Class Struggle is Alive and Well in Ontario (More on CUPE 3903)

January 26, 2009

These are some quotes from myself and Greg from a few posts ago, when we were doing a Zizekian/Lacanian analysis of the York strike:

“Or you could “micro” it and say the admin of York is the “monarch” of the university, the stupid president at the top who makes capricious decisions, who embodies the ‘unity’ of all the faculties…” (Battleofthegiants)

“No! There is no micro-ing it. The admin. is S2, the university, the agent acting in the place of the master/monarch (the truth of S2 is S1, the truth of the university is that it is speaking for the master). The university is like the knave, an ‘unmitigated scoundrel’: “he doesn’t retreat from the consequences of what is called realism; that is, when required, he admits that he’s a crook” (Lacan, Ethics, p. 183)” (US).

I think that in light of recent events – namely, the government of Ontario introducing legislation to force CUPE 3903 members back to work – this position makes even more sense than before.

Perhaps another way to think through this is to consider the University discourse as the one of contemporary biopolitics or the administered world (this is how Zizek conceives it in Parallax and in Lost Causes).  But taken to its limit, the true colours of the administered world will begin to surface.  That is, with biopolitics and the University discourse, it appears as though there is such a thing as ‘permissive society’, without authoritarian rule; or, as Foucault might have put it:  power is everywhere and nowhere.  With the case of the new back to work legislation, we see that the state actually serves the interests of the ruling class, and when the biopolitical administration reaches its limits, it has to call in the big guns:  the violence of the state, who says its operating on behalf of the ‘people’, or the ‘middle class’ (a popular ‘speaking point’ used both at the federal and provincial levels).  The ‘middle class’ is like the contemporary big Other, the truth of which is the ruling class, in whose name the state functions.

I think that, more than anything, the Ontario government is demonstrating that class struggle is alive and well in Ontario!  The message that is being sent to employers is:  “dont’ worry, just wait it out a bit and we’ll (the state) take care of everything for you”.


15 Responses to “Class Struggle is Alive and Well in Ontario (More on CUPE 3903)”

  1. sonnyburnett said

    “the violence of the state…”

    Makes me think immediately of what I heard on the news yesterday: there were physical scuffles between the authorities representing the state and the assembly by CUPE members downtown over this York strike that led to 4 arrests, including charges of assaulting police officers.

    Anyone an eyewitness?

  2. The Universal Singular said

    A few people from my program were eyewitnesses. They said that the police provoked the protesters.

    Not in this case, but in another up at York, I’ve seen police provoke people and then accuse them of assaulting officers in order to justify (violent) arrests.

    By ‘the violence of the state’, I don’t just mean this kind of physical violence; I’m also referring to the systemic violence that can be attributed to the btw legislation, i.e., the threat of monetary fine or arrest for striking. This is perhaps something on par with what Althusser referred to as ‘repressive state apparatus’, or what Zizek refers to as ‘objective violence’.

    • sonnyburnett said

      Doesn’t Z say somewhere that an effective strategy in protest situations such as this is to actually ‘ask’ for a beating? That that is a truly subversive gesture? I may be way off, but I seem to recall reading this in one of his books.

      If so, it would go along with that logic of his regarding the enraged father whose power & authority over his children is only properly ever potential, and that when he finally explodes in rage, attempting to translate his authority into actuality, he, thru that very act, reveals his ultimate impotency. It’s actually quite comical to see dad stomping across the room with clinched fists & veins popping in the neck – at least if you aren’t one of the kids he’s going after in that moment. But even afterwards, those very kids often giggle at the spectacle they just witnessed, no?

      On another level, what if CUPE somehow has ‘asked’ for this ‘violent’ legislation process to force them back to work? Here, the opportunity for us is to view the provincial-state qua father as ultimately impotent. Sure, this legislation tests the mettle of the union’s true stance – will it cave in like a house of cards or will it stick to it’s guns Antigone-like, damn the larger society of 45,000 others? But whatever it does, I hope at least a few may encounter this impotency of the big Other (Law) so next time a true ethical (Antigone-like) act could occur.

