File spoon-archives/postanarchism.archive/postanarchism_2004/postanarchism.0403, message 21


Subject: Re: [postanarchism] The Agreement of Zizek and Katsiafiacas on Multiculturalism 
Date: Thu, 4 Mar 2004 17:19:08 US/Eastern


> Responses are below, after the >>
> 
> Hmmm. Zizek appears to embrace and reject cultural
> studies more or less simulataneously, so we should
> understand all of his rejections as at the same time
> embraces of some sort...? 
> 
> >>No, I said in the specific instance of the Islamic
> fundamentalism question, or more broadly, of the
> question of 'difference', he is not simply dismissing
> difference but is at the same time embracing it, so
> long as the Otherness of the Other is really taken
> seriously.<<

Still, your argument was, and is, one by analogy, 
where the "evidence" for this simultaneous rejection
and embrace is not in the text itself. My question
is whether the analogy is usable in any precise way.

In any event, it strikes me that we can (if we like)
bypass that particular question by noting that what 
is rejected in each instance (liberal multiculturalism
or misidentified "fundamantalism," for example) is
actually *quite different* from what is being embraced
(respect for the "Otherness of the Other," a broader
cross-section of Islam clearly outside the kinds of
definitions of fundamentalism either Zizek or i have
advanced.) There is no strange paradox here. Zizek
simply opposes liberal and radical values and 
interpretations. 

> It is precisely correct that *nowhere* in the text is
> coexistence with Islam even the issue. If you wish to
> draw out an argument based on other parts of Zizek's
> work, then go for it, but it simply *isn't* in the 
> text we were discussing. 
> 
> >>No single text stands alone, 

As i have been insisting elsewhere...

> what is seemingly
> referred to positively is always negatively invoked,

Really? Can you show me how this general rule works?

> especially when we are talking about difficult
> theorists such as Zizek, so I think it is indeed quite
> fair to say that the text I quoted is calling for a
> qualified coexistence with Islam, since he is of
> course, not speaking in a textual vacuum and I
> provided thorough proof that this is indeed his stance
> throughout 'Welcome to the Desert of the Real'.<<

I suppose the guy who likes to quote Derrida can only
say "I asked for it" when someone tells me that something
in another text is "in" the text in question.... ; )

> To be intolerant of intolerance is hardly strange, is
> it - assuming the "other" really is intolerant? At 
> issue is whether that intolerance of the other is
> real,or whether it simply a manifestation of racism.
> 
> >> It depends on whether your intolerance of the
> Other's intolerance is converging with and even worse,
> directly supporting the liberal democratic consensus
> that you claim to be undermining with more radical
> anarchist views, due to your unavoidable ignorance of
> the real internal plurality of the culture at hand -

Watch how you use that "you" and "your" - particularly
when *nobody* - that's NOBODY - here has denied the "real
internal plurality of the culture at hand." Actually, 
*you* may be denying that plurality by denying that there
really are some Islamic fundamentalists out there - folks
who think the Truth comes from holy books, and the whole
shebang. 

That said, how is "tolerance" that tolerates *everything*
distinguishable from indifference? Even "liberal"
tolerance attempts to be something more than just a 
matter of putting up with stuff. "Tolerance" is a
value, and part of the mythology of "democratization"
centers on the spreading of that value. I suppose the
most radical versions of christian tolerance ("do good
to those who despitefully use you," etc) advocate a
rather complete tolerance, but only in the service of a
greater force - divinely inspired love - that aims to
overcome all intolerance (if "passively.") 

The question of whether one acts "converge" with the 
"liberal democratic consensus" shouldn't concern us,
at least at the ethical level. The "liberal democratic 
consensus" occasionally gets it right, and it's just
silly to demonize, given all that we are in agreement
about concerning the complexity and plurality of 
cultures. Zizek claims *generally* that Islam is
tolerant, which appears to be true, and which is also
recognized by many, many folks in "the West." But 
we started from an argument about coexistence with
*fundamentalism*, not with Islam, and it still 
appears that there is *real fundamentalism* out 
there, some of it within "the West" and some within
Islam. And it appears that some of these forms are
intolerant to the point of "holy war." 

> its one thing to remotely support internal
> transformation away from capitalist fundamentalism
> (this might be a good Zizekian or Katsiafician way to
> think of what we are calling, but what certainly is
> not, Islamic fundamentalism) 

Jason, are you claiming that there is no real 
fundamentalism within Islam? No sects claiming
wisdom from inerrant holy sources? None of us are
claiming that Islam itself is fundamentalist - and
i'm actually uncertain who, among even slightly 
informed sources, is claiming that. 

> and towards say, an
> Islamic anarchism, but its quite another to insist on
> a single worldwide standard for what is right, true
> and just.<<

Who *here* has claimed such a thing, let alone insisted?

