Monday, June 21, 2010

On Cynical Reason

Reading Slavoj Žižek's "How did Marx Invent the Symptom?," and came upon the following passage useful for those who want to debunk the sometimes liberatory appeals of postmodernism as a cultural phenomenon, turn in intellectual thought, or symptom of Western provincialism. He writes:

"Cynical reason is no longer naive, but is a paradox of enlightened false consciousness: one knows the falsehood very well, one is well aware of a particular interest hidden behind an ideological universality, but still one does not renounce it."

The notion of cynical reason for Žižek supplements his attempts to renew questions of ideology (the notion of false-consciousness, the primary medium by which we are convinced to pursue interests not our own, i.e. that we believe working 40 hours a week says something about our character rather than reducing our life spans and quality of life by way of stress, etc.) suited to more contemporary circumstances.

For me there is something very useful in thinking about cynicism as the logic of a neoliberal era where capitalism continues to demonstrate its tendency to generate crisis, disaster, and senselessly eat up our lives but we continue to tacitly assent not only to its order, but also to the recommended ways of thinking, e.g. "the pursuit of self-interest by everyone produces the best social outcomes," and refuse to imagine beyond it. This social shift seems by no means total and to some degree isolated, but this notion is a usefully descriptive concept because actually international monetary policy pushed "cost-benefit analysis" in the poor in places like Bolivia (in this case contributing to unintended consequences).

No comments: