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“The ongoing financial meltdown demonstrates how difficult it is to disturb the thick undergrowth of utopian premises which determine our acts. As Alain Badiou succinctly put it:

‘The ordinary citizen must “understand” that it is impossible to make up the shortfall in social security, but that it is imperative to stuff untold billions into the banks’ financial hole? We must somberly accept that no one imagines any longer that it’s possible to nationalize a factory hounded by competition, a factory employing thousands of workers, but that it is obvious to do so for a bank made penniless by speculation?’

One should generalize from this statement: although we always recognized the urgency of the problems, when we were fighting AIDS, hunger, water shortages, global warming, and so on, there always seemed to be time to reflect, to postpone decisions (recall how the main conclusion of the last meeting of world leaders in Bali, hailed as a success, was that they would meet again in two years to continue their talks …). But with the financial meltdown, the urgency to act was unconditional; sums of an unimaginable magnitude had to be found immediately. Saving endangered species, saving the planet from global warming, saving AIDS patients and those dying for lack of funds for expensive treatments, saving the starving children … all this can wait a little bit. The call to “save the banks!” by contrast, is an unconditional imperative which must be met with immediate action. The panic was so absolute that a transnational and non-partisan unity was immediately established, all grudges between world leaders being momentarily forgotten in order to avert the catastrophe. But what the much praised “bi-partisan” approach effectively meant was that even democratic procedures were de facto suspended: there was no time to engage in proper debate, and those who opposed the plan in the US Congress were quickly made to fall in with the majority. Bush, McCain, and Obama all quickly got together, explaining to confused congressmen and women that there was simply no time for discussion- we were in a state of emergency, and things simply had to be done fast … And let us also not forget that the sublimely enormous sums of money were spent not on some clear “real” or concrete problem, but essentially in order to restore confidence in the markets, that is, simply to change people’s beliefs!

Do we need any further proof that Capital is the Real of our lives, a Real whose imperatives are much more absolute than even the most pressing demands of our social and natural reality?”

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