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Thread: There is no good ethnicity

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    Default There is no good ethnicity

    White Magic (http://critcrim.org/redfeather/journ...whitemagic.htm)'"Here," said Sir Christopher Stephens, Esteemed AOE Puppet Master, and First Secretary of the AxSys Secret Police (the Fuzz), " we encourage self-expression, personal pride, and the politics of difference. Pílice yourself, is our motto. Our goal is simple: Strategic Fuzzification.'

    The Tories playing the race (sorry immigration) card comes as no surprise. In essence, this is because, post-Thatcher/Joseph, they have become the 'purest' party of Capitalism, embodying all its contradictory but complementary tendencies (deterritorialization and reterritorialization, archaism and futurism - at the same time). Thus free market rhetoric is always accompanied by a phobic nationalism that blatantly contradicts it (i.e. if a free market, why not a free market in labour?)

    Possibly the most despicable aspect of Blair's despicable govt is its genuflection to the irrational and baseless populist hostility towards immigration. I would urge people to think again about my serious point about the relationship between the currently sacrosanct ideological status of the Family (if you want to justify anything, say you are doing it on behalf of 'hardworking families' - what about hardworking collectives? don't <I>they</I> count? ... silly me, of course not...) and xenophobic nationalism. Ask yourself this, if 'Britain is full' (as Howard was quoted as saying in a tabloid this morning), why is there an incessant and unseemly rush by all political parties to encourage breeding? (Don't the Lib Dems want to extend maternity leave to seven years or something.... ;-) ? )

    The truth is that there is no economic argument against immigration. On the contrary, in fact: there is an economic argument FOR it. Immigration would immediately sort out the skills shortage and do something to rectify the pensions problem by instantly producing a young workforce that would pay taxes.

    There is however a strong economic and ecological argument against more children (they are a drain on both natural and financial resources).

    It is also imperative to recognize that there is no contradiction between Fortress Britain immigration policies and the 'obligatory cosmopolitan viewpoint' (MES) of 'respect for cultural differences'. On the contrary: the two go together and even require one another. The flattening out of all issues of racism into questions of representation is the sure and certain way to ensure that the exploitation of particular racial groups continues. The fact that 'we' whites now 'respect' 'Carribean culture' (check all those adverts on the tube for Carribean cake!) has done little or nothing to improve the economic and social position of immigrants and their descendants. This seems to be the ideological message: 'We' can exploit minorities and treat them as inferiors fit only for menial tasks, but we are not allowed to SAY that they are inferior, because that is racist.

    The point is that insofar as you are ethnicized, you are either a victim of fascism or yourself a fascist. The other side of this can be seen in the master class outrage about British soldiers being involved in torture. The very idea! Think about what this means. It's no surprise, it would seem, if OTHER nationalities engage in torture and abuse; because, presumably, we can expect no more of them. Witness the ideological contortions - this particular incident should not distract from the basic purity of the race. In other words, the factual should not be allowed to contaminate the ideological.

    Blair is capable of the Evil that he commits for a simple reason: his innate and unswerving belief in his own rectitude and essential goodness. He and 'his people' cannot be wrong. Any amount of killing of children is justified, in his case, because it is for the greater Good (not like when 'those people' kill children, which is in and of itself a proof of their essential Evil). This feeds into the structural delusion of Liberal Progressivism, which maintains that it is OK for the West to have nuclear weapons, because it is Essentially Good (after all, it has only been responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition, Auschwitz, Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the secret bombing of Cambodia...) whereas other 'unstable' nations must be stopped at all costs from developing them.

    The point is that <I>there is no good ethnicity</I>. The only way a non-oppressive 'we' can be articulated is under concepts such as Truth and Justice, which can never have anything to do with an American - or any other ethnic - way.
    Last edited by k-punk; 24-01-2005 at 05:30 PM.

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    As stimulating as ever Mark, and I agree with a lot of this, but I think its worth keeping in mind the distinction between multiculturalism and cultural difference that Bhabha and Gilroy and others draw.

    As I understand it what you are referring to here, i.e. the pious and tokenistic 'celebration' of difference, the miming of broadmindedness, the petty and futile identity politics that have displaced more radical ideas, might be called Multiculturalism.

    Cultural Difference, on the other hand, is something much more unsettling. In my understanding of Bhabha at least, cultural difference, as it plays out and insists in the fabric of a society, *cannot* be the basis of the kind of sclerotic identifications that you rightly decry, as it is fundamentally unrepresentable, a cut or breach in the Symbolic rather than an Imaginary object.

