Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Long Quote: Holloway

That which is oppressed and resists is not only a who but a what. It is not only particular groups of people who are oppressed (women, indigenous, peasants, factory workers, and so on), but also (and perhaps especially) particular aspects of the personality of all of us: our self-confidence, our sexuality, our playfulness, our creativity. The theoretical challenge is to be able to look at the person walking next to us in the street or sitting next to us in a bus and see the stifled volcano inside them. Living in capitalist society does not necessarily make us into an insubordinate, but it does inevitably mean that our exitence is torn by the antagonism between subordination and insubordination. Living in capitalism means that we are self-divided, not just that we stand on one side of the antagonism between the classes, but that the class antagonism tears each of us apart. We may not be rebellious, but inevitably rebellion exists within us, as stifled volcano, as projection towards a possible future, as the present existence of that which does Not Yet exist, as frustration, as neurosis, as repressed Pleasure Principle, as the non-identity which, in the face of repeated insistence of capital that we are workers, students, husbands, wives, Mexicans, Irish, French, says 'We are not, we are not, we are not, we are not what we are, and we are what we are not (or not yet).' That is surely what the Zapatistas mean when they say they are 'ordinary people, that is to say, rebels'; that is surely what they mean by dignity: the rebellion that is in all of us, the struggle of the humanity that we are. Dignity is an intensely lived struggle that fills the detail of our everyday lives. Often the struggle of dignity is non-subordinate rather than openly insubordinate, often it is seen as private rather than in any sense political or anti-capitalist. Yet the non-subordinate struggle for dignity is the material substratum of hope. That is the point of departure, politically and theoretically.


The invisibility of resistance is an ineradicable aspect of domination. Domination always implies not that resistance is overcome but that resistance (some of it at least) is underground, invisible. Oppression always implies the invisibility of the oppressed. For one group to become visible does not overcome the general problem of visibility. To the extent that the invisible becomes visible, to the extent that the stifled volcano becomes overt militancy, it is already confronted with its own limits, and the need to overcome them. To think of opposition to capitalism simply in terms of militancy is to see only the smoke rising from the volcano.

Dignity (anti-power) exists wherever humans live. Oppression implies the opposite, the struggle to live as humans. In all that we live every day, illness, the education system, sex, children, friendship, poverty, whatever, there is a struggle to do things with dignity, to do things right. Of course our ideas of what is right are permeated by power, but the permeation is contradictory; of course we are damaged subjectivities, but not destroyed. The struggle to do right, to live morally, is one that preoccupies most people much of the time. Of course, the morality is privatised, immoral morality which generally steers clear of such questions as private property and therefore the nature of relations between people, a morality which defines itself as 'do right to those who are clsoe to me and leave the rest of the world to sort itself out'...And yet: in the daily struggle to 'do right', there is a struggle to recognise and be recognised and not just to identify, to emancipate power-to and not just bow to power-over, an anger against that which dehumanises, a shared (if fragmented) resistance, a non-subordination at least.

-- John Holloway

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