      My point is, if the union holds to its stance only as long as it is legal to do so, only as long as the big Other allows them this position within which to do so – could we in any way say that the strike, both before & after this legislation process, was a true (Lacanian) ethical act?

  3. battleofthegiants said

    What Zizek actually suggests is not to ask for the beating but to begin to beat oneself (this is in Lenin’s Choice). He then goes on to talk about fight club.

    He writes about it as if it’s something that people actually do, but I’ve never heard of it and my thought is that it would just give the cops another reason to jump in, beat up more people, and justify it saying there was a riot.

    From the beginning of the strike there were illegal activities: most of our lines are in fact illegally placed, to use gates and pylons is also illegal, building sheds on private property, unsupervised fire barrels, etc, are all illegal. The cops tried to disperse one of our lines at the beginning, and people refused and held the line.

    There’s something to asking if CUPE “somehow asked” for the BTW legislation. What the state actually wanted was for us to hang ourselves: i.e. the mediator that was sent in to bang heads was to do so to particular heads – i.e. ours. They had no intention of making the bargaining process continue; the mediator was clearly there to pressure us to take binding arbitration and help McGuinty save political face, to make us hang ourselves. I say hang ourselves because to be BTW’ed is to be forced into arbitration anyway. So perhaps in a sense it was Antigone-like in that we refused to commit suicide, but let the mediator follow through on his threat to kill us.

    So, no, I would not argue that we provoked the master. Instead, the discussion that happened around the choice of BTW or chosing arbitration actually included the idea that there was a third choice: they’re just bluffing; we don’t know that they’ll actually do it; we can continue to fight and win. In addition, that we could beat the legislation in court (BC Nurses did this); that we could continue as an illegal strike. We did not provoke them, but made an assesment of the situation and acted in accordance with it.

    But to defy the law (the legislation itself) requires that people do it en-masse. I.e. a small group of people doing it might be more akin to a ‘passion for the real’ than a true ethical act. What you need is an entire labour movement behind you to make that effective, and there is no such movement behind us. Both CUPE national and CUPE Ontario pledge ‘support’ only in terms of words, not in terms of putting any organizational mettle behind them.

    This links to the legal battle that we were threatening: it moves along the lines of liberal rights discourse and takes the place of actual organization. That is, it attempts to move within the limits of Liberal-democracy, failing to see that this moves the discourse into one the state understands (that of the individual) rather than the one it refuses: class interest and collective action from ‘below.’

    Bargaining in 2010, however, may be a different story. Live to fight another day…

    It also needs to be taken into consideration that we are but the first of what is going to become a long list of beeteedub: OC Transpo, probably Air Canada, not to mention any other university that goes out, all in the name of the “economic crises.” It’s the same shit that happened in the 80’s: Thatcher and Reagan went out of their way to smash unions to clear the way for their neo-liberal agenda. That is, we become an example for others who might try to fight for economic betterment.

    That is to say that this was likely in the works from the beginning, and is why York refused to ever bargain: they knew this was coming down the pipe. It’s less a case of us ‘antagonizing’ the master and provoking it to bring down the law; there was very little discussion of BTW in our strike strategy because it seemed unlikely it could be used because we’re not an essential service, because it would look bad on the provinces supposed ‘education’ Premier. It’s not so much something we asked them to do as part of their larger strategy to smash the labour movement as much as possible, and came upon us more or less as a total-surprise.

    That still doesn’t sound clear. What I mean is that it’s not as though we’re in a ‘normal’ situation and we knew that the government could do this and we provoked them to the point where they had to show their power. I mean, we started with the university and fully expected to beat the employer because we are more powerful than they, and we’d accomplished it in the past. Instead, it came as a total surprise that the state would step in and the legislation was used. That is, the fight became bigger than we expected it to become, and we as a single entity could do little about it.

    • sonnyburnett said

      Lacan’s point is that Antigone, far from being “a single entity [that] could do little about it” [‘it’ as in Creon’s – the State’s – edict] shows us that she was justified ethically since she took a single pathological element & elevated it to the dignity of the Thing. This pathological element was of course her insistence on the burial of her brother.