    In this sense Bhabha implies a relationship between sexual difference and cultiural difference. The former is famously beyond representation and is, as such, Lacan's privileged example of the insistence of the Real antagonism that structures personal relations. Similarly Bhabha sees cultural difference as functioning as an avatar of the unrepresentable Real. It cannot be the basis for identification, but circulates in society as continually displaced fracture, a locus of desire and fear that reveals the fundamental instability of the Big Other. As such it is one point of intervention in any radical programme of change.

    I am of course conflating aspects of Zizek and Bhabha here, but the latter often relies on the former in his appropriations of Lacan.

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    I think the Zizekian move is to say, what is the difference between facile multiculturalism and sophisticated attention to cultural difference? Politically speaking I mean. Intellectually, there's a world of difference but politically, the Cult Diff lobby's 'openness to the Other' is piety in itself. It would be difficult, in fact, to think of anything more pious than this mode of thinking.

    Why is cultural difference to be celebrated? Isn't difference just a banal fact of experience, something that capitalism happily reproduces? Don't in fact the Cult Diffs ppl perform involve intellectual labour for Kapital at two levels:

    1. By positing difference (rather than universality) as the politically privileged category; and

    2. By generating consumer categories ripe for exploitation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by k-punk
    The truth is that there is no economic argument against immigration. On the contrary, in fact: there is an economic argument FOR it. Immigration would immediately sort out the skills shortage and do something to rectify the pensions problem by instantly producing a young workforce that would pay taxes.

    There is however a strong economic and ecological argument against more children (they are a drain on both natural and financial resources).
    Yes, but the problem for this argument is that, understandably, immigrants want to bring their families with them. This tends to bugger up the economics. To get the young workers without kids thing going, you need to allow immigrants to work within your country, but refuse to grant them full citizenship or the right to stay when they run out of work, i.e. ensure that they don't feel a sense of permanent belonging which would encourage them to bring their familes over. Is this a road you would want to go down?

    Obviously, I agree with you about the ethnicity thing. I think that it's also very interesting watching both the Tories and Labour on various news programmes today denying that Howard's pronouncements have anything to do with 'playing the race card', when it's obvious that the immigrants and asylum seekers in question are only those from certain parts of the world...

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    I take yr point John, but I think it is welfare, not immigration, that requires reform. I say abandon all immigration controls, let the (labour) market sort it out! Any economic problems would arise only if the govt was suddenly required to dole out welfare to dependents.

    The other issue, as raised by Nick Cohen today in the Evening Standard, was the fact that the availability of cheap immigrant workers forces down the price of labour, with the supposed result that their competitors in the indigenous working class become resentful. I'm profoundly suspicious of this analysis, since it feeds into the smugoisie assumption that the w/c are a foaming mass of racists just waiting for a trigger to get the blackshirts out and unfurl the swastikas. (In fact, it is m/c culture that is white supremacist, m/c areas that are almost exclusively white, m/c families that are almost never mixed race.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by k-punk
    The other issue, as raised by Nick Cohen today in the Evening Standard, was the fact that the availability of cheap immigrant workers forces down the price of labour, with the supposed result that their competitors in the indigenous working class become resentful. I'm profoundly suspicious of this analysis, since it feeds into the smugoisie assumption that the w/c are a foaming mass of racists just waiting for a trigger to get the blackshirts out and unfurl the swastikas. (In fact, it is m/c culture that is white supremacist, m/c areas that are almost exclusively white, m/c families that are almost never mixed race.)
    So, presumably, according to you, the return of ultra-nationalism (Vlaams Blok, FN, BNP, etc.) to the Western European political scene is purely a phenomenon of the white middle-classes?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pearsall
    So, presumably, according to you, the return of ultra-nationalism (Vlaams Blok, FN, BNP, etc.) to the Western European political scene is purely a phenomenon of the white middle-classes?
    Well, it's certainly not a phenonemon of the <i>black</i> middle classes, now is it?

    I presume from what you have said that you DO think that the working classes are basically, fundamentally and in their very nature phobic racists then?

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    Quote Originally Posted by k-punk
    I presume from what you have said that you DO think that the working classes are basically, fundamentally and in their very nature phobic racists then?
    No, I don't. I think that phobic racism is something that transcends class boundaries. Class can be an influence in the form it takes, but it's just as ludicrous to suggest that 'middle-class culture is white supremacist' as 'the white working-class is intrinsically racist'.

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    Pearsall:
    >No, I don't. I think that phobic racism is something that transcends class boundaries. Class can be an influence in the form it takes, but it's >just as ludicrous to suggest that 'middle-class culture is white supremacist' as 'the white working-class is intrinsically racist'.

    well said.

