The Culturalization of Politics

#study-circle-reading Slavoj Zizek #paraphrased

"Why are so many problems today perceived as problems of intolerance, rather than as problems of inequality, exploitation, or injustice?"

"The immediate answer lies in the liberal multiculturalist's basic ideological operation: the culturisation of politics"

"Political differences — differences conditioned by political inequality or economic exploitation — are naturalised and neutralised into "cultural" differences, that is, into different "ways of life" which are something given, something that cannot be overcome."

"This demands a response in the terms Walter Benjamin offers: from culturalisation of politics to politicisation of culture."

"The basic opposition on which the entire liberal vision relies is that between those who are ruled by culture, totally determined by the lifeworld into which they are born, and those who merely "enjoy" their culture, who are elevated above it, free to choose it."

"This brings us to the next paradox: the ultimate source of barbarism is culture itself, one's direct identification with a particular culture, which renders one intolerant towards other cultures, while it is the individual who is universal, the site of universality, insofar as she extricates herself from and elevates herself above her particular culture."

"Since, however, every individual has to be somehow particularised, has to dwell in a particular lifeworld, the only way to resolve this deadlock is to split the individual into universal and particular, public and private"

"In liberalism, culture survives, but as privatised: as a way of life, a set of beliefs and practices, not the public network of norms and rules. Culture is transubstantiated: the same sets of beliefs and practices change from the binding power of a collective into an expression of personal and private idiosyncrasies."

"The philosophical underpinning of this ideology of the universal liberal subject is the Cartesian subject. This subject is conceived of as capable of stepping outside his particular cultural/social roots and asserting his full autonomy and universality."

"The grounding experience of Descartes's position of universal doubt is precisely a "multicultural" experience of how one's own tradition is no better than what appears to use the "eccentric traditions of others ... This is why, for a Cartesian philosopher, ethnic roots, national identity, and so on are simply not a category of truth."

"To put it in precise Kantian terms, when we reflect upon our ethnic roots, we engage in a private use of reason, constrained by contingent dogmatic presuppositionsm that is we act as "immature" individuals, not as free human beings who dwell in the dimension of the universality of reason."

"the private is the space of our idiosyncrasies, where creativity and wild imagination rule and moral considerations are (almost) suspended, while the public is the space of social interaction, where we should obey the rules so that we do not hurt others;"

"Since, in our societies, a gendered division of labour still predominates which confers a male twist on basic liberal categories (autonomy, public activity, competition) and relegates women to the private sphere of family solidarity, liberalism itself in its opposition of private and public, harbours male dominance."

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