Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Over at I cite, Jodi Dean has posted about Nazism and neoconservatism. Not to conflate the two, but to present a possible homology between them.

In brief, Jodi takes from Zizek the notion that Nazi anti-semitism should be read as a displaced class politics. And she goes on to suggest that the contemporary neoconservative discourse on class could be read similarly, but as a displaced politics of race.

There are various ways one could take this. Foucault's discussion of a primary race conflict in "Society Must Be Defended" also comes to mind. But as I suggested briefly in the comments to Jodi's post, it's tempting to see it as an instance of (perhaps posthegemonic) inversion.

The Nazi substitution of race for class is, then, a classic ideological substitution. Rather than admit the threat of working class disruption to capital accumulation, a populist cross-class alliance is constructed through opposition to the figure of the Jew as scapegoat. Obviously, pinning the blame for Germany's economic woes on the Jews is a fantasy (ultimately genocidal, but still a fantasy), yet to the extent that this fantasy encodes some aspect of real economic conditions and struggles, then it secures popular consent. Hegemony.

(After all, ideology is never purely arbitrary. Think of Roberto Schwarz's definition of ideology as a system of representation "well grounded in appearances" [Misplaced Ideas 23]. It is the fact that ideology is a displaced account of some real struggle that makes it a description of reality, albeit a "false" description.)

But in neoconservatism, in Jodi's account, this relationship between ideology and economy, base and superstructure, has been inverted. Class politics is out in the open: there's no attempt to hide the ways in which the Bush regime favours the rich; everyone knows that the Iraq war, for instance, was driven by economic interests. There is, apparently, no ideology... Posthegemony. Except that, Jodi suggests, there is. But it is hidden. Indeed, the reason why capital can flaunt its workings so openly is that this "true" description of reality stands in for the false one, stands in for the ideology of racial hatred.

So, where once ideology stood in for the real interests of the dominant, securing the consent of the dominated by obscuring the fact of their domination, now the truth of domination is out in the open, because only thereby can (the dominated's?) ideological fantasies remain hidden.

Now, frankly, I'm not sure how much of this I buy. It definitely goes against the grain of what I'm trying to elaborate as posthegemony theory. But I thought it was worth sketching out because it is at least neat, and allows for a Zizekian enjoyment of the counterintuitive.

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