      If the Union had done this, if it had identified with some element of their bargaining demand for instance, and elevated it as that which was the only way for them to ‘touch’ the Thing, would it not follow that this act would continue without regard to the Province’s BTW legislation?

      Perhaps not.

      I do think it is possible for the Union to have sublimated some element in this manner AND to go back to work as well. Nothing prevents us from arguing that it could act ethically in the Lacanian sense AND go BTW with this legislation. The empirical fact that it is going back to work doesn’t mean that it was acting unethically, at least for a Lacanian analysis.

      My argument is that we take Lacan’s notion of Ethics seriously here. Did the Union reduce itself to the objet petit a? Did it identify itself with it’s own surplus jouissance? Was the Union’s stance ethical in the strict Lacanian sense?

      I don’t think so. We should read Lacan to the letter and this situation just doesn’t fit.

      From a Marxist point of view, or from an anachist point of view, or from a million other left (and right) points of views, the strke might be viewed as a ‘success’ of sorts. One can certainly ‘get off’ on the resistence, on the disruption of the strike, but it is quite different from identifying with the ‘getting off’ on it, which is what a Lacanian ethical position would entail and which, by the way, is so difficult for non-Lacanians to grasp.
      BTW, I think ‘asking for a beating’ and ‘beating oneself’ are two ways to express the same act. Isn’t one’s concept of oneself already Other?

      In order to beat oneself, one can only do so from the point of the Other. In this sense, every (self)beating is already asked for.

  4. battleofthegiants said

    Zizek argues that when you beat yourself you are saying “I no longer need you to beat me” – i.e. you realize that you had been beating yourself all along, and beat your belief in the big O out of you.

    The union did in fact raise one element above all others – conversions (job security for contract faculty). It was very clear a couple of months ago that this was actually what we were on strike for; it was the one demand that we all spoke about as the (ongoing) reason for the strike, even though there were many others still on the table.

    This was not followed through, as you say, in that it was not enough to make people want to walk out wildcat styles and keep going until something changed.

    But we also need to take into consideration the rest of the labour movement. I.e. 3903 should have become the ‘a’ around which all other unions could have rallied to beat the BTW…and who knows what else. This was not on the wind… (though who knows, maybe it would have happened).

    It also fails to take into consideration that ‘the union’ is of course not a unified social organization pit against another – it has many internal divisions of its own. The central fight was around something I’ve written about elsewhere on the blog: the organization of the union as such.

    There were major tensions over whether bargaining team members were elected representatives who needed to be left alone to do thier “job” (lets leave aside that most of these people were not, however, elected, but for the most part acclaimed) or whether the membership should have its hands in controlling what went on.

    Against much pressure – physical and otherwise – we stuck to the ‘from below’ line, and were in part successful. And the whole time we were subject to the evils of “populist reason” – i.e. discussed as if we were red parasites that needed to be destroyed in order that the union go on to function ‘normally’ (i.e. as a business union happy to work with the employer on their terms rather than a social union that takes a broader ‘social justice’ approach).

    What I was trying to write above was that the choice to risk BTW rather than hang ourselves perhaps fit the mold of an ethical act: “we won’t stop now just because you’ll maybe Legislate us back to work/stick us in a cave to die.” It was at least a first step in an ethical direction…

    But there were only a few people who were willing to do a wildcat in the face of the BTW, and the question is why people didn’t follow through. It would have been a failure to force it from above, as an executive/’master’ telling people what to do. Instead, I think the ethical failure was that of not creating the atmosphere to enable actually going out.

    That is, “the union” can’t go out unless some sort of majority is on board, unless it coalesced as a union in response to the situation. A few people going out would not have been “the union” being ethical. It would have been a few individuals pretending to be on strike (i.e. A strike isn’t a few individuals).

    The political problem is not the question of whether or not a bunch of individuals are being ethical by continuing to march and take fines, go to jail, whatever (and I know this isn’t what you mean). The political problem is how to create a body of people that are willing to do that, how to create a union that won’t “cede on its desire.”

