Back for a quick self-reflective study of my knowledge. It is not epistemology as I do not concentrate on the value of my knowledge, though I do doubt it sometimes, so I take back what I said, there is a bit of epistemology. Doubt is the foundation of knowledge. Anyway, it has been a long time I have written to be read, and not written to make sense of what I think I think, so it might take time to get into the careful balance of humour and seriousness. Seriousness and humour are just opposite sides of the same coin: a paradox born from the contradiction of our perception of the world, our expectation of the world, and the reality of the world as we perceive it.
I will not go for too much psychology, no matter how interesting that knowledge can be, pathologies of the psyche are too rare compared to the pathologies of our societies. Of course, both were born quite early into our civilisation (whether the personal development through language and the recognition of the Other or the societal development of information sharing and the confrontation with other perspectives). I will go into the realm of what I think is political philosophy, but as you, smart audience, know, no intellectual realm has borders like North Korea.
Let's just start with the birth of societies, as I have finished reading “ Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond, who points out the chance of we, Eurasian, born on a continent with an East-West axis, where the weather is relatively equivalent, compared to all the other continents. This indeed means that transport and exchange are easier, as in order to go from one part of the continent to the other we did not need to go through much deserts or oceans, compared to the populations living on other continents. At that, we had the luck of having easily domesticable animals, and crops that provide enough nutrients and are easy to farm, so agriculture became the biggest advantage.
Agriculture was and still is the greatest thing that happened to man-kind, as it has provided us with a surplus in energy, and saved us time, meaning that we got to work on other things. I do not yet have the correct education in physics to understand the full consequences and relationship between energy and time, or space for that matter. Knowing though what I don't know makes me even more curious. Anyway, agriculture brought more people with more free time capable of working on much more, giving us technology and complex societies. It was though because of the spatial advantage that some cultures got to develop faster than others, and when confronted with these others, determined who would be the master and who would be the slave.
Here, we will have a little bit of time for a philosophical stage whisper. I am telling you quickly how master/slave relations were understood by Hegel and then by Marx, because it is always something interesting to keep in mind. A man meets an other man and it is a traumatising experience, because both of them thought that they were the centre of the world. So they had to fight, to affirm their uniqueness. Two possible outcomes. Outcome A, one wins, the other dies, end of the story. Outcome B, one wins, the other accepts that the winner gets to give the orders. So we have a winner Master and a loser Slave. Master needs Slave constantly, because S determines who M is. Without S, M is nothing now, while S is like he was before, except that there is now a meaning in his life: receiving orders. Of course, receiving orders means that there are imperatives, things that he can't have and as Groucho remarks, that's how desire was born because “ I'd never WANT to belong to a club that would accept me as a member”.
The birth of desire is the result of an order given, by the father or the social authority. That's how History started. Indeed, the M would never want any change, does not have any desire, he is the content father who just needs to perpetuate how society is. On the other hand, the S is the worker, the one who has to accept the situation with frustration – this latter feeling being transformed, sublime into production surplus of the cultural or intellectual order, when it is not of the political order.
Hegel and Marx thought that it were the total Slaves who made history, Hegel thought it happened in the realm of ideologies, Marx in the realm of economies and I go for the poor compromise of not knowing the causality and doubting there is a one way causality. I say “total”Slaves, because there are a hierarchy of Slaves: the priest, the politicians, the lawyers, the soldiers and so on until the lowest of the law. It is not economic relations that always change the ideologies, it is not always the ideologies that change the economic relations. Change is just what you get when the slaves have learnt much and the Masters forgot how they won.
Domination as the little story has undergone here happens only under universalisation of a field, a realm, or an order. What I mean is that you cannot have an asymmetric relationship if it does not occur in the same frame of understanding. For example, and here we are using an example from Bourdieu, let's say I want to compare the size of my reproductive organ with the one of my neighbour. I tell him mine is 31 centimetres long, and he tells me his is 12 inches long. We do not use the same measures so we can't compare, he and I will never know who is the master and who is the slave. Now, let's say that I am a legitimised authority, I tell my neighbour that we can only use centimetres. It gets to be a different relationship. It is accepted by him and I who the winner will be, because we have agreed on a frame.
I mention in passing the process of universalisation, because it is an ambiguous process of domination, and pacifications of conflict. Why do conflicts get less violent when everybody agrees on what are the terms of the fight ? Well because it accepts a common ground. Of course, usually, the common ground works mostly in favour of the one who ascertain his domination in an other field. For example, I am the master of the armies, I will put everybody under the influence of a religion we shall all believe in. The master of the armies therefore established the universalisation of the cultural context. It is then in these fields that domination will be recognised and that rebellious production, the sublimation of the frustration and the creation of the desires, will be born.
The ambiguity of the universalisation process is that one of the dominant forces of universalisation, of setting legitimate fields of hierarchy, is the State. The State will state rules, nominate, and act in an accepted way. Whether we like it or not, we abide by the State rules, and this because the State is our legitimate authority. Now, we are getting in the thick of it. There is of course an idealised power called the State, which will establish a lot of fields and the rules of games of these fields, under which people play the different games of social life. The State in itself is though a field where we find rules of games and people playing to get on top.
From there on, different fields will bring on different elements with different interests, mainly keeping the status of Master. Hence, when we see positive change within society, looking back retrospectively, two sorts of groups are the elements of these changes. The first one is the group of particular slaves, which have taken the oppression to an unsustainable point, where antagonistic forces meet. Of course, this type of group will create a problem, as Badiou notifies, since they might only demand change for their own private interests, and not a change in depth of the order of things within a given society.
Normally, a slave-group that asks for change which might not consider the others does so because their field of oppression is not shared by others oppressed in a different way. The petite bourgeoisie in Russia which saw its political capital stample on asked for a revolution, but the political field capital was not shared with the peasants, hence the economical oppression ( USSR was about economical oppression more than it was about political oppression, as is the case in China now – the instruments of productions were not shared but concentrated among the few bureaucrats coming from the small revolutionary bourgeoisie- Yougoslavia was about political oppression) of most of the population.
The second type of revolution, or actual societal change with a deep impact within history comes from the people living outside the realm of the Master/Slave relationship, in the societal level and not the psychological one. They are not oppressed and they are not oppressing, there interests are only out of empathy, a quality easily suppressed by enslavement into a relation. Of course, these people ask for change on a global level, and are heard with a very long delay.
The religious figures are among these types and usually people with no powers commemorate by history but yet that we can't follow because we still feel trapped. I call them the Eunuchs, as their motives are solely the interests of humanity at large. They are the ones who consider everybody. Ghandi for example did not only defend against the oppression of the external forces, but also the internal oppression of Indian societies. Of course, what I say here as been proven by history, wether in Egypt or in China, sometimes they had Eunuchs to direct the administration and nobles have overthrown them when their private interests where at risks.
The Eunuchs are the ones to save our world, as they are outside any Master/Slave relationship of any kind, but can see them all. They would, I guess, defend the sanctions upon Greece for not adhering to an individualist capitalistic ethos, but would also remind the Greeks that if they would want really a fair Earth, their standards would have to go down anyway so that the Wallensteinian periphery ( “The South”) get to be defended as well against the oppressors that Europeans are.
The Eunuchs are the real Marxist proletarians, because Marx has ignored ideology, he could foresee that the proletarians would fight between themselves and between nations before fighting against their oppressors, that is my point I think. .
Thanks for reading