martes, 20 de noviembre de 2012

The Dark Side of the Public Sphere


This post explores how a deliberative society can learn to coexist with counterhegemonic practices as to prevent the public sphere becoming a mechanism for hegemonic ruling. In particular we notice the contrast between Habermas deliberative society and that of counterhegemonic activism.

Some key words are: conspicuous silence, action as counter-hegemonic speech, the contraction of logocracy to the private sphere (realm of intimacy?) and the refusal to rehearse the theater of public logocracy, the counterhegemonic role of intimacy (as a right and practice) [1], etc. Some historical examples are to be found in religious insurrections and resistance, ethnic and class resistence, etc. Also important is to inlcude unpopular cases such as the silent politics of corporative lobby and military coups. The former will provide a more realistic assesment of the implications of counterhegemonic rights and practices.

This debate also revisits (eventually, I guess) some ideas developed in the third quarter of the XXth century regarding the legitimate means for power.

Reassesment of Deliberative Dynamics

Within a genetic conception of deliberative action [2], counterhegemonic politics does not constitutes a direct threath to a deliberative society, on the contrary, it provides a key to understanding its configuration. 

Reassesment of Hegemony

The reluctance to public deliberation can be interpreted as antidemocratic behavior but also as a counterhegemonic action denouncing the fallacy of hegemonic freedom. Mechanisms to distinguish one from the other, in case there are, should be developed. This problem demands a careful revision and probably a political stand on the definition of hegemony.

Rights, Ecology and Politics

The right of association is in a way a right to conspire, it allows to create the critical mass to surpass the cognitive inertia of hegemonic representations. This right is not only protecting the conspirators from physical repression but of the more subtle repressions of hegemonic power. Sort of nursery habitat for narratives.

Claiming the Theatre of Politics: Rhetorics and Strategy [3]

Within the pulse between speech and action there might be more pedestrian motives. We can see behind the pulse of one media against the other an individual or subcutural strategy to take advantage of di facto inequalities. Take for analogy prose and lyrics within the opera; those which are better at prose would tend to give it more importance than lyrics, and the other way around. In our case, speech will favor eloquent voices while action will favor executioners.

By no means the multiplicity of voices we find in contemporary society implies a more egalitarian medium than action. Deliberative-Democracy is an animal as mythological as it sounds; after the dust of noise settles, only the eloquent prevails. Perhaps one property of speech which creates a complementary contrast (... I know) with action is that the former gives liquidity to whatever both carry (power?). And in this sense those who are good at action will eventually feel the need to get a form of speech as to give liquidity to their action-capital. I am thinking of the early bourgeoise which despite having a sense of priorities wear objects reflecting their (anti)status or beliefs. They are taking part in speech-action politics by means perhaps not of explicit speech but by the aesthetics of persuasion, allusion or intimidation.

Moreover, the dichotomy between action and speech is increasingly unclear as we approach a world that resembles the words of  Istvan Csicsery-Ronay: "When hallucination and reality collapse into each other, there is no place from which to reflect." Speech is becoming action and action is increasingly configured as speech.

[1] La intimidad juega un papel fundamental en la gestación de una esfera pública. Es como si la esfera pública fuese una condensación de pequeñas burbujas concebidas bajo la noción de la intimidad.

[2] By genetic insight we mean an understanding of the effective action of deliberation limited to congenial views. Is like sexual animals that can only have offsprings with genetically similar peers, nevertheless leading eventually to the formation of new species.

[3] I use the word "Theater" in a two-fold way: as simulation and as "theater of war".