Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The divisiveness of universalism: or, how to be intolerant of tolerance

“The way to counteract this re-emerging ultra-politics [of different fundamentalisms] is not more tolerance, more compassion and more multicultural understanding, but the return of the political proper, that is, the reassertion of the dimension of antagonism which, far from denying universality, is cosubstantial with it. That is the key component of the proper leftist stance as opposed to the rightist assertion of one’s particular identity: the equation of Universalism with the militant, divisive position of one engaged in a struggle – true universalists are not those who preach global tolerance of differences and all-encompassing unity, but those who engage in a passionate struggle for the assertion of the Truth which compels them….

“When De Gaulle, for instance, almost alone in England in 1940, launched his call for resistance to the German occupation, he was at the same time presuming to speak on behalf of the universality of France, and, for that very reason, introducing a radical split, a fissure between those who followed him and those who preferred the collaborationist ‘Egyptian fleshpots’…. The crucial point here is that subjectivity and universalism are not only not exclusive, but two sides of the same coin…. In Hegelese, the existence of the true Universal … is that of an endless and incessantly divisive struggle.”

—Slavoj Žižek, “Carl Schmitt in the Age of Post-Politics,” in The Challenge of Carl Schmitt, ed. Chantal Mouffe (London: Verso, 1999), pp. 35-36.

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