Antigram nails it:
“I agree with Zizek,” writes Jodi Dean, IJZS board member, and author most recently of the book Zizek’s Politics. “There won’t be a left politics adequate to neoliberalism until we are willing to give up its pleasures…. we will continue to remain complicit in [its] horrifying crimes… until we have the discipline to sacrifice our enjoyment of it.”
As Jodi understands it “[t]he left can’t provide strong alternatives to capitalism because it enjoys it – and because it doesn’t want to lose this enjoyment or take responsibility for denying enjoyment to others.” In other words: the task at hand for the contemporary Left is to take on, and accept, responsibility for denying enjoyment to ourselves and others.
Now, there are in fact several reasons to doubt that this curious (moral) imperative provides any kind of (political) solution. But let us stick with just one: the strictly conceptual one. As BDSM fans and puritanical Christians, amongst others, have long clearly recognized, discipline and enjoyment are deeply entwined. As Lacan might have put it, they form a Möbius strip. The essential point is: they are not opposed. From Saint Anthony to contemporary vegans, there has always been great pleasure to be had from the renunciation of pleasure, deep enjoyment to be derived from the sacrifice of enjoyment. Thus one cannot reasonably call for the former against the latter – as Zizek does in his 300 article – and thereby believe oneself to be taking a serious political position.
Read the rest here.
In a somewhat related connection, others might be interested in tracking down Postone’s Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory for an alternative perspective on these issues. This work was first suggested to me by N.Pepperell of Rough Theory, and is well worth a glance. One, among the numerious themes dealt with in this text, is the issue of Marxist criticism aiming not simply at distrubition, but at production as well. As Postone understands it, one of the central problems of traditional Marxism was the view that overturning capitalism entailed overturning a certain order of distribution, while leaving the mode of production intact. Postone contends that classical Marxists have tended to dehistoricize production, thereby failing to see how contemporary modes of production are historically contingent and therefore can be otherwise. Put crudely as time does not permit me to elaborate at the moment, we are not simply “alienated” in a particular system of distribution, but are “alienated” by the very form of capitalist production. How does all this relate? When I hear calls to give up enjoyment such as they are issuing from Jodi Dean or Zizek, I hear the thesis that somehow social change should consist in rendering our living conditions even more intolerable than they currently are. Why is this a form of social transformation that anyone should desire? To put it in crude and less than trendy-jargonistic terms, if social transformation does not lead to better work and living conditions, better, more equitable, more just, more satisfying, and more meaningful ways of relating to one another, more freedom to pursue our desires and cultivate ourselves, why should these forms of social transformation be desired at all?
I only have two objections to Antigram’s post. First, he doesn’t list Spinoza among the demystifiers of value at the end, when discussing Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx; and second I have to sign up for a Google account to post on his blog.