Part I: The Industry of Pseudo-Leftism
There is a relatively popular fashion in academia, nowadays, to speak as a leftist. However, this conception of leftism is a distinctly non-militant and non-radical one. Of course, that is not necessarily meant to be degrading to that version of liberal leftism, as such. The problem I address here is not even the fact that this liberal leftism is uncritical and ineffective with regard to what leftist ambitions should be. Rather, I argue it is a pseudo-leftism, and that it sustains the established order.
Since the early 1990s, non-radical leftism in the West has been stripped of everything that is actually leftist and rebuilt upon certain humanitarian and sentimental jargons befitting the popular “non-violent” discourse. This version of leftism has then been mass-produced within the culture industry to fit the interests of pseudo intellectuals and their affiliated social classes and state institutions. Even worse is the fact that far from being progressive, this pseudo-leftism has sustaining affects on the actual social, economic, and political realms of society.
What this means in terms of university climates is that it has become possible for academics to speak freely as “leftists” and keep their jobs so long as they unconditionally reject violent reactions to the state in their discourse and never provoke actual social dissent. This new arrangement serves the established order in the
best possible way, even more than the typical right-wing and conservative discourses that oppose the state only for the wrong reasons (such as opposing the so-called state intervention in the so-called free market in the so-called free market economies). In fact, Zizek, rightly so, on more than one occasion, has expressed his preference for interactions with smart, right-wing intellectuals rather than uncritical and fake leftists. One can at least have a meaningful dispute with the right-wing intellectual, but not with the fashionable and thoughtless so-called leftist.
After all, what can better sustain a despotic regime of power relations than “organic intellectuals” (Gramsci) exercising their freedom of speech only insofar as it gives the illusion of freedom? What can serve a fascist regime better than media that claim plurality and freedom without ever questioning the actual lack of plurality and freedom under the same regime?
In this sense, fake leftism seems to function similar to late-night talk shows. One of the most devastating phenomena, especially in the current American TV-culture, is the dominant popularity of such comedy shows that supposedly exercise what is called “freedom of speech”. Of course, the popular reaction is something along the lines of: “How great! In America we enjoy such wonderful freedoms that anyone can say anything!!” The assumption here is that “we enjoy so much freedom that we can joke about the most powerful figures in the country”. However, the truth is that very serious political problems are turned into jokes in the name of critically exercising freedom of expression. Popular comedy shows, of course, do not contradict anything in freedom of expression except that they inevitably render the “expression” stupid and aim to do nothing more than entertaining. In short, the joke-industry is the safest form of the exercise of freedom as far as the established order is concerned.
Similar to the joke-industry in American mass culture, there is a mass industry of some forms of soft, or rather fake, leftism. This popular leftism at once gives the illusion of the exercise of democratic rights and effectively suppresses the potential social zones of dissent and rebellion. The assumption is that “as long as you don’t advocate violence, you can utter anything you want”. Naturally, the state here is implicitly depicted as the guardian of peace and security, and there is nothing further than that from the actual nature and the practice of the state in all its existing forms. But that
is exactly my point: the popular, non-critical left industry, like the joke-industry, is doing two things in terms of sustaining the established order: propagating an illusionary tolerance by wrongly representing dissent, and discharging every potential locus of revolutionary movement.