Perhaps it could be said that politics is that which occurs at that precise moment that we learn to count to Two. If this were the case, then it would follow that not everything is political. Everything can become political, but politics is something is something that must be made to be. When is it made to be? When, as Badiou put it, the One becomes Two. Politics is that which emerges when irreducible antagonism, the Real in the Lacanian sense, appears. It is when we cease seeing ourselves aligned, as sharing the same interests, and sharing the same goals that the political comes into being. The rest of the time we just have governance. What is governance? It is the formation of the State. And what is the State? It is that set of mechanisms devoted to the erasure of the Two and the formation of the One. In this respect, the State is not exhausted by government. We find the State among the media, among rhetoricians that call for unity and kumbaya, and everywhere we are told we are One. The State is devoted to the erasure of politics.
This thesis can be illustrated through reference to Zizek’s analysis of Levi-Strauss’s essay “Do Dual Organizations Exist?” in The Parallax View When members of a particular tribe are asked to draw their village all of them draw a circle. However, some members of the tribe, living on the periphery of the village, drew a smaller inner circle. They discern a different structure of organization within the village. Where those who draw a single circle discern the tribe as embodying the One where everyone’s interests are aligned and where everyone is working for the same goals which contribute to the flourishing of everyone, the second group discerns Two; the existence of hierarchy and a system of privilege. The village is organized around the antagonism between those at the center and the periphery. It is ineluctably fractured by the Two.
What is interesting here, Zizek notes, is that the first group– we can refer to it as “first-politics” –cannot even discern the Two of their village. They are completely outside what we might call “second-politics”. Here One and Two should not be understood in cardinal terms, but rather are ordinalities: First. Second. The Second is not made up of two firsts, but is itself an absolute position that differs irreducibly from the First and vice versa. Zizek is careful to note that this is not a facile relativism where the world is this way for the firsts and that way for the seconds. Rather, this very “difference in perspective” is the essence of the Real in the social order. The Second is constitutively invisible to the First. Like the famous duck-rabbit, you can either see a duck or see a rabbit, but you can never see a duck and a rabbit at once, nor can you see duck-rabbitness. In this regard, those who decry antagonism and struggle, calling for us to all get along because, after all, we all want the same things, reveal themselves no as unifiers, but rather as First-worlders. Their aim is to erase the Wrong or antagonism that fractures the social system. They are engaged in acts of “One-ification” that veil the fracture at the heart of the social in the interests of those that occupy the center of the dual organization. Perhaps the most elementary gesture of the First-worlders lies in denying that there is antagonism, in covering over antagonism, in presenting a world where there is no difference. This, perhaps, is why politics is so difficult. It requires surmounting all of that fog that creates the illusion of the One and addressing those that still live in the First-world and who are therefore blind to the Two.