Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sectarian blues

Given the fact that "sectarianism" originates in the study of religious factions and the violence that sometimes characterizes their attitude to antagonistic groups, it's supremely ironic but no less revealing how the term is used by political ideologues of the "New Left" today: the position that capitalism is, as an economic system, subject to a number of laws that cannot be bent or changed at will or by fiat of "good intentions" is the primary target of accusations of "sectarianism." One is "sectarian" because one is indiscrete enough to remind others that "democracy" is as much the alternative to capitalism as scissors are an alternative to computers; it is "sectarian" to not pretend to ignore that a form of political administration can never be an "alternative" to a system of organizing production (which is why the slaveholding US of the American Revolution, for instance, was certainly anything but less "democratic" than its postbellum industrial or its post 1890s imperialist counterparts). It is "sectarian" to not pretend to ignore that "distributive justice" is severely limited by the determinate form of specific relations of production and can never transcend them. It is "sectarian" to remind others that "justice" itself is never independent of these relations as far as its actual content is concerned. It is "sectarian" to insist that an economy founded and regulated by the law of competition can never be changed as regards its nature and consequences by not wearing ties or by proclaiming the rights of transgendered persons, or by espousing ecological causes. It is "sectarian" to not pretend ignorance at the fact that a falling rate of profit can only be recouped through the intensification of the exploitation of labor or through the destruction of forces of production. And it is "sectarian" to argue against the possibility of a "conciliation" between labor and capital that does not take the form of the submission of the former but is somehow achieved through the good offices and dialogical finesse of an "open minded" and "impartial" enough Left government.

In short, "sectarianism" consists in the proclamation of the existence of regulatory laws specific to the economic realm which are not suspended or abolished by personal ethics, appealing posters, catchy slogans and heartfelt speeches, and which shape the form of imaginable political practices. It is a derisive word for "respect for science", which becomes unpalatable when it makes visible necessities the petty bourgeoisie wishes to obfuscate and mystify (sometimes, through the crackpot positing of some imaginary Quantum law of political and historical "indeterminacy"). "Sectarian" are those who refuse to invest petty bourgeois placebos and fetishes with the magical efficacy the petty bourgeoisie demands. They are precisely those who refuse to proclaim their faith to the regressively religious, pseudo-transcendental heart-on-its-sleeve mode of responding to reality that masquerades as "ethics", "philosophy", and "politics" today.

No comments:

Post a Comment