    Conversions are still on the table: arbitration might see them into our contract. However, it will be done in terms the law. Similar with our potential legal battle: it will follow the rules written by the state rather than challenging them per se. Again, the political problem with this is that, sure, we could see some gains in our contract. The question is whether or not we’re any closer to creating a movement that can effectively challenge the powers that be.

    So, you’re probably right – the union did not act ethically in a strict Lacanian sense, did not stick to conversions beyond the threats of the law to smash us. The real question for me, however, is how, within an organization such as 3903, and even wider – CUPE Ontario and National, the labour movement – one can make such an act possible. (but perhaps that would in itself be the act…)

    The problem with trade unions is, of course, that they tend to be reformist rather than radical. A ‘cede not on your desire’ move would be hard because the demand in question remains at the level of need rather than desire; that is, it’s not metanymic. Unions tend to fail to take into consideration that the economy is political. That’s part of the hope with ‘social unionism’ – that the economic battle becomes political. And this is why you find CUPE backing calls against the state of Israel, in solidarity with first nation struggles, etc…

    • sonnyburnett said

      Lacanian ethics is precisely what allows us to move ‘beyond’ the need of an Other that you presuppose in your post above: to “effectively challenge the powers that be” or “creating the atmosphere to enable actually going out” to do a wildcat or any of the other strictly external considerations of some supposedly substantial historical or social context you raise. Presenting these elements as external to the question of an Ethical act is what Lacan’s concept of ethics allows us to ‘overcome.’ His understandng of ethics forces us to consider that the context the Union finds itself, inclusive of its own internal strife that you write about, is NOT in any way external to its own act of going out on strike.

      The context the union finds itself in, the choices it faces, must be thought of as their own. This would be the true “first step in an ethical direction,” claiming its own responsibility in the matter in ‘endorsing’ the substantial context it finds itself ‘subject to’ as well as the choices & options it faces.

      ONLY by this experience could the union move away from a conception of the big Other-State as an external antagonizing force in which the union has only an external relation towards. Only from this point could it become a ‘subject of’ its big Other (‘the Lacanian subject is the subject of the unconscious’).

      It can only do this if it elevates some stupid element to the place of the Thing, an element that is one of the choices it finds itself facing.

      I was reading this morning the words of the Great American J.C. Mellencamp: “Now everybody has got the choice, between hotdogs and hamburgers.” The Lacanian point here is that if you find yourself with this choice, you can’t very well bemoan the fact that you are not being offered grilled lobster. This would betray the fact that you still hold the chef responsible for the choice presented to you, which is the logic underlying everything that has been written about this strike.

      This attitude of a need to consider the socio-economic or historical context the union finds itself in or of the realities of internal splits in the union organization (what organization isn’t split?) belies the fact that such an attitude is still looking externally toward goal-disruptive objects INSTEAD of identifying with & fully assuming these very (symptomatic) objects themselves as the very elements that allow it to hold this attitude.

      I keep harking back to Lacan’s response to the striking students of ’68: you are looking for a new master, you will get one.

      Can we in any sense say that the union chose either hotdogs or hamburgers & proceeded to elevate that choice as being the only way to express its loyalty to the Thing, to express the choice as a marking of the very choice itself?

      I guess you do agree, as you said, that a Lacanian ethical position was not reached during this strike. But should this not be the measure, the ‘standard’ we use to measure such activity? Else, do we not find ourselves stuck forever looking for that new master & thereby always already getting one?

  5. battleofthegiants said

    I think we’re more or less on the same page.

    The sticking point seems to me to be history.

    Zizek is very clear that while the Other is not external it is extimate – i.e. very much embodied: there are cops who beat you; there are administrators who will fuck you over after the strike because they know who you are and can; there are angry students who will pull dirty tricks on us and a state that acts according to certain laws and which colludes with most if not all of these groups. That is, there very much are elements that get in the way. But what is the nature of these elements? – the answer, as you’ve pointed out, is that we contribute to them.

    But there must be a practice associated with the theory. We can’t get rid of history and concrete analysis (“This attitude of a need to consider the socio-economic or historical context the union finds itself in…”) because it’s not good enough to simply look at the obstacles that get us off and raise one to ‘das ding.’ That would be some form of populism – “the state’s what’s killing us! Fuck the Cops! Let’s fight ’em!” (though I don’t think is what you’re suggesting).

