Friday, September 24, 2010

Class and Crisis, notes

Gary Tedman

A class doesn't necessarily know what its own interests are, but it acts on its own interests, or what it thinks they are. A class doesn't have a consciousness of its own and nor does it have an unconscious, but it acts as if it had both. The unconsciousness of a class is its underlying tendency or direction, the consciousness of a class is what it says it is going to do, its media and press. We have no name for these two things but I would venture the aesthetic level and the ideological level can be useful as terms for them. What a class feels (aesthetic level, and shows in its affective practices) is never as one lump, in unison, it is always compromised and contradicted, but history can usually show how a class has felt in general instead of what it said about itself, or what its ideologists said about it, and the two things are often different. It is only in the modern period that it is possible for a class to have a precise consciousness of its real feelings and movement (with Marx), but this is a rare happening because of the forces against such a knowledge. In modern times it is considered to be a benefit not to have any exact knowledge of the true nature of the movement of classes and their desires, and the economy must remain a force beyond human control, be 'free'. In this strange world where knowledge and the control it can bring is considered a bad thing (except in the technical sense of the progress of science), 'consciousness' is hailed as the only good. Not the consciousness of self awareness of one's own feelings, but superficial delusions about the deeper movements at work, the type of consciousness that sees itself as the captain of its soul, and to be entirely without an unconscious. Thus in the present crisis we are trapped in a dualistic discourse about cuts versus spending within the capitalist economy, which lead, because they are either stupid cuts and/or daft spending, to the same place and an exacerbation of the crisis, and no mention is of course made of the big alternative to capitalism, genuine socialism, which might actually be the only thing to save us from total meltdown. This cannot even be thought in any serious way, it is the veritable unthinkable. So we seem to be all confined to the same narrative as in the last great global capitalist depression, and to be going to the same terrible place. It seems almost inevitable, impossible to arrest this movement, to go against this tide. We see demonstrations and protests but that is all they are, voices. How many need to protest before notice is taken? One might imagine the entire US out in protest, even the President himself, but still the same inexorable progress to doom continues to unfold when everyone returns to their work, or lack of it. Is there something about the social structure that needs to be broken before change can happen, or is the structure being broken itself by its own contradictions, and we are struggling to keep up with these breakages? The latter seems to be more the case these last few months of the crisis.

1 comment:

Thomas Riggins said...

Perhaps the people are just waiting for someone to openly preach the virtues of socialism and the possibility of a new society while those who should be doing this have themselves loss their nerve and dither
on about this or that capitalist politician being better or worse than that one. Keep your eye on the prize is hard to do when you don't know what the prize is anymore.