"But certainly ,for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to the essence...illusion only is sacred ,truth profane."
Fuerbach, Preface to The Essence of Christianity
I want to continue this line of inquiry into the rational or, as Lichanos put it in his last comment, the complimentary notion of "authentic". As concerns any kind of political project, including my own egalitarian, pluralist one, it seems necessary to deal with this tension between the authentic and the spectacle, the rational and the schizophrenic. If it is true, as Bishop Butler said, that "Everything is what it is and not another thing", why is it I have to use scare quotes when I use the term capitalist "democracy"? How is language mediating our understanding? and how is control over language then a key to understanding cultural hegemony, identity and agency?
For me to find a discursive agreement with someone who believes capitalist democracy is a perfectly legitimate, rational term (symbol, signifier) I would need to at least be able to articulate my own ironic use of the same term. I would need to be able to explain this separation and how his reality is to me an illusion. Lichanos asks how am I ( or Fuerbach) so privileged that I can discern the illusion from the thing itself? Does this "separation" also explain why the exploited "proletariat" cannot seem to recognize it's own rational interests and how their consent is "manufactured"? (a la Chomsky)
We can describe this inclination to believe that we believe the true and sensible things we do because they are true and sensible, while other people believe the foolish and outrageous things they do (death panels?) because there is something the matter with these people, as "epistemic self-privileging or asymmetry". I get it but you don't.But democracy requires at the least a symetry between contestants.
At the heart of cultural politics is that notion of hegemonic domination of the narrative, the normative "recieved knowledge" and ideological formation which follows. As Ben Harper puts it "Fight for you mind!" and the fight boils down to one over words. Accepting Frueds "talking cure" means accepting the "magical' property of words, their ability to draw on myth and emotion and trigger responses which can either be transformative or in the service of power and control. I have long maintained that the heart of this contest is not over the meaning of words like socialism, communism or anarchism but over the meaning of the word democracy. Arundahiti Roys new book, Field Notes on Democracy ,and Michael Moores new movie also acknowlege this site of struggle. The chant at the G20 protests in Pittsburgh is the all-too-familiar "This is what democracy looks like". Riot cops and Black Blocs in the street. Ministers and financiers in the marble halls.