    How does one come to elevate the ‘proper’ object?

    The only way to get to the object that you raise to the Thing and not have it merely be one of the obstacles that gets in your way is critical analysis. Job security isn’t just something people want; it was something people wanted, and then looked at it in depth, which brought out an analysis of the structure of the university system in North America and how it is funded (er…not funded) by the State, which provided the means to act (the forms of the actions taken, the way demands were presented and argued for, etc).

    That is, the object raised ‘to the level of the thing’ (or which at least came close to that) wasn’t the State, the police, the administration, or some other external obstacle. It was something that we have but don’t have: our jobs (job security).

    If we said that participating in collective bargaining (a historical product) made this object (job security) exist for us in the first place (which I think is only partially the case) we would only have part of the picture. It is also the knowledge of this process, how it came about and how it has been and is used against us, that enables us to fight. Which is to say that the obstacle (liberal-democratic labour relations as embodied in the state) is also what enables to possibility of an Act, and only in understanding how it is that we are tied into it can we release ourselves from it.

    Which is something that need be pointed out about Freud’s “Repetition and Working through.” The major point of the paper is that it’s not enough to know all the details (the historical circumstances) of your enjoyment, to be able to say “I have these symptoms because of X”. The end of analysis is being able to affectively step beyond that enjoyment. The point I’d like to add is that perhaps the important point of analysis is that you have to be able to get to that story before the flip can happen. History (or should I say l‘histoire) is necessary.

    It was in paying too much head to these rules (The Bargaining Team’s insistence that they just needed to keep bargaining to get what we needed; now the move to a legal battle rather than labour organization, etc), not knowing what in fact they were, that got in the way of ‘Acting.’

    Without consideration of “the socio-economic or historical context” the possibility of an Act would not have existed. If Antigone hadn’t known that Creon had forbidden the act of burrying her brother her attempt to do so would not have been ethical (“Opps! Sorry, I didn’t realize…”). Only in doing it in full knowledge of the context did she “Act” (“…I’m going to do it anyway”). Had he died under different circumstances nothing special would have occurred.

    What could our state do to us? What could our students do to us? What we have all done to bring us to this point (buying into the collective bargaining process, the re-organization of the university and the erosion of labour rights, etc) can’t be ignored – otherwise you get at worst subjectivism and adventurism, at best something naïve (“Oops, I didn’t realize. I’ll stop”).

    (It’s interesting to not that when Zizek takes a ‘naïve’ position he knows full well that it is so – that is, it’s a calculated naiveite and not what I mean here. There is also, of course, the ‘naïve’ following of the dictums of ideology.. but that’s not what I mean either, but might work here: ‘we’re supposed to have the right to collective bargaining, so you can’t do this to us…’ but I’ve already discussed this…).

    Knowing the conditions, the ‘co-ordinates’, of the situation in which we find ourselves and the obstacles against which we push provides the means to overcome them. Otherwise these ‘objects’ remain objects, rather than being seen for what they are – historical products created by us as historical actors, and as such alterable.

    And that’s Marx’s whole shtick: Capitalism isn’t a natural beast that dominates us, it’s an historical product that we make function by our everyday actions.

    • sonnyburnett said

      “How does one come to elevate the ‘proper’ object?”

      Only through the elevation of the object does it become ‘proper.’ This is the act of sublimation.

      Regarding your – this might be a good way to say it – ‘sticking to history’, I think you might be stuck in a conception of history as the ultimate Substance. I was taught this as well, having my grounding in Marxist materialism. But Zizek rails against this conception each & every time he enters a discussion of the need to conceive of Substance as Subject.

      By not conceiving of it as Subject, one could possibly read Antigone as you do. However, the so-called ‘reality’ of the Substantial Law of Creon edict is of a strictly secondary matter when it comes to the (Lacanian) ethicality of her insistence on her brother’s burial. To say otherwise indicates that one has not properly moved to conceiving the Other of the Law as Subject in this situation. That is, your reading of Antigone relies on the Other for some ‘ultimate’ definition of her act, whereas the proper Lacanian move is to indicate that the ethical value of one’s act is ultimately ‘grounded’ in the enunciation of that very act.