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    Quote Originally Posted by k-punk
    Well, it's certainly not a phenonemon of the <i>black</i> middle classes, now is it?
    But how can you be so certain? Do you know enough members of the black middle class well enough to state without any doubt that such well-guarded beliefs do not exist?

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    Don't get me wrong.

    I'm not saying that the w/c has no racist tendencies; they live with the impact of immigration, in a way that the m/c don't (it's pretty much all benefits for the middle mass, as Cohen said today; cheaper servants! who of course live miles and miles away....) At the same time, though, w/c culture is thoroughy suffused with the Black Atlantic in particular in a way that m/c culture isn't. Saying m/c culture was 'white supremacist' was provocative, but hardly unfair; its key figures, like its neighbourhoods, remain predominantly white, surely.

    Also, it's important to keep in mind that race IS an issue of class, or at least classification. As Gilroy forcefully argues in Between Camps , race is not a biological category. There is no 'race', only racialization, and all such taxonomies are arbitrary, a Borgesian legitimation for treating another group differently, that is to say, as inferior. Skin colour is no less random a means of differentiating human beings than eye colour.

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    Quote Originally Posted by k-punk
    I think the Zizekian move is to say, what is the difference between facile multiculturalism and sophisticated attention to cultural difference? Politically speaking I mean. Intellectually, there's a world of difference but politically, the Cult Diff lobby's 'openness to the Other' is piety in itself. It would be difficult, in fact, to think of anything more pious than this mode of thinking.

    Why is cultural difference to be celebrated? Isn't difference just a banal fact of experience, something that capitalism happily reproduces? Don't in fact the Cult Diffs ppl perform involve intellectual labour for Kapital at two levels:

    1. By positing difference (rather than universality) as the politically privileged category; and

    2. By generating consumer categories ripe for exploitation.

    Bhabha and Gilroy do not advocate the 'celebration' of difference - that's the language of Benneton: cynical manipulation and bad faith meshed with niche-marketing and the panaceas of identity politics. I have no truck whatever with that nonsense. Identity politics is ultimately pernicious. But I don't think that ideas of difference can be erased that easily.

    Far from a celebration Bhabha's take on the affective power of difference is a profoundly uneasy one. In this sense the insistence of cultural difference is very far from Derrida's messianic theology of a radical/mystical 'otherness' that one must remain 'open' to. Cultural difference partakes of the Real and jouissance/enjoyment in all their destabilizing potency. As you know Zizek distinguishes the notion of the Real as *limit* of the symbolic from the obfuscatory theological absolute otherness of both Levinas and degraded U.S. style Cult. Studs. For Zizek that which is the limit of representation ia not an unknowable 'otherness' but is *still within* representation, although present there as distortion, contradiction, inconsistency (and for Bhabha hybridization).

    Thus the Real is always artificial, retroactively produced, constructed rather than sublimely other. And this of course fits in exactly with Gilroy's point in Between Camps: racial and ethnic taxonomies are impossibly inconsistent and paradoxical constructs. Bhabha's association of cultural difference with the Real thus suggest a way of thinking difference as at once an empty category and a profoundly powerful force.

    Powerful beacuse cultural difference is another one of those antagonisms around which the social is constituted, like class difference, religious difference, sexual difference. This faultlines are, precisely, where the gaze of the Big Other flickers and falters so that we are forced to assume responsibility for our own desire.

    By the way, why should identification with a class be any less reductive or particularist than an identification with ethnicity? You never seem to have a problem evoking class as a concept.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Melmoth
    Far from a celebration Bhabha's take on the affective power of difference is a profoundly uneasy one. ....
    Yes, but isn't this just taking celebration one level up; instead of celebrating carribbean cake, we're now celebrating 'uneasiness', 'inconsistency' etc?

    Thus the Real is always artificial, retroactively produced, constructed rather than sublimely other. And this of course fits in exactly with Gilroy's point in Between Camps: racial and ethnic taxonomies are impossibly inconsistent and paradoxical constructs. Bhabha's association of cultural difference with the Real thus suggest a way of thinking difference as at once an empty category and a profoundly powerful force.
    Obviously I enthusiastically endorse Gilroy's argument about the randomness of taxonomies; obviously I agree that the Real is artificial. But isn't that because in the cosmos we're in is completely artificial? But isn't the way in which idiot anthropolitical structures generate racial taxonomies is surely different from the randomness of the Human Operating System itself?

