In an amusing facebook post Creston Davis remarks that “ideology is closer than our underwear”. In light of the demoralizing discussion I’ve been having with Ross in comments (not because of Ross, but just because of the situation), this got me wondering whether the left wouldn’t do better to produce ideology rather than critique ideology. Ross writes,
The only realistic path to fundamentally transform society lies in reconstituting a strong international Leftist (Marxist) current in the most advanced capitalist countries (i.e., Europe, North America).
I don’t know if I agree with the restriction of such a project to the most advanced capitalist countries, but I largely agree with his sentiment overall. The question is one of how, precisely, it is possible to do this. Insofar as, following Creston, ideology is closer than our underwear, how precisely do we go about creating a strong leftist current? The right worked for decades to create strong rightwing consensus. They accomplished this success by capturing a number of media outlets, forming think tanks, and seeding the world of social communication with all sorts of memes that became unconscious common sense or “obvious” throughout the world.
There’s a way in which the critique of ideology, while having an important place, is doomed to be reactive, such that ground is perpetually ceded to the right. The right proposes, the left disposes. As a consequence, the left perpetually follows behind the right because it must await the “proposals” of the right before it can dispose. Meanwhile, in the ever receding logic of objet a or a game of “hunt the snipe”, the right is always elsewhere once critique has done its work. As a consequence, the terrain of battle becomes perpetually defined by the right. The right ends up defining the contours or parameters of discussion such that we get a rightwing sensus communis structuring the social field.
As both later Sartre and Badiou recognized, the only way to produce change is through the production of collectives or subject-groups capable of lifting us out of seriality. Yet the only way to produce collectives is through the formation of a sensus communis. This means that questions of the distribution of meanings, of ideological sequences, is crucial to any leftist project. It means that questions of “the sense of the world”, to quote Nancy’s term, are central to leftist political engagement. A recognition of this, I believe, is why thinkers like Badiou and Zizek have, of late, been so interested in the figure of Saint Paul. Yet such questions of distribution cannot simply focus on what senses are distributed, but must also focus on strategies of distribution. Enough for now.