motion picture, it's called

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Evil Regimes and Mediocre Regimes

Le colonel chabert quoted from Alain Badiou:

"In truth, our leaders and propagandists know very well that liberal capitalism is an inegalitarian regime, unjust, and unacceptable for the vast majority of humanity. And they know too that our "democracy" is an illusion: Where is the power of the people? Where is the political power for third world peasants, the European working class, the poor everywhere? We live in a contradiction: a brutal state of affairs, profoundly inegalitarian–where all existence is evaluated in terms of money alone–is presented to us as ideal. To justify their conservatism, the partisans of the established order cannot really call it ideal or wonderful. So instead, they have decided to say that all the rest is horrible. Sure, they say, we may not live in a condition of perfect Goodness. But we're lucky that we don't live in a condition of Evil. Our democracy is not perfect. But it's better than the bloody dictatorships....That's why the idea of Evil has become essential. No intellectual will actually defend the brutal power of money and the accompanying political disdain for the disenfranchised, or for manual laborers, but many agree to say that real Evil is elsewhere. Who indeed today would defend the Stalinist terror, the African genocides, the Latin American torturers? Nobody. It's there that the consensus concerning Evil is decisive. Under the pretext of not accepting Evil, we end up making believe that we have, if not the Good, at least the best possible state of affairs—even if this best is not so great."

My commentary:
I think Badiou has hit here on something that could also be found from comparing ancient Greek democracy to modern liberal capitalism.

1. ancient Greek democracy always had the ideal of all citizens having relatively similar wealth - i.e. as close to true economic equality as possible. Of course, in practice, this was very hard to achieve, but whenever the ancient Greeks write about establishing new colonies in previously uninhabited places, they give each new colonist the same size plot of land and usually have laws that try to keep that economic equality in perpetuity. This was also the intent behind ancient Israel's equal distribution of Canaan's land to all Hebrews equally - which was defended by the Jubilee laws (each family recieved back their original plot of land - even if they had sold it - every Jubilee year).

2. what's interesting is that analysis of class is absolutely rife within ancient Greek philosophy and this analysis totally disappears in Locke and many other early modern philosophers, for instance. And class only reappears in Rousseau and then Marx.

3. You might call the thing Badiou describes as "the mediocre regime" - a regime that aims only to avoid great evil, and not a regime that aims to become good. I think you can track advocacy of such a regime from Machiavelli on.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Art Moment: Ruth Asawa's Wire Sculptures

I made my own pictures of Ruth Asawa's work from her recent exhibition at the DeYoung Museum, but these snapshots from Asawa's own website should keep you satisfied for the moment.