      Lacanian ethicality in a word is an ‘enunciation without an enunciated’.

      “Only in doing it in full knowledge of the context…” again belies the fact that here, we are conceiving of the context as a Substance that we can only ever have a complete or incomplete epistemological relation toward.

      Obstacles, historical objects must be “seen for what they are – historical products created by us as historical actors, and as such alterable.”

      A fine reading of Marx, but not one Z takes. His logic again & again indicates that this is not enough. By remaining within this logic, this keeps us tied to the Substantial Other, keeps us looking to that Other & imploring it to try again and hysterically asking it to send us another Master. This logic allows us to operate as if the Other does not know, that we can occupy some meta-point outside of its purview.

      But if our current belief in the Other as Substantial takes the form of “The Other does not know”, then a move to experiencing it as Subject would involve a knowledge that the Other knows (that it does not exist).

  6. battleofthegiants said

    One more thought: another one of the ‘historical conditions’ that need be taken into consideration is where the split in the subject (hereafter ‘the union’) and the split in the Other (hereafter ‘the employer’ and ‘the State’) overlap. In SOI Zizek writes that where these two gaps overlap the Phallus arises. It seems to me that overlap is here ‘veiled’ by the master sig “liberal democracy” – the model of union organization that ‘we’ were battling as ‘the red peril’. So, it’s not good enough to say “which body isn’t split” – we need to know where the split is.

    • sonnyburnett said

      Your external reflection of that body qua split is (again) reflected as that very split body. This is how the two gaps overlap. And the ‘where’ of the split is the void of subjectivity. You do this splitting from an empty place.

      BTW, anyone have any idea why our posts on the Home page, after a certain point, are all italicized? It basically screws up the entire formating we had when we orignally wrote them. Who’s the culprit? Confess!!!

  7. battleofthegiants said

    What I meant by ‘proper’ object was the question of discerning one’s whether or not one’s focus is on an obstacle rather than on a ‘pathologically’ chosen element. That is, I was starting to agree with Matt that perhaps focusing on the state of Israel does correspond to some sort of populism. (I haven’t gone back and read his post yet, though.)

    Matt earlier pointed out that historical materialism involves the ‘subjective element’ and the ‘historical element’ – i.e. history has to be re-written by each generation. Which is what the Z says about history – you have to be an engaged subject who reads history from the position of the void…(this is Zizek’s reading of Lukacs’ stuff – and it is from Lukacs that my reading of Marx is coming from).

    This is to say that ‘knowing one’s context’ doesn’t mean taking the dominant notion of history and working from there, but actively writing one’s history in the course of struggle, of seeing one’s complicity in its past and present – which I tried to suggest was like talking to one’s analyst.

    If we were to believe history as York or the Liberals would have it, worker’s rights have been served by labour law, York is benevolent and interested in education, the union is a sore that damages the rep of the university and that we should lay down and just bargain already! (which apparently we hadn’t been doing).

    If you believe history as written by the International Labour Organization of the UN, you buy into rights discourse.

    Taking these as wrote, I think, would be instances of assuming that there is an Other behind the law and history, that they have an objective view on the situation that we can accept.

    And it would seem to me that ‘doing history’ in the way I’ve suggested is an instance of not obsessively doing, but thinking.

    (A large part of what I was up to during the strike was an obsessive ‘doing’ – 12 hour days running errands as a way to avoid being responsible for larger questions… this blog and email strings, I felt, were part of my ‘thinking’ and helped inform other actions; though I didn’t do enough of it…)

    Part of what I find infinitely frustrating in these strings is the completely abstract nature of the responses I get. Though I do find it helpful because you all know tonnes that I don’t and it helps me clarify my thought, they often just confuse the question for me. Where’s your pathological content? In the concrete terms of this example what does “Your external reflection of that body qua split is (again) reflected as that very split body. This is how the two gaps overlap. And the ‘where’ of the split is the void of subjectivity. You do this splitting from an empty place” actually mean?

