Monday, April 30, 2012
#killing the buddha
Killing the Buddha have reproduced Nathan Sneider’s “No Revolution Without Religion: Why the Occupy Movement Needs to Occupy Religion” from n+1’s Occupy! The OWS-Inspired Gazette (issue 4).
There was a flash of wisdom in Occupy Wall Street’s controversial and otherwise unsuccessful attempt to occupy a plot of land owned by Trinity Church on December 17 of last year: if the movement is going to last much longer, it is going to have to occupy, and be supported by, faith. By “faith” I mean religion—the more organized the better. “Hey, church,” one could almost hear the Occupiers saying, as they mounted the giant yellow ladder over the fence and dropped down on the other side, “act like a church.” And, this being just a month after the eviction from Zuccotti Park, “We need you.”
The Occupy movement has been largely a white, urban phenomenon, and one with a bit of a tendency toward vanguardism, which makes it not entirely surprising that it’s often blind to the fact that there is no force more potentially revolutionary in U.S. history or in the country today than religion. But the movement remains oblivious to this fact at its own peril. You who are blind, see.
On the other side of the Atlantic, left intellectuals have been starting to discover what they have to learn from religion about revolution. Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou, and Giorgio Agamben have all written about the apostle Paul in recent years: he stood at the intersection of Judaism and Christianity and was the architect of an underground movement that eventually subsumed the Roman Empire. During the early days on Liberty Plaza, actually, I felt like I was witnessing a glimpse of how Paul described his early church: the holding of all things in common, a single-minded asceticism, and local cells miraculously spreading throughout the known world. Living in societies far less religious than ours, thinkers on the European left are realizing that the loss of religious imagination can mean losing the capacity to imagine and take steps toward a radically different kind of society.
Read the rest here.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
"…it is not enough to reject the depoliticized expert rule as the most ruthless form of ideology; one should also begin to think seriously about what to propose instead of the predominant economic organization, to imagine and experiment with alternate forms of organization, to search for the germs of the New. Communism is not just or predominantly the carnival of the mass protest when the system is brought to a halt; Communism is also, above all, a new form of organization, discipline, hard work."
Slavoj Zizek, “Occupy Wall Street: What is to be Done Next?” The Guardian, Apr 24 2012.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Salvation in the End Times
I’ve just submitted a paper to Alternative Salvations at the University of Chester in September. It’s entitled, “Salvation in the End Times: Christianity, Class Struggle, and the Politics of Identity Suspension” and here’s the abstract:
‘“There are no Greeks or Jews… there are only Christians and the enemies of Christianity!” Or, as we would have to put it today: there are only those who fight for emancipation and their reactionary opponents; the people and the enemies of the people.’ ̶ ̶ ̶ Slavoj Žižek
If we are ‘living in the end times’, as Žižek has suggested, do these times bear witness to the end of God, such that the end times are atheist times? Or might the absence of God be a witness to salvation history? Might the death of God mean the secularization of salvation as emancipation and the foundation of the Holy Spirit as a revolutionary ‘fighting collective’?
I have argued that this collective not only cuts across biological, social and political divisions within the symbolic order, but also across distinctions between theism and atheism. In this paper, I begin to examine the implications of the ‘a/theistic’ practice of ‘suspended space’, in which the suspension of identity enables participants to imagine emancipatory ways of living and being. I ask whether this practice represents a suspension of identity politics and return to class struggle – what I call an a/theological ‘politics of identity suspension’.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 3)
#atheism for lent
In the opening paragraphs of one of his earliest philosophical essays, Marx writes that ‘[a]s far as Germany is concerned, the criticism of religion is essentially complete, and the criticism of religion is the presupposition of all criticism’ (“Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”). Merold Westphal explains that, here, Marx asserts that the critique of religion offered by philosophers like Feuerbach ‘has gone as far as it can go while concerning itself merely with religion’, and that it must now ‘go on to play its proper role’ (Suspicion and Faith, p.136); namely, as illustrative of the critique of ideology more generally.
When Marx writes in the same early essay that ‘man has found in the imaginary reality of heaven where he looked for a superman only the reflection of his own self’, he deduces that humanity ‘must seek his true reality’ elsewhere. Since religion is, for Marx, a ‘general theory of the world’, the world’s ‘logic in popular form’, its ‘moral sanction’ and ‘universal basis for consolation and justification’, he concludes that, ‘the struggle against religion is indirectly the struggle against the world whose spiritual aroma [i.e. deodorant] is religion’.
This is why he writes that the critique of religion presupposes all criticism, since ‘[t]he criticism of religion ends with the doctrine that man is the highest being for man, that is, with the categorical imperative to overthrow all circumstances in which man is humiliated, enslaved, abandoned, and despised’ (Marx, Selected Writings, p.69).
This means that the critique of religion must play its proper role in the critique of the world as it is currently socially, politically and economically ordered.
Lessons from History for the Occupy Movement
Last Thursday, Sim and I went to a small group discussion of the 1973 Chilean coup d’etat that ended the presidency of Salvador Allende on “the other 9/11.”
One of the participants emphasised that Chile is the perfect example of how just getting a socialist government democratically elected is not enough to transform society in any lasting way. As the group discussed the history of the Chilean revolution, it emerged that Allende’s government had attempted to appease the generals earlier that year by, for example, bringing some of them into his cabinet. This strategy of placation clearly didn’t work, ending in the military coup of September 11 1973 and Allende’s death.
We also learned that one of the strategies in place in Chile to deal with student protests today is the conscription of youth into the military, which, as another participant commented, seems to be a dangerous strategy (dangerous for the dictarship, that is) because such a conscription means that the rank and file of the state apparatus (military and police) are drawn from the same social strata as the protestors. And we wondered whether this commonality between the military, police, and protestors was the reason that the army in Tunisia and Egypt, for example, refused to use force on the protestors.
If the military and the police exist (along with the judicial courts) to prop up the State, then lessons from Chile suggest that the Revolution should seek not to appease the military establishment but to win the rank and file of the military and the police to the Cause. They will then refuse to fire on protestors, refuse to use tear gas and flash grenades, and, in this way, refuse to be the instruments of the State and the Status Quo.
Could the Occupy Movement learn from these reflections on the relationship between the Revolution and the State Apparatus? Especially in light of the violence of Oakland Police Force against protestors in California?
What does the Occupy Movement need to do to win the police and the military to the Cause?