November 11, 2008

Disavowal, left and right


    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." I know very well, but still: this is the classic formulation of disavowal. - Judith Butler on Obama (via)

Yet there is a great difference between the two forms of disavowal - the right wing disavowal is pragmatic. In fact it is questionable whether it is disavowal at all so much as a weighing up of perceived costs and benefits. In any case, it is not a fetishist disavowal in that it doesn't take the form of acknowledging facts only to act as if they were not the case. "Facts" are acknowledged, but they are deemed to be of less significance than other considerations. That they are not "facts" at all highlights another key difference between these forms of denial: for the right wing disavowal, fantasy lies on the side of the "facts" ("Obama is a Muslim and a terrorist"); for the left, fantasy is on the side of the affirmation "he is our redemption". That is why the leftist disavowal is certainly of the fetishist type - the point being that "selling out Palestine" really does contradict "redemption" while "being a terrorist" does not preclude Obama being "better for the economy". The leftist formula is properly fantasmatic in that it is an affirmation made in spite of the facts, while the right wing disavowal probably indicates the realignment of political priorities which allowed Obama to win: a new willingness to set aside the neoconservative agenda, while maintaining the commitment to neoliberalism.

Posted by mark at November 11, 2008 10:47 AM | TrackBack