Monday, July 13, 2009

Why is the single mother 'typical'?

Zizek writes:

"In the rejection of the social welfare system by the New Right in the USA, for example, the universal notion of the welfare system as inefficient is sustained by the pseudo-concrete representation of the notorious African-American single mother, as if, in the last resort, social welfare is a program solely for black single mothers -the particular case of the 'single black mother' is silently conceived as 'typical' of social welfare and what is wrong with it." (from his "Multiculturalism: Or, the logic of multinational capitalism" in New Left Review in 1997).

As he continues: "it is at this level", that is at the level of what is to count as 'typical' or 'politically uncontroversial', "that ideological battles are won or lost". The fact that "this link between Universal and particular content that acts as its stand-in" in the case of social welfare and 'black single mothers' "is the contingent outcome of a political struggle for political hegemony".

Thus, Zizek concludes, "Etienne Balibar was fully justified in reversing Marx's classic formula: the ruling ideas are precisely not directly the ideas of those who rule. How did Christianity become the ruling ideology? By incorporating a series of crucial motifs and aspirations of the oppressed -truth is on the side of the suffering and humiliated, power corrupts and so on -and rearticulating them in such a way that they became compatible with the existing relations of domination".

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