Wednesday, November 30, 2011

complicity, again

As the articulations against the regime of debt becomes more pronounced, it is perhaps worthwhile to dwell for a minute on those things entailed but not enumerated (in statistics and percentages) by this regime. The culture of debt and indebtedness differs vastly from the culture of  guilt as Schuld in postwar Germany, yet I would like to draw out some of these continuities in light of an ethical and affective position that has held sway (shall we say, following the clinamen) since those times. Such a continuity is not, it should first be remarked, historical. Historically, and philosophically (with Nietzsche) there are other ways to track this conjuncture of debt and guilt marked otherwise with German Schuld. And these historical markers indicate that--of course--debt and Schuld and guilt all have specific contexts and contextual differences, But I would argue that there are a couple of (however jagged) lines connecting postwar guilt/debt to today`s version. These connections have been made, from Deleuze on, through the figure of the man-in-debt. On the side of guilt, however, it has been easier to renounce indications of this affect (as if we could file bankruptcy), as if guilt were merely voluntary or the effective mechanism of bad conscience. According to these ideas, guilt is an ethical problem, one which could be corrected by cognitive behavorial approaches to psychology. Of course this is not what Deleuze and Guattari intended when they renounced the validity of Freud`s findings about guilt. In Anti-Oedipus, they describe the function of Oedipus: ``The paranoic father Oedipalizes the son. Guilt is an idea projected by the father before it is an inner feeling experienced by the son. The first error of psychoanalysis is in acting as if things began with the child`` (275). The point about whether guilt is first an ``idea projected`` or a ``feeling`` establishes as primary the relative indistinction between guilt and complicity, between the ``feeling`` or ``sense`` of guilt and its ``projected idea.`` Exactly here, because nowhere else is it more clear: complicity expresses the contorted roles of the theater of cruelty which defines the notion of debt--the triad of voice, body, and eye--and does not ever allow these roles to be distilled from one another. There is no spectator who is not also a voice and a body--and this fundamental constellation of multiple relations within oneself is also always construed through personification.

It is important to understand that complicity entails this entire nexus--that perhaps it is a term that contains the double meaning of German Schuld because it involves the idea of the guilt of existence, of surviving, and the temporal structure of debt requires one`s permission for the extraction of one`s own labor. The fundamental aspect of this complicity--its self-destructiveness--is what is ultimately disavowed by those who claim that capitalism is the reality, the lesser of evils, the only viable economic system. The contradictions of this yet to be realized self-destructiveness call up not only as the ``cracks`` of higher ups, indicative of the ``time`` of revolution, but as signs of the weary resolution of those for whom revolution is imperceptible--the tense crumbling of regents` meetings and public lectures, Chancellor Linda Katehi`s deafening walk of silence, and images of onlooking police officers called in to raid occupy sites. These signs of the thoroughgoing self-destructiveness of the economic policies are not recognized by those involved. Instead, such self-destructive is experienced and felt as complicity. Being ``implicated`` has become the one sure sign that one is still alive, still ``there`` in the big sense, within the system.

It is precisely this feeling of aliveness that can be challenged through a comparison with the postwar regime of complicity. There, we can see how those who dwelt in the contradictions of these multiple positions--the voice, body, eye--took up in addition to the question of resistance (the political question of how to remain opposed, to remain an enemy of that which extracts you from your life) the question of what to do in the aporia of a subjectivity that no longer turned  into an objectivity, the collapse of disinterested liking. The question of how to ``refuse`` the system includes the problem of how to create a space for the experience of common, or universal, or objective feelings. This is the problem that occupied postwar thinkers, such as Adorno, Brecht, Bachmann, and Arendt, and it is one that continues to occupy others, such as Zehra Cirak, Denise Riley, Tiqqun, and Rosemarie Trockel, working to become unimplicated from the paradigm of postwar complicity that persists in our assumptions about what counts as effective ethical and political activity.

picture: Er-war-the, Juergen Walter (1984)

1 comment:

etc said...

or all that, here:

``Eventually, mutual helplessness, an apparently paradoxical
notion evoked in Marx’s forgotten statement in The Communist Manifesto
concerning the “mutual destruction of contending classes” at certain
historical conjunctures, and in consequence the annihilation of politics
itself, finds its highest pitch at the moment when, using the threat of death
or torture, the executioners and more generally the “masters” make the
victims, or certain of the victims, the (eventually zealous) instruments of
the annihilation, subjection, and abjection of their intimates (17).``
--Etienne Balibar, ``Violence and Civility:
On the Limits of Political Anthropology``