Archives for civilization

Onverhagen in de cultuur

Police tactics. Twitpic taken by liberal left member of parliament Alexander Pechtold from the Dutch parliament building in The Hague.


The following text (in Dutch) has been written as a contribution to the current political debate in the Netherlands concerning the budget cuts in the cultural sector in particular, and the development of right-wing ideology meeting neoliberal austerity measure rhetoric in general. The essay proceeds through a close reading of a recent lecture on populism by the christian democratic vice prime minister¬†Maxime Verhagen, as a reading of the discourse of the “reactive subject,” in the Badiouan sense of the word, thus opening up a broad overview of the Dutch political spectrum, tying together the relation between the stances on emancipatory politics and the possible approaches to the ¬†fundamental discontent that marks civilization, as already remarked by Freud. Thus I will arrive at three positions in current Dutch political landscape corresponding to the three types of subjects:

  1. Obscure: extreme-right populism, aggression against emancipatory politics, discontent in civilization is caused by the “other,” i.c. the Muslim immigrant, overt racism and fascism.
  2. Faithful: currently unstable and still rather disorganized assemblage of civil rights movements, artists, labor unions, immigrant organizations, psychiatric patients, possibly students and professors, all targeted by the impending budget cuts, heading under the banner of the “March for Civilization,” celebration of the paradoxes inherent in civilization as creative engine, affirmation of the universal emancipatory project under the heading of “the creative human being.”
  3. Reactive: discourse of the political parties in the middle of the political spectrum, bureaucrats, neoliberal pragmatists, largely “depoliticized” (though not de-ideologized), such as Maxime Verhagen’s Christian Democratic Party, denial of emancipatory politics (“multiculturalism is dead”), contradictions inherent in civilization are not fundamental, can be resolved by the people themselves with the “help” of a small, technocratic government.

The accompanying images show the extent of the police violence recently employed by the Dutch state against artists demonstrating against the impending budget cuts.

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