hypocrisy between a formal ‘official  equality’, and de facto inequality.  In this post, I wish to broaden the focus to other types of anti-discrimination law, before moving onto the recent change of mood music (Brexit and Trump), before moving the discussion on to a consideration of immigration rates.

Continue reading “Rate of immigration on both sides of the Atlantic (2/3)”

Race relations on both sides of the Atlantic (1/3)

I wish to draw a parallel between the integration of minorities into civil society after the Second Wold War on both sides of the Atlantic. In the case of the United Kingdom largely driven by a shortage of labour post-Second Wold War which opened the door to the colonies, and in the case of United Sates it was the efforts of Civil Rights movement which lead to the dismantling of the Jim Crow form of race caste system.

You have various proto-racisms in the pre-modern period, it was not until a combination of Darwinism, Eugenics, Imperialism that gave birth to Social Darwinism that racism became wedded with that of nationalism. After the Second World War nationalism became decoupled from that of race, for obvious reasons, where a common set of values, in the context of the cold war – freedom and markets, formally  determined whether you were inside the tent or outside.

The different fates of the United States and Europe after the Second World War, the former whose interior escaped large-scale destruction determined attitudes towards levels of immigration and from where.  In 1952 the United States lifted up the drawbridge as the United Kingdom lowered hers in 1948 and encouraged immigration from the Empire. As segregation broke down in the United States, and new arrivals from the West Indies in the UK, there was a whitelash from supremacists on both sides of the Atlantic.

There was a particular famous speech in the UK, ‘Rivers of Blood’ by Enoch Powell in, that referenced the situations on both sides of the Atlantic. Speaking in 1968, Birmingham, UK (from whence I originally hail):

 As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood”. That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existence of the States itself, is coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect. Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it will be of American proportions long before the end of the century. Only resolute and urgent action will avert it even now. Whether there will be the public will to demand and obtain that action, I do not know. All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal.

Elsewhere in the speech he cited one of his constituents who stated fearfully: “In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man” …you know… and not the other way around. 1968 was a watershed moment in the UK, for a Race Relations Act came into force with some teeth, but its importance: ‘was not act but attitude’. New acts followed and in 1976 indirect discrimination became outlawed, and in 2000 an amendment extended the scope of the act to cover public bodies, including the Police.

In the UK, the focus is on the impact on the victim(s) and not the mental state of the discriminator,  this is hardcoded in statute.  In contrast, in the United States (and Canada) it is a matter of Jurisprudence and  guidance around interpreting discrimination hold’s the discriminator’s subjective motivation as central in weighing whether indirect discrimination is itself culpable or not. This provides cover for those who officially adopt a colour neutral language but whose action is such that it disadvantages minorities, aka policies around ‘law and order’, ‘war on drugs’.

Take home points from this is the contrasting attitudes towards handling race relations on both sides of the Atlantic in response to influx of those who were previously formally segregated,  particularly with respect to how to handle indirect discrimination and systematic discrimination in public institutions. So whilst formally the system is open to all races and creeds, de facto there are barriers which stop people taking advantage of this fact.