So I’ve been reading Mark Fisher’s “Capitalist Realism” the last few days, and was struck by his, or more precisely Wendy Brown’s, analysis of the implicit contradictions between the political ideologies of neoconservatism and neoliberalism. That is, how has American culture so easily integrated a cultural ideology of strict moral foundations and psychological repression with a political ideology built upon the destruction of tradition and the deregulation of desire?
What I find most prescient about Fisher’s analysis is his insistence on how the big Other simply intends potential political subjects to simply “turn away” from these obvious inconsistencies – we are told to focus more on consumption and let the big boys handle the rest. Even so, this is not the whole story: and this is what brings me to the recent debate concerning immigration in the US.
Setting aside the actual content of the debate, what interests me most are the reasons given by Christians in favor of the Arizona bill; often times, a simple dissection is all that is necessary: government has one job, and the church (or Christians) have another. What this boils down to is that government must keep us safe, financially flexible and relatively healthy by (almost) any means necessary, whereas Christians are meant to follow a Sermon-on-the-Mount styled personal life – caring for others, showing no partiality, etc. Obviously, whats lost in all this is that by allowing the government to be the guy who does the dirty work for us, we immediately eradicate any and all large scale opportunities to care for others without partiality! In essence, this whole dog-and-pony show is nothing but a way to throw a smokescreen over the fact that we Christians really enjoy the outcomes of class conflict in our current situation because we benefit so abundantly from them! We act as if we have absolutely no responsibility for the actions of a government that represents us.
To bring it back to Capitalist Realism, I can’t help but see that the privatization of belief has led us to a situation where we are implicitly told to keep our ideas of social development and progress to ourselves, to our own little communities, and allow a commonsense realism to be practiced at the macro-scale. Not only is this idea wholly contradictory (as the macro-commonsense realism disallows the micro-idealism from ever even being developed in practice), it also seems entirely unchristian. I’m no fan of evangelical atavism, but what happened to the long tradition of evangelical activism that dominated much of American social progress in the 19th and early 20th century? These things don’t even seem possible in the current climate. As Fisher often points out regarding possible alternatives to capitalist realism, the political imaginary seems completely alien to such a concept.
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – George Orwell