    By the way, why should identification with a class be any less reductive or particularist than an identification with ethnicity? You never seem to have a problem evoking class as a concept.
    This gets to the nub really.

    Cultural difference is a given, a 'fact' of the phenomenal matrix generated by Kapital, so identifying with it is identifying with the world 'as it is'.

    The proletariat is not party of the phenomenal world of Kapital. On the contrary, it is what CANNOT exist within that world.

    That's partly because the proletariat is not 'the working class'; the working class is a culturally differentiated group like any other, a subjugated group, a population subjected to extrinsic definition.

    The proletariat is as VIRTUAL class, the potential class that will emerge only when human beings have thrown off all 'identifications', when they have unplugged from the imposed differences of the Kapital matrix. In other words, the proletariat is in a sense the anti-class, because it can emerge only under the sign of a universality that is indifferent to cultural differences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by k-punk
    This gets to the nub really.

    Cultural difference is a given, a 'fact' of the phenomenal matrix generated by Kapital, so identifying with it is identifying with the world 'as it is'.

    The proletariat is not party of the phenomenal world of Kapital. On the contrary, it is what CANNOT exist within that world.

    That's partly because the proletariat is not 'the working class'; the working class is a culturally differentiated group like any other, a subjugated group, a population subjected to extrinsic definition.

    The proletariat is as VIRTUAL class, the potential class that will emerge only when human beings have thrown off all 'identifications', when they have unplugged from the imposed differences of the Kapital matrix. In other words, the proletariat is in a sense the anti-class, because it can emerge only under the sign of a universality that is indifferent to cultural differences.
    But isn't this move from the working class to proletariat the function of a necessary investment first of all in the antagonism of class struggle, with all the necessary identifications and solidarities that that entails? In other words doesn't the universalizing proletariat emerge from a radical immersion in the world 'as it is', the particularist moment of identification with class?

    This movement from class to proletariat is precisely the same as the one form multiculturalism to cultural difference. As I 've written upthread, one *cannot identify with cultural difference* anymore than one can identify with the Real. Cultural difference refers to the treacherous virtual space between cultures rather than any one culture itself.

    In this sense I see no reason why, in some situations, multiculturalism/cultural difference could not be the basis of the move from the particular to the universal that you advocate. Why privilege class in this way?


    Quote Originally Posted by k-punk
    Yes, but isn't this just taking celebration one level up; instead of celebrating carribbean cake, we're now celebrating 'uneasiness', 'inconsistency' etc?
    Celebration doesn't come into it, any more than one 'celebrates' class struggle or revolutionary violence. Cultural difference is not the stuff of local council initiatives, it is disturbing, unnerving.
    Last edited by Woebot; 26-01-2005 at 09:19 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Melmoth
    But isn't this move from the working class to proletariat the function of a necessary investment first of all in the antagonism of class struggle, with all the necessary identifications and solidarities that that entails? In other words doesn't the universalizing proletariat emerge from a radical immersion in the world 'as it is', the particularist moment of identification with class?

    This movement from class to proletariat is precisely the same as the one form multiculturalism to cultural difference. As I 've written upthread, one *cannot identify with cultural difference* anymore than one can identify with the Real. Cultural difference refers to the treacherous virtual space between cultures rather than any one culture itself.

    In this sense I see no reason why, in some situations, multiculturalism/cultural difference could not be the basis of the move from the particular to the universal that you advocate. Why privilege class in this way?
    I wouldn't in principle resist this move, but 'cultural difference' cannot be seen as YET ANOTHER form of classification alongside class antagonism - maybe we need new or at least modified vocabulary here, and it would be better to talk about classification rather than class. The whole point of the Badiou and Zizek reclamation of universality is, as you know, that it is supposed to be about suspending differences. Differences are not antagonisms, that's the point. In many ways, differences are what BLOCK antagonism. I mean, the whole difference industry has emerged at a time when systemic/structural antagonism has been all but extirpated from the cultural radar.

    Celebration doesn't come into it, any more than one 'celebrates' class struggle or revolutionary violence. Cultural difference is not the stuff of local council initiatives, it is disturbing, unnerving.
    But I WOULD celebrate class struggle - of course. And: why should I be interested in something that is disturbing and unnerving? I may be being too quick, too unfair, but I've been very wearied over the last twenty years by this move - often made by comfortable academics - into a kind of fetishization of the negative. It's a reverse piety, Levinas is the master of it, Lacan has been the victim of it, so too Bataille (but he asked for it ). Failure, incommensurability, lack ---- aaaaaarghhhhhhhhh ---

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