A triumvirate of nerds philosophers dims the post-election afterglow…

17 Nov

Simon Critchley

“Obama’s politics is governed by an anti-political fantasy. It is the call to find common ground, [to] put aside our differences and achieve union. Obama’s politics is governed by a longing for unity, for community, for communion and the common good. The remedy to the widespread disillusion with Bush’s partisan politics is a reaffirmation of the founding act of the United States, the hope of the more perfect union expressed in the opening sentence of the US Constitution. It is a powerful moral strategy whose appeal to the common good attempts to draw a veil over the agonism and power relations constitutive of political life. The great lie of moralism in politics is that it attempts to deny the fact of power by concealing it under an anti-political veneer. At the same time, moralism engages in the most brutal and bruising political activity. But the reality of this activity is always disavowed along with any and all forms of partisanship. Moralistic politics is essentially hypocritical.

Yet, what is most hypocritical, of course, is the talk of change.”


Judith Butler

“…many of us “set aside” our concerns in order to enjoy the extreme un-ambivalence of this moment, risking an uncritical exuberance even when we know better. Obama is, after all, hardly a leftist, regardless of the attributions of “socialism” proffered by his conservative opponents. In what ways will his actions be constrained by party politics, economic interests, and state power; in what ways have they been compromised already? If we seek through this presidency to overcome a sense of dissonance, then we will have jettisoned critical politics in favor of an exuberance whose phantasmatic dimensions will prove consequential. Maybe we cannot avoid this phantasmatic moment, but let us be mindful about how temporary it is. If there are avowed racists who have said, “I know that he is a Muslim and a terrorist, but I will vote for him anyway,” there are surely also people on the left who say, “I know that he has sold out gay rights and Palestine, but he is still our redemption.””


Slavoj Zizek

“Obama’s victory is not just another shift in the eternal parliamentary struggle for a majority, with all the pragmatic calculations and manipulations that involves. It is a sign of something more…A sign in which the memory of the long past of slavery and the struggle for its abolition reverberates; an event which now demonstrates a change; a hope for future achievements…The paradigmatic cynic tells you confidentially: ‘But don’t you see that it is all really about money/power/sex, that professions of principle or value are just empty phrases which count for nothing?’ What the cynics don’t see is their own naivety, the naivety of their cynical wisdom which ignores the power of illusions.

[But t]he true battle begins now…Nothing was decided with Obama’s victory, but it widens our freedom and thereby the scope of our decisions. No matter what happens, it will remain a sign of hope in our otherwise dark times, a sign that the last word does not belong to realistic cynics, from the left or the right.”

…and just for good measure, two journalists:

Christopher Hitchens

“The recognition of these obvious points should also alert us to a related danger, which is the cousinhood of euphoria and hysteria. Those who think that they have just voted to legalize Utopia (and I hardly exaggerate when I say this; have you been reading the moist and trusting comments of our commentariat?) are preparing for a disillusionment that I very much doubt they will blame on themselves. The national Treasury is an echoing, empty vault; our Russian and Iranian enemies are acting even more wolfishly even as they sense a repudiation of Bush-Cheney; the lines of jobless and evicted are going to lengthen, and I don’t think a diet of hope is going to cover it. Nor even a diet of audacity, though can you picture anything less audacious than the gray, safety-first figures who have so far been chosen by Obama to be on his team?”


and Eduardo Galeano

“Once President, will Obama, who supported the recent gift of $700 billion to the banking industry, continue the usual practice of privatizing profits while socializing losses?

I fear that he will, though I hope that he won’t.

Will Obama sign and abide by the Kyoto agreement, or will he continue to allow the biggest polluter on the planet to pollute with impunity? Will he govern for people, or for automobiles? Will he shift the devastating course of a way of life in which the few steal the destiny of the many?

I fear he won’t, though I hope he will.”

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3 Responses to “A triumvirate of nerds philosophers dims the post-election afterglow…”

  1. astrosa November 17, 2008 at 6:55 pm #

    excellent – thank you

  2. Al-Kantabi November 23, 2008 at 4:32 pm #

    “our Russian and Iranian enemies are acting even more wolfishly even as they sense a repudiation of Bush-Cheney”

    Oh Christopher Hitchens, ever the fascist.

  3. malaflictus November 23, 2008 at 10:39 pm #

    I think that the vale of hope has been lifted with the appointees the Obama has made, so much for no lobbyist and change!

    Al Aguero

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