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Monday, May 20, 2013

Very Seriously Patriarchal

[T]he evident urge to make Someone Suffer -- Someone Else, of course -- reflects... [a l]ack of compassion, sure; an inability to imagine what it must be like for someone less fortunate than oneself and one’s friends, definitely.... It was obvious during the runup to the Iraq war that what was going on in the minds of many hawks -- and not just the neocons -- was not so much a deep desire to drop lots of bombs and kill lots of people (although they were OK with that) as a deep desire to be seen as people who were willing to Do What Has to be Done. Men who have never risked, well, anything relished the chance to look in the mirror and see Winston Churchill looking back. Actually, I suspect that even the torture thing had less to do with sadism than with the desire to look tough. And the austerian impulse is pretty much the same thing... Much of the problem in trying to stop the march to war was precisely the fear of many pundits that they would be seen as weak and, above all, not Serious if they objected. Austerity has been very much the same thing -- and again, it’s not just the right-wingers who are afflicted... [This is] the language of Very Serious People, talking about the need to make unpleasant decisions (which is always there, but if anything less so in a depression)... So if you like, the problem is Seriousness rather than sadism. On foreign policy, it’s always 1938; on economic policy, it’s always 1979. And the colossal muddle goes on.
Teaching about the concept of patriarchy to undergraduates in my critical theory survey courses, I always stress that patriarchy is a homosocial order that must disavow absolutely the homosexuality with which it is indispensably continuous. To the extent that patriarchy is the generational transmission of property -- and therefore authority -- between males, usually from fathers to sons, it requires that women be owned as property as well to ensure male control over female reproductive capacity. A possessive and controlling conception of the sex through which possessions are controlled by males threatens males with dispossession if males can then be sexualized as well. And yet patriarchy is suffused with primary relations of affection, esteem, respect, solidarity among males -- this is, indeed, the whole point of patriarchy. Patriarchy as aspirations to maintain solidarity among males is all about the expression of a form of same-sex desire, but patriarchy as practices of accomplished solidarity among males is all about the repudiation of a form of same-sex desire. Needless to say, the maintenance of this irrational rationality demands unspeakable violations, self-mutilations, absurd circumscriptions of possibility for everybody implicated in patriarchy. It is not the worst of patriarchy's crimes that Krugman is finding his way through to in his interesting observation, but he is indeed talking about patriarchy. "Seriousness" in Krugman's piece refers here, as elsewhere, to relations of credentialization and esteem out of which "common wisdom" is produced and policed through media and policy apparatuses. And in insisting that the "toughness" and "hard boiled realism" (the inevitable conjuration of "hardness" in these formulations is neither accidental nor incidental) of the serially failing Very Serious caucus of "experts" and "elites" for criminally and catastrophically bellicose foreign policy, for illegal ineffective torture advocacy, for macro-economically illiterate austerity measures and so on is best understood less as a problem of facile pathologized "sadists" as a structural problem embedding expertise and authority in systems of knowledge-production and policy-making that are also forms of painstaking/pain-making subject-production that are more cruel than concerned, more paranoid than practical. What I wonder is whether or not Krugman grasps the extent to which his analysis here is finally feminist.


jimf said...

> I suspect that even the torture thing had less to do
> with sadism than with the desire to look tough.

Speaking of which, I saw the latest _Star Trek_ movie last
Saturday (not that I was that desperate to see it myself, but
I was invited by friends).

The Trek franchise, it would seem (and this was already
plenty in evidence with the first "reboot" movie),
has degenerated into little more than violence porn.

The fights are hypertrophied comic-book encounters
with blows (the sound techs really know how to add
"punch" to a soundtrack these days!) that in real
life would take off heads and limbs (and it seems humanoid
brains will be concussion-proof in the 23rd century),
but leave the heroes with hardly a scratch (and ready to
go on to the next superhuman feat
of head-banging with no down time, or even a
trip to the bathroom).

Even Spock, of all people, has turned from a polite
nerve-pincher into a lusty ass-kicker.

I guess this is what the media marketers have decided
will sell $15 tickets to 12-year-old boys, and I guess
this is what 12-year-old boys are imbibing from the
mass media. Except, come to think, I'm not sure I saw
any 12-year-old boys in the audience. I think they
were mostly grownups.

Or maybe this is supposed to be Trek for the post-9/11
world. Or something.

jollyspaniard said...

Over the top hyper violence isn't anything new, the asians have been doing it for over 40 years. And doing it better imho. Hollywood has imported that style, all the top action directors and choreographers from Hong Kong got headhunted in the 90s, the big breakthrough was Mission Impossible 2 and The Matrix.