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Sunday, 30 October 2011

A Crisis of Ideology.


Apart from the dire socio-economic consequences of the ongoing crisis the endemic contradictions of capitalism has led to a crisis of the prevailing ideology and the dust has yet to settle. As Terry Eagleton notes the tendency of market rationality runs towards the rationalist and materialist, as well as secular plurality, relativism and pragmatism. Naturally the forces of the market exert a subversive force on the metaphysical and ideological superstructure. Rather than question whether or not what we're saying meshes with what we're doing we might have to invoke the Virgin Mary at the World Bank. In the same way that Alan Greenspan took refuge as the crisis hit in the claim that it all down to human frailty, predatory instincts and so on. It is true that it was human behaviour which led to the crisis, but Greenspan resorted to this explanation only to protect the immaculate conception of free-market capitalism. The irony being that Alan Greenspan is an Objectivist dinosaur - a devotee of Ayn Rand - who buys into the virtues of selfishness.

The criminal assault on Vietnam and Indochina was a case in which there was an enormous gulf between the political justifications of the war and the grotesque details of the actions undertaken to devastate a country. It was claimed that the war was to combat and contain the spread of Communism, as the red flag was flying in North Vietnam and so the US embarked on a noble mission to fend off the tentacles of Communism - it then began bombing South Vietnam. The US had blocked every attempt at a peaceful settlement in the 1950s and installed the Diem regime in South Vietnam. As the Diem regime aroused resistance to it as it slaughtered around 70,000 people and in reaction to the resistance the Kennedy administration invaded South Vietnam. Even though he knew better Lyndon B Johnson continued with the line that "We have to stop the Communists over there [Vietnam] or we'll soon be fighting them in California." This was not enough after so many years spent bombing the country the ideological fissure was torn open with the wave of student activism.


A ideological crisis can emerge in the midst of a performative contradiction between what you're doing and how you explain those actions to yourself. To account for the gap there is a need for a new discourse complete with a theoretical understanding of the situation and the potential to establish a new orthodoxy. As the system requires new theories to justify itself and strengthen the ideological apparatus it seems to be struggling in it's desperate search for any such means of defence. The media has yet to find a narrative which could fill the void which has been opened up as political power came to the rescue of the financial colossus to which David Cameron and Barack Obama are bound almost as slaves. It was unthinkable that the banks should be allowed to collapse, it was a forced decision which no one can rightly oppose. But it seems that the system has lost it's sheath of market fundamentalism out of its own pragmatism. The utopia of the market has been stripped down for all to see, it is difficult to see how the system could ever double back on itself.

Today it is still rare to hear of the horrific details of the Vietnam War in spite of the memory of the demonstrations against it lives on. The objectives of the war will never be acknowledged in the media. The virus of independence and development in Vietnam had to be killed, and the region had to be inoculated, in order to preserve the accomplishments of the US in the Second World War. The virus might have spread to Thailand and Indonesia, then Japan might have to accommodate to an independent East Asian bloc and would no doubt become it's industrial heartland. The US aimed to maintain the Japanese empire under American control, the rise of Communism in China and Korea undermined these aims. The wars in Vietnam and Korea were fought for the same reason that the US installed Suharto in Indonesia. There are no apologies for the crimes, certainly no reparations and not even any recognition of the barbarism unleashed upon Indochina. Rather it has been swept under the rug as a noble quest which went awry and possibly an atrocity necessary in the Cold War which we will not repeat in this post-political world.

The system has lost the automatic claim to legitimacy, as Slavoj Žižek points out, the field is open in this time of crisis as the prevailing ideology has been disturbed. The limitations and perversions of the system can be seen publicly, we can see the desperate need for an alternative and we know not of an alternative. But this is not the basis for the system's legitimacy as the Thatcherites claimed. The greatest utopian belief is that the system of capitalism can go on indefinitely. Infinite growth in a world of finite resources is a fantasy even if you believe global warming is a liberal hoax cooked up to sell carbon credits to corporations and make you pay the congestion charge. There is a need for another kind of utopianism, not in the sense of the ideal society which ca never be realised but as a new space created out of the innermost urgency for survival. It is the way out we are forced to imagine by the impossibility of circumstances, which cannot be resolved within the coordinates of the possible. As Lenin said "There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen." Right now, we need to make decades to happen!


4 comments:

hPrincen said...

love this: "The media has yet to find a narrative which could fill the void which has been opened up as political power came to the rescue of the financial colossus to which David Cameron and Barack Obama are bound almost as slaves. It was unthinkable that the banks should be allowed to collapse, it was a forced decision which no one can rightly oppose. "

hPrincen said...

I love this: "The media has yet to find a narrative which could fill the void which has been opened up as political power came to the rescue of the financial colossus to which David Cameron and Barack Obama are bound almost as slaves. It was unthinkable that the banks should be allowed to collapse, it was a forced decision which no one can rightly oppose."

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Whitey said...

You can follow my blog updates via Twitter @PhilistiaLiving.