    Where would you place the ‘subjective’ in the union? My suggestion about business vs. social unionism was an attempt to find it: business unionism is a model that fully integrates itself into the functioning of the state, serving as the means to ‘deliver’ the union’s membership to the employer. The element that is supposed to be outside and opposed to us as the union is actually what makes us what we are. The union is the state! The union is Liberal-democracy!

    The move towards social unionism is the attempt to realize that people are fully imbricated in the political and economic network that make up their lives and to make them responsible for it, to undo those ties.

    The law in Antigone is set down before she acts, with actual bodies standing guard, with consequences set in advance. Do you mean, when you write the “Other of the Law as Subject in this situation,” that the law only materially exists insomuch as one challenges it and sets it in motion? That the law is only the response from the master as solicited by the subject?

    If that’s the case I can see what you mean that in acting one often simply ‘demands a new master’ – i.e. the law is set in motion by the subjet and not the law itself. But it has to be considered that the law exists “virtually but not actually” (God, I can’t believe I just did that…fuck you Levy Bryant!) before the act occurs. If I remember correctly, Antigone opens with Antigone’s sister telling her what’s happening. I.e. ‘the stage is set’, and it is because of this context that an ethical move is possible.

    This is what I meant when I wrote that “participating in collective bargaining (a historical product) made this object (job security) exist for us in the first place”: the only reason that job security is an ‘object’ at all is because of the context, the history of labour struggle and collective bargaining in Canada. Antigone’s brother was only an object because Creon opened the possibility of him being so. There was ‘enjoyment’ only because of the conditions that existed.

    The only way for there to be a pathological object to choose is because we are thrown into history, because we find ourselves in a world that we have to realize we are a priori responsible for. Without the world, there can be no object, no responsibility, no ethics.

    And in ‘writing history’ you come to that realization…

    So, at the end of Grundrisse, after 800 or more pages of dealing with history, of a formulation of Capitalism that assumes that no one else can write it properly, Marx finally comes to the object (the commodity form), the form of ‘enjoyment’ of Capitalism.

    Which is the place from which action that is not an obsessive avoidance can come from… The proletariat discovering itself in the position of enjoyment, in the position of the contradictory, special, commodity…

    • sonnyburnett said

      “The proletariat discovering itself in the position of enjoyment…”

      Isn’t the first Z question: as a union member, where precisely did you locate your enjoyment during this strike?

      The further critical question is, does this enjoyment to be had by individual subjects involved in this strike overlap with the enjoyment to be had by the (Other of the) strike itself?

  8. battleofthegiants said

    I’m going to avoid that question for now and note and an absence in Matt’s original post: your comment that you could, indeed, talk about the logic of the Monarch in terms of the university, and not have to look at only the ‘university discourse’ as the sole way of approaching it. I was a the executive meeting of SPT the other day and it’s uncanny how close to Hegel’s description of the Monarch the Program Director holds in relation tot he structure of the program: there is no constitution to guide us, only ongoing consensus and action; committees do much of the work; the PD signs of on things and settles disputes…

    • sonnyburnett said

      Ok, then. I’m taking that literally: ‘Avoid that question’, but only for ‘now.’

      I think that the very relation that members have to the group they belong is critical in specifying the nature of that group. Zizek’s breakthrough in societal analysis (hinging on the notion of jouissance), necessitates that we ask this question.

      I wouldn’t press it if you didn’t re-mark the question in your reply – if you simply ignored it, I wouldn’t stress it – but since you did, it’s now your question as well….


      I’m reading Z’s Violence right now & there is a little section on ethics in the 1st or 2nd chapter. He spits out the idea that an ethical act may involve something of a disavowal gesture: “I know very well that…but nevertheless….”

      As in “I know very well that (by my insistence on burying my brother I am causing my society untold difficulties) but nevertheless (I am going to bury my brother).”


      “We know very well that (because of this strike, 45,000 others are in difficulty: potential lost school year, worsening relations bet. students & union, etc etc) but nevertheless (we are going to continue to strike).”

      So if this is true, it would mean that despite the back-to-work legislation, the union should have stuck to it’s guns – if it was acting ethically. The fact that it caved in, it is proof that it wasn’t.

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