Adding Fuel to the Fire: More on ‘Concrete Universality’

October 20, 2008

Here is a quote from Iraq:  The Borrowed Kettle (2004):

“… the wager of Marxism is that there is one antagonism (‘class struggle’) which overdetermines all the others and which is, as such, the ‘concrete universal’ of the entire field” (p. 101).

“Here class struggle is the ‘concrete universal’ in the strict Hegelian sense:  in relating to its otherness (other antagonisms) it relates to itself, that is, it (over)determines the way it relates to other struggles” (p. 102).

Based on this, it seems that neither the Universal Particualr (the hegemony of the ruling ideology/the ruling class), nor the Universal Singular (the symptom/proletariat) is ‘concrete’; rather, it is the antagonism between Particular and Singular, the class antagonism/struggle, which is ‘concrete’.

In this case, both the Particular and the Singular are ‘abstract’ and I guess the act of picking sides is the kind of Leap of Faith that Zizek refers to in his polemics on repeating Lenin.  A politics of Truth requires choosing the right side:  the side of the symptom, the Universal Singular – the proletariat.

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2 Responses to “Adding Fuel to the Fire: More on ‘Concrete Universality’”

  1. The Universal Singular said

    Okay… I give up. I’m reading Zizek’s article, “Tolerance as an Ideological Category” from Critical Inquiry, and it seems here that the ‘concrete universal’ IS the proletariat: “The concrete, effective existence of universality is the individual without a proper place in the global edifice” (p. 669).

    Maybe this DOES have to do with the difference between the idealist and the materialist reading of the notion (the notion of universality, that is).

  2. The Universal Singular said

    “The leftist political gesture par excellence… is thus to question the concrete existing universal order on behalf of its symptom” (Ticklish, p. 224).

    This makes it sound as though the concrete universal IS the ruling class.

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