The good life is absent. -Rimbaud
We should ask ourselves, "Why is this good life absent?" This life that is always being projected at us, but which we can never attain. This good life that is always being grafted onto our own lives, real and unreal.
Because it is in the nature of the mirage.
If it existed, there would be no enticement, no place continually to want to get to--to be enticed into trying to attain. The golden ticket. That "One" thing. The origin. The Utopia. The alpha and omega. That piece of shit you saw on an infomercial last night, or thought you saw.
The opposition is on the "inside" now.
You might say that our objections are weak, but weakness is innocent. It's old age that's brittle, and strong--and desperate. Strength is an end-sign, an encrustation over the creative soul. (Surprised that I talk of the soul? Remember, the young corrupt the old.)
Modernity=Science. And science cannot bring itself to abolish God once and for all. According to its own rules, there's no reason to try. Humanism has lost faith in its own subject. Humanism, which today tries to find its grounding not in philosophy, or literature, or love, or art, but in the State. (In the State's vulgar neo-Kantianism, maybe, if it's an intelligent humanism--but then, what is that type of intelligence worth? How many trips to the grocery store I mean?)
Science, after Lacan, is no longer merely a language game. It is the unschematized Real, in relation to Kant's schemata, criteria for what is real. So we're told by our messy Slovenian comrade.
Badiou adds: Philosophy is an address to the philosophical situation, which arises when there is incommensurability (Callicles v. Socrates, power v. thinking), and the philosopher seeks to throw light on the choices we face in the event. And this address throws light, through a creative act, upon the distance between power and thinking, between the State and truth--and in doing so, it shows us how to value the event.
To be modern, to be truly modern, means to choose between three positions: that of the scientist, that of the thinker (the philosopher, the litterateur), and that of the martyr. There is no deception here, only a continuity, an evolution, an eventuality...
Remember all that trouble some time back with the definition of the event? No? Let's think back...
Whitehead is our point of reference. Whitehead is necessary because he repositions the event at the heart of philosophy. For Kant and Spinoza (and, in a very different sense, Heidegger), the thing is still the important point, even if the thing is idea or substance (or something we can never quite get at). Whitehead puts the event back on the "inside," with us.
Of course, being a mathematician, Whitehead had a particular kind of event in mind. It's neither the everyday meaning of the term, nor a totally "abstracted" one--it's what people really think they're referring to when in fact what gets pasted over it, continually, is the "social fact as thing," or the artifact.
So events are constantly being changed into things, a regressive transformation. A perfectly normal operation on the personal level? Or the distance between power and thinking in the "sane society"? Depends on which of the three positions you want to take up. Or you can take up none--and capital, the default decision-maker, will come and find you, and make the choice for you, in your name.
For Whitehead, the event is a moment of interactivity between forces, process being the aggregate in a series of such events. In this sense he's closer to Bergson than the official meaning of artifact. Remember, there's no difference between the popular, everyday discourse, and the official one, as we live in our own constructed moment of consent/dissent.
Bergson, however, locates the event in an act, intuitive and creative, designed to "delve into things." Really it's more of a caress--the poet's position. Still the spatiality is purely schematic, in the Kantian sense.
So we need Whitehead's event. We'll leave aside his "ingression" and his half-finished God (Progress) as too vague. We're all in, always already present, and God, finished or not, is always too late on the scene. Specifying Whitehead's event as the philosophical situation (Badiou, Zizek etc.) with its particular characteristics--incommensurability, a power/thinking gap, and a rupture--finally we have a non-schematized, de-essentialized, and really adequately problematized event, a moment of interactivity between forces involved in a philosophical situation.
But we haven't gotten yet to the matter of choice. Classes or power groups are the forces involved here. The event could be an economic crisis in the development of capital. The forces at play...the ruling class, the petty bourgeoisie, managers, financiers, media, and the vast mass of working people (labor)...are all implicated in the event, and in structure. Remember that structure is what people do, the way they act, especially in an organized way. What are the methods of organization? What choices are people presented with by the event, by this crisis?
During a structural crisis like the present one, the organizing methods of the power system are laid bare. We begin to talk about things like whether political society will break down, whether workers will be shut out from their workplace, whether the police will join us on the picket lines. Here are a series of choices to be assessed, weighed, and then decided on. Maybe there will be a breakdown, maybe not, maybe they will join us, maybe they won't, but the event makes it clear that the system is not absolute, that it can break down, completely and rather quickly.
This type of crisis also raises the spectre of possible hegemonic alternatives. What specific position one wants to take up in relation to this situation depends on a number of factors--one's allegiance to the present system, one's class role, education, personal loyalties, fears etc. But here, too, we are presented with a series of choices that are not entirely non-structural. On the contrary, they represent the smallest units of structure, in our sense, of the organized ways in which people act--they are events within the event, and within the aggregate series of events or the (historical) process.
The point is to get a critical mass of these units, these choices, heading in the same direction, more or less, with the same sense of ethical purpose. This doesn't imply a mob, but rather a conscious grouping, a new aggregate and a new process, made up of different events and different choices. This can give rise to new ways of acting, new structures, and yes, a new system. This is really what is meant by the old phrase, "revolution is a must, not an ought."
Many workers have never made their own decisions in the workplace. But any hegemonic alternative to capital would include occasions to do so: workers councils, free asssociations, radical autonomy, decentralized democracy. Since I believe in modernity and not nativism, I think that policy would still demand a clear bureaucratic command structure: mass utilitization of privatized and public services alike, including logistics, energy, transportation. With a radical democratic core. To get production working for social needs, and not selfish individual consumption, we would need something like employee ownership and reconfiguration of the workplace (parecon?). And to fight the continuing effects of consumerism, both out in the open and increasingly submerged under false "anarchisms," there would need to be enforcement.
To keep financial institutions in line, there would have to be a global taxing authority (something beyond a Tobin Tax, but it's a good place to start), since even capital radically transformed would not cease to be global. On the contrary, globalization, especially of production, would have to be speeded up--at least until it caught up to capital's financial development. Without a taxing authority, there would be no way to prevent speculation from undermining us.
Note that in this version there are still structures, a structural base to the social-organic. One can't escape this any more than one can escape society or modernity itself. Society implies structure, an organized way of acting, and modern societies have complex structures.
The experience of these different events, derived from different choices than what we're used to, must seem frightening to most people at first. Maybe that's why the transformation to a conscious social-metabolic is marked by calls for a return to various forms of nativism: religious and economic-theoretical fundamentalisms; indigenous self-isolating movements; ecological "off-the-grid" philosophies; supernationalism; militarism; and the sadistic worship of spectacles of violence which all have at their heart an almost occult appeal to ideas of blood and legacy.
Here is the litany of avoidance and denial. What they all have in common is an inability or unwillingness to recognize that the cycles of capital in its present formation are almost at an end. One way or another, through revolutionary transformation or progressive decay, it will come to its conclusion. The absolute material horizon of capital is within view. And so are our choices.