> Perhaps "so-called fundamentalism" is a "passion for
> the real," but, honestly, so what? Are we going to 
> celebrate every act of rupture, however misdirected
> or ill-considered?... But then there is the
> inescapable waste involved in the act, an expenditure
> that opens no new spaces we would want to enter, and
> one which none of us can make without stepping over
> lines i suspect most anarchists feel the need to hold
> onto. 
> 
> <<Well just to be very clear, personally when it comes
> to the question of political violence I am somewhere
> between pacifism, the black bloc and the Zapatistas;
> so I don't even support groups like the RAF, as many
> anarchists do (much less those that privilege being
> militant over being radical to an even greater extent,
> such as what we usually call 'terrorists') - but I do
> think what Zizek is talking about here about the
> 'passion for the Real' is an interesting point, its
> something that Virilio talks about extensively as
> well, in his conceptions of 'popular defense'.
> Basically what I see as interesting about this is the
> critique of technological mediation that it implies,
> and what this means about the kind of society we live
> in; for instance as Virilio asks, how much more
> violence and bloodshed are people willing to inflict
> from behind the safety of a remote computer screen, or
> from an aircraft carrier? In face to face combat at
> least, 

Who are we talking about now? 9/11 was certainly
"technologically mediated." Suicide bombing, whatever
else you think about it, is not "face to face combat."

> both he and Zizek argue, the combatant at least
> has to experience every aspect of what is taking
> place, there is no simple, privileged, comfortable
> escape like there is when you are on the side that
> controls the entirety of the technological apparatus
> (ICBMs, spy satellite systems, total information
> awareness, etc.). You ask if this passion for the Real
> leads away from anarchist values, I think you are
> right that in Zizek's hands it certainly does (since
> he is a Leninist), but in Virilio's it does not (since
> he is an anarchist), which is why I prefer the latter
> of the two, but am willing to learn from the former.<<

I didn't say that a "passion for the real" "leads away
from anarchist values." I said that it is an insufficient
measure of value, in and of itself. The tendency to
valorize rupture can lead down some strange ethical
roads. (I'm working on this question in another piece,
so i'll come back to it there.)

> But the question of what happened in Yugoslavia is
> not one that can be answered by recourse to categories
> like "Jew," "Christian," or "Muslim," or by simple
> recourse to greater or lesser degrees of
> "tolerance."...That doesn't change the fact that a
> recourse to dogmatic, "fundamental" beliefs seems to
> have eased to the road to human catastrophe.
> 
> <<But as interesting as that subject may be, it was
> not what we were talking about, we were talking about
> whether Islamic fundamentalism is really as oppressive
> as it is understood to be by those of us who are
> outside of it - and here, Zizek, like Katsiaficas, has
> shown that in fact Islamic fundamentalism has
> historically been far more tolerant of Jews than has
> Christianity.<<

My turn to talk about context, and about the fact that
the Yugoslav situation is obviously, explicitly, and
quite naturally a part of Zizek's discourse on 
fundamentalism and Islam. I'm not taking issue
with Zizek's general assertion about tolerance among
these groups. Instead, i'm trying to raise the issue
of whether - *precisely* given the internal plurality
of these groups (starting with the presence of all the
various inheritance strategies i identified among each
group, and getting vastly more complicated from there)-
talk about relative levels of tolerance gets us anywhere.

And Zizek was *not* making the argument that "Islamic 
**fundamentalism** has historically been far more 
tolerant." Islam has been tolerant - broadly speaking -
and Islam has been misidentified as "fundamentalist."
We don't get any closer to talking about actual 
fundamentalism in Islam, and the relation between 
fundamentalism and tolerance. The interest of the
Yugoslav situation in this context is the rapid shift
from broad tolerance to intolerance and conflict. The
answers are likely to be found in the *content* and
"forms of inheritance" of the various faiths, with 
attention to changes as the climate of tolerance 
changed. 

> There is, i think, some value in noting 
> that there are in the world: 
> 
> 1) Real fundamentalists, who rely for key elements 
> of there direction in life on what they believe are
> divinely inspired, inerrant doctrines or text. These
> may put forth principles that inspire tolerance 
> towards others, or they may inspire holy war. What
> they clearly don't inspire is radical nonconformity.
> Coexistence with these real fundamentalists may be
> possible and desirable, for currently existing 
> political formations or for anarchist societies. 
> That won't be determined by fundamentalism per se,
> but by the content of the fundamentals. 
> 
> <<agreed, but part of being really free, even in the
> anarchist sense, is the freedom to willfully choose to
> live in what others might consider 'conformist' forms
> of life, such as Islamic fundamentalism - if we agree
> on that then apparently we agree on your whole
> point.<<

Sure, one can choose to obey and conform - really 
conform, not just "be considered" conformist. Folks 
can and have abdicated responsibility and much of 
their agency. People have some sort of "right" to
yoke themselves to authoritarian systems. And at 
some level anarchists should "respect that right."
It doesn't mean we don't want a world where nobody
feels that that sort of personal abdication is the
best choice. 
 
> 2) Folks identified as "fundamentalist" because they
> have beliefs that appear outside the range of 
> possibility in our own cultures. To the extent that
> these people do not actually espouse a recourse to
> fundamentals, we would certainly be doing a good 
> thing by correcting and clarifying the mistaken
> perception of them as "fundamentalists."
> 
> <<okay...<<

If that's "okay" to the distinction being made 
between actually-existing-fundamentalists-acting-
out-their-fundamentalism and folks we just call
"fundamentalist" because we don't know what they
really believe and value, then maybe we're getting
somewhere. At the very least, we can rephrase the
original question as two questions: How do we feel
about "coexistence" with the first group? How about
the second? 

-shawn

> 
> Jason
> 
> 
> 


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